Brian is the founder and CEO of Welcomemat Services, a digital and disruptive direct mail marketing company specializing in targeting people who have recently moved. Through Brian’s leadership, the brand has grown to over 60 franchise locations with national coverage and was named the #1 Advertising Franchise in 2017 according to Entrepreneur Magazine.
Prior to founding Welcomemat Services, Brian spent nearly a decade working in the enterprise software space.
Brian is an experienced communicator and expert on local business marketing. He is a regular panelist and speaker on local business marketing and loyalty strategies that drive long-term growth.
Tell me about your early career.
During the dotcom era, I was working in the software space. The software tools that we provided helped very large organizations gain insights into their customer base so they could better service customers and build models for new customer acquisition. You hear the terms big data and business intelligence thrown around a lot today – and those were the types of tools we were working with. The challenge we saw was that while larger organizations were able to afford exciting technology and data to expand, that was not the case for small businesses.
How did the concept for Welcomemat Services come about?
We noticed that smaller local businesses were getting left behind and they too needed access to technology to compete. That became the business problem we set out to solve – how do we help local and regional businesses gain access to technology? From there, we went on to patent some of our data tracking technology and offer it in a format that is powerful, yet cost effective. We identified people moving as an extremely high value consumer segment to target and embedded our technology into a printed package that connects local businesses with new movers.
How was the first year in business?
We launched Welcomemat Services in 2003. During our first twelve months of operations, we focused solely on driving sales and learning the business. As a startup, it was tough – my wife and I worked long hours and days, we were raising two very young children, and we weren’t bringing in any cash for most of the first year as we were reinvesting everything back in the business. Staying focused on our long-term vision kept us moving forward.
What was your marketing strategy?
When we first developed the idea, we didn’t have a marketing strategy. Our goal was to prove that there was a market for our new mover product before we invested heavily in programming and human capital. Proving the market meant getting out into our neighborhood and knocking on doors. With a four-year-old and a one-year-old at home, my wife and I took turns canvasing our local community and beating the street presenting our idea. Business owners became interested in the new mover consumer market segment and our data tracking and began to place orders giving us the confidence to go all in with the concept.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
In our first five years, we grew fairly quickly – doubling our size each year during that time period. At year seven, we decided to begin franchising our concept – at that point we were able to expand more rapidly. We now have national coverage with close to 60 franchise units and we are continuing to look for great owners who are interested in building local marketing agency franchises under the Welcomemat banner.
How do you define success?
Our core focus at Welcomemat is very simple – to help others succeed. This covers everyone that our organizations touches, including our end-user clients, the people who receive our Welcomemat packages, our employees, our franchisees, and our vendors. If we are doing that each and every day, then we are doing the things necessary to be successful.
What is the key to success?
From being a founder to expanding through franchising at Welcomemat, I have seen both success and failure. From my perspective, success hinges on being humble enough to understand that there is an opportunity to learn and get better with each challenge. The tough times are sharpening stones on the path to achieving the goals you set out for yourself.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Throughout my teenage years and through college, I worked many different jobs. My first job was washing dishes at a restaurant when I was a young teenager. I then went on to become a server and a car valet at a very prestigious country club. I had the privilege of working with all types of people, from all socioeconomic and sociodemographic levels including ex-cons to Fortune 500 executives.
During those years, I learned how to communicate with people. I learned to talk and get along with people who work in kitchens making minimum wage as well as wealthy executives and country club members. I also recognized the importance of treating people well no matter what their circumstance or position is. That skill has helped me throughout my professional career and those experiences have shaped me into a servant leader.
What are some quotes that you live by?
My favorite quotes tend to come from scripture. Joshua 1:9 is one I often lean on, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
What are some of your favorite books?
The Bible, Good to Great, Yes!, The Power of Habit, How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling, and Traction.
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
I can’t pinpoint one day or one instance that was particularly tough as I have had many tough days as an entrepreneur. Anyone who is building something to last is going to have that – the question becomes, “Can you see past the tough days and keep moving forward?”
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I have been very blessed in my life and I understand that adversity is necessary to achieve greatness. So, when adversity comes, I am confident I will come out stronger after the storm passes.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Prove your market before you spend all of your investment dollars on expensive programming and product development. Create a prototype to test in the market, and once you have proven the market, then you’ve mitigated some of the risk and you can invest more comfortably.
I also would encourage anyone starting a company to be prepared for the long term – have a long-term vision. Most great companies are built over decades, not months or even years.
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This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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