Tim O’Leary the co-founder and CEO of The R2C Group. Since founding the advertising agency with his wife Michelle Cardinal in 1998, The R2C Group has catapulted to be ranked among the twenty largest independently-owned ad agencies, and the largest consumer direct agency in the United States. Based in Portland, OR, The R2C Group now has offices nationwide, serving a blue chip client list that includes General Mills, Estee Lauder, Adobe, Chase, Novartis, P&G, Philips Electronics, Sony Music, and many other major brands.
O’Leary has also established a long and successful track record as an innovative entrepreneur, founding over a dozen companies in industries ranging from television production and talent management to software and real estate development, and taking companies from a start-up stage to market valuations in the hundreds of millions of dollars. As one of the founders and the CEO of The Tyee Group, (now a division of French advertising conglomerate Euro RSCG) he helped elevate the company from a small local production company into one of the largest commercial producers in the country. He joined the ranks of Richard Branson, Michael Dell, and Martha Stewart when he and his wife and partner Michelle Cardinal were profiled as one of the “26 Entrepreneurs We Love” by Inc. Magazine, celebrating their 26th anniversary.
O’Leary’s book on entrepreneurship and management, Warrior’s, Workers, Whiners, & Weasels, was awarded “Best Book of 2006” in the Business Category in the “Best Books 2006 Awards”. He is currently at work on his newest book Pitchmen – My Strange Journey To Learn The Secrets Of The World’s Greatest Salesmen. He is also a frequent contributor to Forbes, and DM News, and has authored dozens of articles on technology, management, advertising, and marketing for publications that include Advertising Age, AdWeek, Brandweek, and many other leading industry publications. He blogs at www.thebizzylife.com.
What are you working on right now?
Right now? This minute? Well, I am writing for your blog. But….for the last few months I have spent most of my waking hours at heights exceeding 30,000 feet and 500 miles an hour – traversing the country to invite clients to join our little family of advertising.
For some reason I have been in perpetual pitchville since December. This is the busiest time I have ever seen in the history of our agency, which is good, but has also screwed up my fly fishing schedule. In between pitches I take time to work on my new book (here comes a crass commercial attempt to sell books), Pitchmen – My Strange Journey To Learn The Secrets Of The World’s Greatest Salespeople – which is now only two years late, but is ¾ done and should be out by early next year. And if I do say so myself, it is the greatest book ever written on sales! Where else could you meet transvestite Tupperware salesmen, TV Pitchman Ron Popeil, the world’s greatest Harley pitchman, and also learn how to sell dildos door-to-door?
3 Trends that excite you?
I own eight DVRs, countless computers, Kindles (thanks to you), Apple storage devices (just ordered an iPad),
mobile hard drives, and all manner of technologies designed to warehouse everything that can be converted to digital format. It’s strangely addictive….cataloging all your old photos, music, and videos. Stuff you will never listen to but feel compelled to own. Do I really need Vanilla Ice’s greatest hits – but somehow I believe I must own it digitally. But in the long run it will be incredible. Imagine right now if we could see actual videos of Henry VIII – or see Abe Lincoln talk to General Grant about the war. Your great-grandpa having a drink with your grand dad when he was 21. The potential to spread information and educate the world quickly and cost-efficiently is incredible. I love the idea of being able to access any info I want when I want it. Since I work in TV the implications of an on-demand television environment are particularly exciting.
MIT has developed a hydrogen power system for your house that will completely take you off the grid – and allow you to fuel your car at home. Super-efficient solar panels that cash flow are around the corner. They are installing wind power on the buildings near my house. In twenty years the idea of burning fossil fuels and being held hostage by desert governments will be as antiquated as going into a video store. And from a business perspective, this will be the next big thing to follow the internet.
I am growing my own fruit, vegetables, and olives. Is an olive a fruit or a vegetable? Anyway…. I like the idea of all of us supplying a little of our own food from our backyards and rooftops. Throw a little scare into the multi-national food corporations that make us fat and sick. Let everyone enjoy a fresh heirloom tomato. Plus Topsy Turvy tomato is a client. Good food and profits make a nice mix.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I walk. I walk back and forth to work. I try to walk everywhere. When I travel I choose different neighborhoods to
explore. On the weekends I walk through forests and deserts and river beds. Every day I try to walk a minimum of five miles while I explore the latest editions to my iPhone. It’s like a Disney ride with great music but you get exercise. While I walk I look for inspiration in music, podcasts, and the life and architecture of the neighborhoods, countryside, and other locales I walk through. I invest in real estate, so I will sometimes drive to an area and walk it over a period of months or years to look for changes. And often the walk inspires an idea, so I am frequently talking to myself or muttering into the “record app” on my iPhone while I walk. People assume I am a crazy but well-dressed homeless man as I mutter ideas into my hand.
What is one mistake that you made, and what did you learn from it?
When I was 22 I started my first company – and I mistook my own aggression and a few good ideas for business savvy. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was arrogant, which ultimately lead to me tanking some good ideas due to inexperience. In retrospect I should have found a mentor or someone to work with that understood all the things I didn’t.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
No great ideas that I care to spread come to mind….. however, I can give you a big perspective. Over the last almost thirty years I have worked with hundreds of clients that range from tiny entrepreneurs to nine of the Fortune 100 – and here is the most simple key to success I have noticed that nobody ever mentions (and I have not yet mastered)….. be nice. You can be tough, you can be demanding, you can be arrogant, you can have really high standards, you can even be a little cutthroat and tough to work with, but you can do that all and still be a reasonable human being. Not abusive. Not a jerk. I am amazed at how small the business world really is. I am constantly working with people I met ten or twenty years ago – and you never know when a supplier becomes a client, or the guy you abused in some way now makes the decisions at your bank. Being abusive is a risky long-term play in business. People remember the nice guy and they want to work with them again.
Biggest reasons people are unsuccessful in business?
They mistake an idea for a business plan. They don’t understand how their numbers work. They love their product so much they make silly decisions. They have a sense of entitlement. And they are not willing to work through the hard times.
Blondes or brunettes?
Brunette women and blonde dogs.
Tim’s Blog – TheBizzyLife.com