Adam Cunningham – CEO of 87AM

[quote style=”boxed”]I don’t believe in regrets in any capacity. Everything leads to the present, and I always remain grateful for the present, so I’m thankful for the past, good or bad. I also actively avoid contemplating hypotheticals that have no potential to become reality.[/quote]

Adam Cunningham is the CEO of 87AM, a digital agency focusing on film, TV, music, fashion, live entertainment, and consumer brands. 87AM was built from the ground up to respond to urgent paradigm shifts in traditional advertising, marketing and publicity facing the live, commercial and visual entertainment space. Using the power of proprietary analytics tools and data solutions, the agency creates, executes and manages best-in-class and first-in-vertical campaigns grounded in sales and conversion, while always maintaining an unparalleled focus on design, usability and optimization.

Where did the idea for 87AM come from?

I was a talent manager in Hollywood, and I saw how technology was drastically changing the way my clients were earning money — a good example was Napster’s impact on the music industry. I decided to build a company that would deal with the convergence of digital and entertainment.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

That really depends on which coast I’m on; I switch coasts every weekend. I’m usually up and working by 7 a.m. and leave the office around 7 p.m., heading off to some sort of business-related drinks, dinner, or meeting. I also travel to the other offices in our network. We have 26 total offices: 24 in the United States, one in Canada, and one in England. Throughout the day, I live off the “My Day” feature in Outlook for Mac, and I practice Inbox Zero every day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

From a day-to-day standpoint, I spend a lot of time studying proper briefing instructions. I actively work to ensure I’m providing the correct parameters and expectations to my staff — as well as the right timelines — to ensure the right ideas come about at the right time.

From a corporate standpoint, I reserve large-scale brainstorming and ideation for the weekends, when I’m not bogged down with day-to-day logistical ideas. I usually flesh them entirely out and then present them to my key staff for their feedback and implementation.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Data, data, and more data is where it’s at. The idea that we can take disparate data sets and get them to speak to each other and draw new conclusions is wildly fascinating to me. With this, we’re also able to perform holistic analyses to make quicker, more advanced decisions that increase conversion goals.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Morning work, that time before clients and staff begin shooting emails and calls around, is imperative to getting ahead in the day. Combine that with Inbox Zero/My Day, and I wake up each day with clear expectations of what I need to accomplish and what will define a productive day.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

I used to work for an incredibly unprofessional and unproductive employer with no respect for his staff or clients. I learned everything I did not want to implement for clients or staff from him. I hated going to work every day, and those years are what made me the manager and colleague I am today.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I don’t believe in regrets in any capacity. Everything leads to the present, and I always remain grateful for the present, so I’m thankful for the past, good or bad. I also actively avoid contemplating hypotheticals that have no potential to become reality.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I recommend analyzing things that appear impossible. I spend a lot of time thinking about large, long-term, and seemingly out-of-reach goals, and then I work backwards to determine how to achieve them quarterly, monthly, and daily. I do this for all goals in my life, professional or personal.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

I have focused, first and foremost, on delivering what I believe and know to be the absolute best service to our clients. If we don’t have that, we have nothing. The service and level of work are the most important facets of our business. All expansion and growth can only be supported in the long run if those are maintained.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

In the beginning, I was too polite about accounts receivable. I incorrectly assumed all clients had every intention of paying and just needed a bit more time to pay. Two “trustworthy” clients later, I learned my lesson.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I fly, on average, two times a week. No airline has business travel down. Someone should create an entirely business traveler-focused airline, with aircrafts with increased space, high-speed Wi-Fi, outlets, larger table/desk space, bigger underfoot storage areas, and higher-quality food, as well as lounges that function the same way in airports. It would essentially redefine the business travel experience — don’t cater to mainstream groups or luxury travelers, but build one airline geared entirely toward professionals who use air travel often and need it to be as productive as their time on the ground.

Tell us something about you that very few people know.

I have a degree in secular religious studies, focusing on religion and politics in the Middle East and the sociology of American religion. Not only does it remain one of my favorite topics of discussion, but not a week goes by that I don’t use it in my business.

What software and Web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I like the basic Microsoft Office suite. We create our presentations and docs on Keynote and Pages, though. Everything we need to achieve from an idea standpoint can be done on basic software. Every time I’ve tried to use advanced brainstorming software or planning/plotting software, it just becomes a distraction, and I drop it.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I’d recommend “Keeping Up with the Quants.” It’s all about data, and it’s only going to become increasingly central to marketing and advertising in the coming year.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Ralph Waldo Emerson has been a big influence, through and through. I have read pretty much everything he ever wrote, and I read it over and over again. I base much of my life off Emersonian transcendentalism and its associated implications for day-to-day life.


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