Anthony Russo – Founder of Identity Marketing

I stay up late at night because I know how my body and brain work best. Some people are morning people, and some are not. I’m not a morning person, so why would I try to fake it?

Anthony Russo has been a self-employed business owner for more than five years, and his seven-figure agency is recognized among the top companies in the field of experiential promotional marketing. Russo also is a professional speaker and an emcee for large national events.

Where did the idea for Identity Marketing come from?

I have been in the world of experiential marketing for years, and I previously worked for large agencies as a brand ambassador, a tour manager, and an emcee. A business partner and I set out to create our own agency using the contacts I had made over the years.

After almost a year of trying to compete for clients, we were presented with an opportunity to provide staffing for events put on by larger marketing agencies. At that moment, we became mostly a staffing agency of brand ambassadors for larger experiential agencies. My business partner is no longer with the business, but my agency has grown tenfold over the past three years.

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

Each day is different because I am involved in so many different aspects of my business. Admittedly, I like to sleep in if there isn’t an event or appointment for which I need to be up early. Once I get up, I scan through emails and chomp through to-do lists.

After that, every day is an adventure, and my schedule depends on what is going on. Some days, I have to write estimates for new events. Other days, I check on my team to see if they need any help staffing events, or I staff events myself. I sometimes do things completely unrelated to the business.

I make my days productive by prioritizing tasks. In my industry and business, sometimes I have to realize that a very small thing might need to be handled immediately, and ultimately, communication must be instant.

How do you bring ideas to life?

The biggest thing I have to do is set aside time to tackle them. I get my best creative work and planning done from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. This is when my brain works best, and I am able to cut through outside clutter.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I love hearing that experiential marketing is being recognized as the “it” way to reach consumers. The bigger this trend becomes, the better it is for my business.

Ultimately, this form of “touch” marketing is limitless because there are so many different ways to create experiences for consumers. Advances in technology only create more options. Social media integration is quickly becoming the best way to form intimate relationships with large numbers of potential customers.

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

I stay up late at night because I know how my body and brain work best. Some people are morning people, and some are not. I’m not a morning person, so why would I try to fake it?

I’m happiest when I get a little extra sleep in the morning and burn the midnight oil. As I look back on being an entrepreneur for the past eight years, my biggest leap in productivity and success happened when I realized this fact and adjusted my schedule.

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

The worst job I ever had was at a wannabe nonprofit in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, called the American Association of Young People. A guy with a big ego and a weak sense of ethics created this group. He had made money in a field that served him well as a salesman, and I became his right-hand man for this upstart organization.

I learned everything not to do in a business from him, and in the end, it’s helped the way I forge partnerships and the way I’ve created my own charity. The other great thing is that I got to meet other young entrepreneurs, and it led to some relationships I still have today.

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

When I was in college, I wrote my senior thesis on the concept of a chain of events and have continued to evolve this philosophy ever since. I truly believe that every mistake and every decision has led me to where I am today. I have had some bad patches and unfortunate luck, and I have made some stupid decisions. But at the end of the road, I’ve come out better and stronger, and I have learned invaluable lessons.

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

Know yourself, understand your strengths and weaknesses, and always have a positive attitude. When I talk about the chain of events and where our mistakes, successes, and bad luck take us, it’s all about attitude. Don’t be complacent when good things happen, and don’t be depressed when mistakes happen. Give yourself time to be upset, then realize you are stronger than you were yesterday.

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

I believe in simply doing great work and having great communication, not only with our clients but our independent contractors as well. The brand ambassadors across the country who have worked for me love working for my agency because they know we care. That’s not always the case in our industry. For the most part, we have grown our business from word of mouth because our clients see the great service we provide and tell other agencies about us. Our staff members also recommend clients because they know clients will be happy with the way we do business as a team.

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

My first business was a huge failure. I successfully created a business concept and plan and got bank loans totaling $100,000, and it simply failed. It was the worst time for the economy and the item that I created. I didn’t know how to correctly spend money, and looking back, some of the spending was just stupid.

I overcame this challenge by finding a way to pay off the loan while continuing to work as a tour manager and an emcee. I came out on the other side stronger, and I was able to eventually pay off the remainder of that loan after some really lean living!

Tell us something about you that very few people know.

I was eligible to be a professional bowler at one point. And if I’m alone, I always cry when watching inspirational stories.

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

I just use the basics, and I do my best to avoid any technology that’s unnecessary for my industry. Out of college, I was way ahead in the technology game, but I’m pretty old-school; I still believe in things like handshakes and open-ended contracts.

I use GoDaddy services, and I have a contract web guy. I just transitioned from Infusionsoft to a white-label software for our in-house database management, but it’s too early to tell what difference this will make for our business.

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

The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho is a great short read. I recommend that fellow entrepreneurs re-read it once a year to keep their heads screwed on straight because we’re dreamers and sometimes overly sensitive.


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