Brad Kugler

Co-Founder of DirectMail2.0

Brad Kugler attended Miami University and San Diego State University. In 1991, he went into the family business at DVA, Inc. Working successfully from the bottom up, Brad was promoted and eventually took the helm as CEO in 1996, all before his 30th birthday. He launched the business into the e-commerce world and won awards for his success. He helped to build DVA, Inc. up to just under $25 million in annual revenue.

DVA, Inc. has been an honoree on the INC 500/5000 three times, Gulf Coast 500 Businesses, Tampa Bay 200 Top Businesses, and Tampa Bay 50 List of Fastest Growing Businesses in the area, to name just a few.

In 2017, Brad took on the CEO position at tech start-up DirectMail2.0, a cloud-based integrated marketing platform aimed at exponentially improving the ROI on the printed mailpiece through today’s digital marketing technology. In his first year he grew the company 350%, doubling this each year.

Brad has a strong sense of community and a passion to help others. He serves as the Co-Chairman of the Career Education Board of the Pinellas Education Foundation, working closely with educators to enhance and improve educational opportunities. Brad served as a Board member of St. Petersburg’s Sunscreen Film Festival, lending his experience and relationships in the film industry to support the Tampa Bay cultural
landscape. He is an avid photographer and travels the globe as official photographer for local charities and non-profit organizations.

Where did the idea for DirectMail2.0 come from?

To be honest, it wasn’t my idea! It was my co-founder and partner Joy Gendusa of PostcardMania. That being said, I was just wrapping up a business that had been completely disrupted by changing technology (CDs and DVDs) and I knew I needed to find something where I would be the disruptor and not the disrupted!

This business was taking an age of marketing mail technology and making it new again with cutting edge digital marketing technology. Through adding 11 different digital technologies to a direct mail campaign, we are seeing almost double the response rate vs traditional ink on paper alone. We can do this for only a few extra pennies per mailpiece.

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

Meetings! And I really don’t like meetings that much, but if done with a goal or end result in mind, they can be very productive. I have my teams; they know their jobs and the results expected. We coordinate the execution or minimize and problem solve any barriers to achieving those results. I personally spend time prioritizing, ensuring that objectives are as clear as possible, and distractions are minimized. I look for inefficiencies in our organization, our processes, as well as ways to improve our product and our people.
If I had my druthers, I’d spend most of my time on product development, which comes down to creating solutions for our customers and prospective customers’ problems.
In summary, my typical day breaks down like this:
40% on internal matters with my teams; guiding, processing, prioritizing, meeting, etc.
30% on future product/service development
20% with customers/vendors or external contacts
10% with new people, new potential strategizes, looking around the curve as to what or who’s next

How do you bring ideas to life?

I listen at first to our customers. I listen to my people. What problems do they have? How can we solve those problems efficiently and cost effectively? Can I add value to the process, the product or my people through these ideas? Does its implementation provide more value than the receiver doing it themselves? Can I provide a product/service better, faster and/or cheaper than anyone else?

What’s one trend that excites you?

Advancing technology excites me. I love researching new technology and seeing how it can be used to improve the company and our services. Ideas also excite me. Many brains are better than one. I search not just my own teammates for new ideas but competitors, customers and vendors for ideas that seem to work well and see if they can be incorporated into our activities.

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

I would say it’s a dedication to ABL (always be learning). I’m always looking for new ways to do things, get other perspectives on business, life, management and finance. And it’s a burning desire (or maybe more of a fear) not to fall into complacency, become a dinosaur, or get left behind in my industry.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would’ve liked to dedicate myself to finding my passion sooner. I was late to the party. I had a pretty easy childhood and early adulthood. I wasn’t handed everything but I was never in need of things either. I had decent jobs, decent friends, so I never really experienced need. I didn’t have too much ambition early on; more just to move along with the crowd. I could have been more productive, ambitious, financially savvy, braver, etc. Don’t wait, go after it young! It’s a long road and it can take a while. You need all the time you can gather to make it happen.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

That might be my problem; most people do agree with me on most things. I’m not outrageous or eccentric or overly controlling. I am old school; I believe in a full day’s pay for a full day’s work. I believe you must give before you receive. I believe in coming into the office for a job. I believe life is what you make it and you are owed nothing by nobody. These values seem to becoming a minority more and more lately. There is still a strong group of us, but it’s shrinking.

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

Keep pushing. Success is rarely instant. You need to keep your eyes on the prize. Keep the ball moving down the field. Even if the moves are small, every advance moves you closer to the goal post and increases your odds of success. Look for and capitalize on the small wins too. They are your foundation for the larger ones. As far as the one thing: SHOW UP and keep showing up every day. That is the example you set for your team. You need to take less time off, less vacations, be in the office before everyone, and leave last as often as possible. That sets the tone for the team. If they know you are in the trenches with them, ahead of them, and will take the fall for them, then they will do almost anything for you; or at least the good ones will.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Your people are really your most important resource. If you have a company and everyone left, you would really have nothing substantial after that. I have found that building and securing that team is one of the best ways to grow a company. How do you do that? Treat everyone with dignity and respect. No matter their position or what they do, give each and every person the same importance and respect as your number two. People respond to that more than anything. It could be a simple thank you or acknowledgement for a job well done. Even if someone has performed poorly, that conversation can also be had with the same dignity and respect. That person will want to improve and perform for you if that is given to them first and last.

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

This is still considered to be a failure or weakness in myself. I have a certain amount of risk aversion that I’m self-aware of. I back off from large bold moves financially or career-wise because of the potential downside. As a result, I’ve had no disasters but I’ve also not hit that home run out of the park either. I’m a stable careful guy; sometimes almost too much. Being too risk averse can also be a cause of failure as being too risky!

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

A successful business idea is rooted in filling a need or solving a problem. In Florida, there is a severe shortage of certain kinds of trades, such as marine contractors for docks and seawalls, as well as residential elevator contractors. You cannot even get a call back, let alone someone to come out and bid a job. If you do get that far, the work is scheduled for months and sometimes a year later! There is much more demand than supply. I would put these companies together and ANSWER the phone, give quotes, and fund the companies on deposits! I hope some people see this and get into this market in Florida as both are WAY underserved and will be for years.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The best $100 I recently spent was on the Global Entry or CLEAR Pass for airport lines. I hate traveling lately. Those services take some of the edge off for me! They are not that expensive; well maybe more than $100 but not much more!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Zoho One is the best deal out there for the money! There are over 50 web applications from CRM and Finance, to Marketing and Support Desk, and many more, for only $35 per person per month. SalesForce alone is more than double that and it’s only a CRM!

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

There are so many. The one that I read that had the most impact on me was the Steve Jobs Biography by Walter Isaacson. It really showed why Steve and Apple were such outliers from the average CEO and average company. It showed his weaknesses as clearly as his strengths. He wasn’t a perfect person but he might have been the perfect person for that task (Apple Computers’ success). Much of his life was suffering due to the time and effort put into Apple. That type of success and accomplishment requires almost 100% sacrifice of many other things. But it also shows what someone so driven is capable of. It’s a great read.

What is your favorite quote?

“The goal is not to be perfect by the end, the goal is to be better today.” – Simon Sinek

Key Learnings:

  • Always be learning. Look at your people, your processes, within yourself, to see where you can improve and grow. Don’t become complacent or you’ll get left behind.
  • Treat everyone with dignity and respect, no matter their position or role. Your people are really your most important resource.
  • Show up every day to set the tone for your team. If they know you are in the trenches with them, they will do almost anything for you.