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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Interview with John Follis; Web 2.0 Entrepreneur

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By Lydia Sugarman

Entrepreneurial Editor

Lydia's article is brought to you by foundercontact group

1. Please tell us a little about yourself, personally and professionally.

My career has been, and continues to be, an adventure. After flunking out of my first advertising class in college, I eventually co-founded what became one of the most award-winning agencies on Madison Ave: Follis/DeVito/Verdi. I’ve personally won over 3 dozen major creative awards. I speak nationally and write for ADWEEK. My clients’ campaigns have been the focus of national press, a Harvard Business case study, and a Prentice-Hall marketing textbook. I’ve been honored at both the UN and The White House for my agency’s anti-child abuse work. And, I’ve also been fired four times.

More recently, I’ve become an expert on Web 2.0, Social Media and Online Marketing. In ’05, I coined the term “G-Cred” for Google Credibility (see: and was a featured speaker at Social Media 2007 in Chicago. I author an active blog The Follis Marketing Report ( and host a top 20 marketing podcast The Marketing Show ( I also have something called “Marketing Therapy” for entrepreneurs with limited budgets who realize the need for professional marketing help. For a full bio, see my Wikipedia profile:

Personally, I swing dance, bike, play guitar and sing, play tennis and racquetball, and performed stand-up comedy at The Gotham Comedy Club in NYC.

2. What is the single biggest reason you have followed an entrepreneurial path? Was there a signature event as you were growing up?

Well, getting fired 4 times definitely helped. After the second or third time I began freelancing.

I also came from a family of entrepreneurs, so maybe it’s genetic. One summer, as a kid, I had a lawn mowing business. I created a flyer that said “You Grow It, We Mow It!”

3. Are entrepreneurs born or can it be learned?

A bit of both, I’d say. Like with many things, having a natural disposition for something definitely comes into play. But I also believe that desire is key. If someone wants it bad enough, they’ll learn how.

4. What makes entrepreneurs different? What do you think are the qualities/characteristics that make entrepreneurs different?

I’d say that most entrepreneurs are very independent-minded, self-motivated, and creative thinkers. Leaders, not followers. Perhaps even rebellious. Most are also passionate about what they do.

5. Do entrepreneurs network differently? What networking lessons can others learn from entrepreneurs?

Good question and I think the smarter ones do. Personally, I hate the feeling of being part of the herd at a crowded, noisy networking event. Which is why I’ve decided that if I’m going to meet people, I rather do that as the person that everyone is coming to hear – the speaker. It’s the best way to have everyone in the room meet you.

Unlike most people, I also have a very creative, slightly bizarre, business card that most always sparks a conversation. (See:

6. What have you found to work well when networking? What caveats can you offer? What's unique about networking from an entrepreneur's perspective? Do entrepreneurs have an advantage in the networking arena?

My comments above addresses some of that. Regarding having an advantage, perhaps they do for the reasons I mention in #4.

7. What is the “successful” model for a master networker.

Well, this can easily be an article, and I’ve read many.

• Be a giver – focus on the other person and how you can help them.

• Be a listener more than a talker.

• Don’t shove your card in the person’s face after 30-seconds of conversation.

• Arrive early.

• Don’t spend too much time with any one person, especially if they’re sucking your energy.

• Etc

8. What are the primary goals for most networkers? Do you feel these differ from those of an entrepreneur?

In any scenario I believe it’s about sharing information and creating mutually beneficial relationships. Out of that, and over a time period of building trust, comes the potential for doing business together.

9. How do you help other entrepreneurs find and network with each other in your business?

Email has become my primary mode and I’m always happy to match folks where I see good synergy. I also make a point of staying in touch with valued associates either face-to-face, or via phone chatting.

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