Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Howard Tullman and Multi-Media's Biggest MIstake

      posted by Mike Shannon

        I just had the good fortune of witnessing a Chicago Startup Grind event at 1871 featuring Howard Tullman. For those unfamiliar with Howard, he might very well be Chicago’s all-around top entrepreneur. While currently serving as CEO to Tribeca Flashpoint Academy, his resume of past accomplishments and projects is unmatched. But I won’t sit here attempting to poorly compress all of his wise tidbits into one blog entry. For that, you can check out his Inc. blog, Hindsight, or watch any of the countless video interviews Howard is featured on, such as his recent Tasty Trade appearance. I want to focus on why Howard is who he is, and conclude with what I felt was his most important insight –multi-media’s biggest mistake.   

            Like any illustrious business career, Howard’s started as an 8-year-old “professional magician”. He admittedly became “pushy and bossy” learning how to authoritatively conduct his magic show. “It wasn’t the kids who were the problem, it was the asshole parents” says Tullman. A magician never shares his tricks, but parents don’t like having secrets held from them by an 8 year old kid.  So Howard became bossy.

            Now, years later, after establishing himself as a titan of entrepreneurial endeavors, Howard is brought to speak at events such as this and is given praises by other leaders in the Chicago entrepreneurial scene. We all sit around and talk beforehand and people marvel at “Chicago’s Wizard”. The question always comes up, how do you start your day? Here’s Howard’s day, in a nutshell.
-Wake up at 4:00am (an hour before 5:00)
-Hop on the elliptical
-Begin his daily half a movie viewing (necessary when running a media arts academy)
-By 5:45 he’s consumed his first “course” of media, entertainment & exercise.
-Work an average of 14 hours
-Go home, eat, and start working again

          Not bad for a day’s work. Howard didn’t admit to having “mentors”, but rather a group of people who gave very good advice. The best of which was a guy Howard knew back in his lawyer days – the head honcho at the top NYC firm. Howard asked him advice on becoming successful, and the man replied simply that he works like crazy.
“I asked what does working like crazy mean? He said most people divide their life up into work/recreation/family. He decided that work was his recreation, and then the tiny bit left over was family time. He had a passion for it, he didn’t need to go play 18 holes of golf.”
            Everybody loves startup life, or rather the idea of startup life.  But Howard doesn’t appear to have time for too many daytime Ping-Pong matches. The lifestyle image is more or less an illusion. So why does Howard continue to grind away at (hyper-) entrepreneurial reality?
“The motivation is that there’s really a lot of important stuff going on. We have 600 kids [atTribeca Flashpoint], I have to make sure things are as efficient as they can be. I have about 7,000 (collective) employees now, spanning two thirds of the globe. My phone and email doesn’t stop, until I put it aside –which of course is just accruing it all” says Howard.
            His startups add value. More value, as he puts it, than “delivering donuts”.
“It’s a lot easier to wake up in the morning if you really think you’re creating value. …I don’t think I could do it one day beyond where I feel like I’m making a concrete contribution.”

            The event started off mentioning the importance of meeting people and making connections at such events. I fully believe in the value of that and certainly our work with Packback would not have come so far without valued networking. But as I sit here writing, I can’t help wondering whether all the beer chatter efficiently produces adequate value. The speech wrapped up at 8:00. It’s 8:13, and Howard just maneuvered through a line of small talk and snuck out the door like a sly cat. Rather than bask in the crowd's praises, his focus is on a direct track, and it's time to go back to work.
            So alas I arrive at Howard's key takeaway, the big mistake of multi-media. This strikes a cord as we at Packback focus on bringing a direct, affordable product to save college students money amidst a world of “adaptive” multi-media nonsense.
            By the time you’ve made it to the end of this ONE post, I’ve blasted THIRTY random links to you, some of which are totally irrelevant, most of which are layered in other content, and all of which distract you from finishing this small reading task. Perhaps I’m being cynical, but if you made it through these seven hundred or so words without getting whirled into a frenzy of fast-attention content consummation, it’s a near miracle. At the very least I’ve probably put pains on your concentration while fighting the urge to discover what’s beyond that magical blue hyper-link, but in reality I’ve likely lost 80% of the people who started reading this post.
“We’ve lost track of the original goal, which was to tell a compelling story” says Howard.
          That’s it- just tell a compelling story. If you’ve been able to hold your focus through this you are an exception. Howard’s been holding his since 4:00am.  

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