Transcript of Efficiencies Expert Jason Helfenbaum On How To Increase Your ROI Through Training And Efficiencies
Entertainment Industry Veteran Berry Meyerowitz On How Culture Drives Results And EBITDA (#029)

Steve Wells: [00:00:00] This is Steve Wells. 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:00:01] And I'm Jeffrey Feldberg. Welcome to The Sell My Business Podcast. 

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Welcome to episode 29 of the Sell My Business Podcast. Berry Meyerowitz is the Co-President of the Quiver Group of Companies. Quiver focuses on the financing acquisition and global distribution of feature films and television series.

Prior to launching Quiver, Berry was the former president of Momentum Pictures, an Entertainment One company. Momentum focused on distributing films and television series in the US and around the world. Berry oversaw, strategic planning, key customer partnerships, content acquisitions, and day-to-day operations.

Berry joined Entertainment One following the acquisition of his company, Phase 4 Films, where he served as President and CEO. After founding Phase 4 in 2009, Berry and his team transformed it into one of the leading independent distributors. From 2011 to 2016 Phase 4 Films doubled in revenue while EBITDA more than tripled during this period.

 Prior to Phase 4, Berry was President of Peace Arch Home Entertainment, a division he started after selling his previous company, Kaboom! Entertainment. He also worked at 20th Century Fox, where he led successful campaigns for films, such as The Star Wars Trilogy, There's Something About Mary and the Full Monty.

Berry is a former member of the Young Presidents Organization. He has an MBA from the Schulich School of Business. 

Berry, welcome to the podcast. We are so happy to have you with us. Why don't we start by having you tell our listeners your story? What are you all about? And how'd you do it? 

Berry Meyerowitz: [00:03:15] Thank you for having me. It's an honor. And a pleasure to be here. I always knew I'd want to be in some form of business.

When I was growing up by, I'm an immigrant from South Africa and had a family who was in a variety of different businesses, a lot of retail. And if dinner conversations were typically around business and, two older brothers who were also very engaged, so that was a pretty spirited time. And my passion was sports.

And I always knew that I wanted to be in some form of sports industry and it really started when I was a teenager. I remember going to a maple leaf hockey game at the old maple leaf gardens. And I was sitting very high up in the grays with a friend of mine and there was a nice old couple sitting in front of me.

And every once in a while, the gentleman would stand up and start yelling and cheering and cursing and his wife, who was sitting next to him, would pat him on the arm and say, they're dear it's. Okay. They'll do better. Meanwhile, she was sitting there knitting during the game.

And that in itself was, something to shake your head at and wonder, but they're season ticket holders, every single game. and then, an hour later something happened on the ice and this nice little old lady exploded out of her seat, screaming profanities that I'd never heard a woman say like this 

And it was absolutely shocking. But it also made me realize and reinforce the power of sports. And I had always been a sports fan. I wanted to get into licensing. So, over the years, this started to add to my belief about how sports was such an important fabric of our society. To have something to believe in a team, a player, whether you're a fan or an athlete, it didn't matter.

Then as I got going in, high school, I started to read a lot. I love espionage thrillers, Robert Ludlum, and Tom Clancy. And I would stay up all night reading, going to university.  There was no bedtime. If I was in the middle of a good book, I was not going to sleep. In my career, I would save books for overnight plane rides because I would just read all night. I loved it. And it was an escape. And years later, I did an undergrad. I worked, I went to business school and I really wanted to get a job in sports or entertainment. I liked the fact that a product like this could cause such an emotional reaction in a consumer and an audience.

And I was going down the sports route. I started a sports business club and in business school to bring sports executives, to talk about the business of sport. Selfishly as a way to try to meet them and get a job. And it became a very popular club. And I ended up meeting Paul Beeston, who at the time was the president of the Blue Jays.

This is 1995. The Jays had just won two world series. Paul and I became friends and he took a shining to me. And eventually I was offered a job by the Blue Jays as an account executive, and I just wasn't sure what to do and whether or not this was the right move.

And my brother is a little bit older than me said, why don't you meet my friend? He works at Astro Media and, see what he has to say. So, I went to meet with his friend. And, after a few times, my friend said to me, listen, I'm leaving Astro and I want you to come with me as I start this new company.

And I decided that starting off on the ground floor with a guy who was going to be a mentor to me would better than being a suit in a large organization.  And that began my journey in entertainment and I've never looked back.

I've been really lucky. I worked with that company for about a year and a half, and we were doing some very creative marketing and merchandising things at retail and worked with 20th Century Fox because they had acquired a company that we were working with. And at some point, I was offered a job by Fox of their home entertainment division.

And I was 27 years old. And as my former boss would say, I was green as the grass, but I talked my way in and we figured it out and I was offered this job and it was amazing. I went from, selling, marketing, very indie content to working on Star Wars and the X-Files and. Amazing.

And I loved it for the first year. And then the second year I just found really bureaucratic and, hard to get things done.  So, after the end of that, I decided that probably wasn't for me.

And I wanted to work in New York and the internet was happening and Napster radio. And so, I moved to New York and, lived there for four years and worked for a variety of internet businesses, marketing companies. I decided purposefully not to work in entertainment, which, looking back with it was probably a mistake, but I got some good broad experience with internet companies and then three and a half years later, the guy who had hired me earlier, was selling another company that we had started when we were together. It was a retail merchandising company. So, for those listeners out there, when you're placing product into the big box retailers, they don't merchandise it for you.

You have to hire a third-party company. They merchandise it according to our planogram and the retailer typically doesn't touch it. So, my friend at the time, or my former boss had started another company that did retail merchandising for Sony PlayStation and a few others.

So, he ended up selling that business to a publicly traded company. And they said you have to divest yourself of your interest and your entertainment business because the conflict of interest. So, he came to New York, his name's Jeff and Jeff came to New York and stayed with me for a couple of days.

And over two days we hashed out a deal for me to buy the business back. I had a one-day transition with him to take over his business. And, we started to build, and this was 2003 and video was still going. And we got a really good run at a very small team of about 10 people.

And we started to build the business. And then about two and a half years later, I was approached by a guy who I worked with in the first company, because it was a partnership with a larger TV business. And he said that he, along with a few other guys had invested in a production company, a publicly traded company that was looking down on distribution, was I interested and essentially over the next six months, I decided that, these are great guys to hitch my wagon to various established, executives from the entertainment business.

And I ended up selling the business to them in 2006. And went on to run one of their divisions. And again, it was a publicly traded company and the stock was going up and everyone was happy. And a year and a half later, the unthinkable happened where the CEO of the company was arrested at LAX by the FBI for legend bank fraud.

So, for a company in the production financing business, that is the kiss of death. So, the next year became just figure out what's going on, Batten down the hatches, keep the team engaged. What happened was our division was quite profitable. But if we made money on a movie, the profits would typically get sent up to corporate to pay for rent. So, if you were a producer and you said to me, Hey Berry, how did my movie do? And I said, Oh, Jeffrey and Steve it was great. We made a hundred thousand dollars profit and you say, great. When do I get it? I say, sorry, my parents took it to pay for rent. So, it was a really difficult time.

It was the worst year of my career.  I had a three-year deal. So, I couldn't leave. And nearing the end of the three years, I was trying to decide what to do. I had a job offer from another large company, but really, I wanted to try to get in and I regretted selling and I wanted to build a business myself.

I took on an approach to try to buy the asset back that I had sold to the company during our tenure. We'd also bought a distribution company. So, over time I was able to structure a deal actually. No, it wouldn't have been done without a forum mate of mine who introduced me to someone who had another debt obligation with the parent company and he was suing them.

So, I was able to go to this gentleman and say, listen, if you agree to drop your lawsuit against the parent, I will take on your debt obligation and I'll give you some equity. I'll give you a note. I'll pay you out and I'll make you whole. So, there were a few different side deals that went on. And in April, 2009, I was able to close this transaction, buy back the asset to this business.

And I named the company Phase Four films as it was the fourth iteration of my journey in the films. It was all one company to another company.  That was just the beginning of the best five years of my business career. We started with 30 or 40 people and probably $20 million in revenue, 25 million revenue.

And we started to build out. We started to hire amazing people and one of the deals that we did allowed us to gain access to a Walmart vendor number and that was the Holy grail. The DVD market was exploding and most independent companies had to go through an aggregator in order to sell to Walmart and to major studios and probably three or four other Indies of which we were one of them.

Steve Wells: [00:12:25] Let me ask you a question, Berry. You've covered a lot of ground. So, Berry, your story has so many paths and it's very interesting. How did you begin to learn how to structure these deals? How did you look at, these potential buyers or these mergers, how did that happen?

Berry Meyerowitz: [00:12:43] I have a good friend who is a bankruptcy and restructuring lawyer who became my key advisor, who did a lot of these distressed deals. He knew M&A really well. And when I sold the business the first time, I really didn't know what I was doing.

And then when I bought it back, I had really good advice. And because as being a member of an organization like YPO, I had this incredible group of forum mates too, who became essentially my M&A board of directors. and one of them introduced me and I was able to access financing through the other.

It just became a really good deal because the company that I had sold to who I was buying the assets back from, they were in deep trouble. So, this was going to provide them with some short-term cash, but also a huge lawsuit that was going to make them look really bad. And I was able to take both of those and make them pluses for me.

And then we went forward and, after that, Steve, it was more about building a business for the next five years. And that's really what I focused on. So, it was Walmart, it was, Netflix, Amazon, it was all this stuff. We acquired content, we acquired film content, and then we distributed it on every platform, whatever we could do.

We had a warehouse in Fort mill, South Carolina. We shipped 4,000 Walmart stores every single day. We sold to every cable platform. And I couldn't have done it without realizing early on as a Type A entrepreneur that I couldn't do everything. It just was impossible. I was working really long hours, really hard, but I had put together an amazing executive team who I, shifted here and there over time.

And, we would add head count very sparingly in the beginning because I was nervous about payroll and who's going to manage these people. And then over time, we started to find really good people and they liked my approach, which was very inclusive. I realized early on is that in order to get people to buy in, you had to be fully transparent with them.

So, there weren't any secrets. Every week we would do a meeting with the team. Everyone would call in and it was much more of a tactical meeting. Here's what we have for releasing this week. Here's what we just bought. Every month I would do an all hands meeting, same thing. 

So, everyone would call in and I would share the monthly financials. Here's the goal. Here's what we did. Here's where we need to improve. Here's where we overran our projection. Just everything full transparency. And then every quarter we would do an offsite, bring everyone into town and they were highlights of everyone's years.

They were really fun. And there was one to one and a half days of work. I would always do a two-hour presentation on state of the nation. Here's our business. Here's where we are here, the numbers, and I'd have different people speak and, we'd have a lot of fun from the scavenger hunt to the amazing race kind of things. It just got people from the warehouse getting together with people in sales and marketing and finance and just mixing it up. And I could tell after every single one of those that the camaraderie and the productivity and the business went up by 10 or 20%. People were so excited about going to these events.

And in the beginning we couldn't bring in everyone. So, it was like, who got to go? And by the last few years I brought everyone and it was like a big to-do.

So, that was one of the first things that really stood out to me that this is an area we have to overspend on and little things. Literally every night when they got back to their room, there was a note for me, a card with here's a book and here's a quote and here's a t-shirt.

It was all very planned because I wanted people to leave there going, Holy cow, this was just an amazing weekend or amazing three days. It's a great company and I'm in even more than I was when I got here. 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:16:29] Berry, it's interesting from the very start of your career to growing the business. It's your attention to detail on the people side is interesting. As a newbie in the business world, you were smart and insightful and said, I would rather be in a smaller company working with an experienced mentor then going for the glitz and the glam of some big company and maybe the pay that goes along with that.

And so, you played the long game and bypassed what would have been some terrific benefits in the short term for some benefits in the long-term. And speaking of the long-term, content for films or documentaries or whatever people are watching. Talk about an industry that has just gone through such massive change.

I'm curious, how have you adjusted the business model to keep you around a year after year and what would be some insights and takeaways that you can give to our audience of what do you do to make sure that you're maximizing your profits on the one hand, staying in business on the other and upping your level of service?

Berry Meyerowitz: [00:17:31] It's all about people and I remember years. And might there be any of my career going to, an early morning meeting at Walmart, like literally they called me at 7:00 AM and you go in there and it was me and maybe another one or two other independent guys and representatives of the major studios.

And I was 26 years old, and all these guys are coming in and suits. some of them flew in from LA for this big category meeting and put their Disney card and their Warner card. And I was intimidated. And I remember sitting there quietly and they're talking and just watching the dynamics in the room.

And, being a year into the business, I'm thinking to myself, these guys aren't that impressive. And I know as much as them and actually, Oh, what he said, isn't true. Or we can do that.  And it really made me believe and realize going early on that it's all about people. So, whether or not someone's got a Disney logo on their business card, or they went to Harvard.

It really, it's all about the person and that stuck with me for a long time. And that over time, I just focused in, on finding the right people. I didn't necessarily want people who had a lot of experience, in the early days when we were really growing and I had more time, I wanted smart people who we could train.

I didn't want to find someone who'd been doing it the same way over and over. And I took that approach even more so to be customer-focused.   In the old days, we had lots more customers to sell. Remember that in the film business, DVD was such a huge component of the industry for independence and for the studios.

And the studios never really liked to talk about it, but 50% of their profits came from DVD. Just wasn't a sexy part of the business and we had to figure out how to break through the clutter. And I used to always call it winning the tiebreaker. So, I used to spend an inordinate amount of time and have my salespeople as well, get to know our buyers intimately know what college they went to.

And what's their favorite sports team. And what kind of wine do they drink? And be very thoughtful when it came to dealing with them. And if we could arrange to engage with a customer and do something that we knew they liked; we know that would show favoritism to us down the road. And when they were going to pick five movies for a Halloween promotion, we want it to be in consideration for one of those movies.

And it became a point where, certain customers, you go to Walmart and you can't buy them a cup of coffee. Certain customers, you can take them out for dinner, you can go to a ballgame. We try to do whatever we could to make sure that we got to know our customers really well.

And I think we did this better than almost any other company in the business. And we had to, because the business that we were in and that worked still in today is David versus Goliath.  It's us little independence against major studios that are all massive conglomerates because early on film companies, couldn't co-exist because you had one massive loss, it would kill the studio.

 We had to be even better and more focused to try to figure out what can we do to break through the clutter to ensure that our film gets equal treatment, just to be able to play in the game. 

Steve Wells: [00:20:36] Berry there's many things that you said about your experience and about your methodology that, Deep Wealth people who are part of our learning experience, get a similar message. For instance, you're a David and Goliath, or you're when you're just starting out and you're not intimidated.

Very often a lot of the things that happen when you're exiting are not intuitive, they're actually opposite of what you think. And a lot of business people, we found hurt themselves by accepting what they think is the right methodology. And you were never afraid to turn things that seemed to me upside down.

I also want to know if you could tell us another principle that we really preach and sometimes it’s uncomfortable for business people to really think about the preparation that's needed to have a liquidity event or to exit the business. They just really want to make it happen fast.

But I have a feeling you probably, because you spent so much preparation on your customer experience and on your management, you've probably thought a lot and prepared for your liquidity event and your exit. Can you address that? 

Berry Meyerowitz: [00:21:40] Sure. Over the years we had always had, the minimal HR guidelines for the company. We had policies and procedures, vacation policy and all this stuff. Typically, I'd bring in someone every six months as a consultant and how's this going?

And what do we need to do? Or were you following the law? And at some point. Probably two or three years into the business we got to a point where we had, a hundred people and we had people all over the place and I just recognized it wasn't enough. 

 I decided that it was time to hire a full-time HR person. A friend of mine is a recruiter in the space and gave me a bunch of people to look out, to meet with. And I ended up, hiring a lady and she wasn't the most outspoken.

There's something about her personality that I really liked and we totally hit it off and she changed my whole perspective on HR.  I was always a firm believer in treating people with the utmost of respect. I always said it was a meritocracy. I don't care how old you are, what school you went to, what race?

 It's all about performance. I had an MBA. It meant nothing. It's all about what are we going to do together? And Gina took it a whole step further in terms of figuring out. First of do one-on-ones with everyone in the company and pointing out to me that, Oh, this one person that you think is amazing or she's actually a real issue in your production department.

And no one likes to work with her. I'm like, what are you talking about? They would tell me, no, they're not telling you that, but she's amazing.  Listen, this is what's going on. So, I investigated further and further. And finally, we ended up terminating that person and the.

Productivity and happiness and the team went up immensely. And I said, guys, we have such an open relationship, why wouldn't you tell me? Because we knew how much he liked her. We didn't know if he'd believe us. And I said, wow. Okay. Gina started to help me shift the way that I communicated with the team.

I thought I was being very transparent, but just methodology wise, how to, do more career path planning for them. We were a business that was growing fast, but where were people going to go? How much further could we go? So, that was one key component that I felt was really important to get ourself in a position where we could grow, we could be acquired. We could acquire because the film business is if you think about packaged goods, you're working on one brand all the year, and you're trying to get a 0.3% increase. We work on 50 products. Every movie is a separate brand as a separate strategy, separate P&L. There are so many fast-moving parts.

So, I wanted to make sure we had the best team. The second thing that happened, which is really what set me up is I sold my business in 2014. Come 2012, 13, the digital business was really starting to hum.  But you could see that the DVD business was slowly starting to decline as people were renting and buying movies online.

And I just wasn't sure because our business was so reliant on physical video. What would happen? At the same I had met a few years earlier, a, business coach, and he said, what's your goal?

And I said, I want to position my company for sale in the next two years. And that began a path for us and over the next 18 months, in addition to obviously having the business perform like we did and continue to grow, he helped me establish guiding principles for the company objectives. we did what we call a one-page and annual plan, which was.

I think a brilliant template of a guiding document that every single person was given that showed, here's what our goals are for the year financially qualitatively. Here's the SWAT analysis for our business. Here is where we're going. Every single person could buy into it. Mike helped me distill all the information that I was presenting in two hours, every quarter onto one page.

We were humming. we were doing well. And our content, was always on the top of the indie charts. You'd always see our company name, their Phase 4 Films.

And my competitors were saying like, what do you guys do? And how come you're getting so much of your content in? And it was a secret sauce of really getting to know the buyers as well, having a really good team all that sort of thing. And. And Mike and I just worked really well together and he helped me also set what my ad was, my additional, input to the company because it wasn't about hours anymore.

I was doing less actual day to day work, more mentorship of my team as well, walking around the office where I was traveling more to spend time with our sales reps in the field, making sure they understood how much I appreciated the work that they were doing and really trying to communicate the wins.

And that's one thing that took me a while to do that he helped me with is when you have a win, typically we would smile and say, yeah, of course we had a win. We expected it. For the team that doesn't go well. So, when we had wins, we celebrated wins. And if something went well, we would bring everyone in the boardroom and we'd have some wine, or we go down to the pub or we make sure everyone appreciated how much we were grateful for their contribution to these wins.

 I eventually sold my business to Entertainment One that's now owned by Hasbro. And it was it was an amazing experience.

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:26:47] So, Berry talk to us about the exit process for you. You had an acquiror call you  to buy the business. But it sounds like going into that, you saw a little bit of the writing on the wall that at least for you and where you wanted to take the company. So, what went through your mind as you were thinking about a potential liquidity event, which in this case was an exit, what kinds of things were you doing?

And looking back on that, is there anything that you would've done differently knowing what you now know? 

Berry Meyerowitz: [00:27:15] I think the hardest part is its really time consuming to go through a process and run your business at the same time. And because I was so involved, I had a great team, but I was still very involved.

I had to delegate even more and that was difficult to do. And the team took it on incredibly well. They wanted it. So, that's one of the first things. The second thing is I wanted to sell, or I wanted to monetize because I want it to be rewarded for the work that I had done in building the business.

But I loved the business. I didn't want to just sell and move away. So, when eOne came knocking, it was about me being able to monetize and make sure that I have a solid future from a financial perspective, but I wanted to have a bigger role in a global film business. That's what got me super excited about it.

And eOne was the company that I sold to had an international footprint in Spain, UK, Benelux Australia and wanted to grow more. So, that was really my goal. And my incentive was twofold. One, yes, I want to monetize, but two, I want to do more. I want to have more resources at my disposal.

I want to work with an amazing team and I went into the deal, with my eyes wide open, hoping that I would be able to bring some of what I had built with my company to a much larger organization.

And it didn't actually pan out the way I hoped or expected it to, and I left about two years after I sold the business.  

Steve Wells: [00:28:49] Berry what were you, employees, doing at the time? Were they aware that you were preparing to sell? You seem very, faithful to your employees, but sometimes it's difficult to share things, that may or may not happen.

Berry Meyerowitz: [00:29:01] My team members did not know that we were entertaining a sale of a business.  A few people on my executive team knew about it, but not even the whole executive team. And that is one decision that I would probably change is I probably would have shared with more people in the team, what I was thinking about because some of them didn't take it well. And we sold to a competitor who was also a customer who didn't have the best reputation. And of course, everyone was scared for their jobs which we made sure were going to be protected. so that's one thing I think I would do differently.

I would also dig in a little bit more with the acquiring company. I thought I knew them. I had heard all about them. There are some rumors and I think I was probably a little overconfident that, the secret sauce that we had built in our little company could be taken up the chain and people would buy into it because the results are there.

And sometimes people have different priorities. And that was something that was really hard for me, because I had felt like I presented necessary initiatives to bring the entire company's personnel in line and feel engaged and appreciate it. And it just, wasn't what the management team of the company wanted to focus on.

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:30:16] Berry I first wanted to thank you for putting yourself out there and being open and transparent with us in this interview. You talked about it in your company and you're demonstrating it here now. It's not easy to look back at things that didn't quite turn out the way that you would have expected.

But let me ask you on that note, because in life and in business, at that time, we do the best that we can with the information that we have. 

Knowing what you now know. If you were to go back to the younger Berry who was thinking about some kind of liquidity event, would you have told yourself anything differently or would you have done the same thing again? 

Berry Meyerowitz: [00:30:52] You can probably imagine that I've had that conversation with myself about a thousand times and looking back, I would probably still have done the deal because it was a good deal for the company and for me and my family, I would have honed in much more on what my role was going to be. And the trajectory about what was going to happen with the business and who was going to run it and divisions and locations. 

 So, I would have honed in a more on the goals and aspirations of the parent and where I would fit in as being a piece of the puzzle, as opposed to someone who, ran my own shop and made my own decisions.

And I wanted that. I felt a little lonely when I ran my business, I wanted to be part of an executive team that debated and was really smart and would work till they had their collaboratively.   So, it becomes very hard to necessarily do what's right for the business when people are also looking out for themselves.

Steve Wells: [00:31:46] One of the things that we coach our, business owners on at Deep Wealth is really what you hit on is how do you learn who this potential buyer is because, how you might structure the deal and what they're looking for obviously is something that the more, the better deal you're going to have get, how are they going to work with your people and your product?

And, so that research, sometimes it's hard and it takes a little diligence, you said you did some of that. You might do more. Can you imagine that would have improved the outcome if you had spent a little more time in that area? 

Berry Meyerowitz: [00:32:21] Yeah. I knew these guys, I had dealt with them for 10 years as a customer, as a competitor, they were a huge company who acquired lots of companies. And so I thought I knew the personalities. What I would've done is I would've tried to have a framework on paper for my personal career path within the company.

And not that it would-be set-in stone, but I would have tried to have some milestones or some landmarks there where we were aligned in principle on what was going to happen. And just as an example, there was a CEO and a president, both of whom I knew quite well. The president of the company is the one who was more day to day and did the deal.

And three months after I sold my business, he left.  I'm pretty sure that they knew he was leaving around the time my deal was done. These things don't happen overnight. And that changed the whole landscape for me and my career in that company. So, I would have done a lot more to understand who I'd be reporting, to what would their role be, where do I fit in there? What are my next steps to take on greater responsibility and more P&L responsibility? And I really wanted to work internationally. So, what happens in the UK, in Spain? Who do they report to? How does that happen? Just so many questions? And I think that even when people do not answer those questions or are not willing to put those answers on paper. The reaction that they give you orally is very telling. And I'm a pretty good judge of character and I can read people well, and I should have really honed in more on what the future was going to look like.  I was excited to sell.

I had made the deal with them where none of my people where ever we're going to be fired. That was one of the first things I said right away. If we do this, my people are better than your people. So, if there's two people with the same job, I'm keeping my person. And I went through a list of everyone and we did keep obviously some of their people, but we moved our whole team over and, started to build another great business there.

But I wanted to do more. And I was probably shortsighted in thinking that it was going to happen as easily as I thought it would. 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:34:27] Berry your actually different than many sellers because you thought through ahead of time on the employee side as an example, this is a deal breaker for me. if I can't keep my people, I'm just not going to do this deal. It doesn't matter what's on the table. And often the Deep Wealth Experience, we talk a lot about that every business owner likely has three to five must have, or have nots that it either has to happen, or it cannot happen.

What were some of the other things that you had in mind that you either had to see, or you did not want to see? Otherwise, there wouldn't be a deal. 

Berry Meyerowitz: [00:35:01] The team was the most important, the one person that I was not able to win on was my HR person. She was full-time with us, but as a consultant and they had an HR person who was there, but I couldn't win that battle. And that set the tone because the HR policies there, didn't treat people the way that we did. So, that was telling, because once we got in there, we saw we had a very big hill to climb in terms of how to take care of our people. 

The other list was really having the autonomy and having the resources to be able to build.  I came in with a P&L for my company and we want to grow it. I need to make sure that there aren't any constraints, we're financing side in order to be able to do that. I'm not coming in here to do the same thing I want to grow.

I want to go get bigger and I want to go fast. So, that was one thing that was really important to me. And, the next thing for me is I wanted to be on this management team. I thought that was going to be really important for my career. And it wasn't anything that was put in writing, but it was an understanding and I was on it from day one and I thought it was going to be this amazing experience for me. And it was okay, but it was very P&L driven and less people driven.  I remember being asked at some point that the quarter wasn't looking great.

We needed to see another 10% growth. and I said, with all due respect, most of our team members, earn, under $75,000 a year. When you go ask them to give you an extra 10% in margin or sales, it doesn't really compute. They see the executives traveling and all over and my approach has always been, if you really take care of your team and you bonus them well, and you incentivize them and you show them that you care, they will deliver your 10% in spades. You don't even have to ask for it. And I think that's just always been, my approach is, you've got annual bonuses when people are doing well.

Spiff them another way. Tell them that you appreciate what's going on. Level with them. I make lots of mistakes all the time, and I tell people that, you know what, I messed up here, guys, what should we do? I think there's a lot of ego in our business. 

We always say that we think we talk too straight for some of these guys because we just tell them, here's the truth. Here's the risk. We're going to hit lots of singles. We'll hit a double once in a while.

We'll hit a triple. Maybe we hit a home run every year, but we're really swinging for singles. If we hit a home run, it's like we were swinging for a single, we got lucky. We're not swinging for home runs and settling for singles. It's a completely different mindset. And that's the approach has always been for those people who want to have a big business swinging for singles is not sexy, but it's reliable. And our batting average is in the high eight hundred, because we are focused and we don't like losing money. So, that's really how we focus is try to get everyone on the same page about what's the objective of the film.

Why would we want to buy this movie? And we always say we're content agnostic. We don't focus on any one genre. We think that there's an audience for it. We're going to try it. And if we've never done it before, we're going to tread lightly. If we've done it before we can copy or mirror what we've done in the past, we're going to go bigger.

This year, which has been a really tough year our business has thrive. Number one, people are at home watching and renting movies. So, it's a good time to be in the content business. We also had to pivot in a large way because there's no real theatrical business. So, we had a movie that was supposed to premiere at Tribeca in New York in April.

Got canceled. We pivoted and went to drive in theaters in the US. We did a million dollars at the box office and drive-ins; we were one of the top movies of the year. It's unheard of, but it's just about finding creative ways to stay ahead. And I think that when you are a relatively small, nimble organization, you can move much faster.

And if you've got that mindset and your team believes in what you do, you can really make a difference. 

 Steve Wells: [00:38:49] This may not be a fair question. but at Deep Wealth, we generally counsel people, try to avoid earnouts, because once you have sold or given up, control, you can't really do much about the future.

And, I know your objective was different and you wanted to grow an organization leverage it up. You might have a different perspective on it, would you do that again or would you put yourself in the grips of a larger corporation, like you did?

Berry Meyerowitz: [00:39:18] I would do it again. I took majority cash and shares. The company, wanted me to take shares to make sure that we were aligned and had I kept those shares. It would have been good because they sold last year to Hasbro at a premium, but I was long gone. I think it is important for people to have alignment with the company that they sell to. Now having an earn-out and having no control is a very difficult situation to be in. So, unless you know that you're going to have the resources and the bandwidth and the personnel to be able to achieve your goals, I would find that to be very difficult.

A friend of mine just sold his business. He sold 60% of his business, but he got a very strong valuation that his earn-out is gravy. So, it really depends on the scope of the deal. I wouldn't have accepted an earn-out for my sale. But I was happy to take shares to make sure that we're all aligned to try to build the business together.

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:40:12] Berry, you've begun to share some of the secret sauce of Berry. A few things that I've heard, and I'm sure there's more and that's what I'd like to find out. Culture and people are everything for you. 

Treat your people well, pay your people well over bonus them when you can. Create a great culture and do whatever you need to do to have your people happy. And that's worked really well for you over the years. What would be some of the other ingredients in your secret sauce that has made you successful? 

Berry Meyerowitz: [00:40:40] There's an old quote that I've always lived by, which is the harder you work the luckier, you get the luckier, you get the harder you work. And I think that was always my career in a nutshell. Even when I was young, I always felt that I needed to be one of the first people in the office. Always in the office before my boss. And these were the days of, getting to work at seven o'clock in the morning.

And, I probably stayed later than I should have, because I wanted to make a point, but I was working really hard. And I think in today's world, especially in my business, I need a laptop and a phone. I can work from anywhere and there's no real work-life balance. An old colleague of mine said, there's no work life balance.

He was one of the hardest working guys I've ever met. And he said, it's work-life integration. And that always stuck with me. That it's a really important way, when I'm on vacation, when I'm in a different time zone. I'm just working, and obviously I want to take time and be with my family.

But there are times where deals need to get done and you need to respond. And so it's about having a measured approach to it, but understanding that in order to get ahead, the work ethic is as important as the work ability. And if you pair them together, I think it's almost an unstoppable quality.

Steve Wells: [00:41:58] Berry, there's a question we ask everybody and it's always interesting. And the question is, if you were to look back at your younger self, really young, maybe in college or just starting out, are there a couple of things you would tell yourself now that you've already been down the journey and the path that you think would have been helpful?

Berry Meyerowitz: [00:42:16] I would say, become a master of Excel as early as possible. That's number one. I love Excel, but I've probably got to love it a little too late. I would have loved to have known a better in my early twenties.  That's number one. I would say the second thing is read as much as you possibly can, especially business books, autobiographies biographies, and I think there's a lot that you can pick up in. reading and listening to guys from Jack Welch from back in the day to Lee Iacocca. I remember these books were really important for me as I was growing up. And then the second thing, over the years I have been approached by many of my friends, kids and other people who know, people want to be in the entertainment business.

It's a sexy business to be in. And they always say, what should we do? How do we get in? And I'm like, this is what it's going to take. And you get a lot of blank stares.  The biggest one piece of advice I give to young people. If you find something that you, really passionate about and you think this is a course that you wanted to pursue for your career, forget about the money, go and find someone, not a company.

Someone will take you under their wing and mentor you. Even if you have to work for free. Because a year down the road in 10 years, because in 10 years, a year of working for free will be a speed bump in your career and you will gain so much information and knowledge that it'll feel like it was nothing.

 Go sell glasses or pens or any service, but go do it with someone who you feel or you've heard is an amazing leader and an amazing manager at the same time. It doesn't matter what the product is. You're going to learn from them how to apply it to whatever you wanted to do in the future.

And if you know what sector you want to be in, if you know what industry you want to be in, and you can find someone that's the ultimate, but not, everyone's lucky enough to know what they want to do in their early twenties. So, go find really good people to work with. And figure out a way to cover your overhead and just go for it.

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:44:17] Berry some truly wise words. And who knows, maybe there's even a film in there for all of that. As we begin to wrap things up here, if somebody wanted to find you online, where would be the best place.

 Berry Meyerowitz: [00:44:29] LinkedIn to probably the best one. 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:44:31] Well, Berry, you've been generous with your time, your insights and your wisdom. Thank you so much for taking part of your day and sharing it with us in our community. 

Berry Meyerowitz: [00:44:40] Thanks guys. I really appreciate your time. Thank you for inviting me and I look forward to hearing the podcast when it's ready, 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:44:45] Stay healthy and safe.

This podcast is brought to you by the Deep Wealth Experience. In the world of mergers and acquisitions, 90% of deals fail. Of the successful deals, business owners leave millions of dollars on the deal table.

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Entertainment Industry Veteran Berry Meyerowitz On How Culture Drives Results And EBITDA (#029)