Interview #3. Ben Aronson: Making the Transition from Director in Corporate America to President in his Own Company (uncut)

Watch a quick preview of Ben's interview - What makes a successful leader
Click "Boxers or Briefs" to hear his responses to our Word Association Challenge
Click "read more" to watch Ben's full interview
President - Tao Experience

Connect with Ben:

With clear cut focus and the ability to deliver solutions, Ben moved up quickly in corporate American and then followed his passion to create 2 powerful companies.  Today, he is a both a digital media guru and a music/tv innovator recognized and respected throughout multiple industries.  With Tao Experience, his new media production agency, he is helping his clients understand and reach a new generation of consumers.  With Break’N Through, his reality music competition show, he is giving unsigned artists the opportunity to shine.  Ben takes time with us to share thoughts on Gen Y, evolving media, leadership, and his path to success...this is one you don’t want to miss.

We kick it off with a new treat called the “Word Association” - 2 words are given and Ben chooses his favorite and why.  
(His selections are bolded)
Structure or Flexibility (Structured Flexibility - watch video to hear what that means)
Work or Life
Leader or Manager
Entertainment or PR
Corporate or Entrepreneurship (have to have a little of both - watch video to hear why)
Pittsburg or Green Bay (lovin’ on Aaron Rodgers)
Ben discusses his company:
TAO EXPERIENCE is a creative new media production agency that produces dynamic media projects targeting the gen y generation.  
What are the characteristics of gen Y from a promotions/marketing perspective?  
  • Quality
  • Entertainment
  • Image
  • “Get to the point”
  • Have the knowledge
  • Not driven by ads - driven by trends (Guilt Group)
  • Need simplicity and consistency
  • “we see the strings - don’t try to pull the wool over our eyes”
Are Millennials capable of being leaders?  What makes you say that?
  • More equipped than other generations
  • We want to have a voice
  • Only thing we are missing is the foundation in the basics
    • We studied to get the grades, but didn’t get the actual education behind it
    • Reading and writing is crucial to longevity as a leader
      • Being informed - the best leaders know about the world around them and outside of their scope
  • People are getting back to reading which is key
You were the Director of Marketing and Sales at REMI Companies...
How did you get that oppty at such a young age?  
  • My goal from the beginning was moving up and gaining the respect (didn’t care about the money or anything else).
  • From a PR company to REMI, they recruited me because of my creativity so they saw up front that I could be an asset
  • Early on - 22/23 (at other companies) - I hurried to share my opinions and disagree constantly.  I learned to sit back and process the information that was being given - then go back and create a proposal of why certain things wouldn’t work, offering a clear, precise solution driven by facts.
  • Brought solutions and that I got noticed for that
How did you do with that leadership position:
  • At first it was tough - being young - REMI (high end residential development company) was filled with engineers, developers, sr. level contractors, all who had been in the business for a long time.  
  • Had to find a balance and bring thoughts and ideas without being precocious.  Had to learn to use facts and articulate clearly in order to persuade this level of experts.  Had to win people over with strong, true, fact-driven arguments.
  • Connect with people on a personal level
    • Conflict solution
    • Lifting others up
Favorite day?
  • Finally of Season 1 of Break’N Through - Gramercy Hall - 1000 people sell out - raised $30,000 for VH1’s Save the Music - The Dream - Ben was on stage presenting...WOW-We Really Did This!!  --hear the entire story (min 15 of the interview video)
  • Sitting in the room with the top Directors at MTV - realizing that I’m creating something amazing and people are responding
Least favorite day?
  • Rushed into getting Season 2 of Break’N Through out there - had to plan the entire season in 6 weeks -- brand had a changing of the guard and pulled funding, leaving Ben’s company with a massive debt load.
Share a bit about Break’N Through and how that came about...
  • TAO transitioned from marketing company to media production
  • Reality Competition Series aimed at launching the top original artists across all genres of music.  Letting original music tell who is going to be the next big start.
  • Find out more (19 mins in interview video)
  • “Now we are transitioning our voting mechanism to a sales model instead of just youtube plays.”
    • New ways for artists to make money and offer great music to the public
  • In talks with MTV, SPIKE, and other networks to get the network deal
How did you make the transition from corp america to your own business?
  • Was the Van Wilder in college always promoting events with my now biz partner - Mo Taylor.  Grew to doing 5 school events and then brought to Philly and Atlantic City - the focus wasn’t promotion, but event planning.
  • While at REMI, this was still going on - on a lighter level.
  • The major key to success was: 
    • Focusing in on what I was actually going to do with all those ideas
      • “At the beginning, when I decided on marketing consulting, I was taking any client possible” - trying to build up clients and make money
      • Had no niche or industry focus
    • Was given advice that changed it all:
      • Focus on ONE specialty and become a guru at it.
      • Took 2 years to become a digital media expert - consultant - people look to him on how to interact with consumers online.
What is the difference between Corp America and Entrepreneurship from a leadership perspective?
In Corp America:
  • Responsibility and respect are given immediately with title - don’t have to necessarily earn it.  Like being in the military
  • On someone else’s time
  • You have to earn the respect - you must inspire them
  • There is risk involved for the followers
  • You have to work as hard or much harder than others for them to believe in you
  • Accessibility is crucial - people want to feel connected - hold their hands - be there with them
    • People are there for growth, creativity, ideas, etc
  • Experience has to earn the respect - it’s not just given to you.
  • Speaking only when I have something important to say - not thinking anymore that when I walk in the room, people are immediately thinking that I’m not capable.
  • Realize over time that you don’t have to always be convincing people of your importance or relevance - in time, they will get it.
If you could create the perfect leadership/mentorship program for Gen Y, what would it look like?
  • Absolutely necessary
  • Focus on real-life application and what it takes to run a business (Quickbooks, Cash Flow, Cost variations, Structuring a Business Model)
  • Model yourself after successful leaders
    • What type of leader am I?
      • Workers (engineers - Nuts and Bolts)
      • Creatives
      • Inspirers
      • Bill Gates vs. Steven Jobs vs. Obama
  • Teach young people to try
    • Not just a presentation, but be “ripped apart” afterwards analytically
      • Why would this work/not work
      • Have you thought about this
      • Competitors
      • Have you done your homework in every arena, etc.
    • Need to challenge their thoughts and ideas 
      • In real life, you give a presentation, then have double that time for analysis and breakdown of how it could be improved, etc.  (Learn more at min 34 in interview video)
        • They need to be prepared for that process
        • If don’t know...admit it and then get that answer!
You can keep in touch with Ben Aronson via LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter (simply search his name)
Check out his companies:
Thanks again Ben! -- from Generation Young Leaders --
Make sure to comment to make Ben the Winner of the Week!!

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