Brian Cuthbert, Alumnus: Executive Director, IOFM
Describe your career path. What choices did you make? How did you use your time in college to help you along in your career path?
I started taking journalism classes in my sophomore year with Prof. Stone. I don't remember the name of the class but I remember the first assignment we had was writing an obituary for someone famous. I joined the Observer in the Spring of that semester as a reporter and then continued doing that while adding Business Manager to my responsibilities (it was a paid gig and I needed a 2nd job). I was Business Manager Junior Year securing ads for the newspaper. I wrote for News junior year, and then applied for features editor senior year and wound up getting that. Relinquished Business Manager duties so I could do that. Mentioned to Professor Stone I wanted to get into business journalism and within a few weeks she had connected me with someone who graduated a few years earlier and was part of the Observer, Mina Landriscina. Mina worked for a company called Kennedy Information, they published magazines, research, newsletters and ran a few conferences. Part of a much larger organization in BNA (now part of Bloomberg). Kennedy had an Editorial Assistant opening in their NY office, as well as a few other jobs. I applied, got it, and started as a paid intern in January 2001 and then full time right after graduation. The person who ran the NY office (David Beck) for Kennedy has become a key mentor for me throughout my career - he was very senior at Thomson, he knows media/publishing and took me under his wing. About 2-3 years in, I started getting itchy and wondering why the magazine wasn't making more money. It seemed like we had a good product, we reached an audience that had significant technology purchasing influence (this was www.ConsultingMag.com) and all the sales people had quit or been fired so they had no one selling. I expressed an interest, and met with the then CEO and then President (Wayne & Marshall Cooper) and they agreed to let me test out ad sales for 6 months, and if I don't like it, I had a guaranteed job somewhere in the editorial division of the company.
I asked for them to provide sales training, so I did 8 weeks worth of courses after work at Dale Carnegie. Was invaluable.
I became the top salesperson in a $15 million company within 2 years. We merged subsidiaries together - 3 companies combined into 1 - and I was moved into a role overseeing all sales across $22 million in revenue across multiple divisions (all fairly unique) but one common thread among most of them was events. I stayed at that company 11 years, and left an 85 person company as part of the 3-person Executive Management team reporting directly to the CEO of BNA. I left, interestingly enough, to join David Beck, Wayne & Marshall Cooper and another former colleague at Kennedy who were running a private equity firm and owned three businesses. I was VP Sales for Chief Executive Group, focusing on all West Coast sales and sales to consulting firms, and then VP of Sales for IOFM which was this company they had just taken over for no money (it was being left for bankrupt, so they took a chance on it). Within 3 years, IOFM was exploding, and we were acquired by Diversified Communications, a large global media company that has a particular strength in the event space. IOFM was growing fastest in events, and then also ran a certification program and small membership. I had to choose between staying at Chief Executive Group, which I liked, or going with IOFM and I chose IOFM - seemed like higher upside and more stability, etc. Within 6 months of being acquired, we acquired our largest competitor and I was put in charge all sales for the combined groups and had to figure out how to tie it all together. 1 year after that I was promoted to Executive Director of IOFM, where I'm responsible for all day-to-day operations of the business and have responsibility for all sales, marketing, editorial, etc. I work for RD Whitney, who I worked with at Kennedy, and I work with David Beck. My whole career has been linked to the connection Elizabeth Stone made for me in late 2000. That networking opportunity, and my desire to take it and run, helped catapult my career.
What advice do you have for English majors or English graduate students as they prepare for for careers? How can they stand out in a competitive job market?
Know what you want to be. Know what you're passionate about and articulate that - intelligently. Getting a job requires you to sell yourself, sell your passion, sell your work ethic. I want to hire people with a fire, and a clear interest - I can help them build a career. And network, network, network. Meet people who do what you want to do, or have careers you want to learn more about. You never know where that connection will come from. Everyone who has been helped wants to pay it forward. You have to ask though...I hear all the time from people presenting to college students and they're amazed out of 40 students, maybe one has a specific ask - "Are you hiring?" and only a few will connect on LinkedIn and do something with it.