Paul Berman

Valpak

All of my businesses are in the direct marketing space. Our core businesses are Philadelphia and Lancaster Valpak franchises. Valpak allows small and large companies to advertise through coupon mailers, both in print and online.What’s your business, what makes it special?

Other companies are Vision Media and an emerging company: BirthdayPak.  Vision Media was created to help our small business partners at Valpak fulfill other marketing needs, such as; website development, SEO, Paid Search as well as solo direct mail. Birthday Pak is a high-end luxury brand targeting affluent females on a hyper-local zoned basis. The core supposition behind BirthdayPak is life event marketing, in this case a birthday (life events are proven triggers for much higher levels of consumer spending). BirthdayPak is expanding through a franchise distribution model. Today we are in 10 states and 14 markets, and expect to have franchises in half the USA by the end of 2016. 

What is the history or background of this business, why did you start it?

I purchased my first Valpak franchise in Ft Worth, Texas, on December 3, 1991 - the day our first son Jake was born. My cash investment was about $500. Prior to Valpak, I was in the financial planning business. For me, owning a Valpak franchise was a chance to do what I wanted to do: grow a sales team. Valpak just happened to be the product that we sold.  

Vision Media was formed in 1994, a year after we purchased the Valpak franchises. Then, BirthdayPak was formed in 2010.

Why did you join EO?

I joined EO 10 years ago, but I should have joined years earlier. 

It all started over breakfast. A few of my entrepreneur buddies and myself, made a pact to go to breakfast once a month. We discussed Michael Gerber’s E-Myth philosophy, talked about our businesses and just hung out. In a way, it was an entrepreneurial book club! Our goal? To connect and learn from other entrepreneurs. At the end of the day, although we were getting good value out of the meetings, it was not what we all were after.

Shortly after our group began, several of the members decided to join EO, which effectively broke up the group. Once I joined, I loved it and gave my friends a hard time about not strongly encouraging me to join earlier. EO gave me what I was looking for when the entrepreneur group first began – a community of entrepreneurs that get what I’m doing and help me focus on the business and not in the business. EO also makes me take a hard look at myself in the various roles in which I serve: husband, father, business leader, etc.

What has been the greatest impact on your life since joining EO?

The most impactful thing about EO is the community of entrepreneurs that I can go to for advice and share my experiences with. Forum (a program where groups of 7 to 10 entrepreneurs meet on a deeper and more personal level) and the mentorship program (where entrepreneurs are connected with a mentor) were even more impactful. Both my mentor and forum helped me navigate the ups and downs of not only running my business, but of my own personal journey/life as well, which has proven to be a really rocky road.

In the summer of 2005, my family had our first ever WOW family vacation. We spent 10 days in Idaho; most of those days without cell phone connection. At the time, Valpak Philadelphia was having the best, most profitable year to date, and at the same time, our family really bonded on this trip.

A few weeks after school started that fall, our youngest son, Sam started to complain of headaches. While the doctors originally diagnosed his illness as viral meningitis, it turned into encephalitis and cerebral ataxia. Nasty stuff! While a few weeks prior Sam was an “A” athlete, he was now completely disabled, confined to a wheel chair and required 24/7 care from both my wife and I. After two years and thousands of therapy sessions, Sam worked his way out of his wheelchair three times! Although there was improvement, Sam just never got better. On Father’s Day in June 2007, Sam started having seizures. Long story short: a few weeks later he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, stage 4B. 

Sam was dying.

Throughout it all, my wife and I were struggling to pilot our business as it grew from $1,000,000 to $10,000,000 in revenue from our son’s sick bed. We had NO life balance!

EO and my EO mentor helped me through it all: in the good times and through the worst of times.

I’m grateful to say that today Sam is cancer-free, lives independently, walks on his own and is attending college out-of-state with dreams of being an entrepreneur. His brother Jake also has entrepreneurial visions (I guess the entrepreneurial seed doesn’t fall to far from the tree).

During this time period, I decided to lose weight and get in shape with the goal of section hiking the entire Appalachian Trail (AT) from Georgia to Maine (will be completed in 2015). Beginning in the spring of 2006, I try to spend two weeks in the spring and two weeks in the fall backpacking the AT.

My longer term hiking goal is to complete the next three major U.S. trails: the Long Trail in Vermont, the Pacific Crest Trail (2,600 miles) and the Continental Divide (3,100 miles).

Today, I have ownership interests in six companies, and through the challenges of the “great recession”, we have grown, acquired companies and continue to run process driven organizations. My goal is to reach combined revenues exceeding $10,000,000, which we plan on hitting in 2015 or 2016. 

In the last two years, I’ve pulled out of a lot of the day-to-day affairs of running these businesses, which allows me to spend even more time working on, not in the businesses. One of the projects that I will be working on in 2015 is pursuing a path of public speaking. The story that I will tell is one of how to develop great life balance. Ultimately, this is illustrated around my story with Sam, backpacking the Appalachian Trail and growing a business at the same time! 

At the end of the day, I’ve come to realize that it’s important not to put off the WOW experiences like that 2005 family vacation in Idaho. As Entrepreneurs, we often experience more drastic ups and downs than most people. It’s important to schedule the “me-time” on the calendar and to create real life balance. 

What would you tell others who are considering joining EO?

Jump in! Attend every EO event you can get your hands on and be willing to take deep dives in Forum to get to the core issues you are facing in your life and in business. Also, be open to change, always learn and remember to implement those nuggets of information back in the business. But most importantly: give back to your EO peers, Forum mates and consider joining the EO local board. With EO, the more you give, the more you get! 

What do I tell others? Joining EO was one of the most impactful decisions in my life.