Brad Kugler CanvasRebel Interview

November 3, 2023 • Posted by Michelle

Learn more about our CEO/Co-Founder Brad Kugler in this interview by CanvasRebel. He delves into his previous business experience and how it inspired him to excel at DirectMail2.0. Read the full interview below or visit the website:

We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Brad Kugler a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.

Brad, appreciate you joining us today. Looking back, what’s an important lesson you learned at a prior job?

I came from a different industry entirely. I sold CDs/DVDs online for years. I was actually a pioneer at that time: getting to meet Jeff Bezos, having buyout offers from and other start ups. The industry was eventually disrupted by streaming media and new technology. I tried to convert that business to this model but capital requirements prevented that. I recognized I was a dinosaur and the end of my 25-year-old company had no positive outcome, despite years of trying to ‘outsmart’ the progress of technology. I milked the final months for every dime, trying to keep people employed, pay the bills, and protect my family financially.

Over this period, I began to take note of all the things that I should have done. I tried to think of what type of business I should’ve built years or decades prior that would have prevented the imminent collapse I was going to face. From this drawn-out experience over 2-3 years, it tuned and germinated the business I have now. I learned so much more during that downtrend than I learned in the previous 20 years! I began keeping notes of what to do and what not to do when starting my next venture, and kept my eyes open to new opportunities that came my way.

Now with DirectMail2.0, in the past five years, I have made the Inc. 5000 list three times, I’ve made the company cash positive in two and a half years, and I plan to have a successful and lucrative exit in the next 24-36 months.

Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.

I’ve always been tech savvy and love to try new things. I owned an Apple II PC in 1980 and a Ham Radio operator the same year! I worked as a lab tech for a very early streaming media start up in the mid-80s. I got distracted for a while with a mundane marketing job and then the legacy family business of selling CDs/DVDs which I took online in the late-90s. As that business was obviously going to sunset in the mid-2010s due to the streaming giants we all know now (Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Hulu, etc.), I planned my future career as a middle-aged dude, pretty nervous about supporting my family with three kids in college. A long-time family friend who had watched my career over the decades and saw my ‘raw survival instinct’ offered me the helm of a fledgling tech company she was spinning off of her own company. Nervously, I accepted the challenge with some exaggerated confidence and applied my 35+ years of tech and business experience to make it happen.

My most proud moments are many. Topping the list is my family. I have two successful sons; one with an engineering degree and working for one of the largest medical device companies in the world, and the other with an early Honors admission to medical school at 20 years old with a mission to become a cardiac surgeon. And of course, my daughter, who has blessed us with two grandchildren and has turned out to be an incredible mother.

What do you think helped you build your reputation within your market?

I’ve always been a believer that honesty and integrity play a huge role in building a business. Soft skills, doing the right thing for employees, vendors and customers goes a long way to build loyalty as well as brand. Doing the right thing consists of so many facets in business. These can be things from going the extra mile for an employee, to acknowledging a mistake with a customer, to really just listening to grievances from customers without being defensive. People appreciate those skills and come to trust you. Leading by example goes a long way to building retention of employees and customers. Kind, respectful and meaningful communication in business is so huge now and goes beyond price. It is service that keeps them coming back. Low prices are not necessarily a long-term customer relationship builder.

The recognition we’ve received within our industry has also helped build our reputation. We were recently featured in The Tampa Bay Fast 50 with a two-year revenue growth rate of 85.34% from 2020 to 2022. We were also honored with a coveted PRINTING United Alliance 2023 Pinnacle Award in the Technology category for our TargetMatch campaign bundle. We’re ecstatic to have our good work recognized by so many notable and esteemed publishers. The exciting things we do are ultimately for our clients — printers, mailers, marketing agencies, and their clients — to help them succeed at marketing and reach new levels through an omnichannel approach that’s smart, scalable, and results-driven. Being recognized for that work is icing on the cake.

Let’s talk about resilience next – do you have a story you can share with us?

Business building is a long game. Sure, you have short-term wins and even more setbacks, but it’s the incremental forward progress that wins the game. This question reminds me of a story in my previous business venture. Our bank wanted to call our line of credit. They knew CDs/DVDs was a dying business and it was only a matter of time before it was disrupted or gone completely. We had a 7-figure line called with 60 days notice. That is an earth-shattering call. I knew this was going to be a tough hurdle to overcome. I started visiting banks. I took meetings with 13 different banks; got turned down by them all. I even had one bank president tell me to just find a good bankruptcy lawyer and work on a liquidation plan. The 14th bank said yes and wanted to work with us. We had our two biggest years after that. What if I quit after the 13th bank? Persistence pays.