Tag Archives: Advertising

RE-WRITING HISTORY

The Story of Ray Markman – Part 9

by John Jonelis

Ray MarkmanFriday, 4:10 pm

I’m still alone in my office picking through my box of documents on Ray Markman when I come across this:

Ray’s in Acapulco on vacation after he pulls off a tremendous success with his all-woman ad agency. He gets a call: ‘You gotta come down here. Big meeting with Britannica.’ He says he’s not interested and hangs up. Britannica isn’t his account.

Next day he gets another call. Different tone. ‘You better get your ass back here.’

He says to his wife, ‘Honey, I gotta go.’ And it changes his life.

The Big Meeting

This Encyclopædia Britannica meeting drags on for a day and a half. The agency is showing 100 ads—big fat plan books. It’s one of those all-out presentations his boss is fond of doing. He’s already created the layouts practically ready to shoot. Lots of money tied up in it and any return is at the whim of the client. This is “bet the farm” for the agency. Remember, he owns stock in it.

Listening to the presentations and seeing the response, Ray knows something’s wrong here. So he takes the clients to lunch—alone—separate from the agency people. Here’s what they tell him: ‘Your people missed it, Ray. We didn’t need new creative, new marketing. Our top account guy left and they didn’t even replace him.’ So it was simple as that.

Ray says, ‘I don’t know your business but I know how to build a team and I plan on sticking around.’

They say, ‘It’s too late. Our president already told everybody your agency is fired. And your people are still making presentations.’

Ray figures Britannica must have 25 agencies pitching the business. He says, ‘Stall as long as you can and you won’t be sorry.’

And they do. And Ray saves the Britannica account for his agency.

Then he goes on to increase their business, just the way he did with the previous campaign.

But that doesn’t mean Britannica is out of trouble.

The Big Shift

Ray leaves the agency to become VP of marketing at Encyclopædia Britannica. I don’t find the reasons that drive him to make such a big move in my cardboard box of records. Maybe he just wants the chance to shake up a sleepy company. Maybe he’s addicted to turnarounds.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Britannica’s market share is slipping. World Book and others are eating into their sales. The Encyclopædia Britannica is the gold standard. It’s huge, prestigious, and takes up a whole bookshelf. So what’s the problem?

Ray does a lot of research and discovers that it isn’t the best choice for a family because it’s too hard for kids to understand. People buy it as furniture to show that they have it.

Turns out Britannica has a secret product called “Plan B” that’s been cooking for years. Five thousand scholars from around the world create it. It costs 36 million dollars and they don’t know how to market it.

So Ray grabs onto that and launches Brittanica III. It’s divided into three parts.

  1. The Propaedia—The summation of all knowledge in the world in one volume.
  2. The Micropaedia—10 volumes, similar to the “World Book.” Short, easy-to-read articles on every subject in the world.
  3. The Macropaedia—17 volumes of long scholarly articles—like the original Britannica.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Ray recognizes he needs three separate ad agencies to market it: A general agency to describe Britannica like you’d describe Tide. ‘Tide’s in, dirt’s out.’ Then two direct marketing agencies.

Finance says they can’t afford that. But Ray says, ‘Of course you can because I’m gonna buy these agencies in a way they’ve never been bought before— à la carte.’ And he goes on to do something unique—he buys only the functions he wants and mixes them into a stew.

At one agency, he buys the creative department, not the media, research, or the rest. He works out a specialized fee schedule for all three agencies. This is outside the way advertising traditionally works, but they’re okay with it because the money’s still good.

Then he does something never done before. He gets the three agencies together and says, ‘You guys are my team—we’re all in business together. When you come to my conference room, you leave your egos outside the door because you’re gonna work together. You’re gonna make each other better and we all sink or swim together.’

With that, Ray re-writes advertising history.

And he creates a machine. Normally, if an agency beats its control ad by 10%, it’s good. Ray’s team runs 26 test ads against the control. They wind up with huge numbers—sometimes 100% better than the control. If an ad falls below 25% they ditch it. That’s unheard of.

They produce 2 million leads a year.

Then they put out a “Book of the Year”. It covers all the changes that happen that year. They make a science yearbook, a medical yearbook, and on and on.

Britannica goes from losing money to a billion dollar company.

It’s clear to me that Ray is at his best starting something new or saving a faltering company. And if it means re-writing history, that’s what he does.

Continue to Part 10

 

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Find Chicago Venture Magazine at www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.

Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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THE FIRST ALL-WOMAN AD AGENCY

The Story of Ray Markman – Part 8

John Jonelis

Ray Markman

“A turnaround guy uses the same skillset as an entrepreneur.” – Loop Lonagan

Friday, 4:00 pm

All alone at the office. The hour of the big duel getting near. I’m frantically digging through my cardboard box of files and memorabilia on Ray Markman and find this:

Ray has it good in his dream job at Leo Burnett, but he leaves for a new role at McCann Erickson.

Why does he do a thing like that? Sure, it’s one of top five agencies but he always wanted to work for Leo Burnett. Why does he leave his dream job? Continue reading

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THE DREAM COME TRUE

The Story of Ray Markman – Part 5

by John Jonelis

Ray Markman

Friday, 3:00 pm

Across my desk sit both Alexander Harbinger PhD and Loop Lonagan. So far they haven’t come to outright blows but their big duel is set for 5:00 pm.  That leaves two hours to pick their brains.

I realize both men are waiting for my part of the story on Ray Markman, so I report.

“I’ve got the story on the job Ray was gunning for—the one at Leo Burnett, the big-time ad agency. First let me get you into his mindset.  Ray has a theory that all great companies are two men, not one.  There’s Mr. Outside and Mr. Inside.  The idea man and the guy who runs the factory.  Look at it this way—when Apple loses Steve Jobs—Mr. Outside—the company doesn’t just dry up.  There’s a Mr. Inside who’s already running the shop in the background.”

I slap my palm on the scarred desktop. “Same thing at this ad agency. And at that time Leo Burnett himself is Mr. Outside.”

“So Ray makes good his escape from that cosmetics firm. He’s on the loose.  Brand manager experience under his belt.  He shows up at Leo Burnett and talks to the executive that fills the role of Mr. Inside.  And the guy puts Ray through their regular jury system.”  I pause and look each man in the eye. “That’s a set of grueling two-hour interviews with ten people.”

I sip my scotch. “Here’s where it gets good.  Eventually, the personnel department sends Ray to interview with their biggest brand manager—the guy that runs the Philip Morris account.  At that time, cigarette manufacturers spend hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising.  Doesn’t matter how much.  The more they advertise the more they sell.  It’s a direct correlation.”

Philip Morris

Philip Morris

“Yeah.” Lonagan is grinning.  “I remember them times. Kinda like the way they sell cheap beer, nowadays.”

Harbinger merely nods and looks particularly aloof. Probably a smug belief that German beer is better than Budweiser or Miller.  I don’t want to take sides in their duel, which is based chiefly on nationalistic pride, so I agree:

“You got that right.” I say as I take off my glasses and rub them clean with my shirttail.  “So here’s how this interview comes off. Ray and this guy are both standing the entire time—standing at opposite sides of a huge desk, talking over the din of a lot of background noise.  Some kind of construction in the next office.  A lot of hammering.  Then he hands Ray a pack of cigarettes.

“Now, Ray doesn’t smoke but his father did, so he tears off the cellophane just the way he watched his old man do. But then he tears a hole in the top and reaches in to get a cigarette.  Of course, he’s doing it all wrong and makes a mess.  His cigarette’s coming apart.  The Philip Morris guy puts a lighter to it and suddenly Ray’s got a torch in his hand.”

Harbinger is leaning toward me while Lonagan is leering and I go on: “Picture this: There’s all this noise.  They’re standing there talking at each other.  Paper all over the desk and ashes are falling from that ruined cigarette.  Little fires are burning everywhere on the desk.  Meanwhile the guy peppers Ray with questions like a machine gun.  Doesn’t pay any attention to the chaos. And Ray’s praying, ‘God, how can you punish me this way?  I wanted this job.’  Remember, he took that spot at Helene Curtis just get brand manager experience and land this position.”

I’m having a good time telling this story and these guys are still with me. I wind it up.  “Afterwards, Ray goes home to his wife and says, ‘Honey forget it.  They’ll never hire me after this.’  But a couple days later, he gets a call.  Come in.  Tell us when you want to start.”

Lonagan and Harbinger are both grinning as I go on. “Let me give you an idea of the culture of this organization. Leo’s absolutely huge on creativity.  He puts together the most august group of ad people in the industry.  Then he gets four creative groups competing to win each campaign.  Everybody works their asses off.  Competitors say Leo Burnett’s throwaways are better than everybody else’s finished ideas.

“Anyway, Ray goes to work for them. And he submits ideas to the top man himself.  And Leo says, ‘Let’s do this.’  That really shocks Ray.  He sees himself as just an account guy—the low man on the totem pole and Leo Burnett himself is listening to him.  Turns out Burnett will listen to anybody with creative ideas.  Doesn’t matter who you are.  And he gets to like Ray.”

I lean back and lift my feet to the desk. “Nowadays, they’re under a conglomerate like all the agencies. But back then this job is Ray’s dream come true.”

 

Continue to Part 6

 

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Find Chicago Venture Magazine at www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.

Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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THE SECRET PROTÉGÉ

The Story of Ray Markman – Part 4

by John Jonelis

Ray Markman

Friday, 2:30 pm

We’re sitting across my battered WWII Air Force desk digging out the history of Ray Markman. Alexander Harbinger’s argument that Ray isn’t a pure entrepreneur seems pretty well shot to pieces. Loop Lonagan told some amazing stories about risk ventures and I think Alex is squirming a bit, but I want to hear what he’s turned up before these two beat each other senseless at the duel scheduled for five o’clock today. So I put it to him.

“Yess,” he says. “I did find quite ze important story about Mr. Markman. To me, it iss poignant und highly significant. It illustrates not only his personality but ze way he affected people around him.”

He pauses, and I think he does it for effect. Harbinger is still 100% university professor but he’s reverting to his thick German accent. That’s a signal he’s passionate about what he’s saying.

“Markman wass very young und yearning to work at ze premier advertising agency, Leo Burnett. Ziss vass when Leo ran ze agency personally. He created fantastic campaigns—Marlboro, Pillsbury, Jolly Green Giant. But when Markman attempted to, as you Americans say, ‘get in ze door,’ he vass told to first learn brand management.”

Jolly Green Giant

Leo Burnett – The Jolly Green Giant

Lonagan is drumming his fingers on the desk, but Harbinger ignores it and continues.

“So Mr. Markman made…What iss word…” He pauses and raps my desk with his big knuckles. “He make ‘cold call,’ He approach a large cosmetics company, Helene Curtis. It wass what people call ‘a hot company’ at ze time, marketing exclusively to beauty salons—but just starting in retail. As so often occurs, organization vass insufficient for new market. It used a prototypical model but no brand managers. Markman called on CEO of consumer goods, und convinced him of brand manager system. Right away, ze man hired him.”

I interrupt: “What exactly is a brand manager, Alex?”

“He iss one with final sales und profit responsibility for a particular brand. It iss analogous to account executive at an advertising agency.”

Procter & Gamble

I nod and he goes on.

 

“Ze concept of a brand manager originated at P&G und Mr. Markman read every Harvard Business Review article on brand management going back to 1920.” Harbinger stops to sip his scotch. “He decides to start by selling—to learn ze business from deep in trenches. He also knows he must impress sales manager if he iss to gain acceptance within company culture. He worked tirelessly for a month, from store opening to store closing. It vass only a month so he poured himself into his work. And he broke all company sales records.”

Now Harbinger is actually smiling. “Und he did impress ziss sales manager. He wanted to hire Markman but no—he vass slated to be brand manager. Mr. Markman then hired other brand managers. He formed department und became head of it.”

Lonagan is still drumming his fingers and it’s getting on my nerves. “What’s your problem, Loop?”

“No problem. Ain’t you bored?”

“No.”

Harbinger is suddenly agitated. “I get to ze point. As you know, Mr. Markman hass always been a man with many ideas und he proposes one campaign after another to his new employer. I have no data to explain reasons but his superior denied—he denied perhaps all of his proposals. I am told, ‘he svatted ze ideas like flies.’”

Harbinger places a sheet from his notes on the desk. It tells the story of a meeting between Markman and his boss. The highlighted sentence reads, ‘Ray, this has got your thumb prints all over it.’ Harbinger clears his throat. “Certainly it casts doubt on his quote, ‘I never worked a day in my life.’”

“Bullshit,” Lonagan snaps.

I narrow my eyes at him. “What’s wrong with it, Loop?”

Lonagan throws out an arm in an expansive gesture. “Ray’s still dreamin’ dreams. He just ain’t gettin’ as many of ‘em done. It’s a bigger challenge, is all.”

Harbinger doesn’t even acknowledge Lonagan. “Important part of ze story vass when Markman met head of company’s outside advertising agency. Ze man was only twenty-nine, but brilliant. A Northwestern MBA.” He pauses, I think for effect again.  “Of course, Mr. Markman earned his MBA from University of Chicago, both very prestigious schools but ze men got along famously anyway. Then later this man went on to successful career—many highly important positions in private enterprise und public service.”

NU and U of C

Lonagan’s ears are turning red again. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Just let him tell his story, Loop.”

Alex draws himself tall in his chair. “I can answer Mr. Lonagan’s question. Mr. Markman came to know many important persons in his life. I believe ziss vass crucial to his success. I believe it stemmed from his personal gestalt.”

“His what?”

“His…how you say…his overall manufacture.”

Lonagan grins. “Y’mean it comes natural to ‘im. Just happens that way. It’s how he’s made.”

Harbinger lets out a lungful of air. “Yes. Dot is ze vey of it.”

“Then why don’t you just say so?”

“Zat is vat I did!” Anger tints his voice and it’s time for me to intervene.

“Why don’t you two save it for the boxing ring? I want to hear Alex’s story. Don’t you want to hear it, Loop?”

Lonagan draws circles on the scarred desktop with a finger. “I suppose.”

“Then shuttup. Go on with your account, Alex.”

Harbinger clears his throat before continuing. “Markman immediately liked CEO of outside agency und two men they make what iss called ‘a pact.’ Markman gives him exclusive responsibility for company advertising account. In exchange, no one comes between them. No one! Und ziss relationship works well for quite some time. Ziss young advertising executive presents many ideas to Mr. Markman’s superior—und they are many of Markman’s own ideas, presented as if coming from ze outside agency—but now they are received with enthusiasm rather than rejection. At same time ziss young man vass, as you say, ‘taking Ray to school,’ und young Mr. Markman learned all about advertising business very quickly.”

Harbinger leans forward in his chair. “But ziss could not continue indefinitely. Mr. Markman’s outside counterpart vass asked to run an important political campaign und he accepted. Of course, ze advertising arrangement fell apart.

“Now vee come to truly fascinating set of events: Markman resigns from Helene Curtis. His superior—ze ‘tough guy’ as you Americans say—ze man who crushed so many proposals—he wass entirely overcome by loss. I am told he actually showed tears in his eyes!” Harbinger looks at Lonagan and back to me. “Mr. Markman did not know what to make of such behavior! You see ze irony?”

I notice Lonagan’s attention is now riveted on Harbinger. He makes as if to say something then holds back when Harbinger abruptly resumes.

“I believe zat I understand Mr. Markman’s superior. He sees Ray as his protégé. He feels betrayed by ze resignation. But he did not treat his employee as he should have treated him. That vass his mistake! Ze same mistake so many of us make! So common in my country! I find zis not only startling but also personally meaningful. It iss very sad because it iss so pervasive—almost universal.”

Lonagan slowly nods. “I can picture that.”

I lean back, sip my scotch, and consider. And I’m struck by the conflicted ways we so often go about our business.

Harbinger smiles. “Ah, but remainder of story: Notice—Mr. Markman learned all about brand management. He groomed himself for position he vanted so badly at Leo Burnett. He vass ready to go to work for ze premier agency…”

 

Continue to Part 5

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Find Chicago Venture Magazine at www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.

Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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THE DUEL

The Story of Ray Markman – Part 2

by John Jonelis

Ray Markman

Friday, 1:30 am

Ray Markman claims, ‘I never worked a day in my life.’ Now I wait for Alexander Harbinger and Loop Lonagan to give their analysis based on boxes of old documents and memories. The clock reads 1:30 when Loop and Alex finally file in. They each carry thick note pads and plunk down in soft chairs across from my desk. From the way Loop pats his belly, I know they’re straight from some heavy lunch spot.

Lonagan is first to speak. “Me and Alex want you should go first.”

“What?” I say. “There’s some problem?”

Harbinger responds in his heavy German accent. “Vee are at a point of disagreement. Perhaps, Yon, you vill set ze right tone for this meeting.”

I lick my lips. That sounds like trouble and I hesitate a moment wondering what’s under the surface. Each of us started with a bulging box of documents and I like what I found in mine. Finally: “Okay, I’ll kick it off.” I glance at my clipboard of notes. “Ray Markman is living one of the most interesting business careers I’ve ever researched. Right from an early age, I get the picture of an enthusiastic entrepreneur, just playing with the world. He attends Erasmus—first public high school in the country. Barbara Streisand is there. Ray sees Sid Luckman play high school football. Lainie Kazan, some Nobel prize winners, and other luminaries come out of that program. Ray runs the school paper. He figures he can get a scholarship to an Ivy League college but the faculty sells him on the University of Missouri—the first formal school of journalism in the world. Lots of illustrious figures go there. He sees Walter Cronkite. Meets the head of CBS, the head of NBC—all those guys. Connections that pay dividends later on.”

Harbinger shakes his head. “Zat is veak. You vill not prove your point based on such information. Have you nussing  from his vork life?”

“Well, yeah.” I turn a page. “This one’s interesting. He creates the Britannica Achievement in Life Award—you remember that. The award goes to people like Louis Armstrong, Hank Aaron, Ella Fitzgerald, Olympians, astronauts, singers, artists, athletes, academics, actors—it must be quite a rush doing that.”

Both men nod but nothing registers in their eyes. They’re still waiting.

Ray Markman

Is that Polly Bergen with Ray Markman?

I turn another page. “Okay, try this one. He finds out that National Geographic has lots of fantastic footage—reels and reels of film. Underwater clips of Jacques Cousteau, footage of Americans climbing Everest, Jane Goodall and the wild chimpanzees, even discovering the first Homo Sapiens. But they aren’t TV shows—just footage. So he gets John Allen and a team to help him create shows. Allen is the genius that got the Peanuts shows on prime time. So that’s how the National Geographic Series happens. Certainly you’ve seen that.”

“Yes, ziss I remember vell.”

“Well here’s where it gets good. They make the whole series on spec. Then Ray tells his client—Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘We won’t sell it to you unless we get prime time.’ Wrap yourself around the moxie behind that. He doesn’t want it aired on Sunday afternoon the way Hallmark does at that time. He figures people are watching football that day and he’s right. After finishing the shows, he’s saying if they’re not a raging success, he’ll chuck ‘em. He’s taking a huge risk.”

Lonagan shakes his head and scowls. “A guy shouldn’t never oughta let his ass hang out dat far on a deal.”

“Maybe, but Ray doesn’t seem to have any fear in his makeup. So he takes the show to NBC. They turn it down. Same old story: They don’t know where it fits—it’s not news and it’s not a documentary. It’s a whole new genre. Always hard to sell a new genre. And ABC? Same story.

“Anyway, he realizes there’s only one man who’ll buy this show—the head of CBS—the king of the documentaries back then. So he spends a whole month and works up a super-detailed 30-minute presentation. All the visuals, the financial projections, the entire picture.”

I lean back and glance at my two guests. “So the big day finally arrives. Ray and the agency meet the head of the network face to face. Ray’s just three minutes into his presentation when the guy says ‘I got it. Let’s do it.’ Just like that.”

Lonagan nods. “I seen stuff like that happen.”

“Well Ray’s not done. He tells them there’s one caveat. ‘We gotta have prime time.’ Seems to me he’s pressing his luck but the guy says, ‘Done. You got early prime time four times a year.’ So Ray goes ahead and gets Britannica to sponsor it for four years. Great show. I don’t think I missed a single episode.”

Lonagan leans across my beat-up desk. “I got somethin’ even better.” That close to my face, his breath stinks of corned beef and beer.  Smells worse than a cheap cigar. I roll my chair back, away from the stench and put my feet on the desk. “Fire away.”

He cracks a malicious grin. “Ray’s one o’ them born entrepreneurs. He loves every part of it.”

Then Harbinger barges in. “Ze man spent his career in advertising, not as an entrepreneur.”

Lonagan reels on him. “Listen, you candy-assed school boy. Everything he does, he goes at like an entrepreneur. It’s impossible to figure out where his corporate work stops and his entrepreneurship begins. When he ain’t bettin’ his dough, he’s bettin’ his job.”

Once I watched a debate between Loop Lonagan and Alexander Harbinger almost escalate to blows and I need to head that off quick. “You guys are off on a tangent. Entrepreneurship isn’t the question on the table. I’m looking to prove or disprove his statement that he never worked a day in his life.”

“No John, yer wrong,” says Lonagan. “Bein’ an entrepreneur’s the heart of it all. In da mindset of an entrepreneur work ain’t work. It’s doin’ what you love for the love of it. It’s creatin’ somethin’ new, then creatin’ somethin’ else that’s new. That’s why Ray makes that statement—‘cause that’s how he lives his whole life. Don’t matter if yer workin’ in a startup or a big organization. If you got enough freedom and love what you do, you’re an entrepreneur. Ray’s a serial entrepreneur. Anybody says different don’t know his keister from a hole in the ground.”

Harbinger scowls. “I cannot agree wiss you. Your premise—it iss badly flawed.”

I’m keeping a close eye on Loop’s reaction. He doesn’t respond immediately and his face slowly swells purple. If they start swinging, I sure hope they take it outside.

Then Lonagan blurts out, “Ever hear of a little thing called a hedge? That’s how the smart guys do it. A paying job’s nothin’ but a ‘covered call.’ It counters da capital risk on all dem companies he starts. That’s a real smart setup if you got the energy to pull it off.” He raises his voice. “But then, you never been in the trading world riskin’ real money. You hang out at that college and teach bullshit like ‘random walk theory.’ You don’t know nothin’ about business, you lousy Kraut.”

Harbinger rises from his chair. Stands erect like a soldier.  Dignified—all six foot five of him in his impeccable gray handmade suit. “I cannot accept such personal abuse—zis slur on my nationality—and ziss from an inarticulate, uneducated, and ignorant man. I demand an immediate apology.”

Lonagan jumps to his feet, pulls off his sports jacket, and throws it to the floor. “Apology nothin’. And whadaya mean, callin’ me ‘little’?” Standing in a crouch with his fists raised, he cranes his neck to meet Harbinger’s eyes. “You kin cram that where the sun don’t shine, mister.”

Harbinger looks down his nose at Lonagan and hands him a card. “Zen I vill have satisfaction. Ze Union League Club. Vee meet at Five p.m.”

I can hardly believe it. I am witnessing the preamble to a formal duel. The only thing missing is a slap to the face or a glove hurled down. Will it be pistols or foils?

“Okay, Mr. PhD.” Loop flashes an evil grin. “You’re on. Boxing gloves. Three rounds. And make sure you show up.”

I let out a sigh of relief.

A boxing match.

And after a moment’s thought, I’m actually looking forward to it. But somehow I need to find a way to get these two back in their chairs and working on the subject at hand.

 

Continue to Part 3

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Find Chicago Venture Magazine at www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.

Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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