Celebrating 25 years as a Graphic Design Agency: Thrills & Spills


Get ready, Angry Designers, as zfactor hits 25 year milestone in business!

Learn about what it took to make zfactor a successful creative agency. From the early days in Massimo’s parent’s basement, to almost crashing out, to landing their first billion-dollar client, strap in for one hell of a ride as the Angry Designers reflect on 25 years in the industry.

Join us this week for part 1 of a nostalgic special, as we dig into the nitty-gritty of what it’s REALLY like to build an agency.

Episode Transcript

Massimo: Yeah. But again, that I had to learn so many ways how to pay, you know, again, how to pay vendors when you have no money, right? It's like how to, how to, you know? You know what the check is? You haven't gotten it yet, okay? If you don't get it by next week, I'm gonna just cancel that check and cut you a new one and drop that one, and all of a sudden I get another 30 days.

Massimo: You're listening to the Angry Designer where we cut through the industry bold to help frustrated graphic designers, survive and thrive. So we're here on a funny day. We're here on a different day, and we're here on a different 

Shawn: day. Yep. That's correct, because 

Massimo: I guess this week just got like all, like it got 

Shawn: away from us.

Shawn: We had a lot of, uh, extracurricular activities after work. Right. That we couldn't, that we couldn't, uh, we couldn't manage it. Sha got band practice soccer. Yeah. There's lots of soccer going on. That's right. Daughter's 

Massimo: birthday. Birthday. Yes. Right. This is a birthday month. 

Shawn: Yes. Birthday month. [00:01:00] That's right.

Shawn: And speaking of birthdays, Yes. Yes, yes. 

Massimo: And there was, there was, there was even a birthday surprise for me yesterday. Cause my birthday's tomorrow. That's right. The, it was kinda fun, that escape room. It was good. They took me for For lunch. Yeah. And then the escape room, which was actually, I've never done one of those.

Massimo: I know. 

Shawn: It's pretty cool. Right? It was really cool. Yeah. Exactly. And yeah, the best part of that and, and I was talking to this with my wife last night, and it's like, we pulled together as a team. We did. And we all worked together. I know there were pods working on different parts. 

Massimo: Right. And somehow it all kind of started off slow as everybody was working in small pods.

Massimo: Yep. And then near the end it was like, and it was all together and everybody brought it. It was a really cool experience. It was. I know. I always thought those things were for nerds. And when you guys talked about it, I was like, wow. Cool thing, Sean, that you do. But I mean, experiencing it, it was actually a really good time.

Massimo: Yeah. Yeah, it is. Kind. Nerdy. Kidding. I'm just kidding. No, it was a good 

Shawn: time. Yeah, 

Massimo: it was. It was really fun. Yeah. And then you guys filled up [00:02:00] my office with balloons. Yes. Surprised me with that. And nobody, nobody apparently knew I had a latex allergies, so can you imagine? Oh, no, I'm kidding. So, yeah, it was a fun birthday.

Massimo: It was good. Right. And then, and then lucky me last night to celebrate my daughter's birthday. Yeah. She had a little birthday sleepover. Mm-hmm. Right. Which is a little nuts. And so I'm a little tired. Yep. Right. Fair enough. But, uh, in the whole birthday fiasco, birthday's this month and birthday and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Massimo: Mm-hmm. Tomorrow's my birthday. Mm-hmm. Do you remember what, whose birthday was? The day before my birthday? 

Shawn: You mean today with the, where? 

Massimo: No, I don't. 25 years ago. Yeah, today. Today started Z Factor. Oh, are you serious? Right. Yes. The day before my birthday, 25 years ago. Oh, we started Z So today, [00:03:00] today is Zed Factor's birthday.

Massimo: Oh 

Shawn: my God. I should have got more balloons. Yeah. Just like 

Massimo: you not know. So even though that's awesome. Got me this. Oh, I'm thinking we celebrate today, we celebrate Sback, his birthday. Oh, right. I mean, I mean, again, you guys got me a 15 year Scotch Dal winning check that bike and um, yeah, I could have drank this, you know, depressed alone at night, over my birthday tomorrow.

Massimo: We should have, I mean, that's should've depressed alone. Great. But I think that, I think, I think, dude, we open this up. Wow. And, and we celebrate Zed Factor's birthday today. Oh my God. This is right. Who else could I celebrate that with, other than you? This is perfect. 

Shawn: Yes. 

Massimo: This is awesome. Yeah. So you open up that boy.

Massimo: Oh, sure. Yeah, absolutely, dude. I would love to share that with you, especially on today. So today's topic. Yeah. I'm thinking it, we're fucking recording this on, on Zed [00:04:00] Factor's birthday. Just by coincidence. It all worked out like this. Yeah. That we're recording today, so I'm like, you know what, 25 fucking years.

Massimo: Yeah. Today's episode's gonna be on Zed Factor. Yes, a hundred percent. The journey, how we started, you know, about the business. This isn't gonna be 25 years of, of logos and this and that. This is actually gonna be the highlights, the low lights. I figured this would be a perfect opportunity. Just talk about what the 25 past 25 years 

Shawn: have been like.

Shawn: Ooh, we, well, that's no. Yeah. That's awesome, 

Massimo: man. Man. That's why I didn't want us. I'm like, yeah. I was sad that you didn't remember. I 

Shawn: know. How could I not remember? Cheers, bud. Cheers. Cheers. Z 

Massimo: Factor. Oh, fuck. Before that, I gotta smell that, that scotch is just so, I am a, I'm a fan of this, this peak. Oh, good.

Shawn: Smoke, smokey. It's very smoky. Mm. 

Massimo: Oh boy. So I'm gonna enjoy this sip. Thank you. Happy birthday, Z Factor. 

Shawn: Cheers. Happy birthday to you and Z Factor as well. Mm-hmm. Did you plan that? Which, or was this your, uh, having your little 25 year old baby the day before you were 

Massimo: No, absolutely. Didn't plan [00:05:00] it at all.

Massimo: Oh, okay. Absolutely didn't plan that way. I mean, again, I had set a goal for myself. Mm-hmm. Right. Like I was Well, well let's, okay. No, no, no. Final fairness. We will break this down. Okay. Okay. Fuck it. Let's just talk about it. No, no, no. Let's do, it's perfect. Cause I mean, I just got shit I wanna make sure I covered Okay.

Massimo: Right. And it was just random. But you know what? You're right. The whole thing started. Yes. Right. When this little Italian guy, Mossimo was watching one of his favorite stars. Tony Danza. Tony Danza, you know, and who's the boss? Yep. Right. And Tony used to work for Angela Bauer. Right. Who had an ad agency.

Massimo: Right, right. And I was a young kid. Mm-hmm. But I was always fascinated about what her pitches and doing creative and coming up with creative ideas. And I was just like, that's really fucking cool. Yes. I wanna do that. Yeah. Yeah. I just didn't know how. Yeah, right. I didn't know how the days before the internet.

Massimo: Right, right. Well, again, it was completely days before the internet. Mm-hmm. Which was insane. Saying, right. Because again, this goes 19. No, no. I mean, God, this goes like 1940s. When I used to watch, who's the boss? No, no, no. Right. No, no. Like that was [00:06:00] way before the internet, right? Yeah. Yeah. Because that was what, eighties?

Massimo: Eighties? Yeah. It was the eighties, right? Mm-hmm. And it was a great show. It was fucking great, but it was just like, mm-hmm. I wanna do that. But I couldn't figure out how Yeah. How did she, right. How, how does one do this and come up with these amazing ideas, right? Yeah. Yeah. Because again, I was obviously too young and Mad Men was not on Yeah.

Massimo: There was no such thing that shit was happening. But I wasn't around for that. Right. So then, um, I went to high school. Yeah. Right. And I knew I wanted to own an ad agency. Mm-hmm. Okay. But I had no idea how I was gonna get there yet, but I was like, Nope, I'm gonna own the agency. Right. And so I put it out in the universe, but you know, again, I was still young.

Massimo: Right. And then grade nine, I'd met this teacher. Miss Service. Mm-hmm. Okay. Service. That was her name, miss Service. Her name was Miss Service. She was a nice teacher. So I'm not gonna make fun of that name. But Wait, 

Shawn: was 

Massimo: her first name Anita?

Massimo: I need a service. I need a service. 

Shawn: I need a service. Sorry. I had to do that. I, 

Massimo: and she introduced me to graphic design. Oh right. And [00:07:00] this was really, really early on cuz I knew what I wanted to do. Yeah. Right. But it wasn't until my first year in high school Yeah. That I was introduced to graphic design.

Massimo: And again, I was a creative kid, right? Mm-hmm. I used to play with Lego and, and, and all these awesome toys, and I used to draw like my heart out. Mm-hmm. But you know, again, I didn't know you could make money from this, right? Yes. Yes. So, and then growing up as a little Italian guy, your parents are always pushing you to be a doctor or a lawyer.

Massimo: Or an accountant, right? Yeah. Because that's, that's apparently the only jobs that were out there that's 

Shawn: success, right? Compared. Yeah. Yeah. That's, yeah. That's it. It was like, well, what about, uh, what else is there to do? Yeah, exactly. There's nothing else. Don't consider it. 

Massimo: So she was like, you know what, she's like, you know, if you want, own an ad agency mm-hmm.

Massimo: Through graphic design is how you're gonna get there. Right. Right. And again, ad agency or the idea of pitching, you know, like, I mean, I, it was still rough at that time. Mm-hmm. But as soon as she said, with, with what you're able to do, your creative side, You could go into graphic design and you could own your shop by being a graphic designer.

Massimo: Now again, it flushed out later on, like once I went to [00:08:00] college and I realized what kind of agency we wanted. Right. But I was like, holy shit, that's it. Right? Yeah. Like, I'm gonna own an agency. Yep. And I'm gonna get there through being a graphic designer. And then I, I took every possible graphic design course through high school, you know, and I was, I learned, I learned how to use a Mac.

Massimo: Yep. Early, early, early on on. Right. In high school. In high school. Shifted. We had, I mean, we had a fucking great high school. Right. Wow. And she was such an amazing teacher. You know, she gave me, I had two official graphic design courses, right. Was uh, like grade 10. But I was in grade nine when I took it. And then there was a grade 12.

Massimo: Oh. And then, I mean, after it was done, I was just like, you know what now? Right. I was really bummed. Yeah. Cause I'm like, shit, I got two years of high school to go. Mm. And there's no graphic design 

Shawn: lab. Oh. So she 

Massimo: was so awesome. She gave me an independent study. I was the only student in the class. Right.

Massimo: Gave me a credit for it. And, and again, she's like, it'll just be your, you know, independent study. You'll get a full credit. Yeah. Just for graphic design. Cause I really know you want to do this. Right? Yeah. So, and then, so I did that. Mm-hmm. And then in that, that independent study, one of the things I [00:09:00] got to do was create the grade 11 graphic design course.

Massimo: So in essence, wait, yeah, it was backwards, right? So it was grade 10, grade 12 independent study. And she's like, you know what? Let's figure out together how, how, how to do this. How to do a grade 11 course, what we could do. Oh, she's an amazing teacher. Wow. I was really lucky. So this is why it's like, I don't hate on all teachers.

Massimo: I was just, 

Shawn: Yes. 

Massimo: Yes. Right. I was gonna say, I had a shitty college experience there. There we go. But my high school teacher made a world of difference. Yes. Right. And she did. She molded me, pointing me direction. And, and I, I still to this day owe I feel like I owe everything. Sorry, you know, in that sense for pointing me in the right direction.

Massimo: Yeah, totally. And then it was, um, and then what, what really sealed the deal was then I had dumped my first girlfriend. Whoa. Yeah. And, um, and of course, okay, she's great. Gone. Right. But. But her dad once, you know, sat us down. Yeah. And he was a business guy, right. And he was a really nice guy. Right. Really, really, really nice guy.

Massimo: And, and he sat us both down and he goes, okay guys. And he gave us seizure piece of paper. Mm-hmm. And a pencil. [00:10:00] And he's like, on this piece of paper, I want you to write down. A goal that you're gonna hit in 10 years. Oh. And like, even before he could finish 10 years, I was like, screw away. It was already down.

Massimo: Right. And it was like, it, it was that combination of events between like, you know, Angela Bower and then figuring out graphic design and the passion for graphic design. Yep. And then it was that set of goal for yourself, right? Mm-hmm. And it was just like, it just beelined. Yeah. Right. It was clear as fucking Dave.

Massimo: Yeah. You had no, 

Shawn: you wa you did not waiver in any Nope. Any way. Nope. You were not gonna be convinced by your parents to be a lawyer. Nope. Cause you've been, you would've been an awesome lawyer. Guilty. Yeah, that's right. Like, like the, the Italian judges.

Massimo: More like, it'd be more like my cousin Vinny. Oh, there 

Shawn: we go. The 

Massimo: two Ute, the two Utes. So, so it was, [00:11:00] it was like clear as fucking day. Yeah. Right. Yeah. I was like, that's my goal for 10 years. And it was just like, that whole setting of goal thing mm-hmm. Was so fucking huge. Yeah. Honestly, cuz it just, it, it, it was as low as though, like my whole world just parted and I could see that line and I knew.

Massimo: There's gonna be a lot of shit along the way. Yep. And I was in high school, I knew there was gonna be a lot of fun and this and that. Yep. But it's like, it was so crazy that I was able to see that and I think that made all the difference. Mm-hmm. Right. Because then basically every job that I took from that point forward, it was like, I was like, I would take it on the whole, you know, basis of is this gonna bring me closer or take me further away from my goal?

Massimo: Right. Right. So I didn't go work at like, um, you know, a, a fast food place. Right, right. Yeah. Instead I tried working at a retail shop because I would learn how to sell. Right. And then I, you know, tried to get a job at, back then there was Kmart, remember Kmart, right. Yeah. I remember Kmart. And, and then I, I wanted not a job at Kmart, but I wanted a job in the photo department at Kmart.

Massimo: Oh. So I could learn how photos got processed. Right. Learn about cameras. Cuz again, back then, that was all the [00:12:00] rage. Right. Wow. Like the nice, you know, s l r cameras and all that. Yeah. So it was like I was taking all these jobs. This is in high school? This was all in high school. Right. So you're probably at like a.

Massimo: 16 year old kid at that point. Yeah. It was like, you know, 15, 16. Right. And it was just like hitting up that goal. Right. And uh, and everything I took was, was always to take me to that direction. Right, right. Yeah. And then I went to college. Yeah. Okay. So this is where, you know, shit started getting really real and now I'm jaded about Of course.

Massimo: So getting to college, I had already had freelance customers. I already like my very, very first. Logo job. Yeah. You know, was in high school, I was like 15, 15 years old and I charged 20 bucks and I was like, on top of the fucking world. I was like 20 bucks. And I, all I did is draw that thing, 20 bucks, here you go.

Massimo: And everybody's like, 

Shawn: oh, I love what you did. 

Massimo: You know, I wanna put on tv. It was, it was shit horrible. But I was just like, wow. Yeah. I can make money doing this. Yes. It was fucking unbelievable. So then I had freelance gigs up until college. Right. And I [00:13:00] was already on a Mac first year of, of college and, and I got into Sheridan.

Massimo: Yeah. And at the time, Sheridan was one of the better. Yeah. You know, it was, I think it was like one of the top ones. Right. He was that one. I think Conestoga was still pretty good back then. Yep. Yep. Um, I, I was a fan of Humber, but regardless. It was a struggle. Mm-hmm. Because it was like, all of a sudden it was like they were, they were taking a big step back.

Massimo: Mm-hmm. Right? They're like, oh, no, no, no, we don't touch computers until the third year. And I was like, but guys, like, there's no question. Computers is the way this industry's going. You're teaching me how things were done 20 years ago with layups and cutting things, and it's like, mm-hmm. Oh no, it's theory and this and that.

Massimo: And I mean, again, eh. Yeah. You know, and, and you know, it wasn't what I wanted to hear. Yeah. And fucking color chips. Dude, I hated painting. Color chips, you know, you would have to do like 50 different colors and all the different gradients and this, and it was just, and in between that and then it was subjective.

Massimo: Mm-hmm. Right? Like all the grading was subjective. They're like, you know, here's, you know, you have to ink. Uh, it was like the black and white ink. Did you guys have to do that? Black and white? It'd be black and white ink [00:14:00] abstracts that, you know Oh yes. Would represent a word. Like right shear. Yeah. Yes.

Massimo: Right. So again, and I remember I was like, and this one I was like, this is just a bunch of bullshit. Mm-hmm. Cause I came up with something and it was like a big block and then I just sheared a tiny little thread on top. Right. Just cuz it's like a shear isn't a cut, it's just like, it's just a Yeah. And they're like, oh, you know, I don't think it, you know, incap or encompasses shit.

Massimo: And I was just like, dude it fuck off. This is a bunch of bullshit. Right. And they graded you on it though. It wasn't like, I could care less if they gave me their opinion. Mm-hmm. Right. They're entitled to their opinion, but to grade somebody based on their opinion. Right. Which is subjective. Right. That's the part I had a problem about.

Massimo: And see, 

Shawn: and the thing with that is this is what, and I guess we have this beef with the post secondary education, especially the current one. Yeah. Especially what we have now is there's no, there's no points for creativity. Yes. Do you know what I mean? Like something like that. To me there should be these guys, these teachers, you're in this position.

Shawn: Yep. You should be aware of [00:15:00] what is Yes. Normal. Yep. And what sheer, they've done this all the time, right? Yes. They've done This is part of the curriculum. Yeah. So they know. So they've seen all the shears that they have, the 

Massimo: scissors cutting through. They might even have in their mind what they want to see.

Massimo: That's exactly it. Right. What they 

Shawn: see something different. Yep. They don't understand that. Yep. And then you get penalized for Exactly. 

Massimo: Right. And how fucked up was that? And that's so, of course then, you know, I questioned them on it. Yeah. And this was when it got to the point where I was like, guys, like this is kind of stupid.

Massimo: Like mm-hmm. You know, I still completed the task. Yeah. It was done right. It was done. The quality was good. There was no smears or smudges or anything. Yeah. Yeah. And, um, but you know, you know, you just didn't agree with, with my idea. Yeah. But you can't grade me like a C or a D based on the fact that you didn't like it.

Massimo: Yes. You know, like that. And it's, oh, and we went back and forth with this and how they were the experts and they had to be trusted. And I was like, dude, this is wrong. And that's when they're like, you know, you'll never make it in this business with that attitude. And I mean, you Okay. You never fucking say that somebody who's got a clear as fucking day goal.

Massimo: Right. You do not. Yes. [00:16:00] So that's when I was just like, fuck, like, fuck you guys. I will, I'm gonna fucking show you. Okay. And, and like, Fuck you. Douche bags. Yeah. Yeah. So fucking bad, right? Yeah. Yeah. So then I was like, look, what am I gonna do? Right? And I had to make a plan, and just by coincidence, mm-hmm. That college also had an advertising and design course.

Massimo: Oh, okay. So I knew that I was already on a path of being a graphic designer, but I was like, you know what? Obviously you guys aren't gonna fucking teach me shit. So I'm gonna continue my own graphic design. I'm gonna, I'm a passionate designer. I love design. I'm just gonna keep going with that. Yeah, right.

Massimo: You know, and I'll learn the other side of the business. There you go. With the advertising and design course, 

Shawn: you probably had a really good base layer of what graphic design was anyway, going, going into this Exactly. Right. Because of what you were 

Massimo: doing in high school. And that's why I was like, screw, I don't need you guys.

Massimo: Right? Yeah. Yeah. I'm gonna learn how the business side works. Yeah. I'm gonna learn about marketing, I'm gonna learn about, you know, media buys, which were important back when we started, of course. Mm-hmm. And I'm gonna learn how all that works. Yeah. And then, you know, I, I'm, I kind of got both sides, right?

Massimo: Yes. So, [00:17:00] screw you guys, because I want the whole agency not just to be, you know, like pushing somebody else's, you know, order all day long. Yes. So then I was like, okay, I'm gonna apply to this, this other course, the advertising and design course. Yeah. Well, fucking, sure enough, I didn't get into that course.

Massimo: What? And, and then shit got real. Oh no. Cause I was panicking. And I'm like, how? Because again, that course was like, they didn't wanna look at your portfolio. They're like, Nope, this isn't a graphic design course. This, this is the other side. This you needed more business expertise. And most of the people who got it, who went into that course came from the business side.

Massimo: Right. And I was like, no, I have, you don't understand. I have to. I absolutely. So I wouldn't accept no. Right. So I went and talked to the coordinator and I'm like, dude, right. Like, you can't not let me in this course. Yeah. And so he was like, well, you know, fine. I'll put you on the wait list. Okay. Okay. I'll put you on the wait list and we'll see Bud.

Massimo: Just to warn you, this course is, you know, like out of a thousand applicants only 80 get in and, and it's, it's really tight. And I'm like, shit. Right? And he's like, so the ones that usually get in, they usually, you know, the, the, the wait list, we never pull from the wait list. I'm like, it's [00:18:00] okay, I'll get there, I'll get there, I'll get there.

Massimo: Right? So first week into summer, right? I call him up, right? And I'm like, Hey, it's Masimo, Zino. I dunno if you remember me or not, but, uh, I'm the guy who really wanted to get in the course, you know, and you put me on the waiting list. He's like, oh, yeah, yeah, I remember you, right? I'm like, did I get it? And I'm, and he's like, no, no.

Massimo: He is like, it's, you know, but you know, check back back, you know, keep checking and I'll let you know. And I was like, okay, fine. Right. An hour later, the next week, oh, the next week, same day I call back, hates Mossino, right? I leave him a message you didn't answer, right? You didn't. The third week again, All fucking summer long, dude.

Massimo: Yes. Every week I left the same message. Hey, it's Mamo Zino calling. I dunno if you remember me. And it's the exact 

Shawn: same thing, right? Same message. Just wondered where we are with my 

Massimo: practice. So, so again, he never picked up the phone after that. Right? He really never did take my call again. And then what happened is, the first week back in college, I was like, I'm screwed.

Massimo: Right? Yeah. I, I showed up, right? And I was there like, like, okay, well what else can I do? Cause I love the college, right? Yeah. Yeah. I luckily saw him in the hall. And I went up to him like, [00:19:00] Hey Ian, do you remember me? Right? And, and, and he's by look and he's like, um, um, cause he recognized he didn't come in.

Massimo: I was like, oh, it's Masimo Farino. And he's like, oh, you're, oh, you're the guy who's, and he's like, kinda laughing. And I'm like, you know, okay. So anything happened. Like, and then he goes, he goes, well, he goes, you know what, nobody has dropped out. I'm sorry. Right. And he goes, but I'll put you at the top of the list.

Massimo: He goes, sometimes, first day of school. Yeah. People just don't show up. Yep. And, and they just don't tell us. Right. Yeah. And I'm like, okay. He's like, yeah, I just need me back here. Whatever. Right. Yeah. So of course fucking first day of school, I'm registered for a completely another class now. Right. I'm registered for business.

Massimo: I was like, I guess it's gonna be a lot longer, longer, longer truck to get there. Yeah. But I'm like, fuck it though. He said to meet him there. Yeah. I sat and waited in front of his office at seven in the morning. I sat there, there was no cell phones back then. Yeah. Where you could be. So I was fucking just do, do, do, do, do.

Massimo: Right. Sure enough. Half an hour later, right? Yeah. Elevator opens up. There he is. He steps out. He sees me. Fucking breaks out laughing. He's [00:20:00] like, holy shit, dude. Right. Yeah. And he was, and I'm like, well, Well, anything. And he's like, I'm sorry man, not a single person has dropped out. He's like, everybody is registered as of yesterday.

Massimo: Right. Damn. But then he's like, but I said, I've never in my life experienced somebody who wanted it so bad, so fucking bad. I'm gonna let you in. Oh, no way. So he's like, even if I have to put a chair Yeah. In the corner and you're not at my desk, he goes, you've earned this. You obviously want this. So, so, boom.

Massimo: Right. So then I ended up in that core. I know, right? It was, it is fucking fantastic. And it was, it was perfect because I was paying my way through college. Yeah. Through graphic design. Oh. And I actually got, A job in graphic design as an in-house designer for a watch company. Oh. While I was still going to school in the advertising and design course.

Massimo: Holy shit. So here I was, I was learning. I was, you know, on the job training. Yeah. Doing trade show stuff, doing package designs, doing fucking watch designs and watch wow. Strap [00:21:00] designs. It was so cool for a college guy. And again, they were a startup. They just needed someone with design shops. Yeah. I was like, young, eager, and I'm like hungry.

Massimo: No, I'm totally doing this. Right. Yeah. So it was fucking great. Yeah. Right. So that was, that was, so again, college was a great experience. Yeah. It's just my graphic design. Profs. Yeah. We're dickhead. 

Shawn: Yes. You just needed to go into the right. Spot. Oh yeah, right. Or yeah, or, yeah. Well, I don't know. That's, that's hard to say.

Shawn: Yeah, I think, I think that was probably the best, but it was the tenacity that got you in like most kids. Hundred percent. Most kids would be like, you know, you try three or four times and then, okay, well a hundred percent not gonna work. A hundred percent right. No, 

Massimo: no, no, no. So, so good for you. Needless to say, it was like working there and then, um, I was working at the watch company and um, and it was okay, but I knew.

Massimo: I wanted more. Yeah. Right. So then I ended up getting a job at an agency locally. Right. My parents, I was already, I was living outta town. Yeah. And my parents were like, look, you, you wanna start a business, move back home. Mm-hmm. Right. For a little while. And again, I'm Italian, we, we stay home till we're like 50 years [00:22:00] old, live with our parents and, um, they're like, you know, so then this way, when you want to start your business, you can start it here and you don't have to worry about your costs.

Massimo: Yeah. Right. Yeah. Worked for this agency didn't really work out. Right. A lot of like internal drama. But I learned, you know, I learned the politics side of the agency through this place. Right. Oh, okay. But I was there for a long time and I learned Was it a big agency? No, it was a small agency. It was just, it was a small agency.

Massimo: It was similar size to what we are now. Oh, we have, yeah. It was smaller as half? No, it was here in Kitchen. It was in Kitchener. Oh, here in Kitchen Waterloo. Oh, okay. And then, so I left, right. And I left and it was too bad I left. Cause I liked the place, but it was just too much internal drama there. And I was just like, how long did you work there for?

Massimo: Almost two years. Two years? Yeah. Almost two years. Right. Wow. Okay. And then what had happened is then I left and I was like, well, I'm living at home, so you know, I don't have to worry about it. Mm-hmm. Two weeks after I left. Mm-hmm. Okay. I get a random phone call from someone who had no fucking id, who they were, and they're like, Hey, you know, um, is this Mo Massino right?

Massimo: I'm like, yeah. And he's like, well, he goes, you don't know me, but. So-and-so from your old agency just came, you know, and [00:23:00] pitched my company to work with them. Yeah. I was like, okay. Like random. Yeah. Why? And he's like, you know, and they pitched me all this really cool stuff and I, and I had recognized one of the companies that they pitched me that they did work for.

Massimo: Right. So I called up the owner of the company Yeah. To see, you know, you know, how they liked working with them. And the, the owner of the company said, you know, they, they liked working with the company, but they remembered you, the person who would always do their work and service them. Right? Yeah. And he's like, he's like, your name came up.

Massimo: And, and he's like, wondering where you are, cuz now you're not with them. And, and he doesn't want anybody else working on his stuff. Oh, would you be interested in creating some stuff for us? I was like, holy shit. Nice. Nice. Yeah. Right. I was just like, whoa. 

Shawn: A cold fucking call the other way. 

Massimo: Exactly. It was like a cold call.

Massimo: They called me. Yeah. Right. And it was, this is where I, I started learning that whole customer for life. Yes. Right? Yes. Because I was, I treated my customers so well that it was just like, well, why not? Right? I was like, well, hell yeah. Mm-hmm. And then it was just like, you know, um, well, who else? You know, liked [00:24:00] working with me, right.

Massimo: So, of course I picked up phone, called the second guy. He's like, yeah, oh, there I was worried. I, wizzy goes, absolutely, I'd like to work, keep working with you. And I'm like, really? Even though I don't even have a name for my company. He's like, yeah. He goes, as long as you know, you're still working on it.

Massimo: Yeah. So I had called like all of those companies and I had five of them agree to work with me. And here I, I had business. Wow. Before, like I was hustling, right? Yeah. I was like, I drove out to go see him and drove and I was just like, wow. And I had business before I even had a fucking company name, before I had a logo.

Massimo: This is why when people come and they're like, oh, I need a logo before I start my business. I'm like, no, no, you, no. You need customers. Yes. You need fucking work, right? Yes, yes. That's what you need. Yeah. So, I mean, so that officially is how Z Factor started. Wow. Right. So technically, I guess you can say I started the work two weeks ago.

Massimo: Yeah. 25 years ago, but it was 25 years today that I was just like, Z Factor. That's the name. That's women. That's what I registered legally. Right? [00:25:00] And, okay, so remember I said my, my girlfriend's father at the time, who's like, write the goal. Yep. Years I registered, right? 10 years, right. So I hit it nine. Oh, okay.

Massimo: I hit it a year early. Nice. And, um, pick up the phone. I'm like, call him up. Right? I'm like, Hey, Mr. Moore, you know, this is, you know, back then, I believe it or not, people call me Max. And I was like, yes, this, right. We don't speak of those days too often. I was like, Hey, this is, this is Max, uh, Zino. Do you remember?

Massimo: He was like, oh yeah. You know, how are you? Whatever, blah, blah, blah. I'm like, well listen, I don't know if you remember this, but you know, you had, uh, made me write this thing. He goes, yeah, I totally remember. You know, and you know, he goes, how did it work out for you? Right? And I was like, well, I started my business.

Massimo: Yeah. And now I need an accountant. Yeah. Do you want to be my accountant? Right. Cause he was an accountant. So of first he's laughing. It was like, so we had it, it was a great way to catch up. And he was like, my accountant for the next 12 years. No shit. Yeah. So it was really kind of cool. It was, it was neat.

Massimo: It was kind of, yeah, 

Shawn: that's, it was full cool, full circle kind of moment. Right. It really like that was just, [00:26:00] just kind 

Massimo: of, and that was, that was 25 years ago, years ago today. Wow. Yeah. I 

Shawn: think we've talked about the name before. Yeah. And now I, I was under the impression that it was Zino mm-hmm. Factor.

Shawn: Right. But that's 

Massimo: not the case. Absolutely. No. No. And it never was. Yes. Some things have never changed. Right. I've always been this No, no, no. It's not about me. Yes. It's not about me. And I always knew I wanted a bigger agency. Right. Not that there's anything wrong with freelance, I just knew I wanted a bigger shop.

Massimo: Yes. Right. I always had this vision of like, cool shit and people skateboarding and inside, which kind of have, right. Yeah. Yeah. And, uh, no. So I had, we come across this name, so my girlfriend at the time, a newer one, a different one. Several, several later. And um, oh, I remember those. Yeah. And, um, and she had gotten a job and, um, inside of this manual, they had this term that they would, when they interviewed people, they would rate them on this thing called the Zed Factor, ah, back then.

Massimo: And they had said, you know, this was, you know, and the zed was a level of zeal that this [00:27:00] person brought to the job. And when I was like, holy shit, yeah, that's cool. That's the fucking name. Yeah. Like, that's perfect, right? Yeah. Like the zino thing is just a coincidence. I promise you. I promise. 

Shawn: No, no, but it's, it's kind of, it's kind of one of those, what do they call that?

Shawn: Like a serendipitous moment, right? It was, it's, it's like, it's not that, but I, you take it 

Massimo: if you got it 

Shawn: 3d, right? Yeah. Mean, oh, I never thought of that at that point. It's no, it, but the, the zeal factor, and it 

Massimo: was, and it is what it is. Yeah. Because again, fire that's cool. Energy, passion and, and I mean, again, And even the color.

Massimo: Yeah. Red passion. Yes. Right? Yes. Because again, everything was just, it was intentfully done, right? Yes. Yes. So that's, that's how we finally got our name. We registered the business Nice. Immediately. And that was 25 years ago, so that was 25 years. Pretty fucking crazy. Right? Holy. So I got this, I got this work.

Massimo: Yeah. Right. Got the five customers and it was good work. So right away it was steady, right? Yeah. It was just like, there was a lot of work, but it was like, you know, how am I gonna differentiate myself from everybody else out there? Right. Because Kitchener Waterloo at that time, there's glut of there, there was [00:28:00] 34 other advertising agents.

Massimo: Like you picked up the Yellow Pages. Yeah. Yellow Pages were like Google for, for in book form of just all the companie for you 


Shawn: folks out there. 

Massimo: Yeah, literally. Right. So it was a big book with just all the, every business name, you know, that there would be in that town. And there was 34 other ad agencies.

Massimo: Wow. Right. And they were all over the place in town. I remember them. Right. Like there was Scribblers Club. Brighthouse, brighthouse Media. Focus, right? Yes. I worked there. Did you really? Yes, I did. So I remember I used to drive by media focus every day on Park Street. I go street to high school, park Street.

Massimo: Yeah. Right on Park Street, right? Yeah. I was still there. Yeah. And I remember looking going, I'm gonna have that one day. Oh, I want that. Like I want, oh yes. It was just neat. Right? Yeah. So was a cool building. There was 34 other businesses and I was just like, how the fuck am I gonna stand out here? Right?

Massimo: Yeah. So this is like where the idea came from, you know, grew up in the trade industry, coincidentally, I. Four of those five companies that came along for the ride mm-hmm. Were all in the in industry world. Like they were all trade companies. Right. Oh, okay. One was a cylinder [00:29:00] manufacturer, one, you know, was uh, would made like veneer for like furniture companies and they weren't exciting.

Massimo: Yeah. Nothing. But the thing is, it was just, It was cool. Like the company that called me was an elevator installing company. Installation company. Oh geez. Really? So random. Yeah. But I'm just sitting there thinking, holy shit. Like this is the shit that I grew up. Cause my dad was always, you know, working in his hands, all my uncles, I knew that space.

Massimo: And then the more I got into it, the more I was like, there's like trade magazines out there, metal forming, welding, injection molding. Really boring shit. O e M magazines. Right? Oh yeah. But the thing is, people were paying money to put their ads in these magazines and they didn't have good material. They had shit material.

Massimo: It's crap. And 

Shawn: if you look at those kind of magazines, those trade show magazines, they look like ass. Yeah. You know what I mean? It's like somebody's grandkids or nephews is putting these ads together and it was, and then so when you get something, what you've got, boom boom, 

Massimo: it stands out. Right. So that was my pitch.

Massimo: Yeah. I would call these guys up and it was just like, and again, pick up the phone and call pick up. Mm-hmm. And there were all, sorry, back then it was, you'd pick up the phone and call [00:30:00] anybody within an hour drive. Yeah, that's right. Because unfortunately that's, you know, there was no internet, you know, to this degree how we have now.

Massimo: Right? Yes. And it was like, listen, you're, you're dropping like two grand on this ad and it looks horrible. Right? It's not working. Let me create an ad for you. And back then magazines were giving 15% kickbacks to agencies. Oh. So I was like, look, I'll do it for free. Yeah. Because some of these ads were like full page ads.

Massimo: They were paying like six, eight grand for this. And I'm sitting there thinking, holy shit. Like I could make a thousand bucks. Yeah. Just on this edge. And he, it doesn't charge him anything. Yeah. Like it's so of course they're all like, sure shit. Definitely. Let's see what else you got. Right, right. So then it was like, it was literally like shooting fish in a barrel.

Massimo: Mm-hmm. Right? It was just like, boom, boom. And then again, you do one ad form. Right. Then it's just like the next month, well, let's do another one. Keep going, let's do keep. Then it's just like, well, now you're in with the company. Mm-hmm. So we were doing their trade magazines. We were doing all this stuff. Or sorry, their, their brochures.

Massimo: The brochures, yeah. Their trade shows. Yep. Right. Their business cards. Cards. Cards. Yep. We'd [00:31:00] update logos. Yeah. And it was, it was just such a rush. Yeah. Like we had grown within the first three years. We went from literally two in my basement. Yeah. Like, and I think we had a staff of like 12. Like, it just shot up like crazy.

Massimo: It was like, it was hard to control because again, here it was young and crazy and stupid, but I had no fucking idea. Right. Like, literally it was just, it was such a rush. Yeah. Honestly, it was, it was such a good time to do this. Totally. Until, or, or. The first recession came the industrial Rece recession that we worked through.

Massimo: So there was a recession in like 2002. It was the industrial recession, not, it wasn't like the whole industry just tanked, fucking tanked tank. Oh shit. So in, you know, and again, because all of our business was like b2b. Yeah, right. The first thing people do is they pulled their marketing. Right. They pulled their marketing they bought, which sucked because we had some great companies we were doing work for, like Toyota Industrial.

Massimo: Oh. We had some American customers Oh shit. Down in Michigan that we were driving three, four hours for. Like, it was such [00:32:00] an awesome time. Holy Right. And again, the vibe, everybody was like, you know, like 20 something back then. Right. Yeah. Cause it was just like, so you had the energy to do this kinda 

Shawn: thing, right?

Shawn: To drive to 

Massimo: Michigan. Yeah, exactly. So the recession hit, and of course we took a huge hit from that. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Because again, we lost all of these customers. And so then it was just like, well, shit, you know, unfortunately we had to downsize. Yeah. We took it down from like 12 people. Was your staff at 

Shawn: that time.

Shawn: Uh, oh, 12 people. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, wow. Wow. 

Massimo: That's great. Great. Were like, we're, yeah. And then, oh, geez. Yeah, it was like, it was crazy. And again, crazy growth, right? Yeah. Not all designers. Yeah, yeah. Right. Because we had sales reps, we had an account manager. We had, yeah. So it was a little crazy. Mm-hmm. But then we went down to like four people.

Massimo: Yeah. Right. And it was just like, it, it really heartbreaking. Like that was a real big lesson there about, you know, like I didn't regret, like the niche was incredible, but like, wow, what a kick in the nuts that was, right. Yeah. Yeah. So then we just started taking all this other work. We were like, okay, well let's hit up retail stores.

Massimo: Right. Restaurants, this, that, and we started kind of being a little bit more broad. Right, right. And then that went okay. Yeah. Right. Like it did, it was okay. It didn't feel [00:33:00] as expert. Like it didn't feel, because again, now we were like really spreading ourselves across a whole bunch of industries. Now we had, we had like a tanning franchise that had like 10, 12 different, um, you know, locations, right?

Massimo: Yeah. Yeah. And then we had clothing stores and a restaurant. So we were just, it kinda like we were doing for whoever. It was all over the place. Yeah. So it wasn't until, I think, it wasn't until like 2008, we had the opportunity then, so the internet kicked in. Okay. Right. So everybody 2008, no, no, no. Like it was saying during that time.

Massimo: Right. It was growing, growing, growing. Right. And we were growing, right? Yeah. It was just like, okay, well what is this inter internet thing that we keep hearing about? What are these inner webs? What's going on, on the webs? Right? So, We were, you know, young enough and, and foolish enough to, to be like, yeah, you know what, well, let's try this.

Massimo: Right? Yeah. And back then, you know, people were basically just taking their brochure and putting it on the internet. Mm-hmm. Right? But because of the schooling, because of the expertise, you know, the experience we had up until that point, I was taking it a step further, right? It was just like, no, no. Like we have to approach this a little [00:34:00] bit different, right?

Massimo: Like, we started creating, you know, more of a marketing piece, not just an online brochure, right? We were taking what we learned how to do offline, which was create these ads, these messages, and, and then we started putting 'em online, right? So the websites we were creating were actually, you know, they were actually great, like getting great results for our customers.

Massimo: Yeah. And this is really early days, but we would, we came up with the About Us page, the company page. Nobody would think about this stuff. Yeah, exactly. Because back then it was just like, well, you got a brochure? Yeah. Okay. Put it on the internet. Put it on there. That's it. Right. So, and everybody else figured it out.

Massimo: We, you know, because we were, we had the marketing expertise, you know, we did the storytelling part. Mm-hmm. And, and we started taking the websites at that time to a different level. Mm. Okay. Yeah. What that did is that caught the eye of, there was a local internet company, right? Mm-hmm. And they basically sold their software Okay.

Massimo: To another company. Right. So they were being acquired. Right. Okay. And, and we had used their software up until this point, right? Mm-hmm. We were using their software to build the sites that we were doing, right? Yeah. Yeah. So they were kind of like selling off their business. Yeah. And they're like, look, [00:35:00] you know, this, this, you know, this company bought our software.

Massimo: But we have like 50 customers that need to be serviced and, and while we built their websites and took them to this level, right. We need someone who can take 'em further. And after dealing with you guys, you know, we, we think that you're a good person, you know, to help them do, to do this to the next level, right?

Massimo: Right. Yeah. And, um, there's a cost of course. And back then it was like a hefty cost, right? Like, like a, you have to pay for the last, I had to basically, cause they're like, listen, you know, we, we've got four other agencies right, that we're talking to. Right. But we wanna know who can, you know, who can take it over.

Massimo: The cost was like 30 grand. Ooh. And, and again, all it was was 30 grand for basically 50 handshakes. Yeah. Literally it was what it was. Right. Wow. And, um, it was ballsy as hell. 30 grand back then was like a hundred grand now. Yeah. That's because again, Wes a talking lot of money talking like early, mid, you know, two thousands.

Massimo: Yeah. Again, jumped on it and, and sure enough they're like, you know what, we actually think that you can help our customers. Right. They offered it three different payments. Right. And we had enough money banked at that point that it was like, [00:36:00] okay, let's do this. Let's invest in this. Mm-hmm. So, um, That introduced us to the whole tech side.

Massimo: Right? Oh, that's how Jamie came aboard, right? Right. Because Jamie used to work for that company. So it was like, not only did it introduce a whole digital element to our company, which was really crucial at the right time. Yes. But because they were a tech company, they had a lot of tech connections and a lot of their customers were tech.

Massimo: Yeah. Okay. So this is how then we started, you know, rolling into the whole tech scene. Oh, okay. Because it was like, okay, it was all kind of happening at the right time. Yeah. The right momentum. We had the right service. Now we're introduced to these tech companies, right? Mm-hmm. And I mean, one led to another one, which led to another one, which is like, I don't know, like, I mean, again, it was, uh, how can I put this?

Massimo: We weren't just making pretty. Websites. Yes. Right? Yes. Again, we were, we were digging deeper with these companies, right? And they kind of recognized that, cuz when we met, we would talk bigger ideas, right? Mm-hmm. I wasn't just like, oh, well we can do your web updates for you, right? Yeah. We'll, whatever you want.

Massimo: Yeah. Yeah. One of those companies was Blackberry. Okay? And again, you know, in [00:37:00] talking with them, they had already had like one or two sites that were used from here, right? And they're like, well, what else can you guys do? And I was like, well, let's talk and find out, you know, what problems you guys have. Now, granted, you know, Blackberry at that time, you know, already had giant agencies doing big stuff, right?

Massimo: Mm-hmm. Right? But in talking to them, we had found out that they had all these internal problems, right? Because they were growing at such a pace and they had all these teams in all these different, you know, buildings and this and that, right? Yes. None of them communicated, right? Uhhuh. And they had this horrible internal system where they would keep all their files and if you needed marketing files, you'd have to look through this dos like system, right?

Massimo: It was horrible, but it was all locked down based on, you know, like all their VPNs and crap, right? So we had developed this kind of layer that kind of sat between this giant database of crap, right? And then their, their whole vpn, right? Mm-hmm. And it was, we were creating these internal. Team websites. Oh, for Blackberry.

Massimo: Right. So again, we got in with just their silly ass little one website. Right. But then we started building a [00:38:00] second, a third, a fourth. Cuz we came up with this new product. Right. This new, this new way of dealing with a problem they had. Mm-hmm. And we were, we infiltrating basically. Right. Like all of a sudden we did it for a second team.

Massimo: Yeah. Second team led to a third team. Yeah. Then they were like, Hey, are you guys the guys that did this? Yeah. You know, at one we had like up to 12 different internal teams that we had. All these little internal portal like websites. Wow. And again, we, we treated them like websites. Yeah, yeah. But we fucking made them rock.

Massimo: Oh. So while they had their big B2C agency. Mm-hmm. Which, you know, it was like one of the big shock, I don't know, like, like, uh, well, again, there was some big companies locally at em. One, yeah. Um, they did a lot of them, but there was also, I think they had somebody in Toronto, like, I don't know if it was shy day at that point or whatever.

Massimo: Yeah. But again, we didn't have that side. We didn't want that side. Yes. We wanted You had your niche little that we had that niche that, that internal B2B thing, right? Yes. And again, it started farming, right? Yeah. Yeah. So again, we got in there and became really grew and we stuck in there. Yeah. Right. Yeah.

Massimo: Like, you know, so, so, 

Shawn: which, which I'm gonna say, yeah. Having been here, this is [00:39:00] kind of our thief. This is, this is how we work, right? It is. We get a little, little tentacles in there and before you know it, uh, Glen, it totally did try 

Massimo: to leave us. It totally did. Right. So it was so fun. Right. And again, it was that whole idea about make yourself indispensable.

Massimo: Yes, exactly. Right. And again, it got to the point where we were the go-to people mm-hmm. For these sites. Right. And we had 12. So again, we had grown again. Right. Everything came great. Nice. And again, it was a scary time because Blackberry was a very big part of this company all over again. Mm-hmm. Yep. And, um, so we were at the garage.

Massimo: At this point, the smaller garage. And it was, um, our first studio was like, uh, it was literally a warehouse with a big garage door and it was just awesome. Awesome. It was exactly what you got picture Yes. An agency to have. It was great. And um, so sure enough, then, you know, Blackberry went all to hell. Oh boy.

Massimo: Did it. Right. But before it did, you know, we were in talks with them and they were like, listen, we love what you guys are doing and, you know, if we had more private areas, we could give you more business because we don't feel comfortable. Cause it was, it was like a one big, our old studio was a big garage.

Massimo: Yes. [00:40:00] The boardroom table was right in the middle of the, and there was no room. So every, no, there was no rooms. There was one big room bullpen. Yeah. Yeah. Which was awesome. Yeah. But they were like, listen, you know, we wanna give you more work, but we can't have these kind of meetings in this kind of environ environment.

Massimo: Right. It's too open and, and everything. And we can only have certain people here what we, so it was like, no problem. Right. So that's what inspired us to get this location. Ah, okay. So then it was all that. Found this building, bought the unit, right? Mm-hmm. Renovated it to look like it did. Had a big ass boardroom at the front.

Massimo: Yep. Right? Yeah. And that same summer that we moved in was when all hell broke Was at at Blackberry. No. And they had pulled all their vendor relationships. Right. Everything. And they were like, at this point they, that half the teams that even had internal websites were fired or let go. Right. So again, here we are.

Massimo: We built up to this awesome, awesome agency. Yeah. Crash and only crash and then it crashes down. Yeah. All and, and all of a sudden it was just like we moved into this giant place and there was only, there was only three of us at that point. Right. So, [00:41:00] cuz again, we had to basically, Lay everybody off again, which sucked.

Massimo: Wow. That was really sucked. So the percentage 

Shawn: of the what Z Factor was in with Blackberry? Yeah. How much are we talking here? We were up to like 75%. 

Massimo: Close to, no, about 70. That's about 70%. Right. Okay. And then we had, and at that point we had a team of almost 10. 10. Okay. 

Shawn: Okay. So that 30% wouldn't carry everybody 

Massimo: Oh God, though.

Massimo: Right. And again, it brought us back down to three people. Yeah. Down to three people. Which was, you know, Jamie Melina. Yep. Yeah. And then myself. Yes. Right. And um, you know, it's, I remember feeling really shitty about this, right? Mm-hmm. But I remember Melina was all like, she was all. Positive. She's like, you know what?

Massimo: We can do this. We're the three Musketeers. Well, and it was just, she had this optimism, you know, whether it was, cuz she was really young and naive at that time. Yep, yep. But it was just like, I needed to hear that. Yes. And even though it was a really shitty year, cuz it was like we had these giant offices and there was like one person and one, one in the other, 

Shawn: one in the next one, one in 

Massimo: the next.

Massimo: And it was just like crickets all day long. And then that whole open space. I know [00:42:00] the back was completely open. I know, I know. It was kind of crappy in that sense. Right? Yeah. That's scary. I'll bet. So I remember hearing that, right. And it was just like, it was like, we're almost time to give up. Yeah. And I was like, you know, at this point I was like thinking to myself, I've been doing this for 12 years.

Massimo: Mm-hmm. And I've proven I can do this. Yep. You did it. You know? Yep. But now fucking this happened and that happened, and that's why I might as well fold. Right? Yep. And this is that, and then she kind of, you know, Melinda's little perk about the whole, um, you know, three Musketeers made me smile and sit there and think, and I was like, you know what?

Massimo: It's, it's been too good of a, it's been too fun. Yes. Of a run. Yeah. And if I'm gonna go out, I wanted to go out on my terms. Right. Not on circumstances of what other fuckers did. That's right. Exactly right. And I was like, no, you know what, we're gonna turn this around. Yeah. And, and it was just, it was also clear again.

Massimo: Mm-hmm. Right. Because again, not on other people's accord. That's right. On my own terms. Own on my terms. Yes, that's right. I'm going out. Yeah. I'm doing this, I'm doing my way and I'm gonna burn it. I'm gonna 

Shawn: crash and burn it. Exactly. Yeah. I'm gonna [00:43:00] fucking burn it to the ground. Right. Then I'll work out of my basement and I'll be fine.

Shawn: So, 

Massimo: so, you know, this is when the whole clients for life Yes. You know, mentality came in. So again, it was like no sooner that I was like, you know what? Fuck it, I'm going out on my terms, right? Mm-hmm. Following week, it's like the phone would start ringing. Oh, right. And you know, somebody from Blackberry, who we worked with, who loved working with us and who loved our mentality mm-hmm.

Massimo: Moved to Teis. Right. And he was just like, Hey, I'm over at Teis now. Yep. Better gig. Yep. And I loved working with you. Why don't you, you come and talk to us. Right. So it was just like, and again, it wasn't their B2C shit. Yeah. It was the B2B again. Right, right. And so that was just like, Okay. Yeah. You know, and it was just funny, right?

Massimo: Yeah. It's just a matter of the right mindset, the right, the, the right attitude, right. It just took us to that next place. Yes. And that was Tellis. Right? And that was, again, big Telco Tellis, right. And then it went from Tellis. And then again, same idea. Land and expand. Yep. I was like, I got into that one [00:44:00] fucking, you know, one guy after that Schmoozed my way.

Massimo: Meta second. Meta third. Right. Yeah. Next thing I know, Tellis was bigger for us than Blacker was. Right, right, right. And Telus carried us for years. Mm-hmm. Right. The connections we made with Telus, you know, the people, the jobs, the experience that we got. Yeah. And the fact that Telus is, you know, one of Canada's three top telcos, big time, great badge to have mm-hmm.

Massimo: On your portfolio, right? Mm-hmm. And then that was, that was when it was like, it became clear as days, like, you know what, all these years, you know, although the very first time we got screwed over with the recession, the industrial recession, you know, the points where we grew Yeah. Was in the B2B side.

Massimo: Right. We knew the people, we understood the technology. Mm-hmm. Right. Let's just. Own that. Yeah. And that's when we decided to niche and just, yeah. And again, and it's not that we never ever took anybody else after that. No. If they had the right money Yeah. And the job was cool enough and we wanted it, we take it.

Massimo: Yep. Yep. But we changed our focus, our marketing, our brand. Mm-hmm. And, and [00:45:00] we were putting out to the universe, you know what we're fucking, we work with B2B technology companies. Right? Yeah. This is what we do. This is who we know. This is who we understand. We know your business, we know your product. That's right.

Massimo: We know how technology works. Like, let's fucking talk, let's own that space. And, and that's honestly, and again, that has been the best thing that we could have done. Yeah. Because that's what's now taken us to this next level to where we are now. Yeah, exactly. Right. And, and again, now it's just like I'm a fucking proponent of niching.

Massimo: I'm, I'm, mm-hmm. People have to niche, in my opinion, in this space. I think they're crazy not to. Yeah. Right. So, so that's the whole story of how we actually made it to 25 fucking 

Shawn: years. So by your account it has, holy 

Massimo: shit. I've been talking for like almost an hour 

Shawn: take. Sorry guys. Take a drink there, my friend.

Shawn: You, I usually, I'm on like drink two or three. I was just gonna say I'm on my second and you're only doing your first so shit. But yeah, so the, the, I think the main theme here of this is perseverance. Correct dude. Perseverance is if you love what [00:46:00] you're, what you're doing. Yep. Yep. You're going to make it work somehow.

Shawn: Right? Absolutely. But also the underlying theme that I love about this is, is that client for life. The customer for life. Absolutely. How many times? Like even that one guy from Telus Yeah. Shifted to the next company. Yep. Which brought us on board with that. 

Massimo: Absolutely. And then again took off to another one.

Massimo: Absolutely. Right. 

Shawn: So this, yeah. This is the kind of stuff where it's like, you do this, there's the passion that is there. Yep. Do you know what I mean? And this is what you love to do. And people key into that. They do. They, 

Massimo: they pick up that energy. They do. They do. They pick up that vibe. Like 

Shawn: you imagine if you went in to these people and Yeah.

Shawn: We'll do whatever. Yeah. Whatever you want. Yeah. Right. I don't sure. Just pay. Just pay me. They're not gonna fucking 

Massimo: take you with the, and they know that leave, 

Shawn: right know. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. But you're like, absolutely. Okay. What's your problems? We're, let's figure this out. Let's figure out how, how we're gonna make this.

Shawn: That was the fun part of this experience part, right? Was the part. Exactly. And somebodys like, absolutely. It was like, holy shit, these guys are gonna come in here and they're gonna help me with my issues. True. They're not [00:47:00] looking for cash. They're not saying, oh, we're gonna pay for the nose through this kind of stuff.

Shawn: Right? Yeah. No, no, no, no. This is what we do. We help absolutely. You be the best customer or be the 

Massimo: best product you can. And again, and it wasn't just about, you're right. Cause it's, it was never about the the bottom line. It's not, no, it wasn't, aren't we're like, oh, we could screw 'em with so much. That's, I know some agencies that that's their, that would do this.

Massimo: They just want dollars. Dollars. They see dollars Where we were more jazzed about trying to solve their problems and to be a legitimate partner. Yes. And again, that's what made the difference. 

Shawn: Yes. Right. And this, and the funny thing too is like, I loved it. I never heard that story with Blackberry. I think that's, that's awesome.

Shawn: Oh, no, no. Yeah. But it's kind of like, okay, you all your major advertising is, is taken care of. Yeah. What else do you need? Yeah. Like, you know what I mean? It's like, it's not like your, your cutthroat going in after that kind of, That it's true element. You're, you're like, okay, there's gotta be some holes here that you 

Massimo: guys need.

Massimo: Well, and this is what we tell everybody, right? Yes. Yeah. Like once you're in there, don't just accept, you know, the one job and you're gone. Right? That's right. Find out. Yes. How else you can help them, right? Yes, exactly. Oh, dude. [00:48:00] Like there was so much, especially a 

Shawn: company of that size, you know, there's gonna be issues and that they need absolutely 

Massimo: fixing.

Massimo: Right. And I mean, it's up to you to also find out how you can, so again, we're not order takers. No. No. Okay. And again, nor should anybody ever sit there and wait for the customer mm-hmm. To tell them what they want. Right. That's right. Ask questions, find out how they work. That's right. Find out what they need.

Massimo: Yeah. To help take 'em to that next level. Right. All of a sudden you've created, you know, their brand identity, right? Mm-hmm. Well, do they need a presentation? Yeah. Can you help them with the presentations? Yeah. Do they need vehicle wraps? If, if they're, you know, servicing people from door to door. Exactly.

Massimo: What about the direct marketing? Right? What about their social? There's so many opportunities, right? That you know it. All you gotta do is wait for that. Just look for the opportunity to land. Mm-hmm. Once you've landed. Dude, you just, you just gotta run with it. Find, that's exactly where else, like, like a slight, like Yeah, like the tentacles, like you said, right?

Massimo: What? No, what did you call 

Shawn: it? It was land and expand. Land and expand. I love that. That's dude, land, dude. Totally. That's, that's, I wanna see that on a tshirt. 

Massimo: That's one of the final lessons. So I've got, is it, I've got lessons here. So I have, I have a list of Z factor lessons for business. [00:49:00] My, oh, my 10. Yes.

Massimo: Okay. But there's still a lot more of other shit, like I wanna talk about, of course. Okay. Which is crazy. But throughout this process, some crazy things I've had to overcome, no. Okay. Challenges, right? Oh, yep. So the funniest thing, the the most obvious one. Age back then. Oh, I was too young. Yes. Right. Okay.

Massimo: Here I was a 20 something guy. Right. Going to these companies that were, you know, already worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Mm-hmm. And they were like, I'm not gonna listen to this 25 

Shawn: year old kid. The hell is he talking 

Massimo: about? This is one of those industries, and this is why I'm shocked when I hear about ageism in our space because mm-hmm.

Massimo: This is the kind of industry people take you more seriously when you're older. The more seasoned, the more experienced you have. Exactly. Here I was a young kid, and again, I was a young hotshot. Right. I was, you know, like this. Everybody was like, oh yeah, he's so cool as designs. But I was a kid. Yeah. Right. I was trying to grow facial hair.

Massimo: Right. I had, I had a gross goatee back then. Not this beautiful Maine of a beard I have now, but I mean, again, it was silly things like this. Right. I would dress up in suits, right. To [00:50:00] try. I would do anything I could. Yeah. To make myself look. Older and to to be, you know, present myself is more experienced, which is ironic.

Massimo: Yep. But that was a huge challenge I had to overcome. Right. Interesting. Because again, it was just like, it was, it was hard for people to take. So it was nice when you would deal with people over the phone, cuz then age didn't matter. It does. Yeah. But when they would see 

Shawn: you Yeah. Then they're like, what the hell?

Shawn: This was all who I was talking to. 

Massimo: But then they'd always say the same thing and they'd always played up. They're like, wow, you know, I, I thought you'd be much older. I'm like, oh, I just look very young for my, and I would always throw that in there. I I, people tell me I look 10 years younger than I actually am.

Shawn: I'm really 40. Yeah. Right. Like, how, how 

Massimo: odd is that here now I'm telling people I wanna be 20 years younger. Like then I'm telling for today to be 20 years older, I don't wanna 

Shawn: be 50. Holy cow. 

Massimo: That's hilarious. So, so age, age was definitely something I had to overcome. But then with the age and then the whole suits [00:51:00] thing and everything else, right.

Massimo: It was like, I completely. Lost track of who I was. Who you were. Yeah. Right. Because again, I was trying to be somebody become, I wasn't Yes. You become 

Shawn: this, this persona that Yeah. You think is what people wanna see. Right. And 

Massimo: that's true. Right. It was like, here I'm struggling for all this to be taken seriously as an expert.

Massimo: Mm-hmm. To be, you know, to be the expert. Mm-hmm. Right. But then it completely backfired. Mm-hmm. Because then I was just like, I'm so unhappy. Mm-hmm. Right. Because although I did believe everything I was doing and selling and everything, it just didn't feel like me. It wasn't my agency, it wasn't, it wasn't me.

Massimo: Right. So, so if you had a 

Shawn: doover Yeah. Would you do that differently? Um, or do you think that's a necessary part, necessary path for you to have taken 

Massimo: Well, that was, to get to this. Under for the time at that point was the necess necessary path at that point. Okay. Right. Because now it's like, there's so much that is done online.

Massimo: I mean, again, we've worked with people for years in the same town. Yeah. And we still haven't met in person. Yeah. This is true. Right. So now it's like there's, there's, there's so much more shit out there. Like it's a different time now than it was back then. Then it's, and, but that's what I'm 

Shawn: saying is like, you'll meet a [00:52:00] client like this.

Shawn: Yeah. Do you know what I mean? Like Yeah. It doesn't matter. Right. Absolutely. It doesn't matter what you look like Now, it's like, fuck, I don't care what you think. Yeah. It's true. Right. At least we're that way anyway. 

Massimo: Some agencies might be a little more, you know, 

Shawn: this is, but you would have a whole, you know, kind of, you know this, you're meeting this person first.

Shawn: Yeah. And then, and you warm your way in. Exactly. No, we're not like that at all. This is kind of this, what you see is what you get. We're wizzywig for sure. 

Massimo: I like that though. I do 

Shawn: like that. Yes. Yeah. But that's, that's good. I think that's kind of one of those things, but obviously it was a necessary. Step for you.

Shawn: It was, it 

Massimo: was, especially because at the time, again, there was no other way to go about it. Right, right. We had to cut our teeth. Yep. Right. Because again, the web wasn't what it is now. Like this generation has no idea how great what we have right now is, you know what I mean? Because back then, you know, everybody would hold cards close to their chest.

Massimo: You wouldn't, you couldn't learn. The only way you could learn is from fucking up. Yeah. Yes. That was the only way, and again, that's why I through up my whole story of 25 years, there were so many fuckups. Cause that was the only way I was gonna [00:53:00] learn, man. Well, I got a whole book on Fuckups in that case, but it's true.

Massimo: That's the 

Shawn: next episode. Yeah. Right. Fuckups 

Massimo: Fuckups. Just up. Um, another thing that happened a lot of Yeah. Is I was taken advantage of a lot. Ah. You know, it was like you'd get taken advantage from customers. Yes. They would sense you were naive. Yeah. And you would take anybody on Right. When you were young and just hungry.

Massimo: You're like, yeah, yeah. Give it all to me. Right. Yeah. Well, then you'd extend terms, which obviously led to never receiving money. Mm-hmm. Right. One year early on, man, we wrote off like over $40,000 in bad debt, 40. And back then I think we were only doing like, 250 a year. So that was like, that's a big chunk.

Massimo: Huge chunk, right? Yeah. People just stiffen you. Stiffing you, or making you work more for less or trying to dictate their terms or how to work with them. Yeah. So that was just clients and that was just brutal. Mm-hmm. But then it was also be vendors. Yeah. Trying to take advantage of you. People, it's like, it's like the, the dirt bags they sensed, you know, [00:54:00] blood in the water.

Massimo: They would come, yes, I would have all these like, oh, you know what, I'm a branding expert. Mm-hmm. And I need a top creative agency like you to be by, I'll introduce you to this and that, and this and that, but I need these kind of terms and I need this kind of flexibility and I also need an office. Do you mind if I just take your office and, and this, and it was just like, wow.

Massimo: You know? And you so want to believe. Yeah. Right. But in the end it's like you keep getting shortchanged. Yeah. So that, oh man. I don't know how much that happens anymore. I don't know if that happens as much anymore. I 

Shawn: can't. I I would imagine it would. There's people just gonna take advantage of people no matter what you do.

Shawn: Yeah. No matter what the business, no matter what space you're in. You know what I mean? Yeah. Like, it's really sad, but I think again, it's one of those kind of scenarios where it's like you've learned from that. Yeah. You've never, you would never do that now. No. God no. 

Massimo: God no. Exactly. Cause then you can smell it a mile the way that's Yeah.

Shawn: You can, you could like 

Massimo: fucking but somewhere. But if there was, if you can go online and find out, you know, ways to tele acon. Yeah. Right. But you couldn't do that before you could do that. You had to just [00:55:00] sit there and 

Shawn: I know, I know. See, this is the kind of thing is nowadays you kind of know this stuff.

Shawn: Right. You're aware of what, what a scan is, right. Yeah. Back then, we really didn't, oh 

Massimo: geez. Managing money was a hard one. Oh, right. Yeah. Yeah. I think as designers it's a challenge. Okay. Yeah. As designers. Yeah. 

Shawn: As designers. We're not good with that side of things. No, I don't 

Massimo: think so at all. Right. Which is, which is kind of 

Shawn: sad, and I'm impressed that you are good at that sort of thing.

Shawn: Like you're good at design, trial and error, and you're also really good at that business 

Massimo: end things too. Yeah. But again, that I had to learn so many ways how to pay, you know, again, how pay vendors when you have no money, right? It's like, how, how to, you know, you know what the check is. You haven't gotten it yet.

Massimo: Okay. If you don't get it by next week, I'm gonna just cancel that check and cut you a new one and drop that one. And then, so all of a sudden I got 

Shawn: another 30 days back onto the ex's, uh, accountant. Father, uh, can I get some money soon please? 

Massimo: Managing money was cut, you know? But I think ultimately I, I learned [00:56:00] how to run lean.

Massimo: Yeah. Yes. Right. I didn't buy brand new computers. I always bought used ones. Very ug. Yeah. Right. And I didn't replace computers annually. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Right. I would let them run for years. Yep. Right Before you would. And sometimes maybe I should have, you know, a year or two earlier I should have upgraded.

Massimo: Mm-hmm. But I mean, again, you kind of figured out, even the furniture we had at time was basically, you know, basic IKEA shit. Yep. You know, it was the flat, cheap desks with the screw on legs that Yes, yes. You know, 

Shawn: that would wobble. So what you'd do is you'd screw two or three together 


Massimo: so they would, and so they wouldn't wobble as much cuz there more of them.


Shawn: that's awesome. Oh God, that was so 

Massimo: funny. 

Shawn: Problem solving. That's what we're about. 

Massimo: But, but it is true though. Totally. The money part. And now it's like a different story, right? Yes. And now it's like, you know, there's, now it's like money is, it's not the easiest part by any means. No, but the managing money is easy cuz again, it's a different mentality, right?

Massimo: Yeah. Yes. Like again, the goal was always to save, save, save. Yeah. You know, to build up enough that would get you a month, you know, if you had no work for a month, could you make it, could you survive it? Yeah. Could you then, then it came [00:57:00] one month to three months. Yeah. You know, three months to six months.

Massimo: Right, right. There would always, you'd always shoot for this pad. Yeah. Right? Yes. This nest egg or whatever. Exactly. For emergency, a 

Shawn: runway they call it in the 

Massimo: startup area. And that's exactly it, right? Yes. And then this way it's like, you know, so when you got to like six months mm-hmm. It was just like, oh, it's fucking, it just felt great, right?

Massimo: Yeah. Because then you could, you could risk and take more chances, right? Yes. Yes. So we got to the point where we were like six months, we had six months of runway and it was just, it. Bought us a lot of good opportunities. Yes. Right. We got to take some more risks, which definitely helped, which is good. But a lot of that was because we weren't, you know, as, we weren't fancy like we are now.

Massimo: Mm-hmm. Not that we're overly fancy, but we weren't, we wouldn't do the shit. Now that, you know, back then again the furniture and, and you know, the garage. Mm-hmm. You know, in all fairness was kind of cheap. It was, but it was amazing. It was so creative, but it was so cool. It was fucking great space. 

Shawn: I remember going there cuz I was dating one of your Yeah, yeah.

Shawn: So, but it was all open and I was just like, Holy shit. I'm at the, the newspaper, the local newspaper, and it's all like, you know, the 

Massimo: [00:58:00] typewriters, you know, 

Shawn: the, the, the shitty neon lighting and all this stuff. And I'm like, oh my God, this is 

Massimo: awesome. It was, it was. I remember, it was so cool. We'd open up those garage doors.

Massimo: Yeah. And it was just like, he's like, you're wonderful. You're working outside. Yes. Yes. Yeah, it was pretty cool. But again, it was, you know, for all I intents and purposes, own that space. Yep. Okay. So again, I wasn't renting. Yeah. I, I went to buy. So then when you bought it, at least that money I was putting every month went to a mortgage.

Massimo: Yes. Not to somebody else's rent. Not to somebody else's rent. And, and then again, kept growing that then grew it into this space, which you did the same thing. I found a space that we could buy, not rent. Yes. Same content. And that helped because then when things got tight, you had a, a, a pool of credit that you could pull from, right?

Massimo: Yep. Yep. So I found, you know, the hardest part about dealing with money wasn't necessarily the money, but it was dealing with the banks. Oh, fucking, they're pigs. Oh. Even today, I hate them. I do. They they tried to, you know, screw you. These banks have, have done a good job at figuring out how to screw people from every orifice in your body.

Massimo: Right. Like, you think you've been able to block [00:59:00] one. Nope. They found other holes and it's just, it's a horrible business. 

Shawn: Um, That. That's why there are no, that's why banks are always rich. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. They know how to screw everybody, right. They really do. 

Massimo: Right. All right, everybody. You know what, I had a hell of a lot more to say than I thought I was going to.

Massimo: I thought I was gonna jam all this information into one episode, but there was, what were you thinking? So what was I thinking? Got so many more things to cover in the next episode. Kind of like my highs, lows, memorable moments. Obviously the Z factor top 10 or maybe 11 ish, you know, business tips on, on how to make it this far.

Massimo: And of course, the, the funnest part is what the past 25 years, the biggest changes in the past 25 years and, and, and how the industry has changed and flop from one extreme to the other. So please come back and join us next week and hear part two of, well, I don't know, the Z Factor 25 year agency run.[01:00:00]

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