Brandon Rost, CEO of beMarketing and a MONTCO Millennial Superstar, spoke with MONTCO.Today about learning the values of hard work and relationships in his childhood and teen years in Plymouth Meeting; starting his own lawn cutting business and helping his general contractor father with his part-time job delivering the early morning Philadelphia Inquirer; about his nine years bussing tables and working as a waiter at Outback Steak House where he learned how to handle a crisis and provide good service to so many different people.
He talked about being the only freshman to make the Junior Varsity soccer team in high school and about going to Woodstock ’99 when he was 17, as well as the joy and energy music brings him.
He also discussed how relationships are such an important part of the beMarketing culture, along with building client rapport and being a “contagious” personality; how beMarketing is adapting to current conditions to efficiently move forward as it continues to deliver fast, quality work.
Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
Brandon Rost was born the middle of three children at Pottstown Hospital but grew up in Plymouth Meeting. My dad was a general contractor, and my mom was a stay-at-home mom.
What memories do you have of growing up in Plymouth Meeting?
There are so many. It’s a great community that we grew up in, from playing outside with the other kids in the neighborhood to starting a business cutting the lawn for my neighbors when I was 14 years old.
I also helped my dad on an early morning paper route for the Inquirer. It was a job that was 365 days of a year, with no days off. Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is the biggest day of the year for the newspaper.
He’d get to the Inquirer building in Conshohocken at 2:00 am; hopefully, there wasn’t a sporting event that ran late because then they’d have to wait even longer, and then he’d go deliver the paper before his day job and be done by 5 or 5:30 am.
Why did you want to go with him?
I went because we stopped at Wawa on the way. Whether it was a Crystal-Clear Pepsi or a Jolt Cola, that made my day.
What was it about your father that caught your imagination at such a young age?
I saw that he worked hard for everything he did, and we received. His example instilled in me that hard work was necessary. If I wanted to go on a date when I was 16, I knew I had to work for the money.
What other jobs did you have in high school?
I cut grass for one season. At fifteen, I started bussing tables at Outback Steakhouse. The wait-staff would tip us out at the end of the night, so I had cash in my pocket when I left each night. The more nights I worked, the more cash I made.
I worked at the same Outback Steakhouse for nine years until I was 24. I worked my way up – busing, hosting, waiting, bartender, head waiter, and then some office work at the end of my time there. It was a great time to work at Outback; Saturday nights would be a two-hour wait for a table. I made good money which helped me graduate college with no student loans.
What lessons did you learn at Outback that stay with you today?
For me, the biggest thing that I took away from my time at Outback was building my ability to service so many different types of people, from happy people to angry people, to urgent people. Working in different positions at Outback allowed me to have different kinds of customers.
When busing tables, the servers were my customers. The faster I cleaned the table, the more tips they received, the more money I made.
From a hosting standpoint, it’s how you deal with crisis situations. How do you deal with a customer you told would wait for 45 minutes and who is still waiting for a table to open an hour and a half later?
Did anyone famous ever come into your Outback?
I remember one time Marvin Harrison came in. We gave money to the busboy and asked him to run to Dick’s Sporting Goods to buy some footballs for him to sign before he left.
John LeClair came in one time. He’s a very nice and humble guy. I know him a lot better now through my career, but I was one signed credit card slip short that night. Andre Iguodala was another celebrity who came in frequently.
Actor Terrence Howard lived close to the Plymouth Meeting Outback and would come in for takeout with his two kids. His ex-wife lived in the area, so he bought a nearby house closer to his kids. He hadn’t made it big yet in the movie business. He was in the restaurant once, and he was writing in a notebook, so I asked him what he was writing. He told me to always keep a daily journal to grow from, to learn from, and to live by. He told me he writes in his daily journal every single day. Seeing his career advance and just having known him and served him at Outback once a week was very inspiring.
Did you play any sports in high school?
I played soccer and ran track. In 1997, I was the only freshman to make the Junior Varsity (JV) soccer team, and the rest of my class played on the freshman team. I somehow stayed on JV for three years, but I did play on the Varsity team my senior year. I still play soccer today, but never as competitive as those first few years.
What kind of music were you listening to growing up, Brandon?
I’m a big music fan. I attended Woodstock ’99 as a very open-minded 17-year-old. It was interesting! I’ve been to hundreds, if not thousands, of concerts and have seen a lot of historical bands.
What is the best concert you’ve ever been to?
I’m a big believer in ‘are they singers or are they entertainers?’ I can listen to a singer on the radio, but I love an entertainer. I have been to a lot of festivals. Obviously, the Woodstock ’99 festival was a very cool experience. I went to Bonnaroo in 2013, when the lineup was Paul McCartney and Tom Petty. The Rolling Stones at the Linc a few years ago was very cool.
What impact did music have on you? Why did it touch your soul the way it did?
It’s really the entertainment factor for me. I’m not a big TV watcher. Music brings me positivity, joy, and energy.
Where did you go to college?
I went to West Chester University and worked throughout college to graduate without any student loans.
Looking back, was West Chester the right decision for you?
Attending West Chester was a tremendous decision. However, what I do regret is not studying abroad. I think that would have been a great experience. Also, I regret not having lived on campus. I commuted all four years, so I had a little different college experience than most.
Do you travel?
Yes, I think travel is so important. When I first met my wife, she had only ever been to Florida. There are so many great places and different cultures out there to see and experience.
Who were the people who saw promise in you, Brandon?
There are a few. Mickey Engle was a mentor of mine in high school. He pushed me to succeed and helped us grow our vision.
I still talk to Dr. Lorden at West Chester University to this day.
I have a business coach, Mark Steinke, and he is tremendous.
As 2021 comes to a close, what opportunities and priorities are you focused on?
We are remaining focused on what our natural growth has been. We are big culture people. We are big on helping small and medium-sized companies tell their story and get their message out there. We support them and want to help them in a way that addresses their business goals through marketing.
The last two years have been challenging on business, so how do we do this more efficiently and effectively moving forward. You hear inflation is going up 5% and standard cost of living is going up 4%, so that will be a challenge in and of itself.
A lot of businesses we see will have to raise their prices, and what does that do for their customer base? Do they need to find new customers? How do they save the customers they have and show more value based on their pricing? That’s all going to have to be told through their marketing story.
There’s a lot of marketing firms out there. What Makes beMarketing different?
I always say no agency is 2+2 ever = 4 but ultimately, what clients buy into is a relationship. For us, culture is so important. We have five key differentiators we live by: communication, speed of delivery, accountability, quality, and enthusiasm.
We have a monthly employee reward system based on our culture and core values. Speed of delivery is also important. How do you do it better, faster, and more efficiently? That’s in any industry. Even at Outback Steakhouse, they averaged like $300 in takeout a week when I worked there. They added curbside take-away, one of the first chains in America to do it, and they went from $300 a week to $3,500 a week because they brought convenience.
We need to do that for our customers. Instead of asking them what they want to do, we come to them and say, “here’s what you should be doing, here’s the messaging,” so we are making it more convenient for them.
Why do you place such a high value on relationships, Brandon?
It’s not about what I know but rather who knows me. I teach my team to do the basics I learned all those years ago, waiting tables and bartending at Outback Steakhouse, building and maintaining rapport, and being contagious. Someone with a contagious personality will go far.
What do you do in your free time, Brandon Rost?
My goal is to start a new business every five years. I love it, and I enjoy it. It’s a goal of mine.
When he’s not at work he is spending time with his beautiful wife Talia and their four children.
Have you started coaching your kids’ teams yet?
Not yet. Before I started my business, I worked for the 76ers, and instead of working a 40-hour workweek, we worked 8 days a week, 25 hours a day.
When I left there, I had so much free time on my hands. I emailed the local soccer club, and I coached the 7-year-old girls’ soccer club from the time they were 7 until 16. I have about 12 years of experience between boys and girls’ soccer that I’ve coached. I enjoy it, and I’m just not there yet with my kids. I want to watch from the sidelines for now.
What gives you hope, Brandon?
The success of my marketing team! Our team works extremely hard every day, day in and day out. We see a ton of responses from our clients on the success that they have. We have so many experts in the company that it’s building our agency up. That gives me hope because it means we are doing something right. It means that we are training the right way. We are building the culture the right way. The team has a passion for what they’re doing, and that’s important.
Finally, Brandon Rost, what is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Mickey Engle, who I mentioned earlier, told me in high school, “if you refuse to lose, winning comes easy.” That’s so important. If you work hard, winning comes easy.
Gary Barbera was a client of ours from the beginning, and he had so many good one-liners that we brought back to the agency. “Be brilliant at the basics.” It’s so true. Spell stuff right, get the grammar right, deliver when you say you will. There are so many basics that build relationships and keep clients long-term.
The last one, “it’s not about the output, it’s about the outcome.” We are very focused on the outcome rather than the output.
Publisher’s note: Laura Manion and Rebecca Goodman assisted in the creation of this profile.