Whatever Works: Where Product is King
This was Thursday, Steve explained. He had run ads the prior Sunday in TV Guide and Parade, and this was the first batch of orders. How much had he spent for the ads? Larry wanted to know. “Actually, they haven’t been paid for yet.”
“Let me get this straight,” Larry said. “This is money from people you haven’t given anything to, right? And you haven’t paid for the ad either, right? And you don’t pay for the product until afterwards?”
Larry scratched his head and wondered why everyone wasn’t doing this. The garment trade was on a six-month shipping cycle, and it took up to 90 days to collect, while Steve had 100,000 cash customers after just four days.
“All cash and checks,” Larry recalls. “And this was long before credit cards. I wanted in.”
Morty and Joel
During his visit to Long Island, Larry met Steve’s two partners, Morty Williams and Joel Jacobs. The pair owned a low-end mail order company called Jay Norris—at the time, one of the largest buyers of space advertising in the United States. It was a huge business that was run like a candy store, with the partners holding strategy meetings in a booth at the local diner and jotting down contracts for tens of thousands of dollars on paper napkins. Everything was done with a handshake, and nothing happened in the business without one of the partners knowing about it.
Originally, it was thought Larry should work with Steve, but instead, Williams and Jacobs “kidnapped” Larry to work at Jay Norris, where he spent the next seven years as an apprentice, learning the mail-order business and off-the-page advertising from two legends in the industry.
“Through sheer luck,” Brown says, “I became an expert—not in just one aspect of mail order—but in virtually every aspect. Space, copy, list selection, merchandising, foreign imports, fulfillment, customer service, returns. It was a great training ground. I got 20 years of knowledge in seven years.”