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  • Francesca Reicherter

8 Days to Make $10,000

"At that time, Marty had nothing to his name, other than $2000.00, a beat-up station wagon, a $400 monthly apartment, and a dog."

The opportunity became clear to Marty the moment he saw the Kroy Lettering Machine for the very first time in 1979. It was a gray box, about 18 inches by 18 inches by 18 inches, and it had the ability to print black letters on to a piece of scotch tape like material. At this time, personal computers did not exist. In fact, there was no way to print out letters larger than what the typewriter could produce. This meant, there was no way to put letters on an engineering plan or even create flyers. Marty had a gut feeling that this product would be an incredible seller in the marketplace. When the machine’s manufacturer put the company, who employed Marty, on credit hold, because Marty’s boss was not paying the bill for the products that they ordered, Marty knew it was the perfect time to seize the opportunity. At that time, Marty had nothing to his name, other than $2000.00, a beat-up station wagon, a $400 monthly apartment, and a dog. He understood that he was in no better shape than his boss at the time, but he took the chance. Marty called up the manufacturer and told him that he would be opening his own company selling the Kroy Lettering Machine. Marty requested that the manufacturer set him up as a dealer for the product, knowing that Marty had nothing to offer besides the commitment to work hard and sell the product. The manufacturer told Marty that the opening order would cost $10,000.00, which included 10 machines, and everything needed to go with them. Marty did not have $10,000.00 nor did he have a line of credit nor the ability to obtain a letter of credit. When asked how he expected to pay for the machines, Marty told the manufacturer he was hoping they would extend credit to him. They rejected his proposal. Then, Marty told them to send the opening order to his business space (implying it was an office not his apartment), and he would pay cash on delivery. Back then, it took 8 days for a check to move through the system, so Marty would have about 8 days to make $10,000.00.

Marty with the Kroy lettering machine, the first product he ever sold when he started AVI

Marty took the bold and desperate move, because he had nothing to lose at that point, and everything to gain. Although Marty was confident that as soon as people saw this machine they would want it, because it solved a lot of problems, in this initial moment, he feared that he would target companies that were too small and had to think over the decision to buy the product or too big and could not hand him a check right away. He had to find companies that would not only want the product the minute they saw it, but also would hand him a check on the spot. He settled on engineering companies, because he knew that this product would revolutionize engineering drawings. When the units arrived, he unboxed one unit and created samples of the name and address of the companies that he targeted. He could only fit 5 of them in his car, so he loaded his car with the 5 machines, then went to 5 different companies that he knew would be perfect for this particular product. He walked into the first company at 8:00 in the morning and asked the receptionist to bring the sample to whomever was in charge of drawings. If they liked the drawings, they could come to the lobby and Marty would show them how to use the machine. He sold all 5 demonstrations that day and picked up 5 checks for about $1,000.00 each. He did the same thing the second day, which made his first check good. He continuously ordered 10 machines and sold them off in two days. Over time, the manufacturer extended credit to AVI, and Marty was able to purchase 20 or 50 machines at time. The company started to grow, and Marty was able to hire employees. Eventually, they had sold thousands of this machine and were making millions in revenue on the supply cartridges required to operate their machines as their customers ordered more.

The company was rapidly growing, which meant it was time for reinvention. Throughout the years, Marty had to reinvent himself and his company 6 or 7 times, in order to stay ahead of the market.  In 1981, AVI reinvented themselves for the first time by selling additional early audio-visual products, such as slide and movie projectors. Then, they reinvented themselves a second time to catch the video wave of video cassettes recorders, camcorders, and editing equipment. By the late 1980s, AVI had moved to an office warehouse in Tampa, Florida. In 1988, the company was reinvented again, when a guy walked in the door with an early Apply PC and a plastic picture frame with glass in the middle. The guy asked if they had any old-fashioned projectors, because he wanted to show them the future of communication. The guy plugged the frame into the Apple PC then placed the frame on top of the projector. Projected on the screen were words, text, and images displayed on the computer. This was the very first use of liquid crystal material to project an image. The focus of AVI shifted to display technology. Every time the growth of the company and demand of the products were increasing rapidly, Marty knew it was time to reinvent. If they reinvented too early, it could harm the company’s growth for a few years, but if they reinvented too late, it would end the company. Thus, Marty determined the moment where demand was growing, but supply was growing just a bit faster and reinvented. He did it over and over and over again. Today, the company has several thousands of employees with an expected revenue exceeding $1 billion this year.

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