Patrick Whitesell and Martha Stewart led the Bloomberg Breakaway CEO Summit that took place Wednesday evening at Bloomberg Headquarters in midtown Manhattan, where they offered business insights on the importance of synergy, premium content and disseminating knowledge.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter about the merger of Endeavor and the William Morris Agency, Whitesell said he and other agency leaders saw “a unique opportunity” in building a talent agency into a media company. Since 2009, he said, the merged company has added 6,000 employees and went from essentially two offices to 200 offices in 20 countries around the world.
“Where we saw the real value was the synergy across all those areas, and kind of the network effect,” Whitesell said. “And if you could approach it the way we approach agenting, which was getting multiple parties around the table, kind of for the greater good, you could do really well.”
Whitesell cites synergy and social presence as two major reasons for the success of contemporary companies. “Disseminating knowledge is power,” he proclaimed.
In another session, Stewart shared the same sentiments, noting that businesses should consider synergy when first starting out. “What we really concentrate on is lifestyle. We always say that media leads,” she said.”“Media leads and merchandising follows. You build up an interest, you build up a curiosity in your readership, and a desire for things. Then the merchandising follows.”
During Stewart’s early beginnings, she noted, people were not dabbling in multiple outlets at the same time. “I thought, ‘Well, this was a very good way to start to synergize. Maybe you could do TV at the same time that you could do a magazine.’ Synergy at that time — synergization was a dirty word. They didn’t like that idea, because Time [publisher of Martha Stewart Living] wanted to keep everything segmented at the time,” Stewart said.
The message at the executive-focused summit was clear — thriving in business is about diversification and focus.
“Anyone with an entrepreneurial vent has a real fine and exciting chance to do something new and different,” Stewart noted. “It takes a tremendous amount of hard work, it takes a tremendous amount of perseverance” to take your ideas to the next levels.
At WME, Whitesell’s company has put together 400 shows across broadcast and cable, as well as streaming services. He explained that “75 percent of Amazon’s scripted content” and “50 percent of Netflix’s shows” were put together by his company.
During the evening, Stewart offered this advice to guests: “Choose your employees wisely. Get the very best like-minded people you can, and some that are even smarter than you are. Don’t ever be afraid of that. I think having smart people around you — in my business, smart and creative, those are the people that you will really, really want to have around you as you grow and thrive.”
Stewart also touched on the significance of always striving for more: “You don’t ever want to be at a final level, you want to keep going, because it’s an exciting process.” She added, “This is America. This is business. Keep up with change, keep up with inventory control, and keep up with computerization of business.”
Stewart currently has two shows weekly on public television, Martha Bakes and Martha’s Cooking School. Her brand reaches 100 million consumers across all media and merchandising platforms each month. She also has over 4 million Twitter followers and more than 1.7 million on Instagram.
“I like to know about a lot of things, I’m a curious person. I want to know a lot. I never stop reading, I never stop investigating, I never stop asking questions, and trying new things,” Stewart explained.
Her VH1 cooking show with rapper Snoop Dogg, Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, just wrapped season two and has earned a third-season renewal. “I hit it off with all the rappers. I like rap,” Stewart quipped.
Whitesell concluded, “What’s great about the job, but also the challenge of it, is that rapidity of every day and the pace at which you’re going, you don’t really get the chance to stop and think too much about that. It becomes self-evident.” Laughing, Whitesell also quipped, “You either get fired or, you know, it’s pretty, our results are pretty tangible.”
Throughout the evening, guests indulged in a Tuscan panzanella salad, Cabernet braised short rib with asparagus, roasted potatoes and burst tomatoes jus and a lemon pound cake with mixed berries and house-made whipped cream for dessert.