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Orlando Style Magazine’s Founder And Publisher Sven Bode To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: Our Secret Of Longevity Is In Constantly Bringing Something To The People That Surprises Them. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

January 15, 2018

“It’s pretty much like a vogue magazine in a regional area, they don’t really need the vogue anymore, because they have it here with them and more personalized, like what really affects them. But also with information about the rest of the world; we have celebrity news, high-end cars, travel destinations around the world. We’ve built it like a national magazine for a regional market, which is very unusual. You have to stick to your concept, or otherwise you’ll fail.” Sven Bode…

With a true entrepreneurial spirit, Sven Bode is a self-made man. He started his own ad agency in his early twenties in Berlin, Germany, when many young people are still trying to find their place in the world. He met and married an American woman and together they came to the United States, Florida to be precise, to live together as husband and wife. Sven settled on an early retirement once they were locked into the Florida lifestyle, but soon found that an existence of ease was not the one meant for him, so he got involved in the ad agency business again, and before long magazines became his true destiny. The rest they say is history.

Today, Sven is proud publisher and owner of Orlando Style, Tampa Style, and his latest endeavor, the Portfolio magazine series. These regional titles have exceeded even his wildest dreams, taking the publications to the top of the area’s luxury market, and making the Crème de la Crème of Florida society anxious to be featured between the magazines’ pages. But along with a who’s who compilation of people, places and things, Sven said the success of his regional titles is that they read more like national magazines, offering travel destinations, celebrity news, and intriguing information.

For almost 15 years, Orlando Style and its passionate and sincere owner have been sifting the silky sands of Florida and turning up gold every time when it comes to a successful print magazine. And along with Tampa Style and the Portfolio series, Sven Bode has proven he knows what his audience wants and how to give it to them.

So, I hope that you enjoy this conversation with a true entrepreneur, a man who self-admits his mind is always working and never slows down when it comes to the next great thing – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Sven Bode, founder, owner & publisher, Orlando Style, Tampa Style and Portfolio Magazines.

But first the sound-bites:

On his story, how he began in the magazine media business: Yes, Orlando Style was the first title here in America. I’m originally from Berlin, Germany, West Berlin at that time, and I studied engineering, so it’s completely different, but maybe not that far away if you think about it, (Laughs) because I focused on industrial design. In my early twenties, I started my first company, and then a few years later, at 22 or 23, I started an ad agency. Then I became involved with an American girl. (Laughs) And she wanted to come to Florida, actually, she wanted to come back to America, and so we chose Florida. But then I started with an early retirement, which didn’t work, on Marco Island; beautiful Marco Island. Like an entrepreneur, my blood was boiling and I couldn’t go boating every day, that was too boring for me. (Laughs) And then we came to Orlando and I said to my wife, there are only these old, classic kind of city magazines, like what you have almost all over the country. Very dry; I would say, even boring.

On the secret of longevity with his regional titles: It’s constantly bringing something to the people that surprises them, especially with Orlando Style. We’re literally working with hundreds of photographers, worldwide even, like a national magazine. I’m always comparing myself to a national magazine, and I’m from Berlin, not from a small city, and my wife is from Los Angeles, so we know the world. We’ve traveled the world and we kind of live that life that our readers live. And that’s a big advantage, because we know, I think we know and I believe we proved we know, what these readers want.

On how he continues to survive in print in today’s marketplace: That’s definitely a difficult part. But my belief is that the Internet is more a mass market kind of tool where you can locate things, like a Wal-Mart or something, or some kind of other information; blogs that talk about teenage riots or things like that. That’s not what we do. We focus really on the luxury market, and this market has actually had a very good year, better than before the Recession actually, as far as I know. We survived the Recession years with a dropdown of maybe 25 percent or so, but I’m not a big, large corporation; I have to make a profit. I cannot go in red numbers for several years. (Laughs) That’s not good. I may survive that, but the company wouldn’t survive it.

On what has been the biggest challenge for him: The biggest challenge with regionals is that we can’t go ahead and say, okay, I’m hiring a sales team of 10 people and I pay them a $100,000 per year; that’s just not possible. Sales people are the business challenge; it’s a constant fluctuation, they come and they go. But luckily, with us, we have some very consistent ones and they’re really good, and they make good money. But it’s a tough thing.

On what he would like to accomplish in 2018: We do want to implement more of the digital part, which we have over 100,000 people who are actually recorded members; you could even call them subscribers, constantly getting our information. We have e-blast tool and then also all of the websites. We’re also working on the serve part, more in that direction, so that we attract people easily. They can buy an ad with us, either one-by-one or do a frequency. We implement that more and more now. And it’s actually starting to pick up. That makes it easier for print to get more pages sold.

On whether they are becoming platform agnostic: Yes, the platform is expanding too; it’s not just face-to-face, phone, or email. It’s everything. Also activating people, they’re actually on the phone or on the web to say, click and their credit card here; it’s an easy process. They can buy with one click. It’s an easier process and people like that. They’re having some benefits out of it; the benefit of using their credit card and maybe earning points and things like that. All of these things are working together and it seems to be working as far as we can see already. We have some traction on that part.

On whether he and his wife are permanent Florida residents now or there are plans to go back to Germany: No, I don’t go back to Germany. I spend part of my time at the beach in the Panhandle, and going to Orlando. I go often to Orlando, but we work using normal technology. It makes it much easier to work streamline on new things. My personal clients that I have are mostly in New York or Atlanta, but we mostly use email or phone. But we’re in Florida.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: As a typical entrepreneur, I’m a 24/7 type of person. (Laughs) You never stop thinking of it, so I’m often doing some real estate things and I’m an accomplished artist also; a painter. I paint and even sell them for a good price. So, that relaxes me and cooking also relaxes me, and I have twins – two-and-a-half-years-old, so that’s what I do with the rest of the day. (Laughs) It’s good. I’m very lucky and happy.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: Just that I’m a good person. I don’t like to cheat anybody or harm anybody. And I also want to be successful. I always try to see the good in people and act like it.

On what keeps him up at night: (Laughs) That’s a hard one. With any business there’s always something. I have to be the person that’s putting out fires that may occur, and that’s with any company. Nobody can tell me it never happens to them. If someone makes a mistake, I have to be the one who soothes the ache, you know? (Laughs again) That keeps me up at night sometimes.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Sven Bode, founder, owner & publisher, Orlando Style, Tampa Style, Portfolio Magazines.

Samir Husni: Tell me your story; how did you end up doing what you’re doing? I believe Orlando Style was the first title?

Sven Bode: Yes, Orlando Style was the first title here in America. I’m originally from Berlin, Germany, West Berlin at that time, and I studied engineering, so it’s completely different, but maybe not that far away if you think about it, (Laughs) because I focused on industrial design.

In my early twenties, I started my first company, and then a few years later, at 22 or 23, I started an ad agency. Of course, there were advertising agencies in Berlin, which were kind of following the road to top 50 in mag, 60 years. That was also when the Wall opened up at that time, and I was bought out by an American advertising company. I wanted to go into the Eastern market. It was very good and efficient and hard work, but it was the right thing to do, I guess.

Then I became involved with an American girl. (Laughs) And she wanted to come to Florida, actually, she wanted to come back to America, and so we chose Florida. But then I started with an early retirement, which didn’t work, on Marco Island; beautiful Marco Island. Like an entrepreneur, my blood was boiling and I couldn’t go boating every day, that was too boring for me. (Laughs)

So, I started another little ad agency, just to do something. I only had about 10 clients or so within a few months. Not too much work, but just something to do. But then I got an offer to buy into a publication, like a food guide type of magazine. And it was an annual, very difficult, obviously. Annuals are terrible, with the logistics and everything. I expanded it to other markets, and then I expanded it a little bit more to Miami and Key West. And then I sold it a couple of years later because it was just too much of a pain, but I sold it at a profit.

And then we came to Orlando and I said to my wife, there are only these old, classic kind of city magazines, like what you have almost all over the country. Very dry; I would say, even boring. Not really focusing on what the people want, more like focusing on what they used to do for the last 60 years or something. And that’s really very unattractive. And Orlando was kind of in a phase of getting totally modernized, it was 2003 – 2004.

So, I thought, okay, nobody is really focusing on that and that’s what people who are really wealthy here want. There are quite a few billionaires in Orlando. So, I said let’s start a high-class magazine like an Ocean Drive Magazine, but called Orlando Style. And that’s the story.

I financed it all myself; I didn’t take out a loan, I had enough money. And the first issue was really like an overnight success. I had people from Universal and other bigger companies in the city coming to me at an event where we had actually delivered magazines; and people were coming up to me and saying they just had to be a part of this. And I said okay, (Laughs) very good.

But for the first issue, I had some good contacts; I hired in the beginning Lizzie Grubman as PR for the company; she’s from New York City. And she brought me into some agencies; it was really good. And for the first issue I actually had really good national advertisers already and that’s very unusual for a regional, especially for an Orlando regional. That worked out very good and then I had a great team preselling everything. So, we did alright for the first issue.

And then we want on from there. First it was a bimonthly and in 2007 I changed over to 10 times a year, which is unique for an Orlando. You can’t really do 12, even though others do 12, it really doesn’t make sense financially.

Samir Husni: What’s your secret? I mean, others start magazines and fold. We’ve seen a lot of magazines come and go; maybe they’ll survive a year or two, but you’ve been almost 15 years with Orlando Style; another seven or eight years with Tampa Style, and now with Orlando Portfolio. What’s your secret?

Sven Bode: It’s constantly bringing something to the people that surprises them, especially with Orlando Style. We’re literally working with hundreds of photographers, worldwide even, like a national magazine. I’m always comparing myself to a national magazine, and I’m from Berlin, not from a small city, and my wife is from Los Angeles, so we know the world. We’ve traveled the world and we kind of live that life that our readers live. And that’s a big advantage, because we know, I think we know and I believe we proved we know, what these readers want.

It’s pretty much like a vogue magazine in a regional area, they don’t really need the vogue anymore, because they have it here with them and more personalized, like what really affects them. But also with information about the rest of the world; we have celebrity news, high-end cars, travel destinations around the world. We’ve built it like a national magazine for a regional market, which is very unusual. I don’t focus only on what’s the mayor doing, and putting the mayor on the cover. I’ve never sold my cover ever, and I’ve had really high offers from some local bigshots, but I’ve always declined. You have to stick to your concept, or otherwise you’ll fail. It’s like the McDonald’s principle: your consistency all over; people know what to expect, they see something as exciting and they want to see more of it. Keep that excitement up, that’s a big part of it.

Samir Husni: You started the magazine before the dawn of the digital age in force, and then 2007-2008 happened and we had the economy crash and technology burst onto the scene. We had Smartphones, Smart tablets, and now digital is everywhere. How do you continue to survive in print in today’s marketplace?

Sven Bode: That’s definitely a difficult part. But my belief is that the Internet is more a mass market kind of tool where you can locate things, like a Wal-Mart or something, or some kind of other information; blogs that talk about teenage riots or things like that. That’s not what we do. We focus really on the luxury market, and this market has actually had a very good year, better than before the Recession actually, as far as I know. We survived the Recession years with a dropdown of maybe 25 percent or so, but I’m not a big, large corporation; I have to make a profit. I cannot go in red numbers for several years. (Laughs) That’s not good. I may survive that, but the company wouldn’t survive it.

So, we do negotiations where we buy stuff, such as printers. That’s a big part of it. The price is going up again on printing, but at that time, we had a lot of power to say, okay, you want to print a lot of our magazines here, give me a good price. Also my advertisers, they have only so much money and they want to get in the magazine for that. So, you have to carry on to the next one, else you cannot survive.

And of course, you have to have a buffer. You have to have the typical conservative management. You have to be able to build a buffer for the company when there are hard times, so, that you can continue to live if you need to. That maybe has kept us throughout the years in a safe or, I always call it, the ship is sailing in smooth waters, you know? (Laughs)

Samir Husni: And during that “sailing,” what has been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Sven Bode: The biggest challenge with regionals is that we can’t go ahead and say, okay, I’m hiring a sales team of 10 people and I pay them a $100,000 per year; that’s just not possible. Sales people are the business challenge; it’s a constant fluctuation, they come and they go. But luckily, with us, we have some very consistent ones and they’re really good, and they make good money. But it’s a tough thing.

Everybody nowadays, younger people, sometimes think they can go into a startup or something, in a bigger company and get $50,000 or $60,000 right away, without any kind of experience. And here, with magazine sales, or advertising sales for magazines, it’s a tough job. There’s not that many people who really want to take on that challenge. So, that’s the biggest thing for us, but we’re constantly going out there and people are always signing up again, so it works. So far, so good. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: As you look toward the future, into 2018 and beyond, what’s your roadmap? What do you want to see a year from now? If you and I are chatting then, what would you like to tell me that you have accomplished in 2018?

Sven Bode: We do want to implement more of the digital part, which we have over 100,000 people who are actually recorded members; you could even call them subscribers, constantly getting our information. We have e-blast tool and then also all of the websites. We’re also working on the serve part, more in that direction, so that we attract people easily. They can buy an ad with us, either one-by-one or do a frequency. We implement that more and more now. And it’s actually starting to pick up. That makes it easier for print to get more pages sold.

Samir Husni: So, you are integrating print and digital? You’re becoming platform agnostic?

Sven Bode: Yes, the platform is expanding too; it’s not just face-to-face, phone, or email. It’s everything. Also activating people, they’re actually on the phone or on the web to say, click and their credit card here; it’s an easy process. They can buy with one click. It’s an easier process and people like that. They’re having some benefits out of it; the benefit of using their credit card and maybe earning points and things like that. All of these things are working together and it seems to be working as far as we can see already. We have some traction on that part.

The magazines need all of that complete attention and it’s always a new issue; a new work. It’s always constantly going after it to see what is the newest thing and what can we present to these people and how to make it more attractive.

Samir Husni: Are you now permanently residing in Orlando, or are there plans to go back to Germany?

Sven Bode: No, I don’t go back to Germany. I spend part of my time at the beach in the Panhandle, and going to Orlando. I go often to Orlando, but we work using normal technology. It makes it much easier to work streamline on new things. My personal clients that I have are mostly in New York or Atlanta, but we mostly use email or phone. But we’re in Florida.

And with the expanding of the Portfolio part; I’m trying to see if we can maybe bring that into a franchise area, to give other people the opportunity to do something like this. Others have been successful with it. With the Style magazines, I’m not much on expanding more than it is, but you never know. So far, it’s running smooth, like a well-oiled machine. (Laughs) And I like that. It gives people jobs and it’s running fine. We have good advertisers; they’re continuously resigning and that’s a very important part. It’s a big compliment also and we feel we’re doing the right thing for them. They’re getting the right feedback, so that’s also important.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else?

Sven Bode: As a typical entrepreneur, I’m a 24/7 type of person. (Laughs) You never stop thinking of it, so I’m often doing some real estate things and I’m an accomplished artist also; a painter. I paint and even sell them for a good price. So, that relaxes me and cooking also relaxes me, and I have twins – two-and-a-half-years-old, so that’s what I do with the rest of the day. (Laughs) It’s good. I’m very lucky and happy.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Sven Bode: Just that I’m a good person. I don’t like to cheat anybody or harm anybody. And I also want to be successful. I always try to see the good in people and act like it.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Sven Bode: (Laughs) That’s a hard one. With any business there’s always something. I have to be the person that’s putting out fires that may occur, and that’s with any company. Nobody can tell me it never happens to them. If someone makes a mistake, I have to be the one who soothes the ache, you know? (Laughs again) That keeps me up at night sometimes.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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