A Globe-trotting Entrepreneur Loves Norfolk But Laments Lack of …
Leaving Manhattan s Noise Behind
By Lloyd Garrison
Running an internet-based business from Norfolk isn t that unusual
In fact, Bryan Stanton has been running a worldwide marketing and
public relations business from Norfolk since 1997. From the agency s
founding 20 years prior, clients were always more foreign than
domestic, he explained, as our expertise was creating upscale Brand
Names in North America.
A rare exception was San Francisco s Dolby Labs, for whom the agency
created what is now the multi-billion-dollar Home Theater industry;
Dolby developed Pro-Logic and Dolby Digital audio technologies at a
time when a multi-channel sound market didn t exist; they needed
hardware and software companies to license their technologies to. The
agency later did the same for LucasFilm s THX.
When he and his parter Barry Webber bought their Laurel Way home
in 1996 for weekend use, they quickly got to know the wonderfully
eccentric folks in this town.
Stanton continued to commute to his
agency in New York. But Manhattan, with all its noise and aggravation,
seemed to be an artificial life. In retrospect, he says, I probably set
the speed record in 1997 for changing from a weekender to resident.
Besides maintaining offices in Manhattan and LA, moving here
permanently in 1997 required a local office and staff.
Little did he
know that a Hong Kong office would also be in the cards.
While we were on vacation in Hong Kong in 2005, China s Lenovo
bought IBM s ThinkPad laptop division. No one outside of China knew
that Lenovo was their largest computer manufacturer, or that Lenovo
already was the Original Equipment Manufacturer, or OEM, for IBM s
Realizing that other Chinese OEM s would want their own brand
names, I contacted Chief Executive China, their largest business
magazine, offering our agency s brand-building and marketing services
to their clients. We struck a deal: I came to China three times a year
on my own nickel to be the keynote speaker on Brand-Building and
Marketing in the U.S.
for CEO-level seminars that the magazine held
all over China.
After each seminar, Stanton met one-on-one with each of the
participating Chinese CEO s and collected lots of business cards.
Soon, Chinese OEM companies hired Stanton s agency to create their
brand names in the U.S. An office in Hong Kong soon followed, and
Stanton commuted from Norfolk to Hong Kong and mainland China
five times a year.
But creating brand names was one thing, marketing them in the U.S.
was another. Continuously frustrated, Stanton closed the Hong Kong
The scenario was always the same, he recalls. They would
hire us to create their own brand names, but not want to spend a dime
on marketing or promotion, and expect to make a profit their first year
in the U.S. I called it the OEM gene.
Now, 36 years after starting his agency, Stanton chose semi-
If I stopped completely, he says, I would probably drive
everyone around me crazy. Keeping a couple of clients who had been
with him for 30 years, fate intervened when his niece, who had just
built up and sold a start-up, asked him to help with a new internet
I joined the board, he says, and began working with extremely
bright young internet whiz kids who quickly got what you were talking
about and were doing multi-million dollar deals over coffee without
lawyers or paperwork. They reached out over the internet for anything
This was a defining moment for me. It was certainly not
the way I was used to doing business for the prior 45 years. Slow
internet connections, endemic to this area, have been an ongoing
nuisance, impacting the time he spends on the internet with Skype
Today, this Norfolk businessman, like so many others here, can t
wait to get fiber optic internet in Norfolk.
While discouraged by slow
progress, he is has no regrets about leaving the noise and aggravation
of Manhattan behind him.