When Adam Witty was eight years old, his father was laid off from his job at AIG.
"Rather than find another job, he decided he was going to start a company," recalls Witty, who is now 29. What started out as a two-man health-care credentialing company in the Witty garage became Med Advantage, a 150-person organization, in just a few years.
"It was instructive for me to see it up close and personal," says Witty, who, in 2005, founded Advantage Media Group, an international media and marketing company that specializes in book publishing for motivational speakers. "I saw the sacrifices that had to be made, but I also saw the benefits that [came] with a lot of perseverance."
Witty learned the ropes at Creation House, a publishing company in Lake Mary, Florida, where he worked in nearly every department as a summer intern during high school. But the idea for a publishing company of his own did not strike him until lunch one afternoon with Pat Williams, Witty's mentor and a motivational speaker.
Witty recalls the conversation well. "He said, 'Every motivational speaker in the world needs to have a book. Most don't, and those that do self-publish and the books look really shoddy. You need to start a publishing company, and you need to serve people like me.'"
So he did.
Shortly after that lunch, Witty incorporated Advantage Media. Then, he booked a ticket to the National Speakers Association convention in Atlanta, where he set up a booth and pitched speakers on how he could publish their books. Witty walked away with 13 contracts and 13 signed deposit checks. But there was only one problem: he had never actually published a book before.
"They don't make handbooks for this," Witty says. "I follow the philosophy of sell it and then build it."
Witty set up shop in Charleston, South Carolina, and worked with freelance graphic designers and a small print-on-demand firm to get Advantage up-and-running. In its first year, the company brought in $100,000 in revenue. Six years later, Witty now employs a staff of 15, posted revenue of $2.2 million in 2010, and expects to bring in nearly $3 million in 2011. Advantage works with about 350 authors and publishes close to 100 books a year. And, embracing the sell-it-then-build-it philosophy, Advantage has expanded its services into new verticals, including online education, interactive, and marketing services.