Recently, CEO & Founder of RedPeg Brad Nierenberg sat down with Carly Martinetti of Authority Magazine to share what he’s learned over the last 25 years and how he created the brand engagement agency he aspired to work for.

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Brad Nierenberg, the CEO and Founder of RedPeg. Led by the idea to create an agency he’d aspire to work for, Brad created RedPeg, an award-winning, proudly independent experiential marketing agency. He leads a team of passionate experiential marketers who serve as counsel for brands looking to increase their consumer engagement through impactful activations and lasting memories. Brad’s personal and professional accomplishments match those of RedPeg’s, being named Best Boss by Winning Workplaces, landing a spot on DC Inno’s 50 on Fire list, and spearheading his own million-dollar fundraising platform, Chance for Life. In addition to partnering with influential brands, Brad continues to be a sought-after marketing resource/voice with features in The Washington Business Journal, Fast Company, The Wall Street Journal, and more.

Thank you so much for joining us Brad! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I learned about marketing from my days working at a bar in Georgetown called “Champions.” I was in charge of the nightly promotions and fell in love with understanding the drivers of decision making process customers go through. I saw firsthand how price, signage, influencers, and bartender incentives made a difference and started to understand how brands are built.

Next, I became a beer rep in DC, determined to switch people from drinking Bud Light to Miller Lite. So determined, in fact, that my nickname at the time became “Miller Lite Brad.” In this role, I started to understand the value of brand ambassadors as a source for personifying a brand. From there, I grew to work for an agency that replicated the “Miller Lite Brad” model, but in 20+ markets all across the country, and across multiple brands. This was my first official foray into experiential marketing.

But the system was flawed. Though the agency created great work, I felt they didn’t value the importance of the point of interaction between the consumer in the brand, which was critical. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how creative or strategic your idea is if the people out there selling your experience don’t feel enthusiastic, motivated, empowered, and trusted.

I left that agency three years later to create a shop that would invest most of its energy in hiring and training the best people, RedPeg. It’s something, to this day, we still pride ourselves in.

Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?

Mistaking optimism as certainty. One of my biggest mistakes was being overly optimistic, one year in particular. We had grown almost 100 percent through a single client, and I assumed that growth would only continue the following year. So, we staffed up accordingly, without a contract in hand. That put us in a tremendous financial bind when the business didn’t grow according to my optimistic plans. And it was one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced, because we lost so much and could have lost everything. From that experience, I learned to get much more focused on understanding the basics of our numbers. I now know I can be positive and optimistic, but I can’t let optimism drive business decisions.

Head over to Authority Magazine to read more about Brad Nierenberg’s journey as an entrepreneur and leading RedPeg.