Businessperson of the Month: Since Childhood, Gordon Has Followed His Passion
Some people wait until well into adulthood before they find their passion. But a few, like Neil Gordon, discover it before they’re teenagers.
Gordon has long been the face of business news and information in the CSRA, first as a TV news reporter/anchorman, then as the creator of the Buzz on Biz brand and now in a new venture, CrossTalk, a program for area churches to tell their stories that will air on local television later this year.
But his career as an entrepreneur, marketer and broadcaster began much earlier, while he was growing up in upstate New York. He spent hours listening to the play-by-play announcers describe the action of his beloved Mets, Jets and Knicks on his clock-radio, enthralled by how they painted the scene with their words.
“I would try to emulate them,” Gordon said. “It seemed so exciting to me. I never got into the sports side of broadcasting, but that put me on my way to broadcasting.”
In the meantime, he would pitch story ideas to publications such as Baseball Digest, oblivious that they wouldn’t be interested in the musings of a 10-year-old. Then, at age 13, he began the sales side of his career, going door-to-door to sell newspaper subscriptions — a job he maintained through high school and college.
At Buffalo State College, Gordon majored in communications with an emphasis on broadcasting, but after graduation he worked for four years in sales and marketing. Then, in the late 1980s, his father’s death changed his perspective.
“When Dad passed away, that was the kick in the pants I needed, that we never know how much life God gives us,” he said.
He began applying at television stations from New York to Florida, and he landed a job at a Macon, Ga., TV station. He was laid off after three months, which brought him to Augusta and Channel 12 in 1990. Most of the next 12 years were spent in Augusta, with brief stints at stations in Spokane, Wash., and Elmira, N.Y.
He won awards for his role as a troubleshooter — news reports about issues that people needed help to resolve. It satisfied his desire to help people.
In his final year at Channel 26 he served as news director, an administrative job that was ill-suited for his entrepreneurial spirit. So, Gordon launched his own marketing and public relations business.
In 2005, he felt the itch to tell people about new businesses, so he approached Channel 12 about doing an early-morning business segment titled Buzz on Biz, which continues now as Business Minute. Two years later he partnered with Beasley Broadcasting to do a Buzz on Biz radio show with John Patrick, which continued until the end of 2017.
It was in 2009 that he began producing the print edition of Buzz on Biz, first as an insert in the Medical Examiner, then as a stand-alone publication. In 2010, he added a website.
The Buzz on Biz brand grew and, although initially he had no plans of selling it, in 2016 he accepted an offer from Morris Communications. After working for Morris for 18 months, the entrepreneurial itch struck again.
“I longed to create something else,” Gordon said. “I realized I had more to do.”
His next project had divine guidance. During a church service during Memorial Day weekend in 2017, he listened to a sermon about finding your purpose in life and pursuing it with reckless abandon and passion.
“I felt like God spoke to me in that service,” Gordon said. “Since I was a little boy these parallel gifts have been given to me in broadcasting and marketing. The name ‘CrossTalk’ came to me in that service.”
For the next six months, as entrepreneurs are wont to do, he scribbled notes on napkins and scraps of paper until his wife, Melissa, showed him the note-taking app on his smartphone.
CrossTalk, which will launch in December on Saturday evenings on Channel 12 and Sunday mornings on Channel 49, will contain short news-type items about activities at local churches, practical advice from Christian counselors and “mini-sermons” from area pastors. Gordon has partnered with videographer Bryan Williams of Bryton Entertainment on the project.
“This is my way to invite people to church,” Gordon said.
Churches can view the pilot episode and get more information at crosstalktv.com.
In his own words:
What are you passionate about in your business?
“I’ve always followed the path less traveled. Everything I’ve done, whether in the troubleshooter role, which had never been done in Augusta, or Buzz on Biz or now CrossTalk, it’s something that’s never been done. It inspires and excites me to create something unique, that serves some niche and touches people in different ways. At one time I thought about getting a real estate license, but an uncle told me that there are thousands of people who can sell real estate. He said, ‘Try to find your own way and do something different.’”
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
“I’ve heard it said that you should follow your passion, and I agree with that one million percent. The people who are so invested in what they’re doing that they would do it for free, they’re the ones who push through and become successful. The reason people fail is often because they chose something that’s not their passion. So, do what you would do for nothing and try to make a living at it.”
How do you handle the stress of starting a new venture?
“A lot of entrepreneurs stress out all the time, but I’ve always felt it was like the stock market — there will be ups and downs, but if you stay the course, if you believe in what you’re doing and do it with integrity, you’ll be OK. When I started CrossTalk I started with a blank piece of paper, and that can be very scary. But I’ve had peace about it from the beginning that this will happen. I’m giving it all to God and trusting him.”
How did you first learn about the peace of trusting God?
“In April of 2009, our daughter Fia died after just 13 days (she had Trisomy 13, a rare chromosomal disease that was diagnosed while she was in the womb). A lot of control-oriented doctors said that we should abort the baby, that it would cause too much stress and difficulty for our family. We prayed and left it in God’s hands. That was the turning point in my relationship with God and feeling that God has given me gifts and that it would all work out. I hadn’t done many issues of Buzz on Biz at that point, but there were a number of people aware of what we were going through that decided to advertise to help me and take a little of the financial edge off.”
How do you give back to the community?
“Once a year Melissa and I spend many hours helping the Alzheimer’s Association with their Dancing with the Stars event. It’s one of our favorite nights of the year. I also speak at civic clubs and help people connect with the media. I help with the publicity with the Trendz Salon’s annual cut-a-thon to raise money for sick children.”
What does the future hold for you?
“CrossTalk is a long-term mission. Bryton Entertainment has national connections, so we’ll save the stories of faith and redemption that can play anywhere and see if we can get them placed nationally. I’m still marketing for a small handful of clients, I still do the Law Call show on Sunday nights and I’m doing Augusta Business Profiles that produces independent projects for clients. Any mentors I’ve had always told me to never put all my eggs in one basket. I have a 5-year-old that keeps me young, and I have a lot of grandchildren now. I’m trying to balance and enjoy my family, and I’ve committed to regular date nights with my wife.”