The conversation is fresh in Charlie Fusco’s mind these many years later, both as a stunner and a trigger for change at Synergixx L.L.C., a South Jersey direct-response marketing company she owns.
“My attorney said, ‘Charlie, I want to explain the term insolvency to you,’ ” Fusco recalled.
It was 2012, 11 years after the once-aspiring actress and documentary filmmaker followed another calling and opened Synergixx.
The company that helps businesses sell products through direct pitches on television and radio, and in print, social media and the mail, had swiftly reached $5 million in revenue. Its staff of 20 operated from an office/studio/call center largely filled by Rowan University students answering phones from card tables set up in a former deli near the campus in Glassboro.
By 2005, billings were about $8 million, and Synergixx had 340 telemarketers and a weekly payroll of $100,000, Fusco said. It had produced a blockbuster supplement infomercial – Dual-Action Cleanse – which was generating 17,000 new orders a week, said Fusco, 39, the mother of three and wife of Rowan theater professor Tom Fusco.
Synergixx had outgrown the deli, moving to an 8,000-square-foot building Fusco bought on Woodbury/Glassboro Road in Sewell. That same year, she lost her father, Norman Moss, whom she had recruited to oversee human resources.
“I was under 30. I didn’t have a background in business. I had a background in acting,” she said.
By 2009, billings were at $18 million. A year later, with more than 400 employees, Synergixx suffered a major loss – a client responsible for 70 percent of its business was getting out of direct-response product work.
“I was so shell-shocked by the whole thing,” Fusco said. “So I went out and hired a very expensive senior-level management team, including a president, chief financial officer, and account directors.”
And she hit the road for a year and a half to focus on “what I was good at: getting business.”
It was the distressing meeting with her lawyer that brought her in off the road.
He showed her disturbing numbers, including a payroll-to-sales ratio far from ideal, and debt close to $4 million on billings of $6 million to $8 million.
The lawyer and the company’s board were urging Fusco to file for bankruptcy, she said. She resisted, in part because she did not want to make jobless those who were not to blame for the firm’s problems. She also feared a backlash from clients.
She did eliminate “all senior-level people who didn’t have the vision we could earn our way out of it.” Assuming control of finances, Fusco renegotiated debt and worked to generate new revenue streams, partly by diversifying.
Now, 65 percent of revenue comes from Synergixx’s media buys, 30 percent from call-center fees, and the rest from production work.
The call center’s focus has changed, too, to building stronger ties between callers and the companies whose products Synergixx is promoting. Helping consumers understand how to use what they’ve purchased is part of the new emphasis; so is suggesting other products they might like.
With the online marketplace being so impersonal, Fusco said, call centers have become essential to “create relationships with customers that keeps them coming back” to a brand.
They’re “absolutely critical,” said Eric Shaffer, vice president of sales at Neogenis Labs in Austin, Texas. “We’ve invested a lot of money to get that customer to make that call.”
Synergixx serves as the call center for Neogenis’ dietary supplements and superfood, Neo40 and SuperBeets, and also produces radio spots and makes media buys for them.
Neogenis markets those products as improving blood circulation and supporting healthy blood pressure.
About 75 percent of Synergixx’s clients are providing health and wellness products, from vitamin supplements to creams and lotions. The average call-center sale is $180, Fusco said.
Synergixx is projecting $22 million in contracted billings by the end of 2015, Fusco said. Its debt is about $800,000. In September, the company relocated within Sewell, to 16,000 square feet on Mantua Boulevard, with plans to triple the size of its customer-service operation by December.
Fusco expects a January debut of her self-published book with this title:
Brains, Balls & Boobs: 21 Success Tools for Women Building an Amazing Business, Family & Sex Life All at the Same Time.
Could it be her first movie?
“I hope if a movie is made about my life, it will be for my accomplishments yet undone. I’m just getting started.”