10 months since my last blog post.
2 years since I started Fuel.
2.5 years away from the Penguins.
4 months since I’ve written anything for the web other than a Facebook update or Tweet.
I’ve always struggled with explaining to people what I do. Struggled with it during my time with my previous employer:
“So what do you do for the Penguins?”
“Well, I run the video department. But I also work with the ad hoc marketing team (before there was an official marketing department). Some days I work on the techie stuff in the arena. Oh yeah, some web stuff gets thrown in the as well. And yeah, sometimes I actually get to shoot and edit video. Other days I produce. And then there’s that whole accounting part of it and acquisition and planning too.”
An old friend of mine once told me I was valuable because I defined my position anywhere I worked. That I was able to take my unique skill set and create my own little impossible-to-explain-in-an-elevator-ride position and use it to help move whatever forward.
Fuel, a company I started a little over a year ago, is pretty much the same thing.
When I started Fuel, I had a lot of trouble explaining to people just exactly what my business was. Heck, it wasn’t even called Fuel then. I wasn’t sure exactly what Fuel was. I knew what I could do, but trying to get that down to something understandable and sellable was a task.
A year later, it’s easier, but still can be a struggle. We build websites. We produce video. We work to help organizations define their brand and develop their business. Sometimes we management consult. We’ve written radio commercials, designed brochures and newspaper ads (three new things to me) and help companies and organizations implement new technologies into their everyday work flow.
I still get weird looks at first. But it’s ok. The resulting conversations progress in a much more interesting way.
“You do all of that? Don’t you know that you’re supposed to have a laser-like focus and spelled-out business plan so you can do targeted marketing to a niche audience??”
Blah blah blah.
Look, every business is different just like every person is different. Product differentiation, experience, market conditions, competition, time in business, etc, etc. etc. You can take all the MBA crap* you read everywhere and throw it out the window. What works for you? What are you good at? What exactly are you trying to accomplish.
I never wanted to pin Fuel down to one area. While the Commonweatlth of Pennsylvania sees it as Fuel Marketing, to me it’s just Fuel. We go in, we listen, we ask a lot of questions, and we figure out the best way to help. And that can be 10 different things. The goal is to help energize our clients and get them to where they want to be. And it’s working. Over 20 clients in less than a year and we haven’t advertised yet.
I truly believe the lack of definition has helped more than it’s hindered. Early on, we used a tagline from Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, from his refreshingly simple but powerful book “Anything You Want“. It was a philosophy for what we could be, and what our clients could be. It works for us. Because it’s us. May not work for you or your business.
What does Fuel do? Help people. In a variety of ways, depending on what they need. Bottom line.
We’re all different. Embracing that instead of feeling that I should be fighting it has made me happier professionally than I’ve been in 20 years. While salary and that whole deal is nice, I could never imagine myself working for a company that has more than 3 people ever again. No knock on any of my previous employers, because all my former bosses probably knew it as well as I did. I wasted a lot of time trying to fit in and be something I wasn’t.
My successes and failures have come because of my own unique skill set. And a willingness to do whatever you have to do to get it done the best way you can. If you told me two years ago that I would be teaching myself .css, html5 and PHP I would have laughed you out of the room. But here we are.
Be yourself. You bring something to the table unique to anyone else. Figure out a way to use that to make you successful. If you work someplace where that’s not welcome, look elsewhere. Or start your own thing. If your skills don’t jibe in an area where you desperately want to work, then train yourself.
I think this is applicable for whatever your goals are. Want to be a millionaire? Want to help a million people and not make much money? Want to make the world better? Only one person has the answer to how you should go about it:
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
― Dr. Seuss
* we don’t believe all MBA-types are full of crap. just the ones that have never done anything but get their MBA and then blog to tell everyones else what to do.
Had an interesting discussion today with a hair salon owner while getting my hair cut. Making some small talk she walked me through her career path – the ups and downs and where she had worked, the career advice she had received along the way, and how she felt about owning her own salon.
It was interesting that she was slightly apologetic about her location. While it was clean and neat with contemporary decor, it was small and certainly not what anybody would classify as high end although it was by no means low end. I was interested to see that she was a little sheepish about the whole thing and wanted to know more.
“Did your clients follow you from where you worked before?
“Does this fit your budget, let you make a decent living, and not kill you with tons of overhead?”
“Are you happy here?”
“Then what’s the problem?”
There’s probably 50 places in this small town to get your hair done. What separates them? A ton of things, of course, and that’s exactly what appeals to different customers. Choice. I loved this little salon, got a great haircut (relative, of course – my hair is still stuck in the 70′s) and happily rebooked for next month.
Some people fail at their business simply because they never come to grips with who they are and what the market for them is. Instead, they try to be something that they can’t possibly attain or sustain.
This applies to creatives as well. Applies to almost any small business. I have several photographer friends that I use, or will use depending on the shoot I need. Same for video.
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me what so many new business fail at this simple concept. Different tools for different jobs, different people for different tasks. We manage it every day in our lives, yet some people struggle to recognize that this applies to their own company.
So who are you? Out of the 50 options, where do you fit? How can you possibly market yourself if you have no firm idea or strategy on what it is that you offer that the other 49 don’t?
I say it to every client that I work with — don’t make promises you can’t keep. Better yet, if you want to say that you provide great a product and service and you could really care less about your customers — please don’t bother. Eventually your customers are going to figure it out, and it will be ugly. Check out this exchange (well worth the read) between a company called Ocean Marketing and an unhappy customer.
via Penny Arcade
The benefit is a token of our appreaciation for everyone no one is special including you or any first time buyer . Feel free to cancel we need the units were back ordered 11,000 units so your 2 will be gone fast. Maybe I’ll put them on eBay for 150.00 myself. Have a good day Dan.
I think this idiot subscribes to the “any news, good or bad, is good for PR and SEO”. Not when you screw the pooch like this though. Impossible to win trust back after exchanges like this.
Read an article this morning from a well-trafficed and respected blogger calling into question the fact the nhl.com had 11 Sidney Crosby stories on their front page today. Saw a number of tweets echoing this statement.
The fact that I’m from Pittsburgh has nothing to do with the following opinions. This is coming from a media guy perspective.
1. You capitalize on the buzz when you can. This was announced late last night and many of those outside the hockey world and fringe fans are probably just hearing the new this morning. That means more traffic to nhl.com, and they expect to read about Sidney Crosby when they visit the site today.
2. Put aside your home team loyalties and crusade to “promote all the other good players” for a day and recognize that when your most recognizable face comes back after a 10-month injury (which many feared he would never come back from) you run it for all it’s worth.
3. It’s a special day. It’s not a normal Monday in November – and if it was and the NHL went overboard like this you’d have every reason to bitch – it’s an exceptional day.
4. I’d be fine if roles were reversed and Alex Ovechkin returned after a 10 month break and it got this much buzz. It’s good for the overall PR of the game, and it’s a good story.
5. Your personal preferences on what you want to read are far eclipsed by what the majority of the sports world wants to read. Get over it.
I expected to read articles like the one I did this morning. However, I didn’t expected from people that have been in the business long enough that they should know better.
Happy Sid Day.
Great video. Player personality stuff is always at a premium in the NHL, and this video is a great example. While yes, some of it appears to be scripted there’s a lot of honesty in there which makes it a great watch – and re-watch. Nice edit too – especially holding on to the Matt Cooke shot after he talks about riding the firetruck. Nice work.