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.