As we round the corner past a challenging but incredible year, I want to share some introspective thoughts with you all.
When people ask me how Brand Fuel is doing, you’d think that I would reply with something expected about our how sales numbers look. Over the past several years, however, I have learned to respond with a more visceral answer that has to do with each of you. And how amazing you are individually and collectively. What a wonderful, thoughtful, fun, helpful, caring, interesting, diverse, and dedicated team we have!!! Thank you for being you and for bringing your best selves to work.
Amongst peers, I find myself sharing that we are always in unchartered territory as the selling landscape is constantly changing. There are industry and economic shifts and forces out of our control that we are responding pretty well to.
I mention how we all get along. And that there is so much trust in our company. I wonder how many owners of companies can truly trust their staff to do the right thing.
When I talk to other business owners, they are amazed at the latitude we give our team. And we debate the age-old question about whether freedom and morale/wellness are associated with business success. I deeply believe they are. But I also realize that you can’t have a policy for morale. It must be within a person as well as developed from their surroundings – coworkers, company, pay structure, workload, clients, mental health, work satisfaction, etc.
Do you want continued autonomy in our workplace? Flexibility? To be trusted? We all know that those things must be earned and appreciated versus becoming assumed and devalued. In trusting environments, we must hold ourselves accountable individually and collectively.
All these thoughts beg a handful of questions that you should ask yourself:
- Do you like what you do?
- Do you like and care about the people you work with?
- Do you care if our clients are successful?
- Do you like our clients and the industries they serve?
- Do you always do the right thing?
These self-reflective questions are obviously connected to whether Brand Fuel is the place for you. My hope is that it is. Where you find fallibility or uncertainty, please ask for help to get to a better place here. To be your very best. Let’s also do our best to continue to rid the company of negative energy. Let’s continue to be caring, and professional and together, work through the tough stuff, because there will be tough stuff.
I believe there is a correlation between positivity and individual as well as company success.
Brand Fuel is a resilient, scrappy and supremely ethical company comprised of some of the most creative, hardworking, fun and caring people. We have survived the dotcom bust, the great recession, an early-stage embezzlement case, the loss of almost 9% of our business with the implementation of the Pharma Guidelines, Chinese tariff hell, and a drop of 65% in sales during a pandemic. We have moved 10 showrooms over the years into new, better workspaces. And yet, Marie Kondo, knows we still have some work to do in sparking joy by thinning out the plastic in our industry and spaces.
As well, we have gotten through major shifts in our business from changes in technology to personnel changes, to moving to new key partnerships to developing services no one – no one – in an industry comprised of 29,000 competing companies, offers. And, we have earned a B Corp distinction which only ~2,000 companies in the US/Canada and ~5,800 companies worldwide have received.
We are an original.
We are what they aren’t.
You all have heard Robert and I say it before – in a commoditized market, we must add value to our clients and differentiate or we will die. We must challenge our clients and be strategic. You understand why we invest in services like Online Store Merchandising, Phygital Marketing, Fuel Kits, BrandGood, Showrooms, Sustainable Merch, Brand eXperiences and Charity Fuel. Market differentiation delivers margin integrity and survivability as well as great pride. Our sales team must make these differentiators a part of their specialized toolkit.
Robert, Allison, and I refuse to follow those transactional commodity brokers into the graveyard who are solely focused on product and price alone. It is incumbent upon all of us to make sure we stand out, whether on the front lines of selling, negotiating a problem with a supplier, being the first responder on the phone/at the front door, or challenging a strong-willed big buyer to understand that…
…a foam stress reliever in the shape of a cowboy hat is not a sustainable investment.
Here are some thoughts surrounding business partnerships. Partnerships are a challenge, no doubt. But history proves that Robert and I are much better as a team. And Allison is a gifted, thoughtful, and knowledgeable tie-break who represents the voice of our employees very well. My partnership with Robert is rooted in almost 40 years of friendship that started with a love of CCR, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, The Clash, Elvis Costello and of course, The Ramones. We even used our older brother’s IDs to get in to see our favorite bands. The stories we have together run deep.
But the truth is, we do not always agree or sometimes even get along, but that is often a good thing because the result is often much more balanced. The trust and respect we have for each other has proven to be unyielding which gets us to a place of resolve, understanding and growth. I can’t think of another person I would have wanted to do this with for the past 25 years.
We are both so proud of this company. And we are proud of each of you.
Thank you for trusting management with the decisions we make. We constantly ask for input and feedback so we can make the best decisions for the greater good. Help us make the decisions good ones before you knee-jerk and throw management under the bus. Talk with us before you complain to others. If you simply channel concerns and frustrations, you might find out a different way of thinking about how we made the decision. We might find out that we made an errant call because we overlooked something.
Grace should go both ways.
We have grown a LOT over the past couple of years. So, we need your feedback and your ideas. But we can’t always make everything happen even though we will always try to do our best.
I think (hope) you know that we are not a self-serving organization focused solely on profit. I believe Milton Friedman was wrong. We are not owners who are greedy misers who don’t care about a shared future together. We are invested in you and this company.
As well, there really should not be a single renegade “I” at Brand Fuel. Each of you has great resources at your disposal:
- Your BF team
- The commonsku community
- Reciprocity Road
- The B Corp community
- PPAI, ASI
- Direct access to owners of our suppliers
We are a progressive brand that wants you to have pride in your work and company and we want to help you find your way. Are you on Rogue Island or are you a part of an ecosystem that comprises our team? The team is what will make you the most successful. There is safety in numbers.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb
As we roll into 2023, please ask yourself, are you doing your best to be a positive influence at Brand Fuel and amongst your peers? How can you help us be a better organization? And how can we help you be the very best in your role? I am super excited about what we have accomplished together. Again, I am immensely proud. Thank you all for investing so much time and energy, smarts and personality, thought and thoughtfulness into helping Brand Fuel realize its fuel, er full, potential.
Danny Rosin, Co-President