I’ve wanted to tell a little of my story as co-founder of Big Fish for quite some time now. I am very excited to have a little bit of time to sit down and share some of my experiences over the last three years since the inception of BFP. Most people who have read about us know a little about how we started. Kenny and I experienced a terrible presentation while we attended LSU and it left a lasting impression. Then Kenny came to me with the idea of helping people across the world do a better job of what millions of people do daily: present. We decided to take this idea and turn it into a reality, which you know today as Big Fish Presentations.
A lot has happened since the creation of Big Fish Presentations. We have a wonderful team of creative people who I am very proud to call my friends and peers. We have a vision for the future that gets me more excited as I think about what we are trying to accomplish. Although having a vision for the future is paramount to our success, looking back at how we’ve gotten here is equally important. I wanted to take some time and share with you three important lessons that I’ve learned while helping our company grow.
People are Awesome
My philosophy about people is that I believe in an inherent goodness of all mankind. Out of this goodness, I believe everyone has amazing potential to create positive change. The people that I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet in the past few years have solidified this ideal.
Some of these amazing people are fellow students from around the nation that I have met. Kenny and I had the opportunity to go to both New York City and Detroit to compete in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards two years in a row. I am a member of Kairos50, which is another college and young entrepreneur program that has given me the opportunity to have met some crazy successful and inspiring young entrepreneurs. Both of these organizations have showed me that there are groups of young, brilliant minds out there who don’t want to wait to make a difference after they graduate; they believe in making it happen now. These people still inspire me today. When I doubt my ability to lead Big Fish because of my age or experience, I remember the hundreds of other students that I’ve met who are going through the same thing. They continue on and I will too.
The clients that I work with on a day-to-day basis inspire me with how they’re trying to change the world as well. My favorite clients are the ones who are passionate about what they do and who believe that they will be able to truly make a difference. It’s easy, when reflecting back on part of a journey in building a business, to think back to the companies and industries you have worked with. I, on the other hand, tend to look back at the people.
When I think about the concept of creating change, one group stands out in my mind: my team here at BFP. These people are some of the most talented and innovative people I know. I am lucky to have them with me as we try to make a difference in our clients’ lives. Without the creativity of the people at Big Fish, there would be no Big Fish. Kenny and I created a company knowing that we would need to find a group of sharp minds to help us lead this company as we grow, and I believe this core group is it. Some people believe in an inherent flaw in mankind. However, the people who I work with everyday show me that people are freakin’ awesome and that they have the ability to create true change in this world. They are doing it every day.
The decision to stay in school and try to continue running Big Fish was a hard one. I sometimes feel that I am spread so incredibly thin that school and Big Fish aren’t getting the best I have to offer. But through crazily meticulous time management, I make it work. I am happy that I’m able to make it work because through Big Fish and LSU I’ve been able to learn so much. I am at LSU pursuing a degree in biological sciences with a minor in political science. People ask me all the time, “Why are you involved with a marketing company?” Well, I think that sometimes you shouldn’t have to limit what you learn to a specific field. There is a saying, “jack of all trades, but a master of none.” I would like to say that I am trying to be a “master of all trades”. This doesn’t seem practical or possible, but a lot of things don’t seem practical or possible for that matter. That shouldn’t stop us from striving to achieve them. I have a strong passion for neurobiology and political theory. This doesn’t take away from the love I have for effective communication methods and presentation design.
There are two examples I like to give when people say I need to switch my major or go back and get another degree in marketing. Phil Schiller is Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing for Apple. He has been with Apple since 1997, assisting with the launch of major products such as the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and many other innovative pieces of technology. He is a powerhouse marketer and has helped create the persona that Apple uses to captivate the hundreds of millions of people who purchase their products. When he was younger, his only schooling was a bachelor’s degree in biology from Boston College. Beth Comstock has been the CMO of GE for over 10 years. She leads all of the marketing, sales, and communication of the 6th largest company in America. When she was younger, her formal degree was only a bachelor’s degree in biology. People like this make me want to keep learning. I don’t think I will get to a point in my life where I am only focused on growing in one area. Big Fish and my experience at LSU have taught me to keep learning, while trying to learn everything I can. It is hard, and at times may seem impractical. But if you love many different areas of thought, don’t let the social pressures keep you from learning new things.
Change Comes from People
The first lesson that I mentioned earlier in the post is that “People are awesome.” I think that many believe that people in general are great, but sometimes people attribute change to ideas more than the people behind them. Innovation drives change. But all too often we credit the idea itself for the innovation as opposed to appreciating the creators of those ideas. Someone once told me that if you want to make something happen, put it on paper. Otherwise, it’s just an idea. This may seem like an elementary way of thinking about the people behind major changes in our society but we have example after example throughout history of people who put these ideas on paper. We know that the innovative ideas that John Locke wrote in his Second Treatise was a major factor behind the creation of our current American government today. We know that Martin Luther’s writings helped launch an entire religious movement. We also know that Martin Luther King Jr. was the man behind the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s. I understand that we learn about these men and women behind great ideas, but we need to keep in mind that the ideas that sparked change aren’t limited to a certain type of person.
If humans have this amazing potential, then we need to give everyone the opportunity to try and deliver their new ideas to create true change. Big Fish has helped me appreciate the idea that there are people around this world that are doing things to make a difference, and my goal is to help these people express themselves in a way that gives them a fighting chance at making the difference. This helps remind me that innovative thinking is important, but it’s the people behind those innovative thoughts that we truly need to appreciate.
These three things aren’t the only things that I’ve learned in the past few years of course. I’ve also learned that I should compliment every woman I meet about something she’s wearing; that Panini presses were created in the heavens; and that accidental fish homicide is way easier to commit than I thought. But these three I covered were some of the most important. I know these aren’t really the type of lessons that you apply to your day-to-day work, but these are more or less ideals that I feel have come from my experiences with Big Fish and the people around me. I am very excited to see what the future at Big Fish holds for me, and the lessons that I will be able to look back on after my next three years. Thanks for letting me share a bit of my story. Until next time.
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