I’m not sure how to start this post. As I begin, I’m at 33,000 feet – cruising altitude as they say – and some guy two seats up on the right has been taking selfies of himself for the last 10 minutes, grinning as he reviews them. Insta-worthy? Maybe. It seems pretty weird to me, but no one else seems to care so why should I? I’m returning from a business trip to Asheville with two colleagues, making this as good a time as any to start reflecting on the past five years of FischTank.
The LLC paperwork for EMF Media d.b.a FischTank was filed in late December 2013; I put in notice at a place where I was very unhappy, and brought my first client aboard shortly into the new year. I had limited experience in business development, even less experience in bookkeeping, and now – very little income. Still, I was excited in a professional sense for the first time in a long time.
The first few months were not easy (try working at home when you only have two clients). I took meetings that went nowhere, attended networking events that had no purpose, and at one point went door to door to try and win contracts from small businesses in Jersey City. I also drove my wife crazier than usual. There were sleepless nights, stressed out mornings, and a never-ending supply of self-doubt. Those feelings haven’t gone away and I don’t think they ever will, but in early 2014, that was my 24/7. Funny how something can suck and be so exciting at the same time.
But this story isn’t about me or the “entrepreneurial struggle” that many of the self-proclaimed experts drone on about on LinkedIn and Twitter.
The FischTank story is and has always been about people. I was joined by Matt Bretzius, my partner at FischTank, who is smarter and more disciplined than I am. There is a 0% chance this company is anything beyond me in my apartment living room without him. We made one hire, then we made another, and now we have a growing group of bright, creative, and really unique professionals people. Gone are the days of my personally PDF’d invoices, disorganized spreadsheets, and envelopes stuffed with receipts from coffee shops and cab rides. We now have a bookkeeper who is actually good at math and record keeping. We started partnering more strategically with other marketing, SEO/digital, creative, and PR agencies, building a stronger referral network filled with individuals who have also helped shape the company.
Our clients are awesome. I don’t write that to kiss ass, it’s just reality. Collectively they’re a group of innovative and smart risk-takers, and a pleasure to work with each day. Nothing drives us more than when we see how hard they work to achieve their own goals. We enjoy telling their stories.
To everyone who falls into a category above, I’m eternally grateful for what you’ve done. You know who you are. To all of my colleagues, past and present, this five-year milestone is for you as much as it is for Matt and I.
It’s not all roses and sunshine. We’ve learned many lessons, some of them painful but each of them valuable. Sure there were partnerships, hires and clients that didn’t quite fit, and while not everything ends well, through it all we’ve maintained our integrity and evolved. From these experiences, we’ve built a positive culture we can be proud of.
The only takeaway or piece of advice I have for others, should you choose to listen, is to place a premium on resiliency. Bad days, weeks and months will come. You will get home late after a bad day and think maybe you’re not cut out for this stuff. Self-doubt will creep in when you’re at your most vulnerable and it will eat away your confidence. When this all happens, you cannot give in. Get up, show up, and keep coming at them.
The last five years have been the best education and experience I could ask for, exceeding any and all expectations I had on January 15, 2014. Will FischTank last forever? No, nothing does, but we’re having a helluva lot of fun today.