Growing up in the 70s and 80s was Great! You experienced the switch from black & white TVs to color, the birth of MTV, the dawn of computers, and the birth of video games. During my free time, in addition to swimming at Meigs Beach, jumping and fishing off the Shalimar, Cinco Bayou, and Brooks Bridges, I frequented local hangouts. Hangouts like Cinco Bayou Cinema, Funway Amusement Park, and Aladdin’s Castle. I spent a small fortune in time and treasure putting my hard-earned quarters, three lives at a time, into playing PacMan, Defender, and my favorite: Donkey Kong.
Read this article in the April Coastlines.
In Donkey Kong, you are the hero named Mario, who is battling a villainous ape name Donkey Kong. This angry ape is hurling barrels at you while you dodge and jump over obstacles to save a girl named Pauline. Mario traverses a series of steel girders and ladders to climb to the top and rescue Pauline. Each successive level gets harder as you “level-up” to the next tier of the game. At different stages, you have intermissions where you (Mario) and Pauline are reunited only to be thwarted again by Donkey Kong and moving to the next harder level.
Your business is like the game Donkey Kong. You take your passion and grind it out to reach the next level and achieve your dreams or goals. As you grow in size (revenue & employees), you may level-up from local, to regional, to national, to international, and, ultimately, global business. Within each level, there are micro levels that you will achieve. Your company is in a constant state of change as you grow. What got you where you are now, will not get you where you want to go next. It is a constant evolution. The company you are when you are a sole proprietor at 150K in revenue is not the same company and structure needed when you are 40 employees and 8M in revenue, or 500 people and 100M in revenue.
When my business partner Louis and I moved our company back to Fort Walton Beach in 2001, we were two guys who were grinding it out trying to survive. The first few years in business is analogous to Level 1 of Donkey Kong, but for the business world. We wore many hats. Many times, we wore many hats all at once, including Delivery, Finance, Marketing, Sales, and HR. We did everything. Our business wasn’t local, meaning, at that time, we did not have a local offering. At that time, Bit-Wizards was only offering custom software development services, and our customers come from around the country.
I gained a strong sense of community-mindedness from my Father, an Air Force Chief Master Sergeant, and my Mother, who was a Director of Catholic Social Services. Additionally, I learned to be community-minded as an Eagle Scout and in Civil Air Patrol and High School ROTC at Choctaw. I knew Bit-Wizards needed to engage in the community, so we joined the FWB Chamber. We also knew that relationships with people were the key to growing a successful business. Initially, we were just so busy trying to grow our business to the next level. It was enough for us to join the Chamber on our terms, and take advantage of the marketing and association benefits. Those benefits don’t always produce a direct ROI (Return on Investment); they are often intangible benefits such as providing visibility and stature.
As Bit-Wizards grew and leveled-up several times during our growth, we eventually expanded our business beyond Software Development to Digital Marketing. We ultimately created a Managed IT (information technology) Services line of business. With the addition of Managed IT Services in 2013, we had an offering that was local and national. Louis and I both had also leveled up in our personal lives with Louis marrying Tabitha and me marrying Kimberly and creating our two beautiful children: Molly & Wes.
In 2014, our marketing team wanted to level-up our involvement in the Chamber. To be honest, I was skeptical. I saw leveling-up in the Chamber as attending First Friday Coffee and Nothing but Networking. I knew that The Chamber provided visibility, promotion, events, relationships, association, and community connection. However, my time is a premium as a busy Husband and Father. I am focused on growing Bit-Wizards. Additionally, we have a second company, Monitored Communications LLC, which demands my attention, in which we are scaling a Software-As-A-Service co-parenting application called TalkingParents.com. While I want to promote our company, I only want to do impactful things that matter and make a difference.
Leveling-up our Sponsorship fit that goal while providing great benefits. Sponsorship has allowed me to help make a substantial impact on our community, such as the Brooks Bridge Replacement, Gulf View, ½ County Local Option Sales Tax, and the ½ Local Option Sales Tax for our Schools. Not only has our Sponsorship expanded opportunities for me personally, but it has also expanded opportunities for key young leaders in my company. It has allowed your professionals such as Candie Mitchell, Jennifer Kraus, and Jason Monroe, to grow as leaders. It has allowed me to meet and build relationships with people; I would never have known and established our company as a leader in the community. It has also increased our business opportunities.
Running and growing a business is hard. The formula for success isn’t as simple as playing Donkey Kong, but fighting the good fight and leveling-up while evolving is critical. Don’t forget to evaluate your Chamber Membership and consider leveling-up as you grow. Leveling-Up your Sponsorship can do great things for your business, whether you are a local business, a large national business, or a global business. Fight the good fight and Level-Up to Grow Your Business with The Chamber!