Jared Smith – Founder, President & CEO, Bluemedia

With over 20 years of experience, Jared is the visionary CEO of bluemedia that’s transformed this self-funded start-up into a multi-million dollar powerhouse. His commitment to bluemedia’s team and clients is unprecedented in any business. Today, Jared leads the strategic accounts team in tackling the biggest signage projects in the country.

How did the concept for Bluemedia come about?
In 1997, I bought a small digital printer to produce golf tee signs for golf tournaments. That concept worked well and I brought on a few partners and staff members. Quickly, we were adding printers and clients and it became obvious to us that we could serve many other markets outside of golf events. The name bluemedia came about to allow us to solicit more verticals than we could when we were called The Golf Tournament Group.

How was the first year in business?
The first year was exciting and scary. It had to work. Not only did we have no investors, but also it was our hard-earned money sunk in this idea. We had to work hard and hustle. I was 25 and thought I could light the world on fire. What I lacked in experience and wisdom I made up for in sheer determination. With ignorance we charged forward, questioning everything and finding our place. I made enough to live on and invested every cent of the profits back into the business.

What was your marketing strategy?
In the very beginning, there was no marketing. There was no money for it. What we did have was the willingness to get the word out by showing up. We showed up at mixers, at golf events, at chamber events, and pretty much anything we could be invited to or sneak in to. I guess in hindsight our marketing strategy was to get in with the right crowd, present our offering humbly, and earn the business by over-delivering at every turn.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Very fast. Our success was based on the fact that we had found a real need, a real vacuum, and filled it. We had something that did not have to be sold. We just had to make it available to those who needed it and that was not hard. Part of the real need was “help.” People needed help. They needed their tasks solved, taken away from them, handled. That is what we did and we did it in the signage category, but I think it can be done in any category. We doubled in size for the first few years and it was a blast.

How do you define success?
Success to me is meeting potential. Whatever your potential is, whatever a race car’s potential is, whatever a process’s potential is, whatever a 100m sprinter’s potential is. Closing the gap between where you are and where you could be is the path to success.

What is the key to success?
The key to success is realizing the high road is the shortcut. Complete transparency, empathy, hustle, hard work, humility, forgiveness, commitment, giving back, and putting family and spirit first. Those are things you find on the high road.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Being busy is a terrible sign. Busy means you cannot take your wife to lunch. Busy means you can’t go to your daughter’s gymnastics meet. Busy means you haven’t spoken to your parents in a while. Busy means you cannot cater to your best clients. Busy means you cannot listen to your employees, your kids, or your family. No one can be creative or thoughtful when they are busy. Be terrified of being busy.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Buy it right or buy it often.”
“Being on time with a failure is NOT better than being late with the winner.”
“Head in to every meeting with a goal. Say and do things that get you closer to accomplishing that goal without lying or taking advantage, as a great meeting gets you what you want and improves the lives of all others involved.”

What are some of your favorite books?
The BibleGood to Great. The Goal. Siddhartha.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
We had a huge client (national restaurant brand) that we worked hard to get, made great margins on, and had a lot of high dollar business ahead of us. This client, however, just could never seem to perform on their side – late artwork, horrible response times, blamed us for their shortcomings, etc. It was finally enough and I had to step in and have a heart to heart conversation with the main client contact. I had to shoot them straight, with respect, and protect my staff from the runaround, lack of professional respect, and mess that was this relationship. I proposed a few methods that would greatly improve the process, alleviate stress for all, and deliver the client a ton more value with less effort. For the first time in my career, we were fired on the call. It’s tough to not second guess and think back if I made the right decision. I am now confident that I did but that day it sure didn’t feel good to do the right thing and lose. In the end, I was able to realize it was indeed a loss, but for them and not bluemedia.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I have a very clear, personal North Star and so does bluemedia. We know exactly what we want. That is not negotiable and we will not be deterred. I have found a way to become so confident that it is beyond me just believing it will happen. It’s as if it has happened already and I just haven’t arrived there to collect yet. Adversity may, and probably will, be involved along the way to reaching the North Star, so we welcome it. Adversity is like a mile marker – it means you are getting closer. The road cannot decide where it ends. Stay on it, maintain a healthy pace, and the destination IS just ahead. It has no choice but to be.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Don’t underestimate the amount of effort, confidence, intelligence, and decision-making prowess that starting your own business will require. There is no handbook, little help, and you can plan on 100 unexpected challenges. If you have the skill to make a good battle out of it, then you have the first of two vital requirements. The second is a brilliant business model. Many people design the product and not the business. I highly recommend that anyone starting out should write out exactly why they are starting this business. “To get what? To do what? To accomplish what? So you can work how many hours? So you won’t have to do what anymore? So you will finally get to do what?” Answer these questions, build the business model, and make sure your model accomplishes all of those things. Heading out to see where this thing goes is throwing your future to the wind. You need a goal, then a model that works, and plan to put that exact model to work. Design your business. Design your future.