Brand Recognition

There has been a lot of talk at work in the past year or so about personal brand. I have always used this blog as a mechanism to convey my brand, enabling a reader to see who I am. As part of her switching roles, my friend Anita sent me a note that she figured out what her brand is. In 4 words she boiled it down to a succinct statement that fit perfectly. If personal brand is a marketing concept, why not come up with your own tag line? It’s the one sentence statement you should use when selling yourself.

Extraordinarily Creative Solutions to Complex Challenges

That’s me. And in thinking through this statement, it has made a lot of sense why I have done well or poorly at the jobs I have held over the years. In general, I make a poor grunt. While I could do fund accounting, I was not good at doing a job where maintaining the status quo each day was paramount. Consulting at colleges was the same thing, they really didn’t want to be great; they just want things to work. The roles I have held at Fido have worked so much better when I am free to be creative in designing systems that balance customer need, process flexibility, future growth and rules driven code. There are a few really great examples of this.

While a role by definition can help bring out the best parts of your brand, a manager can just as quickly squash that. I have seen my share of this. The flip side is also possible. Regina C.B. gave me very broad authority to radically rethink how we did A/R at a college.  And so we were always way ahead of other departments in our system implementation. That’s what led to my national conference presentations and eventually being a senior consultant at age 27.

The reason I am spending time thinking about this is that I think it helps rationalize my approach to tailgate boxes. I have spent an absolutely obnoxious amount of time over the years, not only on the act of tailgating, but on building stuff to make that experience better. It’s who I am and the tailgate boxes are a metaphor for my brand.

Version 1 was all about eliminating the bins and the annoyance of having to pack up and remember all the crap we needed to bring in the back of the trucks. But each year new learnings and requirements spawned upgrades, like the extra speakers, second tv, and front fold down rack.

Temp pic 1

We soon realized that we ‘needed’ bigger/more tvs, louder sound, better weather-proofing, quicker set-up & break-down time, a bar, and much more storage. In addition, neighbors started to hang out with us. Bigger seemed the order of the day. Version 2 solved all of those problems.

Temp pic 2

But I soon realized that I wanted my truck back, we needed still more space and easier access, an inside space for changing and warming, I wanted to multi-use the vehicle for horse-shows and soccer tournaments, and set-up and break-down still needed some help. Hence: The Bus.

With each iteration, I role out MVP for the first game and then migrate point releases each week. Each season gets a major version upgrade. I am acting as community liaison and product manager talking to a number of fans who stop by to take pictures each week.  Most importantly, my boss empowers me to leverage my brand (and he’s devilishly handsome).

But the biggest takeaway, is that the tailgate box is a product that would only be created by someone with an end-state vision of a customer experience that not only exceeds expectations, but delights and incentivizes that customer to come back for more. I have a vision for what tailgating should be, involving food, drink, games, music, debate, video, and camaraderie. Building the box was certainly an over-the-top expression of solving that challenge and enabling people to share that experience. It’s ingrained in who I am and I definitely got it from my parents. Every time I called for advice on audio or how to wire something, my dad would talk me through the issues and mom would send more than we had discussed, because more is better. Now that we are all working on the bus together, there are details that will defy a rational approach to the simple act of tailgating.

Who I am, my brand, is about using all of that upbringing to assemble a team of experts to help me fulfill my vision. Spence and Sam have been there to push back on me when I lose focus on the in-person experience. Jen M had an awesome idea for stenciling the graphics. Haley came up with the design for her horse images. Mom long ago gave me a sense for esthetics perfection. You see that in what she did for balancing the colors on the changing room curtain and in my attention to detail on color, trim and ease of use. Dad taught me the need for execution perfection: I mean come on, we had been “rewiring it” long before Tool Time hit the air. How he was able to rewire the accessory panel is truly brilliant.

I am really proud of where the tailgate bus is going. It’s more than just a labor of love for me. This time I assembled a team and we nailed my vision perfectly. If you are thinking of me and how I might approach any sort of endeavor, think of the TAILG8R bus.

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About Josh Rutstein

I am an aspiring entrepreneur and hopeful political candidate. Father of 2 very special girls and passionate American. I snowboard whenever possible and follow a 20x mentality for exercise. I also play golf and ultimate frisbee and am a die hard New England Patriots fan and season ticket holder. Everyday I wake up wanting to make this country a better place, someday I hope to actually succeed.
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