It is hard to believe it, but Ken started at our company 10 years ago this month. Ken was fresh off the Hill and looking for a job in the tech field, and wound up at what was then Adfero, where he started out in the account staff working on managing campaigns and online strategy.
I worked with Ken over email and chat for 6 months before meeting him in person on my first day at the company. After years of solely offering website design and support on the Hill, Jeff Mascott gave Ken and me the goal of creating a new newsletter and CRM system to address the frustrations that Hill staff had with existing software.
Ken started out by changing our web business to a true software as a service business. This gave us the stability we needed and the recurring revenue to grow our company to the next level, by standardizing our monthly fees and switching away from depending on big up front sales.
Next he started on growing our newest product, the eNewsletter service. We got the first version up and running in only 6 months, and after some technical tweaking, the service really took off.
In 2008, Ken closed an astonishing 40 website deals as the only full time sales representative for Fireside21. This was the springboard that enabled us to grow our development team and give us the staff to finish and launch our CRM.
Around that time we also realized it was time to create our own identity. When we simply did websites, it was easy to share developers, designers, and support staff with Adfero since that was what we were doing. After launching the Enewsletter and CRM tools, we became a more specialized software group, and by 2008 our team was operating almost independently from the rest of Adfero. We decided to start by creating our own brand and website. Ken led the effort to create a new name, logo, branding, and website that that we all loved. Personally, I love our logo and color scheme, and even try to get clothes and accessories in orange now. I don’t remember what Ken’s title was at that time, but he had established himself as the leader and champion for our work on the Hill, and shortly after our rebranding we changed Fireside21 to its own legal entity and Ken was formally given the title of CEO.
The next few years were a whirlwind of growth for our CRM tool. In 2008 we had 4 members of our team, and by 2013 we had 10. Ken worked to grow our account team and establish our reputation of excellent service and support for our products.
In 2012, we were quickly running out of room in our office. Adfero served as our “garage” to get started, and was a great place to work and hang out, but the space we were using no longer allowed us all to sit together and work effectively as a team. Ken started looking for a new space, and found a fantastic office that was just coming onto the market in the Penn Quarter. It had formerly been occupied by the FBI, that turned the beautiful historic building into a generic and boring office space. Ken worked with an architect to gut the space, and created a great environment to work, that had an open feel and modern design. A great example of Ken’s creativity and fun design is that one of our walls is painted in stripes which spell “Fireside21” in binary code.
Having worked with Ken for nine years, it has been exciting to watch him grow into his role here, and these are just a few of my favorite qualities about him.
While I’m more of a cut-corners and ship-it guy, Ken is always looking for ways to provide a wow factor for clients, and thinks about all the details that go into a feature or communication. I think having worked on the Hill gives Ken a lot of empathy for staffers, and it’s always great to have someone who keeps us focused on making life easier for them.
Ken also leads from the front. In fact, if you call our office when we are short staffed due to weather or sickness, there’s a good chance the CEO will pick up and help clients with formatting a newsletter or getting that targeted mailing just right. A common sight for us is Ken sprinting for the phone if the support team is already on a call. How often have you gotten help from the CEO at other companies?
Ken is also one of the most cooperative people I’ve worked with. Whenever we have a big project to do, Ken is great at rounding everyone up, writing up a plan, and encouraging everyone to get cracking and make stuff happen. Ken is also very resourceful; I don’t know how many times I’ve said something couldn’t happen due to technical difficulties, and then he fires out a simple solution to the problem that works like a charm.
I have enjoyed watching Ken grow into the leader of our company, and he is a great example of how hard work, dedication, and hustle can lead to success. Happy 10 years, Ken!