As we publish our 100th episode, Rich Brooks looks back on lessons learned, how to grow your business here in Maine, and gives one last Fast Take.
Thanks for tuning in to the 100th episode of Fast Forward Maine. This episode is a little different than the 99 that proceeded it, in the fact that there’s no episode to follow. This is our last episode, at least for now.
However, this is not the first time I’ve recorded the last. And that’s not because I thought I was going to quit after episode 50 or 75, I actually already recorded the hundredth episode. And no, I didn’t lose it. I didn’t forget to hit record. I just did the entire episode, spilled my heart out. And at the end of it, I realized that every episode of Fast Forward Maine is about helping Maine business owners and leaders grow their business. And I really hadn’t done that in episode one. All I did was thank the people who helped me get to episode 100. So I decided to re-record this, with the goal of sharing some advice on marketing and business that I hope is going to grow your business here in the state of Maine.
Before I get to that though, I kind of have to lay a little bit of groundwork and explain how and why this podcast was created in the first place. And it really starts with my friendship with Yury Nabokov, who was working for Machias Savings Bank at the time. Yury and I connected over a series of events and became friends, in part because he was such a big supporter of what I was doing with the Agents of Change – which is an annual conference and another podcast that I run – which is all about digital marketing. And Yury felt that the bank should really get involved with our conference and just support it and help promote it in any way they could.
He apparently got a bunch of people to agree with them. And for several years Machias Savings Bank was our big sponsor for the event, and one of the reasons we could bring in some really big-name speakers. After a while, however, Machias decided that they wanted to focus on their own business, which makes a lot of sense. And they were really well-known up north in Maine, but less so down here in Southern Maine, they were kind of expanding into this area. The other issue was a lot of people seem to know them on the retail side, but didn’t necessarily think of them as a business bank. And they’ve got great businesses bankers. Flyte new media, my company, is a customer of Machias Savings Bank and we absolutely love them, and they’ve been a fantastic bank to work with. By the way, their sponsorship for the show actually ran out at episode 97, so I’m just saying this and sharing this from the bottom of my heart, they are an amazing partner and I really enjoyed working with them over the years.
Anyway, they wanted to pivot a little bit and they wanted to take their attention off of marketing or off of talking to marketers and onto business owners, which makes a lot of sense, that’s who their audience was. And so Yury and I kind of pivoted and we said, well, what if we kind of create this new brand that’s all about helping Maine businesses grow. And at the time we said we’ll do in-person events, and we’re also going to do a Facebook group. After a little bit more discussion, we both realized we hate Facebook groups. We don’t hate Facebook groups, we hate being responsible for Facebook groups. We both tried them in the past, they weren’t really our cup of tea. But we were both passionate about podcasting, and so we shifted to that model. We do in-person events and we would do podcasting.
And after a few early events, we realized that we needed a name for this project that we were working on. I previously told Yury I bought a domain name a decade ago called ‘fastforwardmaine.com’ and some associated social media handles, but never knew what to do with them. It was actually Yury who suggested that this was the perfect opportunity that we were trying to move Maine forward, that we were trying to move the business economy forward through education. And what better name than to call it ‘Fast Forward Maine’. Thanks to Yury, that became the name. After that I reached out to Josh Fisher, who I knew is an amazing illustrator. And he had actually done basically all the artwork for the Agents of Change and asked him this ridiculous task.
Could he make a logo out of the state of Maine? Like the state of Maine kind of looks like the play button. We were going to be Fast Forward Maine. Maybe he could do two states of Maine and it would look like that. He did try it. But luckily for me, he also tried some other ideas. Including putting two pine trees together, which ultimately became our logo. And I absolutely love it. And it’s going to be one of the things I miss the most about doing Fast Forward Maine is I always thought his logo work on this was fantastic and just absolutely loved it. He also did another version with two mountains that I thought maybe at some point in the future, we’d bring out, too. But I guess we never got around to it. Anyways, a big thank you to Josh for this. As well.
Now we knew in advance that this podcast was never going to have a huge following. First of all, most podcasts don’t unless you’re Joe Rogan. And honestly, I just don’t want to go down that path right now. Not only was our podcast more for a niche audience, we were already focusing our attention on business owners in the state of Maine. And then when you throw the additional filter of podcasts listeners into that, I mean, how many downloads were we really expecting to get at any one time? 500 was probably going to be the peak, but we were all really passionate about it. And if you can get in front of 500 business owners in the state of Maine, that’s pretty impressive. So we were just looking to create the best quality content and talk to the most influential business leaders here in the state that were going to help our audience grow their businesses. And really, we accomplished that.
We talked to great minds from the Maine SBDC, from SCORE, from ACE Consulting. We talked to business owners, we talked to financial people, we talked to HR people, to PR people. We talked about people who were involved with workforce issues. We talked to Yellow Breen over at the Maine Development Foundation. There were just so many brilliant minds. And one of the things that’s nice about podcasts, is you the listener right now can go back and check out all those episodes. That information, for the most part is, very evergreen and it can continue to help grow your business over time.
When we first started, we actually started in Machias Savings Bank. Honestly, they were so supportive. It wasn’t just sponsorship money, they gave us a studio to record it, and they gave us all this high-end equipment. They gave us Cody, our sound guy. They supported us in every way you could. There was a time you would walk into Machias Savings Bank branches, and you could actually see on the screens this week’s episode, the topic and the guest, for the Fast Forward Maine episodes. Just really a lot of support. Yury and I had a blast co-hosting the show. We had different approaches to each episode, to each guest. Yury is very enthusiastic and upbeat, and I’m not saying that I’m downbeat, but I have a few more years on me. Maybe not the same level of enthusiasm and earnestness that Yury would bring to the microphone, but I enjoy interviewing people together especially at the beginning where all three of us, when the guests would get into the same room and be able to look eye to eye, and Cody videotaping the entire thing for later use.
I should actually pause for a second. That was true, pretty much from episode two on. But the very first episode of Fast Forward Maine – and there’s a photograph of this on the web somewhere – is me and Yury realizing that we only have one microphone and a set of earbuds. Literally sitting side by side in my office, with one earbud in each of our ears, talking into the microphone. Not exactly ideal podcasting situation, but we made it work. And luckily right after that, we had the opportunity to use the equipment over at Machias Savings Bank’s Portland branch, and we kind of upped our game from there on out. But just had a great time interviewing and learning from all these great minds here in the state of Maine.
But here’s the lesson, I guess, that I want to share with you today. Because I’m sure a lot of people would say, “Oh, he stopped doing the podcast. Obviously, that’s a failure.” And I’m sure you could look at it that way, but that’s definitely not the way that I’m going to look at it. In fact, there are so many wins that I had personally as a business owner here in the state of Maine, from the show, the number of people I met and connected with, and the opportunities that came my way. Including opportunities for my company, flyte new media, and some of the jobs that we got from the connections that I had. And other opportunities to go on other podcasts and to do other speaking engagements, and just to make more connections in the business and networking here in the state, were all really valuable things for me as a business owner and strongly recommend that you might consider that for your own business as well.
But the bottom line is that in our business, we need to take a look at what’s working and what’s not. Fast forward Maine the podcast was working in many ways, but it’s time consuming to do a podcast correctly. My time alone was well over an hour a week, which may not seem like much, but that’s an hour every week. And we were also using other resources. We were outsourcing some of the post-production. We were getting it transcribed. We were having it put up to the website. All in all, each episode would take four or five hour’s worth of work, which certainly adds up when it comes to costs. And even just for me, it was probably more than an hour a week because I spent a lot of time finding guests, finding their schedules, doing a pre-interviews, and then getting them back onto the schedule for a longer interview. As much as I loved it and enjoy talking to people, it was taking away from some of the other things in my life. And as a business owner, you only have so many hours in the day and so many hours in the week.
Besides the Fast Forward Maine podcast and the webinars we were putting on, I also had the Agents of Change, which right now at this point, we’re up to 424 episodes on that. And that’s a podcast that generated a lot of business for my company, flyte. Plus there was flyte itself. I was running that company. And it just became one of these things where I was being spread a little bit too thin. And so when the sponsorship came up for renewal, I had an honest conversation with the people at Machias, and they felt it had served their purpose, and I didn’t really feel like I wanted to go it alone at this point. That I wanted to put my efforts towards the Agent of Change podcast, hopefully towards the conference, and definitely towards flyte. And that’s what I did.
It pains me that I’m not going to be doing these interviews and talking to other Maine business leaders and consultants and experts. But the bottom line is, I can always bring this back. I can always come back at some point in the future, either by myself or with another sponsor, and do more episodes. And that’s okay. But I think the important thing is, as business owners and as marketers – because I consider myself one, too – we have to try new things. And sometimes these things last as long as our business does. And other times they last only for a few years or only for a few months. And sometimes they’re utter failures, but at least we learned something from it.
I look back on Fast Forward Maine the podcast as an absolute success. The numbers may not show that, but the bottom line is, I know that we touched a lot of people. I know that we improved businesses because I’ve heard that from some people who’ve come up to me, either in person or virtually, and told me that they really liked this episode or this expert or this topic. And that means a lot. And I hope you got something out of listening to the podcasts, the episodes, over the past few years.
Two things that Yury and I instituted right from the beginning. The first thing was a question we would ask all of our guests. And the question went something like this: “What one thing would you change, if you could, to improve the business ecosystem here in Maine?” There were no right answers. And the interviewee did not necessarily need to respond in any way that was about their business or their industry. In fact, we told them to say whatever is important to you. And we got all sorts of ideas. Some people wanted us to lower taxes. Some people actually thought we should increase them. Some people thought we should put money into the colleges, especially the community colleges. And other people thought we should invest more in the trades. One answer that kept on coming back over and over again was the idea of improved connectivity and broadband.
Now I’ve given my answer before, because I’ve been the guest on the show once before when Yury interviewed me. I honestly don’t remember what I said, but I’m actually going to agree with, I think probably the most common answer that what I would change if I could is connectivity for all Mainers throughout the state, north and south. After COVID, with so many people wanting to move to Maine but just they’re not being as many opportunities, and so many businesses kind of being strangled by the fact that they don’t have good connection to the internet. I think that’s one of the biggest things we could do that would have an impact, not just in Southern Maine, but throughout the state. And that would be probably the biggest game changer that I can think of.
The other thing that we would do at the end of each episode is each give our ‘fast take’, our big takeaway for this week’s episode. As I look back over the past hundred episodes, here’s my ‘fast take’: That there are so many free and affordable resources for business owners and entrepreneurs in the state of Maine. It’s crazy. I’ve heard plenty of people complaining about the taxes are too high, or there’s not enough young people to work in the state, or this regulation or this tax is too much. I don’t believe any of it. When I look at the state, I’m not saying it doesn’t have its problems, I’m just saying that there are so many organizations from SCORE, to ACE, to the Small Business Development Centers, to the Small Business Administration, to MTI, MITC, all of the Kickstarter programs that are throughout the state, all of the Angel Investing that’s in the state. There are so many opportunities to grow your business here in the state. So many resources that are available to you. And hopefully by looking at this show and listening to the show and looking at past episodes, you’ll see the wealth of resources that are out there.
So if you are struggling, whether it’s struggling with finances, or trying to find the right people, or trying to get the word out from a marketing standpoint or trying to increase the conversion rate at your store or your website, we’ve got resources here through the podcast, but we’ve also interviewed people who are out there ready to lend a helping. My ‘fast take’ is that there’s plenty of resources to grow your business here in the state.
It has been an absolute pleasure and honor to be behind the mic at Fast Forward Maine for the past 100 episodes. Please, if you haven’t yet, check out a lot of the other episodes, there’s some really great content in there. Other than that, I’ll say goodbye for now. But who knows, maybe I’ll see you again in episode 101.