The Fate of MediaFuse: An Entrepreneur Wrestles with the Future Direction of His Internet Marketing Firm

By Riddick, John C., Jr. | Journal of Critical Incidents, Annual 2010 | Go to article overview

The Fate of MediaFuse: An Entrepreneur Wrestles with the Future Direction of His Internet Marketing Firm


Riddick, John C., Jr., Journal of Critical Incidents


As Ian Davis strolled out of the coffee shop near the MediaFuse offices in late December of 2008, he reflected on his situation. MediaFuse was at a crossroads he thought, as he braced against the cold. Ian loved the creative side of the business but he felt a strong obligation to shore up the company's internal operations in the areas of project estimating and employee utilization. Ian had made a name for himself working directly with customers to develop interactive marketing campaigns. How could he give the company the attention that it desperately needed without harming the strong ties he had established with customers?

Ian needed to align MediaFuse's service offerings with an ever-changing marketplace. The company had an emerging reputation as a thought-leader in the social media space, but revenue beyond a one or two-day consulting engagement was hard to come by. If only he could find more time to hone this service offering, perhaps larger consulting engagements would follow. This was the "fun stuff he thought to himself. The firm's core business of website design and development was healthy but there was continued downward pressure on profit margins. Ian was seeing more and more "mom and pop" and boutique firms jumping into this business.

At the same time, Ian had made the decision to make a strategic investment in productivity software to help manage billable hours and time sheets, but he had not given the project the energy it deserved. If he could somehow get his employees to take more initiative in creating business opportunities, and the billable hours that follow, perhaps he could find more balance between running day-to-day operations and providing personal attention to customers.

Some of MediaFuse's biggest customers were starting to complain. A voice mail left for Ian earlier in the day from one of MediaFuse's top customers had expressed concern over missed deadlines and lack of personal attention. "Ian, this is William Daniels over at Thomson Healthcare" his speaker phone rang. "Our media strategy project is a month behind and we haven't seen you for two weeks. We need to talk."

Background

Ian Davis graduated from college in the early nineties determined to make a name for himself as a marketing and advertising professional. He had always had a knack for being creative and after a successful internship with a large public relations and marketing communications firm he was offered a job as an account executive. Ian quickly worked his way through the ranks and in a few short years was promoted to Director of Marketing. Ian's career path coincided with the rise of the Internet. In addition to the traditional consulting that Ian offered around branding, print ads, direct mail, and public relations, clients were frequently asking for assistance on how to promote their products and services on the Web. This changing media landscape allowed Ian to develop a reputation as an expert in Web-related marketing.

In 2001, Ian struck out on his own as a freelance creative design and marketing consultant offering his services to a variety of clients ranging from small start-ups to Fortune 500 corporations. Shortly thereafter, Ian formed MediaFuse LLC, positioning the company as a full service marketing firm serving clients in the Midwestern United States. For several years, MediaFuse was simply a one-man show, allowing Ian to carve out a niche as a charismatic, tech-savvy marketing consultant. By 2007, revenues were strong enough to allow MediaFuse to hire its first employee. That same year, as the business began to grow rapidly, Ian noticed that a large percentage of MediaFuse's revenues were coming from Web-related projects. In addition, the majority of new clients signing up for MediaFuse's services were interested almost exclusively in Web-related marketing.

By the start of 2008, MediaFuse had five employees, all reporting directly to Ian, the sole owner. …

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