May Monthly Payback: Dan Fahrner from SmallBox

dan-fahrner-hi-resWho is Dan?

Dan Fahrner is the director of marketing services for SmallBox, a full service digital agency in Indianapolis that is passionate about using the web to start a culture-powered marketing revolution. He is a certified Google AdWords and Analytics whiz who has a passion for all things search.

Dan’s expertise in marketing runs the gamut – from providing strategic and organizational health consulting for enterprise level organizations to managing advertising and marketing for national musicians. Outside of work he spends his time playing with his genius infant, strategy board games and drums at his church.

Let’s learn more about Dan…

We had the opportunity to chat with Dan about his best business advice, inspiration, and stories that helped shape his career. Here is what he shared…

On the “North Star”

The best business advice Dan has ever received is to define his purpose statement, or “North Star.” Dan explains that “at SmallBox, the North Star is defined as a guiding principle that you can use as a filter to make decisions and calibrate your career and organization.”

His personal purpose statement is “promote joy.” “This came to me through an exercise lead by CJ McClanahan called Thrivemap. It appeals to my inner promoter (my former life is in the music business industry) and also reminds me to bring part of my faith to work every day in small interactions,” says Dan.

Dan also describes that this concept can be leveraged by a business. For instance, the North Star for SmallBox is “do great things,” which is intentionally catch-all to encourage his team to interact within the community as much as possible. Dan says it also helps his team to make business decisions, such as “will working with this client truly allow us to create something great for both the company and its customers?”

On Blunt Advice

About 5 years ago, Dan began working at SmallBox in a marketing consultant role and found himself “at the apex of an opportunity” in which to build a team. Dan admits that, at the time, he didn’t have a lot of leadership or management experience and was quickly overwhelmed in a decision paralysis. He wondered, “How should I move forward? What roles do I need help with first, and how can I effectively delegate?” Dan met with SmallBox CEO Jeb Banner and shared that he was stuck. His advice?

“Do you want to be a director? Then start acting like one.”

Dan explains that the advice was blunt and simple and gave him the urgency he needed to get started. “I researched and met with as many peers as I could to shape my role and vision for the team. A few weeks later, I made my first hire, and we were rolling!”

Dan confesses that it’s easy to get stuck in “decision paralysis” or not delegate where needed, but by clearly defining team roles and responsibilities, he believes it can be much easier to get started with a new initiative.

On Inspiration from the King of Pop

When it comes to inspiration for his professional life, Dan looks to a quote from the King of Pop himself. “I believe it was a young Michael Jackson that said ‘Don’t stop till you get enough.’ I seriously say this all the time, and it can apply to my professional life in so many ways,” explains Dan. “Testing is at the core of sales, marketing and leadership. Whether it’s testing new language, an ad campaign, or even meeting formats, one thing has become clear: you cannot make evidence-based decisions without enough data. I’ve learned that I must test until I have the sample size needed to make an improvement.”

On Finding a Work-Life Balance

Dan describes a few ways in which he maintains a healthy work-life balance.

At SmallBox, employees enjoy a “freedom policy” with unlimited vacation days. However, Dan acknowledges that “with great freedom comes great responsibility (didn’t Superman say that?).”

Additionally, Dan incorporates his personality into the culture at work. “This includes stuff I’m passionate about, like helping set up volunteer opportunities. However, it also includes playing Herb Alpert during creative client exercises to keep the energy up,” says Dan.

He also has lunch dates with his family at least once per month. Dan admits, “Sometimes it needs to be scheduled on the calendar in order to make it a priority, but it’s so worthwhile to play with my wife and son at the park during an especially hectic week.”

Want to learn more about Dan? Click here to connect with him on LinkedIn.

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