Meet Chris Breene
I recently had the pleasure of getting to know one of our small business owners Chris Breene. Chris is an expert digital strategist and marketer with over eight years of experience in political and digital organizing. He previously was a Community Manager for Fortune 500 companies at ISL and worked with big name clients such as Volkswagen, Kroger, and Balvenie Scotch. His newest adventure has been launching GFTB as founder and CEO.
GFTB helps organizations, nonprofits, and even individuals tell their unique stories through social media. They work with companies on the creation of social media strategies and execution.
What’s your favorite part of being a business owner?
Chris: My favorite thing about starting my own business is I can really pursue clients that inspire me. I work with really diverse, really driven people. Whether I’m advising progressive nonprofits, mentoring startups as a mentor at 1776 (where I heard about Rocket Lawyer), or building digital strategy as the digital consultant for large brands, I value process building and data-driven iteration above all else.
What inspired you to start GFTB Digital?
Chris: I got really sick, wanted to focus on work-life balance, and spent a lot of time in the hospital in 2016 – but still loved to help brands tell their story and wanted to continue working.
Brittany: 2016 was a very crazy time for both Chris’ health and his career. But instead of letting his illnesses slow him down, he has allowed it to open new doors and adventures. If you would like to know more, check out these two articles that explain his year a little more: Christopher Breene has had a really crazy year, and Adventure is out there…
What is your business mission?
Chris: To help everyone and anyone craft and tell their story through data driven, fiercely creative, and results-oriented digital strategy.
What would you say has been the greatest achievement so far?
Chris: I think some of the work I’ve done with LexisNexis Risk Solutions, my newest client, has been the most challenging and rewarding so far. We’re working together on a first class digital strategy and employee engagement program. It’s really coming together as a model for the entire B2B and B2G industry. They’re one of the most forward thinking, ready-to-try-anything, and data-driven clients I’ve worked for in a long time. I’m also really proud of the work I’ve done as a mentor at 1776. In that capacity, I volunteer my time for startups to ask questions and gauge the effectiveness of their company’s marketing plan.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Chris: Juggling health and work. With two autoimmune diseases comes unique challenges. No two days are the same, both in work and health. I’ve learned that two things that are really important – time management and setting expectations.
In the past, I would get a statement of work (SOW) from a client and burn the midnight oil right away to churn out something overnight. As I’ve matured, and learned to live with my conditions, I’ve started to realize the value of thoughtfulness, the discovery process, and data mining. There’s really no reason that an entrepreneur can’t be successful without “hustling” 120 hours a week. I for one hate the term hustle. Who wants a work product that was rushed and sloppy? My challenge has been learning both the value of my time and how to best allocate it to make sure every single campaign and every single deliverable is the best it can be.
You recently incorporated GFTB Digital with Rocket Lawyer, can you tell me about your experience? What did you like? What would you have changed?
Chris: It was fantastic. A co-worker at 1776, where I’m a member, recommended it. Originally I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a sole proprietor or a pass-through LLC but as my business demand grew and as I talked to larger clients, I saw a necessity to protect myself and legitimize the brand. I think that Rocket Lawyer made it so simple, that I wasn’t really sure if I was done. I only had to answer a few questions, and everything was automated.
I wouldn’t recommend a change, but I would recommend that other people building their business always find a great CPA too. I found a fantastic local CPA named Aaron Peters who works with a lot of startups and he helped me understand more about the LLC structure. I would love to see Rocket Lawyer have some more educational components too!
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Chris: Savor the moment in everything you do. Don’t rush to get the first product out, get the best product out.
So many great ideas failed because they lacked the team or execution. Make sure your process and execution match your passion. That’s a recipe for success. Also, screw anyone who tells you have to be a certain person, or of certain health, race, gender, or economic status to be successful. You don’t have to work 100 hours a week, you don’t have to be a millionaire. Success has one metric – happiness. Do what makes you happy, pour your heart and soul into that, and everything else will follow.
Last but not least, what is your main goal for 2017?
Chris: Honestly, I’m just so grateful to be alive here in 2017. I lost a lot of people that were very close to me last year – including my grandmother. I also lost a great deal of my health. But, my goal in 2017, is the same as it is every year (with more urgency this year) – fill every day with purpose, happiness, and love. I can’t wait to see what GFTB grows into. I know a lot of people start businesses and want to hire employees and make lots of money, but GFTB is a little different. I never want a single employee. I couldn’t care less if I made less money than I am now. My goal is to continue building a talent cloud of other wonderful designers, developers, photographers, and other creatives to build first-class creative deliverables with. I love the creative collaborative model, and that’s how I envision GFTB growing in 2017. Rather than hiring folks and getting bigger and bigger deals, I’d like to really grow and nurture my existing client relationships, connect with other creatives, and build a collaborative of talented creatives. Already I have a “talent cloud” of 40+ people whose work I respect and trust!
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