Shawn Parker and Brendan Ford have been friends since long before starting Fuel. We sat down for an interview with the founders to learn more about their now 30-year partnership and the journey to starting Fuel.
1. How did you meet?
Parker: In the summer of 1988, we met at freshman orientation in the high school cafeteria. Ford introduced himself and informed me of which girls he had crushes on that I should not talk to. I suppose we became a team then and there.
2. What made you want to venture into business together?
Ford: Integrity and trust are at the core of every good partnership and there was no question we could trust each other. We also knew we could leverage the knowledge we gained from building Elite and Audigy and create a culture that was more in line with our personalities.
3. Was it a challenge to go out on your own and start Fuel? What were some of your initial struggles?
Ford: I had already made the decision to do something new with ENT’s, but I was a little apprehensive about starting it on my own. I was also enjoying some time off restoring cars and in no hurry to get back to the grind, but the opportunity to build something with my best friend made Fuel a no-brainer.
Parker: For me, I reflected on my current employer and realized I was in a toxic environment and the excitement of a new opportunity was inspiring. After I left, I reached out to Ford and within a week, we created a business plan and secured a small amount funding to start the business. It was hectic living off savings and credit cards while traveling to grow our business, and it was a struggle for our families.
Ford: We saved money everywhere possible… We did our own Cat5 wiring and painted our first office. We bought desks at salvage places and were extremely frugal. In March 2010, we signed our first member, Mt. Hood ENT. Our creative director, Jeff Green, was married to the audiologist there. After another six months, we started gaining financial momentum.
4. What is one situation that you initially disagreed on while starting your business and how did navigate it to find a common ground?
Parker: I hated our second building’s pistachio colored paint. It was formerly a call center. But it made sense at the time, budget-wise and for growth goals. As far as disagreements go, we fight because we’re the yin and the yang, and we know how to get a reaction from each other. I make quick decisions while Ford likes to consider all the possible outcomes. But no matter what the argument is, we’re family at the end of the day and always find a place of agreement.
5. What was your initial vision of Fuel? Did you foresee it getting to where it is today?
Ford: Our initial vision of Fuel was to be all things business for ENTs. The less challenging task was providing Marketing, Finance and HR services, but we didn’t have much experience with ancillary services like allergy, sleep and balloon sinuplasty. For those specialties, we had to identify high performing practices and industry leading physicians so we could learn how they were achieving their outcomes. We then broke down their patient care into a step-by-step process and enriched it with marketing and counseling tools.
6. In what ways do you work best together?
Parker: Ford is very analytical and likes to think through things. I like to move quick so it’s become a good balance. Ford looks at the details – he’s cautious and critical and critiques everything and thinks about what could go wrong. I’m more opportunity-seeking and growth-oriented. If we were both one way it wouldn’t be good, so the balance helps us analyze things properly.
7. Do you share the same vision for Fuel’s future?
Parker: Yes, to keep growing and build something stable and successful. We want a good, solid organization where people want to be. We want to keep doing the right thing while maintaining a good company culture.
8. Anything else you’d both like to share with this audience?
Ford: One big key to our success was being able to identify talented, like-minded professionals that can work well and have fun together. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
To learn more about the history of Fuel and the services we offer, contact your regional manager.