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May 21, 2010
What Was the Question Again?

This last Tuesday, I received a phone call from a person named Robert.  Robert introduced himself as a "production executive" for a cable reality show called the "World’s Greatest".  He told me that they were looking to profile businesses in the electronics field and wanted to interview me to see if OptiFuse was a good fit for his show.  He went on to explain that his job was to learn more about our business and create a compelling story but that it wasn’t actually his decision as to which companies would actually be selected for the show.  I explained that OptiFuse wasn’t the biggest company or known in any circles as the "World’s Greatest" (although I’d like to believe that we were on our way to being one of the world’s greatest companies).  He told me that it didn’t matter but the "story line" was more important than the company’s size.
I told Robert that I was currently in a meeting but I could call him back later that morning.  We agreed with a time where he could have 10-15 minutes for an initial interview.
On my drive back to the office, I thought about the phone conversation I just had.  My mind began to day dream about what kind of lasting publicity that could be garnered for OptiFuse by being profiled on highly watched television show.  At the same time, however, there was a voice in my head that kept saying, "OptiFuse is a small company in an industry dominated by two behemoths...why the hell would they want to profile us on a show called "World’s Best"?"
Upon arriving at the office, I called Robert back.  He explained once again that it was his job to screen potential profile companies for the show and that he had no say in which companies actually made it on air. He went on to ask me several introductory questions about OptiFuse...when did we start?... where were we located?...how much in sales did we do?.  Finally, he asked me the "million dollar question"..."what is it specifically that makes OptiFuse different and unique and why would someone have an interest in what we do"?
Now over the years, I’ve given this question a great deal of thought.  The question was first proposed to me by an old friend who asked the question in a slightly different form.  He asked me, "Other than price...what differentiates your company and products from your competitors?  If you can’t honestly answer this question, then you are a strong candidate to become a failure statistic sometime in the near future"
I wonder though, how many people in this world, whether they own their own business or are employed by someone else, can truthfully answer this question.  How is it that you differentiate yourself from others doing similar things? 
A few weeks ago I happen to be on the campus of San Diego State and asked that exact question to each of the ten candidates looking to fill an opening we have for an accounting position. Each of them answer my question slightly differently, but essence they said to me..."I’m not all that unique...I’ve been taught basic accounting...but I really can’t distinguish myself from anyone else that you’re interviewing today".  I didn’t hire any of them...
Perhaps we all need to ask ourselves this question every once in a while (I’m sure that the answer will probably change every ten years of so).  What are we offering to an employer?...a significant other?...a potential mate?...the world as a whole?
How do we want to be remembered when we ultimately leave this earth? 
What is the footprint in the sand that we hope to leave?
Robert asked me a few more questions about OptiFuse and then transitioned into the selection and production process. He explained that it costs several thousands of dollars to produce a five-minute segment and that OptiFuse would need to bear this cost but that the benefit to us would be the exposure that we would receive by being on their show.
Now I spent several years working in the television industry and know that legitimate production companies do not charge any fees to feature companies.  This was a misleading way to "scam" several thousands of dollars from unsuspecting small businesses who have dreams of stardom for themselves and their companies. If you feel compelled to spend money...hire a reputable public relations firm to help you get the word out.  Never pay the media for exposure.
I quickly said good-bye to Robert and went back to working hard at finding new customers without the benefit of an OptiFuse infomercial...
I found it was a good exercise though in remembering what it is that we do well and why we got into this business in the first place...
OptiFuse is in the business of helping others to solve their overcurrent protection problems while enriching  the global community we all live in...
Thank you very much for supporting us as we try to live out our mission...

Jim Kalb
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