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Founder Friday: Patrick Finan, Block Club


A company’s brand is so much more than their logo or color scheme. It’s the voice they use in every piece of communication or content. It’s the experience a consumer has when they interact with a website or social media profile. It’s the packaging and product displays in a retail store.

So while you might have a great product or service that the market needs, if you don’t have a strong brand around it, how do you expect to stand out from the competition? You need a strategy, and Block Club can help with just that.

Block Club offers tons of branding strategy and implementation services, and have worked with local companies like Invest Buffalo Niagara, Hotel Henry, and Big Ditch Brewery. They also realized that the creative superpowers of their team could lead to some exciting entrepreneurial ventures. Ignite Buffalo Winner Oxford Pennant grew out of Block Club Labs, their in-house business incubator.

Learn about all that’s happening at Block Club in today’s Founder Friday with Patrick Finan!

How did Block Club start up?

Block Club got started in May 2007 as a free, bi-monthly magazine, believe it or not. We slowly morphed into a branding and strategy agency starting in 2010. Storytelling has always been at the core of everything that we do, so the transition from magazine to a branding and strategy agency was a natural progression. Back in 2007, there were just three of us working out of a 200-square foot office on Elmwood Avenue. I didn’t have much of an idea of what I was doing or where we were going, and I never could have imagined that we’d be the company that we are today. Looking ahead, I now have a very clear picture of where I want to go in the future and where I want us to be five or ten years from now. And, just because I think it’s fun, if anyone is interested in reading about Block Club magazine, and why we retired the magazine after 40 issues, we have a case study on our website with more info:

What do you do for Block Club?

I’m the principal at the agency and I spend my time making sure my team has what they need to be successful, leading the business, growing client and community relationships, working with my brand manager team, and working on client strategy. I love my job!

When was the ‘aha’ moment when you realized this could actually work?

That’s such a tricky question because there have been plenty of “aha” moments and plenty of “oh sh*t” moments. I think I realized that this could actually work around 2010. I realized that we were onto something and that we had some good momentum. But in this business you can never rest on your laurels or stop pushing forward. I wake up every day with the idea that I’ll be better tomorrow than I am today. I’m going to do my best today, but I’m going to push for better tomorrow.

I’ve found that about every three years we reach a new plateau and have to ask ourselves if we are going to stay on this level or go to the next. We’re just going into one of those cycles now, and I’m really excited for the team to push ourselves to the next level. I’m all about smart, steady growth. I’m in this for the long game.

What has been the biggest accomplishment for Block Club to-date?

Easy. Building an incredible team has been our biggest accomplishment. To me, Brandon, and Dave (my partners), our team matters above all else.

Goals for the next year? Three years?

Without giving away too much, we’re leveraging our past experience and making a big push into a few new verticals. But again, for us it’s about smart, steady growth. We have a very clear five-year vision, and every month we make sure that we’re working to achieve it. We track our progress through a management philosophy called Open Book Management, and we’re completely transparent to the entire team. Everyone knows where we are, where we’re going, what’s working and what’s not, and what they can do to help move us towards that vision. There should be no surprises.

Why Buffalo?

Buffalo has been a great place to start and grow our business. There’s a strong creative community here and especially as of late, businesses are excited by Buffalo’s comeback story. I think the business community is looking for partners like Block Club to help lead their brand with forward-thinking vision, helping to take them to that next level.

How do you do it? What drives you?

I really like solving problems. So it’s an absolute pleasure to have companies come to Block Club with complex business problems, and figure out how we can solve them through the services that we offer. While oftentimes companies come to us with problems that we’ve heard before, the solution is always different. And when you have clients that share your values, that are forward-thinking, that are curious and excited about their business, how could this ever get old? Every day it’s new problem, a new solution. It keeps you on your toes and keeps things very interesting. I feel like I’m just getting warmed up! I feel like Block Club is just getting warmed up!

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Good things take time.

Tags: Buffalo, entrepreneurship, Founder Friday

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