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AMA: Dustin Siggins, founder of Proven Media Solutions

AMA: Dustin Siggins, founder of Proven Media Solutions

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We spoke to Dustin Siggins, the founder of Proven Media Solutions, about how to juggle family and working lives, and why doing a handful of things well is the route to success. 

Hi Dustin! Could you share the story behind your startup? How did it come about and what problem were you wanting to solve?

I started helping friends get in the press on a part-time/freelance basis firstly because I was a low-paid journalist living in the expensive Washington DC metro area who needed more income.

Secondly, I saw that my friends had great ideas but little or no access to opportunities to share their ideas with the wider world. That freelancing turned into part-time job opportunities, then a full-time communications job.

It was success in that full-time communications job that proved to me that I could do the whole “PR thing” on a larger scale, and so I founded Proven Media Solutions.

Did you hit any roadblocks along the way?

There are always bumps in the road! My biggest challenge was feeling stuck as a journalist. I was burnt out, making little money, while watching friends and acquaintances change careers, rise fast in current careers, and make good money.

Feeling stuck in both my career and as a person was really depressing, especially as someone who always prided himself on quickly identifying and achieving solutions.

Building a strong team is essential for startup success. Can you discuss your approach to assembling and motivating your team and the role they play in your company's growth?

Proven Media Solutions has been around for about 5.5 years, and assembling the right team has resulted in a tremendous area of growth for me personally and key to our development as a business.

My business partner is a lifelong entrepreneur, so I was thankfully psychologically prepared for the need to take my hand off of the task work wheel and start handing things off.

My approach is simple:

Find people with the right personalities, attitudes, and stages of life to fit the roles we’re filling.

Sometimes, I want someone with a high skill level, but as often, a modest level of skill is offset by everything else.

Our company philosophy surrounding motivation is more organic than anything else. We pay well, we encourage people to live their lives: the entire team is remote. We are focused on outcomes instead of punching the clock. I also try to motivate through a genuine appreciation for the hard work and creativity people bring to the team.

Have there been any significant changes or evolutions in your business strategy, and what motivated those decisions?

There have been no significant changes to our business strategy. We’ve had hiccups related to how we narrow down both our brand and our services, but not significant ones.

One mistake I made early on was to try and make what we do sound “better” than simply putting people in the press.

Thankfully, my business partner and a former mentor put me on the right course. Being an inch wide and a mile deep - “we put people in the press” - has made branding, sales, and client success far easier than trying to create an MBA word salad.

What does your morning routine look like?

Busy! We have four children aged five and under, and I hate mornings, so I get up between 5:30 and 6:15 AM to pray, do some reflective reading, and meditate. Then, I do the dishes, vacuum, and make breakfast for everyone.

Then it’s off to work. The long commute to the upstairs office is so arduous!

What are the most critical pieces of advice you would give to help them on their startup journey, based on your own experiences?

Be an inch wide and a mile deep.

Find your niche and build within that niche.

And don’t vary from a focused approach to what you do and for whom you do it. That makes everything from sales to client work to hiring much easier and more streamlined.

Second, don’t expect to “go viral.” Many Millennials and Gen Z business owners have watched Silicon Valley companies get big fast. Most companies don’t have fast hockey stick growth, and many couldn’t handle it if it happened.

Focus on doing the basics of business well to achieve growth you can handle.

Third, don’t overstate who you are. Running a company of just a few people doesn’t make you a CEO – because you aren’t chief of any executives! A lot of people try to be bigger than they are to sound more impressive – but smart people will figure it out.

Be humble and let your work do the talking for you.

That's sound advice! What would you say sets your startup apart from the rest?

We differentiate in several ways:

  1. We put you in the press. We don’t provide “360-degree” marketing and branding; we are not a “full-service” PR firm. We provide a very simple set of services very well.

  2. Many PR firms are industry-specific. We are industry-neutral because our services put people in the press, and gatekeepers (reporters, editors, producers, etc.) all want the Three T’s: the right Topic at the right Time from people with the right Title.

  3. We actively seek to partner with other PR firms. We see them as allies, not competitors, and we position ourselves as such.

  4. Frankly, there aren’t a lot of PR firms compared to the size of the potential client market. This means that a lot of times, we are the only firm prospects are either pursuing or even know.

If you could time travel to any point in history to learn from or meet an iconic entrepreneur or innovator, who would it be, and what questions would you ask them?

There’s not one single individual whom I could name. I regularly and organically meet people who teach me something, who add to the sum total knowledge I have to improve myself, my family, my company, and the wider world. 

If you could have a one-hour conversation with any historical business figure, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Again, I don’t have a good answer. I love learning from people in real time and intentionally applying what I learn from those people to the sum total of my knowledge.

Learning in real-time sounds like the way forward to us. Thanks for your time, Dustin! 
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