We gather 'round our own brand fire – we call it BONFIRE

By: Chris Gasbarro

On page 35 of the small business manual for starting an event agency is reference to client events – said no case study or book ever.

When Kathy and I started the business we admitted to ourselves after a year or two , "We are event people who happen to run a small company". With that statement came a very simple piece of advice from one of the CEO's we work with, "Surround yourself with talented people, allow them to make you better". We took that phrase to inform our hiring and the development of our first Client Advisory Board. We are blessed to engage and collaborate with VP's of Sales, CEO's, CMO's and other great leaders. Surely, we thought they could help us guide the company?

With our first "go", the board count was actually higher than our full-time employee count as we gathered in the back room of a small restaurant in Boston. In that room was leadership of several companies totaling over $2B in global revenues...and Kathy and I sat across from them. While we've come a long way from folding chairs in a restaurant before it opened for dining, what has evolved is a discrete client gathering that we think is a little bit unique - we call it "Bonfire". We build the event around four pillars: 

  1. Curated attendee list – We change the list every year thinking, "Who would give us great feedback on X", "It would be great for these two people to connect". We limit it to only 6-8 people and have only ever had two people attend more than once.

  2. Work for us – For only an hour. We engage our client guests in a deep insight driven session of questions, feedback on our flaws and new business strategy considerations, and they give us incredible gifts to think about. We could just drink wine together, and we do that, but first we want their brilliant minds to advise us.

  3. Connect – We love when our clients connect. It could be two sporting goods-based CEO's talking about the industry, and more often it's VP's of Marketing from different industries off in the corner talking. Ideally, we like to forge once-a-year-connections that have our clients saying, "It was great to connect with Y, when is the event next year?"

  4. Celebrate – We often tend to live with our brands on their events and meetings – and so a big objective of this event is to really celebrate each other, our companies and the partnerships we have. With no impending PPT to review or production schedule meeting the next day, we treasure the few hours of the evening to toast our best and brightest brands' leadership.

So... you’re probably wondering what our big takeaway was this year? The great thing about Bonfire is we get multiple takeaways – sometimes too many!

Well that's the other element of this event...much like an old-fashioned Bonfire, much of what is shared is kept within to fuel ember's brand fire in the future. If you want to find out, get on the list!

Chris Gasbarro