Spotlight on Small Business Owners: Andy Rostad, Media Beyond
Andy Rostad and Media Beyond are on a mission to blend strategy and design to create powerful content for their clients.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Andy worked for nearly a decade on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Harpo Productions. He now uses that experience as the Executive Producer and Audio-Visual Alchemist at Media Beyond to help his clients tell a compelling story that fits their content strategy.
What inspired you to start Media Beyond?
My partners and I worked at the Oprah Winfrey Show and when she decided to sunset the program we had visions of becoming the next great television content creators and quickly realized that there was a greater opportunity to bring storytelling to business than there was to make more reality TV.
The biggest part of the journey for us has been taking the skills and talents that we have and translating them to a value proposition that business people understand. It goes from how can I elicit emotion for an audience to how can I elicit action for a consumer.
Along the way you’ve got to figure out how to pay your bills, do your taxes, track your accounts receivable, accounts payable, prospecting, project management and all the other stuff that when you’re part of a big enterprise, you don’t necessarily have to get your hands dirty with.
What were some of the challenges that you faced as a start-up?
Coming into the marketplace and not realizing that not everybody knew the things that we knew. It’s like being experts in our field but always being surrounded by senior executives. It was difficult to appreciate the fact that we would be pitching services or ideas that couldn’t easily be understood by people who weren’t deep in the industry.
The Dunning-Kruger effect is this idea that you assume that everybody knows what you know, so there were a lot of early missed opportunities to slow down and be more deliberate and more helpful in our messaging.
The flip side of assuming that everybody knows what you know is trying so hard to prove that you know something special. I think in the early days a lot of companies make the mistake of trying to justify their existence instead of trying to be helpful.
What’s been the best part of starting a small business?
The best part of having so much to do is getting to do so much. When you are contributing to a large enterprise, sometimes you just have to repeat the same function over and over again. While there’s a certain pride one can take in being dependable and repeating the same task over and over again, we’ve enjoyed a variety of projects.
Moving through many different roles, getting to bring to bear our fundamental acumen in creative problem solving and idea generation, and getting to apply that across lots of different media has been great. We’ve also had the opportunity to work with a range of clients, from gigantic companies to fellow startups.
If you could go back and do one thing differently, what would it be?
There is a lot of opportunity left on the table when trying to take something from maybe 80% to 90%. The amount of effort required to get an idea to perfection is infinite, right? So you can’t have a perfect anything. The closer you try to get to perfection, the greater the diminishment of the returns. There’s a saying in the filmmaking community that movies don’t get finished — they escape.
Early on I think we could have been more effective for our clients by emphasizing speed to market and the idea of testing and iterating versus making something that is unimpeachably, uncritically perfect. That’s not to say that there’s anything sloppy about what we do but there is something to be said for letting the marketplace determine what’s good rather than one’s own standards. Your audience will tell you what you’re doing well.
What prompted Media Beyond to start using FINSYNC?
We were using QuickBooks because that’s what our accountant had asked us to use, and I was looking for more cost-effective alternatives. FINSYNC had everything that I wanted at a much more attractive price point.
Plus, they were much more responsive to inquiries, really friendly in the onboarding process and seemed much more concerned with our success and happiness than with just signing us up. The fact that there was a personalized onboarding process speaks directly to the difference between FINSYNC and the gigantic companies.
Has FINSYNC helped Media Beyond overcome any specific challenges?
The best one was I used to have 30 vendors, some of whom did not participate in our digital ACH wire transfer program, so they wanted paper checks. In order to create a paper check in my old software, I would have to buy special printable paper, line those up with our printer and send them through, and there would be misalignments and duplicate check numbers. It was just a nightmare.
When I found FINSYNC, they said you can send somebody an email, and they can elect whether or not to get a paper check, and we’ll handle that for you for a trivial cost. That saved me hours of headaches and let me focus on my business. That’s just been the FINSYNC way. We don’t have a ton of complex needs, but whatever I need, I can do quickly and get back to creating content.
What are the biggest benefits Media Beyond has experienced using FINSYNC?
One of the things that was really neat was being introduced to the idea of financing and getting a chance to participate in the early days of initiatives that they’re testing. FINSYNC is always trying out new things, whether it’s in-app access to bridge loans or inviting members to participate in a loyalty program.
That chance to participate and see a company testing and trying new features and giving feedback that I know is considered is a real plus. It helps me think entrepreneurially to see what this innovative company is also doing. Also, being able to borrow against future invoices is great and painless.
The idea of adding employees with FINSYNC and having to onboard new people doesn’t cause me any concern. FINSYNC is really easy to use, so I know that if I all of a sudden have to add a new employee or train up a new administrator, it’s not going to be a weeks or months-long process. It’s going to be an hours and days process.
If we added a slew of new employees, they would be able to enter and track their time, and we’d get everybody paid and taxed just as seamlessly as we do with our small team now. I know that there’s room to grow and that it’s easy.