Young Money: Talking with Patrick Finan of Block Club Creative
blog by Caitlin Campbell McNulty • October 31, 2012 @ 10:43am
I first met Patrick Finan, founder and principal of Block Club Creative, at the Emerging Business Leaders Awards Gala (photos at link) in February. Patrick was selected as a nominee in the Young Professional of the Year category.
In the last four years, Finan and his team at Block Club Creative have emerged as a boutique design and creative studio that is pushing out some of the region’s most creative products and campaigns. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Patrick and discuss his success as a young professional in the region and what drives his passion in his business.
Caitlin McNulty: Tell me about Block Club Creative. How did you get your start?
Patrick Finan: Block Club Creative grew rather organically out of Block Club Magazine, a pro-local, free quarterly magazine based in Buffalo. Some of the region’s most progressive businesses were advertising in our magazine and started asking about graphic and web design for their businesses. We started a few years back with a handful of small projects for advertisers and friends and now we’re one of the top design studios in Western New York. We primarily focus on graphic, web and advertising design. In everything we do, our goal is to help locally-owned businesses and organizations thrive with creative design and marketing.
CM: When and why did you decide to launch City Dining Cards?
PF: We launched City Dining Cards in the fall of 2010 as a side project out of Block Club Creative. We had no idea that it would be as successful as it is. We quickly expanded into a few other pro-local cities in the Northeast. Now we’re in eight cities including Buffalo. City Dining Cards is now a separate company with a mission to build strong relationships between small businesses and locally minded customers. The cards themselves are just the beginning. In cities like Buffalo, it’s crucial to have a thriving local business community. We see it as an extremely viable economic tool for a strong recovery. A self-determined recovery. And we’re committed to helping build a thriving local business community in all of our cities.
CM: I really like the philanthropic element involved with purchasing a pack of dining cards. Why was it important for you to include that in the product?
PF: We consider ourselves a triple-bottom-line business. That means that we make decisions based on people, planet and prosperity. We donate five percent of gross sales of City Dining Cards decks to local food banks in each of our cities. It’s a small way we can help the communities that are so supportive of us.
CM: You’re a growing small business in Buffalo—how have you been able to be successful?
PF: We have an incredible team, great clients and partners, and good energy. Hands down, great people are the most important parts of any successful organization, including Block Club and City Dining Cards. There are a lot of other elements that have led to our success, but I believe in order for a small business to be successful, they need a solid understanding of three key things.
The first is a great vision. It could be a vision for a month, a year or a decade. As a team, you need to build a shared vision together. Everyone needs to be on the same page and know where they’re headed.
The second is a basic sales and marketing skill set. How many small business owners out there hate sales? Without sales, you’re out of business. And marketing often gets cut when things get tough or we forget to continue to market when we’re too busy. Committing the appropriate time and monetary resources to sales and marketing is critical for any organization’s success.
The third is an understanding of basic accounting. Making business decisions, especially if you have employees, based on how much cash is in the checking account isn’t prudent and isn’t responsible. You don’t need to be an accountant, but every small business owner should know how to read a financial statement, a cash flow statement, a pro forma, and a profit and loss statement. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard small business owners complain about how they hate dealing with the financial part of their business. When I hear that, I often ask them why they own a business. The bottom line is that this can be intimidating and scary, but it doesn’t have to be. These basic financial tools can be liberating and can help guide your business in the direction, shaped by your vision, that you want it to go.
CM: What’s the best thing about being a young entrepreneur?
PF: There’s so much opportunity out there and so much information at our fingertips. I hope to do good with the businesses I own and to make positive impact in the communities my business touches. I hope more and more entrepreneurs realize that there’s more to business than making a quick buck. We have a responsibility to our neighbors and to our planet. We can’t make decisions any more based just on the bottom line. It’s not sustainable.
CM: Do you think people take you as seriously as your competitors because of your age, or do you consider your youth an advantage?
PF: We’ve enjoyed a lot of success in a relatively short amount of time. In fact, we were just rated the No. 3 fastest growing company in Western New York by Business First. I hope that my team always does incredible and meaningful work and provides great service to our clients. I hope to do that as a twenty-something and throughout my life, no matter at Block Club or wherever I end up. Youth isn’t my advantage. A great team and great service are my advantages.
CM: You live and work in the city of Buffalo. Why do you think young professionals are being drawn to living and working in the City now more than ever?
PF: I live in the West Side and I wish everyone lived in the City of Buffalo because I believe strong, vibrant cities are more sustainable places to live than sprawling suburbs with a weak urban core. In my opinion, living in a walkable urban neighborhood makes for a rich experience and higher quality of life. Without getting into the city versus suburbs debate, there’s so much to do, see and explore all around you in Buffalo. It’s a shame there aren’t more people living in the city to share these wonderful experiences with.
CM: Where’s your favorite place to grab a drink on a Friday after a long week at the office?
PF: Trattoria Aroma on Bryant. The drinks are always cold and the food hits the spot!
Thank you so much to Patrick for chatting with me about the great work Block Club Creative is doing. For more information on Patrick or his company, visit www.blockclubonline.com.