It was just a couple weeks before Thanksgiving in 2014, and my wife came to me and said, “Your investors give us enough to eat ramen, and I want a nice Christmas for the kids, go do some consulting!”
This was two months after I had left Kissmetrics to focus on my startup Fuelzee.
Fuelzee was a gas app that showed you the gas prices in your area and would give you discounts for in-store products if you purchase gas at a store.
I had been working on that project since about 2012 and done it as a night and weekend thing while running growth at CodeSchool.com (now a Pluralsight company) and while heading marketing at Kissmetrics.
We had big eyes for Fuelzee, but the market was challenging.
Our biggest competitor was GasBuddy. Which in the ‘cheap gas app’ space is like competing with Google. They had a 20-year head start, 10’s of millions of users, and were just acquired for a supposed 100 million dollars.
We had a meager amount of funding compared to them, and I was living paycheck to paycheck.
It was the entrepreneurial dream right, I had funding, I was hustling on my cool mobile app product, and my team worked hard.
But there is one thing as a dad, which is more important than any of that.
Making sure my kids have a great Christmas.
And this is what ended up being the start of a journey that I could have never expected or even planned. Let me tell you, nothing we have done at Effin Amazing was part of some master plan.
For all of you who know of us as Effin Amazing, I doubt you know that I wasn’t the one who named the company.
Heck, I wasn’t even the one who had the idea to start it.
One day my wife said, “do consulting.”
The next day I said in a coworking space, “Anybody want me to do consulting for them? I have 10 hours a week.”
To my shock, before I even left the coworking space that day, I had all ten hours a week sold!
For me, I was set.
I could keep focusing on Fuelzee and work some extra hours to give my kids and wife a great Christmas.
What could go wrong?
Well, a lot went wrong in the right way, lol.
The next day I came back to the co-working space, and I hear some rumbles of other people wanting to find out if I had more hours.
Then days after that, more people came to me, and then a week later, right before Thanksgiving, I had an opportunity of $10,000 a month come to me.
All of this was not expected. I did not want to get into consulting. I don’t like working with agencies. I wanted to be a famous startup CEO who had an app on 100 million people’s phones.
But I needed money to give the kids an amazing Christmas!
So, what did I do? I took the consulting gigs and funneled the money through a friend’s agency.
I wasn’t sure what to do with the new business, so I just hired some of my friends to help with the projects, and then I tried to do my best to delegate to them and still run Fuelzee.
Over the first 60 days, I started to get more clients, and we kept getting people asking us for help.
One day my wife came to me and said, “It looks like you have a business here. Maybe you should give it a name and start a company.”
I pushed back as Fuelzee was my baby, it was my dream, and I had worked so hard to get it funding.
She reminded me that our runway for Fuelzee was running out, and we weren’t going to be able to raise more investment soon, and if we wanted to keep it going, we would need to fund it.
So, I agreed we should probably stop funneling money through my friend’s agency, and start a business and makes things more legit.
“But what would we call it?” I asked her.
And as expected, she replied, “I don’t know, you’re the marketer!”
Next thing I knew, it was January, and we were not showing any signs of slowing down. We had another company come to us with a $25k a month opportunity.
We still did not have a company name, nor had we even formalized an LLC. I was still having people pay my friend’s agency and just paying people through them.
This had to stop, it was a little dicey legally, and I was not creating any real value for myself.
Yet, as the marketer, I could not figure out the name I liked to put on the LLC or the front door.
I knew we needed to incorporate the word Amazing. It’s my favorite word. Right, who has a favorite word, lol.
But to me, it stood for my outlook on life.
If you have a bad day, figure out how to make it amazing.
Had a lousy meeting, figure out how to make the next one amazing.
And if you ask me how my day is, well, obviously, it is AMAZING!
No matter what, though, I could not figure out a name with the word amazing, which would distill what we did.
But then, like things always do, something happened which would change my life forever.
Before bed one night in January 2015, my wife and I were flipping channels on TV. I don’t know about you, but Deadliest Catch is one of our go-to shows, and it was not on.
So, lots of flipping through the guide.
My wife then stumbles on a show called “It’s Effin’ Science.” We turn it on and start watching all kinds of random cool science stuff. If you can’t tell, we are a little bit nerdy.
Then out loud, my wife yells, “Call it Effin Amazing!” with a big laugh. I was like, “WTF, you say?”
She then told me that it would be funny to name the agency “Effin Amazing” but that we shouldn’t because Disney would never work with us (we live in Orlando).
I loved it, it had amazing, and one of the other most common word coming out of my mouth.
I am not proud of my potty mouth, and it is something I have worked on over the years, but to me, the F word is just too fun to pass up.
Without much thought, I was like we are going to call it “Effin Amazing,” and if the big companies don’t like it, well, that’s ok with me.
We focus on doing f*cking amazing work, and that is what matters.
You know it as well as I do, Effin Amazing is going to catch your eye. No matter where you see it. People remember it forever!
The problem is that it is not always the right first impression.
Early on, we had brands like Publix tell us they did not like the domain in our emails and would prefer if we had a different email when emailing their team and vendors.
This led to the creation of our emails being firstname.lastname@example.org, which still work today.
We had other firms like a big insurance company in Utah not want their board of directors to see that they paid money to a firm called Effin Amazing.
So, we created “The Amazing Firm LLC” and drew up the contracts through that.
And with many of our outbound email campaigns, we got some fun emails back from prospects. I remember this one time a big wig from Logitech sent us back an email cussing us out for such a poorly chosen name.
I always thought it was rich that we did not use the F word in our name or email, and their email was full of the real things :)
While to you, this all seemed like a bad thing, it was just part of doing something bold to us.
I have always been one to push the envelope, go farther, go harder, and see where we can push the limits. This has paid off exceptionally well for me in my career, helped me grow some cool companies, and also have great memories in life.
For the company, though, it was part of our culture, and one of the things the team loved.
For our clients, they could care less. All the cared about were the results.
And we worked with everyone from Eventbrite to Masarati to Wistia to ClubMed. None of them seemed to care about the name, and many times they liked it.
See, the service we provide is pretty unique, and when we started this company, we only bumped up to one competitor. I won’t say their company name, but “Hi Ryan :)”
And if you needed support with Mixpanel, Amplitude, Segment, or a marketing tech stack, your options were limited.
We did and still do f*cking amazing work, and that is why we kept the name. It stood for everything we stood for.
It was part of our culture!
If you did not like it, then don’t bother us.
This strategy has paid off well for us, and we have done some amazing things.
But when we think about the future, we wonder how the name will affect us.
As most people know, I like to think big. Like billions big!
During the first five years of running Effin Amazing, colleagues brought up how they could not refer us to others comfortably because of the name.
Partners like Segment brought up how they could not feature our booth next to Facebook at their user conference.
And more importantly, when we did do conferences, our booth was stopped at because people thought it was cool or funny. Not because we solved their business problems.
Fact is told, over the past five years, we have helped dozens of companies do what they thought was impossible. We have helped many companies double, triple, and quadruple their revenue, conversions, email lists, demos and more.
With all of these great results, our clients still said it was hard to refer us to their friends based upon our name.
Our vendor partners said it was hard to recommend us because the name was too edgy.
And most importantly, companies who had never heard of us struggled to take us seriously.
This left me thinking for two years on what would be the right thing to do.
Do we keep the name and power through, or do we rebrand and make things easier?
It left me curious as to what we wanted to grow up and be? Who were we going to be in 20 years? What legacy are we going to leave?
As a founder, I get to ask myself, “What do I want the company to be when it grows up?”
But never before had I started a company by accident.
Effin Amazing was a company which just happened, and I never really knew what it would become.
As I thought about growing the company from a baby into a 50-year legacy, I was left thinking about what do we want it to be when it grows up. What is it? What will it do?
You know, all the things you might ask if you started your career.
And if you are like me, you start with the end and your work your way backward.
- We want to be known for how Effin Amazing our work product is.
- We want to help companies realize that their customer data is their most valuable asset!
- We want to help companies create marketing infrastructure to leverage their customer data for amazingly human and automated experiences that feel like magic.
- We want to become the next billion-dollar consulting firm.
- We want to be known as widely as Deloitte, Gartner, PWC, Bain, or Booze Allen Hamilton.
And what was evident is that we cannot do all of those things with the name Effin Amazing.
It became clear that if we wanted to grow up and accomplish all of these things, we could not have a swear word in our company name.
This sounds obvious, but it was not clear enough until I decided what we wanted to grow up and be.
I decided we were going to change the name. For a year, I posted on social media to gain feedback, asked friends, asked advisors, and talked with my family.
Many people hated the idea of changing the name, and many loved the idea.
But what would we call it?
I looked at many of the companies in our industry, and many of them had their founder’s names.
Deloitte, Gartner, Forrester, and more.
As a friend said to me, “if it is good enough to put your name on it, you know the quality has to be good.”
While I don’t agree that putting your last name on a company means the quality is good, I agree that having your name on the front door brings a different level of commitment from the founder.
Companies like Wal-Mart, Ogilvy, and O’Reilly were brands that stuck out as they tried to stay true to the founder’s mission.
But at first, I thought my last name was funny, Mcgaw. That did not sound cool.
Hell, I was made fun of because of it when I was a kid because of it—Lol in reality, though, who wasn’t.
So, I sat on the idea for a year and did nothing but think.
And at the end of 2019, I decided 2020 was the year we needed to grow up, and we needed to change the name.
We built a plan, we set out a timetable, and off we went.
And then COVID hit!
We might have launched the name two months late, but got it live on the site and social media in May. We did not tell anyone; we did not promote it; we just sat back and waited to see what broke and how people might respond.
Our goal is always to put the highest priority things at the top of the list, and announcing we had a new name wasn’t going to drive revenue. The mere change of it was enough.
You know, the minimal viable product is something we think can be used in branding, if not everything.
We sat and waited to see how the brand was noticed by our community, our partners, and customers.
We got fun emails from clients asking us, “WHY?” and comments from others saying, “It’s about time.”
And most importantly, we noticed that companies coming inbound on our site converted faster, people reading our content read longer, and simply changing the name appeared to allow people to take us more seriously.
We saw more applicants on our job postings, we saw better candidates applying, and we saw better results for hiring.
Four months later, we have updated nearly all of our materials to have the new brand updated our partners, clients, and vendors.
You might say we are excited and thrilled about the name change. Yet, there won’t be a press release, we are not screaming at the rooftops, and this blog post is the only real thing we will do to announce it.
Because none of that matters to our bottom line, all it does is make you feel good.
Just like we are for our clients, we are focused on driving results.
We are focused on the things which matter.
The things which move the needle.
And that’s why today I would like to say simply:
“Hello, World! We are now McGaw.io.”