Since Blue Campaign Solutions was founded in January 2007, the company has helped roughly 70 clients use technology more effectively.
The company’s founder, Peter Lytle, says its clients −smaller Democratic political campaigns and small organizations− are frequently underserved by technology.
“We try every day to make our solutions as streamlined and easy as possible for candidates and their campaigns to accomplish what they need to do,” he adds. “We know they have important work to do and that work is more important than spending time wrestling with technology.”
Ultimately, Lytle started Blue Campaign Solutions because he wanted his work to amount to more than just a paycheck.
“I wanted to support those causes both professionally and personally, and it was a good way to do so,” he says. “Trust is also very important when working with political campaigns. If we work only for one side, they can have greater confidence that we won’t do anything to help their opponents. Our fundraising software and websites are different than other campaign vendors. We play a slightly more strategic role than certain vendors, like a yard sign manufacturer. We want our clients to have confidence in our services and in our commitment to them.
To learn why Blue Campaign Solutions isn’t above using the same software as its clients, how it handles “large, seemingly unsolvable problems,” and which local women have been instrumental to its success, read the rest of our interview with Lytle.
[M]: Blue Campaign Solutions is a big proponent of “dogfooding.” Can you explain what that is for those who are unfamiliar?
PL: We believe in utilizing the same products internally that we use for clients. For example, BlueCampaigns.com uses the very same software all of our other websites do. The term “dogfooding” comes from the idea that “a company should eat it’s own dog food” if it’s selling it to people. Incidentally, our software and websites taste much better than dog food. Even the fancy dog food.
We follow this practice because it’s good for our clients and for us. If there is a problem, we frequently see it before clients because we’re using the software ourselves. It also simplifies the number of different systems we have to manage. It’s easier to do development, testing, monitoring, etc. if everyone is using the same platform.
[M]: What were you doing professionally before starting Blue Campaign Solutions and how has that impacted the way you do business?
PL: Prior to founding the company I was the systems manager for Jennifer Brunner’s campaign for Ohio Secretary of State. I was generally responsible for the technical aspects of the campaign: website, blog, mass emails, internal IT support, etc.
I also built software that was used during the campaign. Early on, the campaign was managing their fundraising with software by a company called NGP. It wasn’t flexible and powerful enough in some respects, so I asked if I could write something better. That software, now called Calltime Pro, was used to manage the campaign’s $2 million fundraising effort. I had retained rights to the software and it has become our flagship product for campaign fundraising. We have made, and continue to make, many improvements to the software.
[M]: What resources −books, websites, organizations− were the most helpful when you were working to get the company off the ground?
PL: MySQL and Perl for the Web: good introduction to database-backed websites and applications. Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson: eye-opening book that emphasizes the importance of making your company’s products and software as simple as necessary
[M]: Did you turn to any local role models or mentors for advice or input?
PL: Antoinette Wilson at Triumph Communications has given us a great deal of advice and support. Triumph assists local candidates with their campaigns. Laura MacDonald at Benefactor Group has also been helpful along the way with sage advice about how to approach our business.
[M]: What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a business owner and how did you overcome it?
PL: It has been difficult to manage multiple projects in different areas simultaneously. At one point we were doing IT support work along with our software development and websites, which was a lot to handle day-to-day. That experience taught us the importance of focusing on one thing at a time and finishing it. The lesson of how to break large, seemingly-unsolvable problems into smaller, more manageable pieces has also served us well in our software development process.
[M]: What do you consider the most rewarding aspect of being a business owner?
PL: There is a certain freedom that is very rewarding as a business owner. You can decide how and when you want to work. At the same time, you have to be very self-motivated to get things done. Having the opportunity to work with some great clients and learning how we can better serve their needs has also been enjoyable.
[M]: Is there anything else you think we should know?
PL: We are a two-person company. Chris Marshall is currently our chief technical officer. He does an outstanding job with all of our various design elements −making the websites look polished and professional− and examining our software from the end user’s perspective to ensure everything is easily understood.
While political campaigns are our focus, we are always looking for interesting opportunities to help businesses and organizations manage their data and operations more effectively. If your firm has any need for custom-built software solutions, we would be interested in hearing from you.
To learn more about Blue Campaign Solutions, visit BlueCampaigns.com.