We had the good fortune of connecting with Justin Campbell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Justin, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I am not afraid of risk. In the financial world, investors take calculated risks with the expectations of large returns for their endeavors. Acknowledging risk is often associated with higher returns because of an investor’s willingness to leave some of the outcome to chance, which often yields even greater results. I notice a similar effect on my business at Firefly. However, my ability to take on risk and deal with the potential consequences may be more about my personality than a quantitative calculation like in the financial markets. I enjoy the thrill of uncertainty and thrive problem solving when my risk-oriented decisions fail. Seeing everything through a positive lens, even the worst situations, is one of my greatest strengths. This type of risk and failure attitude spans far back to the early days when I was 23 in Florida and started my first hot dog cart The Pickled Sausage. I welded my cart together from metal found in junk yards and concerns of risk or failure never crossed my mind because I simply loved working on my project. Thoughts of financial gain or possible risks of financial loss were 2nd place to excitement about serving people my favorite kielbasa sandwiches. When I started Firefly Fabrication to build food trucks for other dreamers, my fearlessness about risk allowed me to take on jobs I shouldn’t have while I figured out who and what my company was. Many experts and personal contacts of mine often advised against taking on too many different types of jobs, but I found project diversity critical to building my brand and defining what we specialize in. The range of jobs I took in the beginning of Firefly’s development was the mortar that built a base of knowledge I have about the industry today. Some projects ended up working out very well, while others were nightmares that lost money. As I shifted and focused specifically on our company’s expertise, the projects grew larger and so did our workforce. Having employees meant I was not only gambling with my own income, but also taking potential risks with their finances as well. Having that responsibility lowered the risks I took, but I was still often making decisions based on my naturally inclined “gut instinct.” Now that we are larger than ever and juggling a dozen major projects simultaneously, our risk taking is based on facts, figures, and projections. I still listen to my gut feeling, but only if it’s backed up with data.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Prior to starting Firefly, I had a food cart in Tampa, FL and ran food trucks in Los Angeles. I realized there was a huge disconnect between how trucks were being built, how they were actually being used, and how they had to be repaired. Lots of custom, one-off parts meant a lot of down time when something broke. This realization ultimately led to the creation of Firefly and we pride ourselves not only on the reliability of our trucks, but also on the repairability of the components and systems within. We go to great lengths to ensure all aspects of our products can be quickly repaired or replaced using locally available parts anywhere in the country. We’re pioneering this concept in mobile food and the struggle has been in bridging the gap between reliable, repairable systems and complex, beautiful kitchens that our customers demand. Our approach to finding these solutions doesn’t stem from a constant push for higher profit or throughput. My belief is that if we continue to stay focused on the constant improvement of our product, the customers will grow along with the business.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Los Angeles is a city where dreams can come true. When my friends and family visit, I like them to share in that dream. For out of staters, we have to hit some of the landmarks like the Hollywood sign, Venice Beach, and grab a double double animal style. I love to take people on a drive through Big Tujunga and Angeles Crest because those areas are such a departure from what people think of when they envision Los Angeles.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There would be no Firefly if it weren’t for the team on the ground floor and everyone who works here has made this into more than just a job. Overnighters to meet deadlines, working well outside their job description, and researching new techniques during their personal time, are a few characteristics of a team who’s dedicated to the work we do.