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The Ambitious Among Us

The person behind the job.

Their ambition, their strategy.

Meet the amazing business and technology minds of the Vancouver-metropolitan area and beyond.


New Off Road Chief Marketing Officer, Scott Fish, and I sat down for what became an unexpectedly wide-ranging informational interview.  Scott is plainly a great businessperson.

His strategy is his ambition, his ambition his strategy.

My two big takeaways were the coacting sources of Scott’s application of influence and his lifestyle-business frame of mind.

Don’t Compete; Help Others Win

How you think about competition will define the choices you make and your ability to assess those choices critically.

Joan Magretta, Ph.D., Senior Institute Associate, Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, Harvard University

A Competitive Person Competes By Not Competing

My former marketing professor would hunt me down if ever he read that.  I now know there is at least one argument to be made.

Scott Fish is it.  

What if a competitive person helps the other person win?  My old basketball coach would likely make me run sprints for suggesting as much.  But, I know a guy.

Scott Fish is him.

Scott is a search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing strategy expert.  His job is to help others do what they do and compete in their respective markets.  

So what does it take to be the best that he can be? Simple.

It’s about others being their best.

Being the Best

Magretta’s 2011 Harvard Business Review article, “Stop Competing To Be the Best,” offers an interesting insight:

In the vast majority of businesses, there is simply no such thing as ‘the best.’

In effect, I believe Scott Fish has a brilliant ambition.  

STRATEGYDon’t compete.
AMBITIONHelp others win.

Carrying Out Altruism

For a previous article (Roland “Mr. Em” Emetaz), I conceived a graphic to depict a relationship of virtue – one’s calling being to serve others.  

Had I known then, I might have characterized serving others as an ‘exocentric altruist archetype’.  

That label, meaning roughly a giver who has no expectation of receiving anything in return, is a category devised by the research of Flynn and Black for Professional Counselor: Research & Practice in 2013.  

Their study on mental health professionals resulted in an interesting set of three unconscious archetypes by which to define self-interest versus serving others, called the “altruism–self-interest dynamic.”  

  1. Exocentric Altruist – a giver who has no expectation of receiving anything in return.
  2. Endocentric Altruist – a giver who has some concern for himself by expecting mutual benefit.
  3. Psychological Altruist – a self-serving giver.

This graphic is a simplified interpretation.

The Cross Section Of Transactional Altruism

As I’ve noted in these articles in the past, strategy is a unique combination of positioning and activities (Porter, 1996).  Conversely, it is not about operational effectiveness.

So how might I depict Scott’s strategy – which, again, I believe is his ambition?  

Let’s look more at the transactional spectrum of altruism.

Altruism Is Transactional

I could let Flynn and Black’s altruism–self-interest dynamic stand on its own.  Then again, there are three less psychologically-rooted and more economically-based accounts that provide support that altruism is transactional.

First Thing’s First.  What Is A Transaction?  

The Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Economics at Emory University, Paul H. Rubin, Ph.D., gave what I took to be an appealing definition back in 2014.  His interpretation advances a positive, healthy view of transacting in business:

A transaction is a cooperative act–an act benefitting all who voluntarily participate in it. The essence of economics is cooperation through transactions and markets.

Rubin, 2014

The argument could be made–and I believe it is the case–that transacting along with altruism is a people-based function.  Thus, interpersonal relationships for Scott are basic facets – keeping in mind that Scott’s business strategy and personal ambition are one in the same.  With that, the continuation of Rubin’s definition:

Of course, people entering into transactions may not consider these as being cooperative, but the ability of markets to generate, facilitate, and organize unintentional cooperation is the fundamental insight of economics.

Rubin, 2014

What Rubin states in this second portion is really important.  

It supports the unconscious archetypes research from earlier. That is, Scott creates the unintentional cooperation of his business partners, customers and associates, i.e. he creates his own market (livelihood) via transactional altruism.  (Just as I offer in talks I’ve given, markets are not compiled of businesses, but of people.)  

Why or how? It’s just in Scott’s nature. This is a somewhat confusing concept to conceive much less practice; yet Scott does it very well, in a positive way and with great success.  

I’ve unscientifically illustrated his strategy amid my interpretation for the altruism–self-interest dynamic.

Note how the bulk of Scott’s positioning forms mostly in the giving with no expectations of receiving horizontal portion (exocentric altruist) and the self-serving vertical area.  (For those who prefer thinking in terms of quadrants, the bottom-left quadrant.)  Scott by his nature and in the course of his business dealings has to be self-serving–in a good way; hence, he knows better than to compete to be the best–in order support others.  It’s a negative correlation (…and incidentally the reason why I had to write this article three times over to finally nail it.)  

It is also why he is such a good businessperson.  

He creates value through transactions, mutual value that is.

Secondly, Cause Marketing

10 years ago, University of Michigan researcher, Aradhna Kirshna, Ph.D., was quoted by defining cause marketing in a way that still holds to present-day.  

“Cause marketing, in which firms donate part of the proceeds from sales of certain products to a specified cause, is now a strategy adopted by hundreds of firms to increase sales for a wide variety of products…”

DeGroat, 2009, quoting Aradhna Kirshna, Ph.D.

Scott is inclined to help others.  Just look at the compilation of activities in which he is involved.

Unbelievable, right?!

He spends a great deal of time helping others, and supporting organizations that support others.  The proceeds of his business are knowledge, advocacy and helping others define their strategy. (For transparency’s sake, he has offered free help to Rehr Consulting with its promotions, sales and marketing.)

In this way, Scott has a cause (many of them, actually).  And that mission turns transactional marketing–defined as “sales and finding new customers” (Vence, 2002)–into causal marketing that itself creates a lifestyle.  

Truly a Lifestyle Businessman

Just look at how involved Scott is with racquetball, volunteering, coaching, playing and traveling.  One activity begets the other and so on.

There is a strategic harmony to Scott’s activities.

GREENHigher-order strategic themes
GRAYTightly-linked activities

Michael E. Porter, whose definition for strategy precedes, describes an activity-system map, like the one above, as

…a number of higher-order strategic themes…[that] can be identified and implemented through clusters of tightly-linked activities… 

Porter, 1996

Scott’s philanthropic gene motivates him to give back and advocate for others, an example being service as a Board Member for several organizations.  His remote work allows him to travel to racquetball tournaments to coach high school athletes. While in other cities he handles Board Member duties, visits clients and enjoys the sites, sometimes bringing his wife along.  He conducts continuous learning in his field which only serves to bolster his expertise, repute among colleagues and associates, and support his preferred lifestyle. And he shares. Scott creates opportunities for others–as he has for Rehr Consulting–and connects other professionals so they can exchange value.

His business strategy and personal ambitions are self-serving, because at every turn both strategy and ambition support others.

There is obviously more to causal marketing in Scott’s case and in general.

Thirdly, Corporate Social Responsibility

Causal marketing has a name.  Corporate Social Responsibility.  At the risk of including yet another long definition, I really liked one from Investopedia.com.  The reason is a phrase within.

A self-regulating business model

I wish I had come up with that phrase to describe how Scott uses transactional altruism as a strategy and ambition.  The full definition:

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is [both] a self-regulating business model [and a] consciousness of the kind of impact [a business has] on all aspects of society including economic, social, and environmental.  [It] is a broad concept that can take many forms depending on the company and industry. Through CSR programs, philanthropy, and volunteer efforts, businesses can benefit society while boosting their own brands. As important as CSR is for the community, it is equally valuable for a company.

Chen, 2018

To show just how important CSR is these days, one of the global leaders in Scott’s industry only two months ago created a new role: Chief Social Responsibility Offer (CSRO).  The business, Televerde, “has appointed [a new CSRO to] design the strategy to extend the reach of Televerde’s corporate social responsibility program globally and create more career opportunities for disempowered populations” (Televerde, 2018).

CSR for Scott is three-fold:

  1. Give back.
  2. Create opportunities for others.
  3. Connect other professionals, i.e. help others network.

These contributions unto others require the very interests Scott pursues.  In contrast, Scott is not handing out $100 bills to the homeless, nor is his passion to hand out turkeys on Thanksgiving.  Look closely at the activity-system map (above) to discover. The reputation he has built, for instance, is born of being a Board Member three times over, and a sponsored athlete.  These activities position him to create opportunities for others. He could not do that unless he was uniquely positioned and, by way of a strategy that includes working remotely, free to consider the affairs of others.  

His coordinated position and activities, together, represent the self-regulating portion of his business model. People remember him. By coincidence, and subsequent to our informational interview, Scott told me he had an appointment with someone he’d known four years ago. Such a striking purpose is memorable and valued over time.

Scott doesn’t compete in the market; his lifestyle business helps others win in their own competitions.

Strategy Is As Ambition Does

His business strategy and personal ambition are one in the same.  An altruistic cooperative of transactions, Scott Fish’s positioning fuels his activities, and vice versa.  

In the end, I believe the self-regulated lifestyle business that results is productive for the community and for Scott because he pursues only mutually beneficial opportunities.

About Off Road

In January, 2019 Scott Fish and Sonja Skvarla came together to create Off Road, a strategy and process consulting agency that works with growth stage companies to reach their goals. Both partners see the connections between Marketing, People & Culture, Workflow Processes, and Finance and are working with companies and nonprofits to optimize their business. Learn more about the Off Road Team and connect with Off Road on Linkedin.

About 32° Digital

32° Digital is the digital marketing agency that Scott formed in 2014 with the goal of driving value to customers that demand high-quality marketing that fits their business model.  Scott started the agency with a focus on tourism and hospitality marketing, eventually moving to other industries.

Magretta, Joan. “Stop Competing To Be The Best”. Harvard Business Review, 2011, https://hbr.org/2011/11/stop-competing-to-be-the-best. Accessed 17 Jan 2019.

Flynn, Stephen V., and Linda L. Black. “Altruism–Self-Interest Archetypes: A Paradigmatic Narrative of Counseling Professionals.” Professional Counselor: Research & Practice 3.2 (2013), http://tpcjournal.nbcc.org/altruism-self-interest-archetypes-a-paradigmatic-narrative-of-counseling-professionals/. Accessed 18 Jan 2019.

Porter, Michael E. “What Is Strategy?” Harvard Business Review 74.6 (1996): 61-79. Cengage Learning, Inc. Web. 30 Dec. 2016.

Rubin, Paul H. “Emporiophobia (fear of markets): Cooperation or competition?.” Southern Economic Journal 80.4 (2014): 875-889.

DeGroat, Bernie. “Cause Marketing: Altruism or Greed?” University of Michigan News, The Regents of the University of Michigan, 4 June 2009, news.umich.edu/cause-marketing-altruism-or-greed/.

Vence, Deborah L. “Marketers Always Will Rely on Transactional Angle.” Marketing News; Chicago, vol. 36, no. 13, 24 June 2002, pp. 1–9.

Chen, James. “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)”. Investopedia, 2019, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/corp-social-responsibility.asp. Accessed 19 Jan 2019.

“NEW ROLE EXTENDS REACH OF TELEVERDE’S CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY PROGRAM AND CREATES MORE CAREER OPPORTUNITIES FOR DISEMPOWERED POPULATIONS.” In The News, Televerde, 27 Nov. 2018, http://www.televerde.com/televerde-extends-social-corporate-responsibility-names-michelle-cirocco-chief-social-responsibility-officer/.

This article is sponsored by…

Published by Rehr Consulting


Some have called me an expert at informational interviewing. What does that mean, exactly? I am concerned with understanding the whole person, the people behind the job, and the whole business from within.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I support the ambitions of others to meet promise and potential.

My MBA is concentrated in Strategy. I have 20 years of work experience, most of which is in the field of organization development. Conducting informational interviews, I have engaged local professionals and written research-backed articles about their ambition.

Writing is fun, and so is sharing what I learn. I’ve given talks throughout the Portland-metropolitan region about informational interviewing, and more recently about scaling-up ones activities – recognizing one’s current resources and opportunities, and then pairing them with potentially new resources and opportunities through creativity, new possibilities and strategic fit.

I am heavily involved in the community, and I love coffee and fountain pens!

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