Stop 4: Brand Fuel
Raleigh, NC

There is no need for coffee at our early-morning stop to Brand Fuel (asi/145025), situated in a suburban corporate park just outside of Raleigh, NC. As soon as we walk in the front doors, we are surprised by a three-piece live band. Andy immediately jumps into place, playing the air guitar next to a guy who is strumming an electric banjo. We shouldn’t be too surprised by the early-morning concert. Music is a passion of co-owners Robert Fiveash and Danny Rosin, childhood friends who launched the 25-employee firm together.

A musical theme is carried through the entire office: A statue of the King stands at the front entrance. A piece of artwork made from trombone slides adorns the conference room. And a 1965 eight-track tape player that only plays Elvis music serves as a dispute resolution device for Rosin and Fiveash. “When we’re just not seeing eye to eye, we put Elvis on and we seem to be able to work everything out,” Rosin tells us.

As we nosh on animal-shape waffles and fresh fruit with employees during a “Kick Summer in the Face” breakfast (Rosin and Fiveash want to motivate employees to push through the summer slump), Brand Fuel’s staffers regale us with stories of last Halloween, where employees were encouraged to pull pranks on one another the week leading up to the big day, which is celebrated with a rousing costume contest at the local waffle house. Each year, the antics get bigger. Last year, a vegetarian’s office was filled with chicken legs; an environmentalist entered his space to find trees with daggers in them; and one unfortunate woman found her office filled with balloons—and nail clippings from multiple staffers.

Lest you think that all of this activity is frivolous (and working at Brand Fuel is lots of fun, the employees tell us), it’s clear that Rosin and Fiveash carefully plan every event and attach a purpose to it. “We really try to reinvent ourselves with every event that we do,” Fiveash says. “It’s all about getting the creative juices flowing.”

And that’s clearly what the duo has pulled off at this summer morning’s event. As the band members start unplugging their equipment and employees rush around cleaning up the morning feast, there’s excitement in the air. One group is readying the conference room for a marathon brainstorming session, in which they’ll need to come up with a program to help Citizen’s Bank (one of the company’s many large accounts) acquire high-wealth customers from a Fortune 500 competitor.

Rosin and Fiveash say they have some great ideas. But if the duo happens to hit a snag during the brainstorming session – well, they’ve always got the King to help them through it.

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