Finding Business Success with
“Dirty Jobs” Star Mike Rowe

I recently learned that Mike Rowe used to work for QVC, sang opera and was a TV news reporter before he found his success with the TV show Dirty Jobs.  Listening to him tell a story is just as interesting as watching him do the dirty jobs – and there is something to learn about business in his story too.

Dirty Jobs was not a hit TV show overnight – it was while he was working as a news reporter for a TV show in San Francisco that his grandfather told him, “When will I ever see you do some real, honest work?”  The next day Mike set up an interview with a sewer repair worker because repairing a sewer is definitely, 100% honest work.

Mike and his cameraman met the sewer worker on the street, then followed him into the underworld of San Francisco.  He began trying to do the traditional TV interview but there were constant interruptions from rats, cockroaches and the obvious contents of the sewer that were disgusting, smelly and that were literally flying everywhere!

   After a while Mike knew that the same old thing wasn’t working, so he simply began to work alongside his interviewee and have a conversation with a man who had dedicated his entire career to repairing one brick at a time in San Francisco’s sewers.    The day and the interview eventually ended and Mike and his cameraman got cleaned up, very thoroughly, and then Mike began to watch the footage of the day in the editing room.  The most powerful and compelling footage wasn’t the traditional interview – it was the hilarious footage of Mike’s reaction to a cockroach crawling into his mouth and the content of the conversation between Mike and the sewer repair worker that formed the story that made the final cut.

When Mike pitched the story and showed the footage to his boss, he was promptly fired, but he knew he had something special, something interesting, something that his Grandfather would call “real and honest work.”   The following months and years involved Mike pitching his idea to feature everyday people, their jobs and their stories, to anyone and everyone who would talk to him.

   Over 30 meetings later, Mike met with the Discovery Channel team and the show Dirty Jobs was conceived.  The convoluted, crazy and meandering path that led Mike Rowe to his international success with Dirty Jobs drew on all of his varied work experiences, the advice of his grandfather and his own instincts for what would make a good story.  Mike found the recipe for success with creating a connection to people who do disgusting and/or difficult but necessary jobs by simply working alongside them and having a meaningful conversation.

Since his hit TV show, Mike Rowe has started a podcast, he has founded a non-profit organization, MikeRoweWorks, and has gone on to do many other interesting things.  This is a far cry from selling things during the midnight shift at QVC, which is definitely an un-dirty job (see picture).

Similarly, working as an IT professional can easily be classified as an un-dirty job.  I will never venture into a sewer or handle any of the other disgusting things featured on the Dirty Jobs TV show.  In fact, the audience would be completely bored watching a TV show about me working on my computer and meeting with clients.

I will never be famous like Mike Rowe and I really don’t want to help someone repair a sewer. My passion is to work alongside my fellow business owners to help them make sense of how technology works for their business while also working to keep their data and hard-earned money safe.  At the end of the day I am successful when my clients are successful. What is your definition of success?