Twenty years ago, a young entrepreneur on the Corporate America fast track, I decided to give it all up to start over. I resigned from a promising, structured career to build my creative agency with my mentor. The vision: transform a boutique, independent advertising agency into a thriving national agency. During the two-decade labor of love, I learned invaluable lessons that stand the test of time.
Never Chase Money.
My mantra is, “Leap, and the net will follow.”
Money is a heck of a motivator. After years of sacrifice for an ultimate payout and an unparalleled incentive package to stay, my gut screamed “walk away”. Money was not everything. I was being called to take off my “golden handcuffs” and start over. My decision dazed colleagues who wondered how I could leave behind financial stability to chase an unproven dream.
I knew that I had to leap to create something different. The entrepreneurial fire in me couldn’t be quenched. Instead of stifling my passion with a paycheck, I channeled that energy into growing a promising agency which was one of the most rewarding challenges of my life.
True satisfaction can’t be bought – it’s earned by living your biggest dreams.
The Price of Success is Sacrifice.
Let us be clear, running an ad agency is no simple calling. There were innumerable sleepless nights. I lost precious time away from my family because of grueling hours. There were countless failures, but also profound successes.
Most entrepreneurs call it a labor of love because of the sacrifices along the way, but there’s also the thrill of channeling pure passion in charting your path. Building a company you can call your own is an exhilarating ride.
The euphoria of building something truly special is worth every sacrifice.
Talent Trumps Everything.
When building a business, all roads lead to talent. The people you hire – those you entrust to come on this crazy journey – drive success or failure. I sought out a special type of professional – tenacious, thirsty, and passionate creative thinkers who had the raw desire to stomach unchartered territory.
In the early days, I weeded out weak performers to become a talent magnet. As a result, the best and brightest wanted to join our thriving team. Today, we win clients over national and international agencies because we boast of the most strategic, creative, and gifted talent in the industry.
Raising the talent bar dramatically raises the odds of success.
Culture Is King.
Our employee and client tenure are three times the industry average. That is not by accident. Our culture is our single most powerful asset. We do what we say – when people are watching and when they’re not. Beyond creative and strategic awards, we have won countless industry accolades for our culture. We make every decision based on core values and never flinch.
One hundred percent of the time, protecting and promoting culture is the right decision.
Adversity Makes You Stronger.
The price of success is overcoming inevitable obstacles. Time and time again, adversity struck. We lost our founder and then a beloved young employee. I battled cancer while running the agency. We fought to survive the Great Recession. We faced global events that were the demise of hundreds of thousands of businesses – an energy crisis, a housing crisis, and an economic crisis. Black Monday and Black Thursday were on our watch. This was before overcoming the unprecedented global pandemic.
Our formula is tested: rise above the fear of failure, get laser-focused on stepping up our game, and rally to overcome the odds.
Facing adversity head-on allows you to come out on the other side better, stronger, and more empowered.
Never Underestimate Tenacity. Ever.
Tenacity is an inherent measure of strength. The formula is simple but requires unflappable resolve. Every single day, fight for the future. Wake up and do it again. Next thing you know, it’s a 20-year habit.
Today, our ad agency is five times our original size in every measure. We represent global and national clients. We completely transformed our portfolio into trusted brand partners. Powerhouse brands call us their partners – from global companies to national sports franchises.
Tenacity allows us to consistently punch above our weight class – and win.
Consistently Give Back.
We celebrate two portfolios of work – paid and pro bono. We’ve never pulled back on our charitable work even when times were tough. Giving back is fundamental to our success. We’ve donated millions of dollars in pro bono work to make a direct impact on lives in our community. Our employees never define it as “extra work” because they inherently reap far more than the talent given away. The gratification of making a positive difference to those in need is the most valuable asset of our employment package.
Passion thrives when given a platform to make a difference.
Mentor Next Generation Leaders.
The past 20 years went by in a blink of an eye. Leadership succession planning should always be implemented by design versus default. Building a strong, loyal bench of talent is the key to establishing long-term sustainability. One of my greatest accomplishments is nurturing our next-generation leadership.
While it took years to carefully plan and execute, we grew a dream team:
- Christine Turner has been by my side — leading — every day for 20 years. From our first meeting, I knew she had the entrepreneurial x-factor. We nurtured it together for 2 decades. Her leadership fingerprints are all over our agency’s success and will be for decades to come.
- Scott Gattis told me as a young professional, 16 years ago, that he wanted my job. So, I took him up on it.
- Katy Berry joined us after college seeking a job but ultimately earned a powerhouse career.
- Matt Boswell became our first executive creative director in our history. Attracted by what we built and how he could put his signature on our agency, he took a leap of faith that’s paid off.
These agency principals are our future. I am in awe of their dedication, passion, and strategic approach. Each leader profoundly impacts our agency and will etch their name in history. The common denominators of their success are time and passion. They are willing to put in whatever it takes to take over the agency and lead it into the future.
Long-term business sustainability requires planning your future – now.
Enjoy the Ride.
Owning and growing a successful business is a ride of a lifetime. Many clients become close friends. Work colleagues grow into an extended family. Our diverse portfolio afforded opportunities to travel to remarkable places and create incredible memories.
I’ve learned to embrace things that I once feared like being uncomfortable, facing the unknown, and not having the answer. Proving to yourself that you can overcome anything is both empowering and exhilarating if you’re willing to take the risk and dig deep.
Owning a business isn’t for the faint of heart, but the sweet taste of success is worth every sacrifice.