• What I Learned This Year 2012 #13: Haley Turner

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    A friend once told me “A comfortable life is not a life worth living.”

    At that moment, I knew exactly what she meant. While my life was pretty easy-going, I was in a rut. There was no challenge to anything I was doing. I felt like I was just existing. I hated it.

    So two years ago I picked up my life in the Deep South and moved out to Colorado. I had a pretty steady freelance career in Atlanta, but I was bored out of my mind in my personal life and something had to give. Why Colorado? The cooler, drier weather, the down-to-earth attitude of its residents, the adventurous lifestyle, and the enormous mountain range that perches like nature’s cathedrals on the horizon. (They still take my breath away.) Everything about this place was exactly what I needed.

    I know people thought I was crazy to give up my cushy Atlanta freelance connections for the wild frontier. However, I’m still taken aback when people tell me “You were so brave to do that.” I wasn’t being brave. I was propelled by my restlessness and a need to get away from the predictable. I think, as creatives, we need to constantly challenge ourselves and strive for something better. Otherwise, that muscle between our ears atrophies.

    So far, moving my life out here has been good for me. For my creativity. For my soul. I have found plenty of opportunities to get outside my comfort zone and I’m never bored. Has everything been perfect? No, but I didn’t come out here so life would be easier. I came out here to see what I was made of.

    If anyone else out there is looking to shake things up, move to a new city or even just change jobs, I say go for it. Fear is a self-imposed feeling and you have control over that. Even if you stumble, you’ll find the fortitude to pick yourself up and keep going. It’s the scars from those stumbles that make us interesting. And give us great stories to tell.

    I’m so glad to be out here in Colorado. Thanks for reading.

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What I Learned This Year 2012 #12: Dave Schiff

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    I learned that there's no substitute for good old fashioned give-a-shit. I used to think it was possible to manufacture a pretty good facsimile, but there's nothing quite like the real thing. Call it what you want. Expressing shared values. Aligning around a cause. Believing in what you do. It's all give-a-shit, and there is nothing more powerful when it comes to connecting with consumers, forming partnerships with clients, and attracting top talent. There is no fee or line item on a scope of work for giving a shit, but all the "core competency" in the world is useless without it. As an organization or an individual, it's the most formidable thing you can have, and the most valuable thing you can offer.

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What I Learned This Year 2012 #11: John Winsor

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    2012 has been a crazy year. V&S has added a dozen new clients, grown the team by 50% and taken on Havas as a new investor. Likewise, I’ve added a new role of Chief Innovation Officer at Havas along with being CEO of V&S. The dual role has given me some wonderful insights as we all try to figure how to build an agency in a world that is constantly being shaped and reshaped by technology.

    Here are 14 guiding principles that I’ve been thinking about for 2013:

    1. Identify what wants to happen and help it happen

    2. Serve the people

    3. Be a social business with a purpose

    4. Ask forgiveness not permission

    5. Prototype don’t present

    6. Open systems beat closed systems

    7. More transformation less innovation

    8. Do less with less

    9. If you’re going to fail, fail spectacularly

    10. Architecture is more important than execution

    11. Learn how to code

    12. More signal less noise

    13. Small ideas are better than big ideas (thanks @garethk)

    14. Bottom-up not top down

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What I Learned This Year 2012 #10: Wade Paschall

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    I learned that opening your own agency is simultaneously the happiest, scariest, most inspiring, worrisome, hardest-working, funnest-having, soul-crushing, fulfilling, greatest thing you can do. I’ve learned that every agency the five of us have ever worked – good and bad – has provided lessons to prepare us for starting Grenadier. I’ve learned (thanks to Rob) that while almost everyone in advertising dreams about starting their own agency at one time or another, the biggest obstacle is being in the right place at the right time with the right people to make the leap with, and I’m very lucky to have had those stars align. I’ve learned that I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed working with Jeff Graham. I’ve learned (thanks to Randy) that we have no excuses now; Grenadier will be what we make it, good or bad. I’ve learned (thanks to Mark) that anything I can write, he can make funnier, and that anyone, including me, can become addicted to fantasy football. I've learned that when you dream of setting up shop, you're so focused on the big things – i.e. mission, core beliefs, clients, revenue, office space – that you rarely consider all those little, but crucial start-up-ish things like, "Who's buying the toilet paper?", "Do we want yellow, pink or green highlighters?" or "Who's on trash duty tonight?" Lastly, I’ve learned that I should never do these ‘What I’ve Learned’ things while on the road and away from my family. It makes me sound like a sentimental wuss.

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What I Learned This Year 2012 #9: Mike Sukle

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    It was an incredibly busy year for our agency and with that come a lot of lessons. Here a few thoughts from 2012.

    The industry may be losing a bit of craftsmanship but it’s innovating at a phenomenal pace. It’s an exciting time to be in this business.

    Momentum is awesome. Inertia sucks.

    An optimistic fool does more good than a pessimistic genius. There are millions of really good reasons why something shouldn’t work. And too often, not enough good reasons why something should. Trust your instincts.

    We’re happiest when our hands are dirty and we’re creating things. That’s why we all got into this business and what will keep us in it.

    Laughter leads to better work.

    No matter how big or successful your business is today, there are hoards of talented young people trying to do it better. Stay hungry.

    I scoffed at Twinkies. I laughed at them. I even used them as the butt of humor in ads. And now I really miss them.

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What We Learned This Year 2012 #8: GRIT. - Sean Topping and Holly Menges

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    To be honest, (generally a good thing but it sometimes gets us in trouble) and for reasons both personal and professional, this year was a really really really really tough year. What we learned, is that we aptly named our company without fulling realizing it. This year has taken more grit than any other year we can recall.

    The learnings we'd like to pass on to you is simply that we all have grit, and you probably don't know how much you have until you are tested. So if you are afraid to take a risk, to go for a job, quit a job, start a company, put your creative work on display for public critique, or ask for help, or admit you are in pain or scared or whatever it is— don't be afraid. It just matters that you put something out there. You will be able to handle whatever comes back. You are stronger than you think. And there are people who love you who make you even stronger.

    Take care of each other out there.

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What I Learned This Year 2012 #7: Ryan Johnson (from Cactus)

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    What I learned this year I actually learned in 1999, and that is this: go ahead and buy a lifetime of shoeshines.

    In the late ‘90s, a street-walking shoeshiner worked the area around Larimer Square in Denver. A wiry fellow with a broken-tooth grin, his approach to selling shines consisted mostly of heckling passersby. “Shabby shoes! Shabby shoes! You got shabby shoes!” he would sing with a smile. “You ain’t got no woman on your arm ‘cause you ain’t got no shine on your shoes!” I heard that one a few times.

    I worked for a small agency called Reece and Company at the time. The agency was located a block off of Larimer and we would see the shoeshine guy regularly on coffee walks and lunch breaks. Dave Reece, owner and leader of the agency, had been an occasional customer, stopping by for a buffing before meetings. I know that along with the shines, Dave enjoyed the conversation.

    Dave Reece was, among many things, an adman. He loved the business, he loved the creative process, he loved his clients and he loved the group of people he got to work with every day. He could tell a good story, and he knew how to listen. Clients appreciated this. We all did.
    Early in 1999, Dave visited the shoeshine guy and was given a sweet offer — a lifetime “membership” for just $50. Dave took the deal and parted with a 50-dollar bill.

    In March of that year, Dave was diagnosed with brain cancer. In September, he was gone. He was 46 years old.

    In the months after his diagnosis, Dave made just a few visits to the agency to see the crew. We were all in a fog of sadness and uncertainty. Our leader was dying and the future of the agency was not yet determined. On one of those visits, he mentioned his ill-timed shoeshine deal to someone.

    “Well, isn’t this a bitch,” he said. “I just bought a life’s worth of shoeshines and I get freaking cancer.”

    Here was a man facing his own mortality and he was making a joke to soften the gloom, to make us laugh. It made sense. That’s how he approached the business. When the self-imposed seriousness of the work was getting us down, Dave was always there with an inappropriate wisecrack.

    What I learned then I remember always – even in the dark hours, you have to make room for lightness and levity. The other message? No one really knows what’s around the bend, but $50 for a lifetime of shined shoes is a good deal. Take it.

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What I Learned This Year 2012 #6: Rob Schuham

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    2012 has been a wild professional ride for me. In essence, some of what I thought I knew about the marketing, media and social entrepreneurship worlds held steadfast and true. And on the flipside…well, let’s say I learned some new things. So here are a couple of “a-ha’s” coming out of 2012 for me:

    Industry learnings:

    Media has changed forever. Again. Between smart phones, a continued rise in new social platforms, and the increasing level of sophistication around digital sharing by both young and old, we have seen a massive increase in interpersonal engagement. I have done some speaking recently on how the terrain has altered and the sheer velocity of this behavior has increased dramatically. The most fascinating byproduct outside of one K-pop phenomenon in particular is the speed and ferocity of online collective action that in turn leads to physical movements. It’s here. And it’s game on. Arab Spring and Occupy more than demonstrated the power of digital to drive physical movements in 2011 and on into 2012. And believe me, there’s more to come in 2013.

    Related, consumers (that’s each one of us) want a sense of purpose. Whether it's better corporate behavior or a cause that a particular brand supports, more and more we want to feel like we give back to the world with the each dollar we spend. I learned some of this at Made Movement. The crew tapped into cultural zeitgeist with the notion that red, white and blue is the new green. And with Boom Points you can see how buying American products creates job growth. With apologies to my more enlightened friends, there is hope for materialism.

    Management learnings:

    Ego kills: Ok, a little harsh. It may just wound a bit. But most every time you get wrapped up in ego and let it lead out, it bites you in the ass. I’ve learned to back down and breathe which is really hard when you have a Triple-A-type personality. The very thing that drives you to succeed will vanquish you if you don’t manage it in a contemplative and healthy way. Confidence is great. But don’t let it come at the expense of compassionate listening. And guess what? Sometimes the client is right! And sometimes someone who reports to you is too!

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What I Learned This Year (and the Four Before That) 2012 #5: Matt Ingwalson

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    "You need a new job every three years."

    I don't know where I first heard that advice. But it's true. Careers are like sharks. You swim or you sink. You need a new client, a new promotion, a new responsibility, a new agency, a new something every three years. Or you're drowning and you don't even know it.

    I joined Karsh Hagan five years ago. The agency offered me the chance to do something I've never done before. Take on new challenges and responsibilities without job hopping. And my time here has been all hopscotch and kisses.


    These years have been a whirlwind. Often exhilarating. Frequently exhausting. Sometimes tragic. And they've taught me something that everyone needs to know.

    Character is not revealed through victory. Or at an office party. Or over coffee.

    You learn what people are made of when you're climbing into a production van together at 4:00 a.m. on three hours of sleep because you have to chase the sunrise.

    And when you're sweating at the agency at midnight pulling a deck together for a presentation that's happening in nine hours. Tick tock.

    And when you realize that if you don't win a pitch, a friend is going to lose his job. So you find a way to make it happen.

    You learn what people are made of when you're all standing in the same room staring up at the ceiling or out the window, trying figure out how you can bear to go on after someone you all loved dies.

    Celebration is nice. And important. But it doesn't teach you much. I've learned to welcome the foxhole. To be inspired by it. To let it bring out my best. To trust my team. To find ways to win.

    And you should learn that too.

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

  • What I Learned This Year 2012 #4: Evan Fry

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    Art Director / Illustrator - Tim Opsahl

    To read the entire 2012 'What I Learned' series, click this.

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