I just had a birthday! My company did, that is. Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy recently turned 15 and since only one third of new businesses last past their first decade, I feel pretty good about this accomplishment. As I reflect over the past decade and a half, there are certain thoughts and ideas that surfaced that I wanted to share. I hope some will educate, inspire, amuse, or just be a head nod to those who read them.
- The power of a big idea still surges. From the “Mad Men” era until today, and I’m certain into the future, the advertising business still thrives on big ideas. Sure, there are all sorts of new technologies to communicate and ways to “hide” behind production value, but strip it all away and – if there’s not a big idea that touches the heart and soul of your customer – you have nothing. You know you have one when, years later, people still recall pieces of a campaign. I’m proud to say there have been a few of those over the years.
- Get with the times. I used to cover my ears when the subject of digital/social media came up in conversations. I thought that if I just focused on traditional branding and advertising practices, there would still be a market for that and others would take care of the new stuff. (I guess it’s right to say that today?) Anyway, I have come to really embrace “new” media and appreciate its flexibility and ability to be measured, and the fact that it’s not “new” anymore, just part of the game.
- There’s no such thing as a “just a.” There have been many times the client has requested “just a re-size,” “just a simple program ad,” or “just a something.” You know as well as I do that there’s no such thing. Every project has a purpose, goals, and should have a strategy against it. Just when you think it’s a “just a,” it expends more time, resources, and thought than projects that are viewed as larger from the beginning.
- It’s hard to make predictions. After 15 years at Springboard, and a total of nearly 40 in the advertising and marketing business, I thought I was close to being able to make decent predictions. Whether it’s a new business win, what creative campaign a client will pick, an award, and the list goes on…the truth is you shouldn’t predict. Because I’ll predict you’re going to be wrong.
- Personal engagement is still the best form of communications. We all get dozens of emails a day, many text messages, and other forms of tech communications. While they are time efficient, there is still no substitute for meeting with a client, enjoying a meal, or taking in a social event together. Just like the “old days.” And imagine their surprise and gratitude when you send something via “snail mail.”
- Punctuation and grammar speak volumes. Related to the above, the industry has changed dramatically in not only how we communicate with each other but also our attention to details. It seems as though every email contains a typo or has some level of bad grammar. As we take shortcuts with our communications, it doesn’t mean we should do the same with our spelling and grammar. A bad typo can kill a great letter or even a client relationship.
- You’re only as good as your people. One thing that I’ve definitely appreciated over the years is working with really excellent people. I never wanted a company with my name on the door. I wanted one that everybody could feel some ownership in, so when my time comes to move on, the company can do the same. From David Ogilvy’s famous quote, “our inventory goes down the elevator every night,” to other classic business phrases, your brand depends on who’s delivering it. I’ve been fortunate to have several people who have helped me really deliver.
- Hire for your culture, not for a client. Related to the above, I’ve learned (the hard way, too), that one should hire based on need and culture and not to fit a specific client. Clients come and go in this business every few years. Great employees are those you want to stay for an extended period of time. Culture is important and not just lip service, and I’ve come to realize it starts or stops in the corner office.
- Perception really is bigger than reality. With social media today, a small company can make a big impression, around the world! I remember when blogging was first fashionable and, with some time at a hotel one night, created “Hospital Branding Blog.” Today, it’s read in over 25 countries and serves to keep Springboard on the first page of most organic searches. I’m always amazed when people ask how “big” the company is – and when I tell them they always say, “wow, I thought you were hundreds of people and in many cities.” That’s the power of social media and the importance of maintaining an active social marketing strategy.
- You have to stay in sound business shape. From airplanes to rental cars, sleepless nights to meals on the run, I’ve learned to appreciate the importance of a wellness regimen since owning a company. The pressures of the day can be tough, but nothing a good workout at night can’t knock out. A solid breakfast really does rev up not only the metabolism, plus a decent night sleep does work wonders. In fact, if someone asked, “what’s the one thing you’d recommend when starting a business” I would answer, “work hard to stay healthy and keep your head in the game.”
Thank you for the opportunity to share these thoughts, I hope there are a couple ideas that resonate with you. As Confucius said, (I always wanted to say that) “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”