These Are The Things You Are Made Of

Very rarely, through happenstance or destiny, someone comes along who changes things. They make you truly understand your purpose or validate what you already know you should be doing.

They make difficult things look easier. They make you try harder. They make you think deeper. They make you and those around you better. They inspire because they are inspired. They teach, but learn even more. They listen, but share their own ideas. They lead, but are not too proud to follow. 

They innovate, but do not neglect the details. They discover challenges, but always bring forth solutions. They are empathetic, but do not settle. They are kind, but hold firm to their own convictions. 

These are the things success is made of. These my friend, are the things you are made of. 

-Leanne Greene ‘18

Because We Care

Creatives are constantly thinking. We are constantly in brainstorming mode. When others are paying attention to the tiny details, we are calculating the possibilities of our next "big idea." Sometimes we seem distracted. Sometimes we seem apathetic. Sometimes we seem detached. Sometimes we seem arrogant. These are all things that could easily trick you into thinking we are working against and not "for" you. More than anyone else in the organization, we will passionately champion you. We will go the extra mile for you. We will help you become better. We will help you become your very best. 

Our methods are often counter-intuitive. When we make every attempt to blow holes in your plan, it doesn't mean we think your idea is bad. When we ask questions that make you feel threatened or inadequate, we are not trying to prove your ignorance. When we tell you why it may not work, we are not trying to break your spirit. When we get frustrated when you take the easy way out, you do not have to prove yourself to us. You do not owe us anything. We do all these things, simply because we care. 

Less Is Not Always More

In reading the blog of my most favorite marketing guru (Seth Godin) this morning, I realized how much truth is in the bit below. When the "bottom line" is the only consideration, do we actually end up losing "more?"

"When we add up lots of little compromises, we get to celebrate the big win. But overlooked are the unknown costs over time, the erosion in brand, the loss in quality, the subtraction from something that took years to add up.

In a competitive environment, the key question is: What would happen if we did a little better?

Organizations that add just a little bit every day always defeat those that are in the subtraction business."

Something Significantly Better

Sometimes aiming to be the best at something is not all it's cracked up to be. Even when you are only competing with yourself, or aiming to be better than you were yesterday, there are often times severe implications.  We usually choose one or two things to which we give our time, attention, money, and best effort. My "thing" has always been my career. 

After giving your heart and soul to something for a significant period of time, you learn. You learn a lot. You learn things that you are certain others would benefit from— pitfalls, roadblocks, obstacles, and gotchas. You know things not because you possess some special super power or gift— you know them because you've done the hard work. You've walked through each success and failure, forcing yourself to recount every misstep and every "right step" with microscopic precision. 

Creatives often put up with (or even encourage) more than their fair share of adversity and conflict. We love to debate. It helps the good ideas to rise to the top, while the bad ones fall to the wayside. If only everyone realized that differences in ideas and opinions are like a drug to us— an adrenaline rush. It is on these things we thrive. We don't see them through the lens of confrontation, right or wrong, or good or bad— but through the rose colored glasses that show us we will eventually end up with something significantly better. 




Ten Things I Learned Early That Shaped My Future Career

Walking in to my very first "real" job in 1991, I was bright eyed, bushy-tailed, and green— so very green. I felt lucky to be working at one of two major publishing companies in Birmingham and couldn't wait to set the world on fire.

The building was beautiful and carved right out of a mountainside on Highway 280. Even the driveway and parking lots were constructed to leave nature undisturbed and as many trees as possible in tact. The grounds were mesmerizing and offered views far beyond the city.

I was still working to complete my degree and had no idea how much this new gig would end up impacting my life. I was hired as an editorial assistant in the publishing division and spent my early days editing library reference material for publication. This was 1991. The computers we used were actually referred to as "dumb terminals." Imagine trusting anything with the word "dumb" in its name with the thousands of edits our team made daily. The "brain" and our data was stored on a gigantic super computer that resided in a very cold room in a totally separate building. 

That was the beginning. Five years and several job titles later, I found myself with a personal computer, the internet, a chance to travel around the world installing PC networks, and training people to use them.

Times were changing and I was fortunate to land right in the cusp. Al Gore had just "invented" the internet (insert sarcasm here), and people would now do business in ways they had never before imagined.   

During these five years I produced a 3-volume book with software that pre-dated QuarkXpress and InDesign, reported to work with a sleeping bag during heavy production times, was introduced to my now beloved Mac, learned to configure a file server and assemble the rack it was stored in, developed my first web page, managed an editorial team, branded a new product, trained hundreds of employees, and traveled to Canada, Australia, and most major cities in the United States spreading the news of this new thing called a PC.

These five years changed me. They shaped my future and the opportunities that would come my way.

Ten things I learned early that shaped my future career: 

  1. Be curious.

  2. Question systems and processes.

  3. Find a trusted mentor or be one.

  4. Be intentional and learn something from every experience.

  5. Always give more than expected.

  6. Volunteer to take on new tasks.

  7. Actively engage your team and value their input.

  8. Acquire new skills— even when you can't readily see the benefit.

  9. Work more than is required.

  10. Do not be afraid to fail.


When You Know, You Just Know

Over the years I have worked with many companies, large and small. One of the biggest challenges in satisfying a client (internal or external) is giving them what they want, which is not always what they need. 

Because many things in marketing and design are subjective, it is not always easy to convince clients why your idea is a good one. Because most people (no matter how intelligent) operate within the limits of their own realm of experience, it is often difficult to convince them to see things in a new way. 

If it were only as simple as reminding them why they called on you in the first place, life would be "rabbits and rainbows" for any person who gets paid for their ideas. This is why trust is probably the most valuable asset in a client-creative relationship. 

Creatives take it "personally." Whether it is your brand, your website, or your next mission statement, we work for you as if we were working for ourselves. Everything we do is meant for public consumption and we run our ideas through a grid more rigorous than any client's ever should be. This is the "money." This is what you pay for and you can be sure this is the value in whatever you receive.  

Anyone can put pretty things on paper, a website, or on a social media channel. But the hard work (the valuable work) is done before any of those things ever see the light of day. The concept, the research, the strategy, and the implementation are far more valuable than the "pretty logo." Most importantly, the life of the "pretty logo" depends on all these things. 

I can't always explain to clients why I know what I know. Is it the 25 years experience? Is it because I am paid to think of things you wouldn't? Is it that I insist on doing hours of research about your industry and competition before we even begin? Is it that my work always represents both of us? Is it because my future business depends on your success and satisfaction? Is it that I have made it my life's work to help others succeed?

It is probably a little bit of all these things, but sometimes we need you to trust that when we know, we just know.