Who I am. And what I’ve done for the last 30 years.
I develop ideas that sell things.
I’m trained as a writer and as what ad agencies call an art director, which is a designer who develops ideas. In other kinds of organizations, an art director might actually boss other designer-types around, but not in ad agencies, and that’s where I both cut my teeth and how I’ve modeled my independent business.
Most of the agencies I’ve worked in have been rather small, but I also spent about 20 years involved with a very big creative organization called Maritz Inc.
Maritz is not an ad agency, although it does do some sales promotion. Mostly, it works with clients’ internal audiences: employees, distribution channels and other groups of stakeholders. For 15 years I was a principal agency for the Maritz Automotive Research Group.
For the last ten years I have worked primarily as an independent branding consultant. My biggest success in that time was the transformation of Artesys from tiny brokerage to national investment product. I still think Artesys is the best way to invest money for the long term, and I probably always will.
Like other creatives – indeed, other folks in any profession – I truly respect, I believe the difference between the great ones and the mediocre ones is their belief systems.
Here are some things I believe:
Learning is a virtue.
The smartest people I know are always learning new things and are not afraid to ask simple questions. I’m a compulsive learner, although I don’t necessarily think that makes me one of the smartest people I know. (It’s just easier to learn a new discipline than it is to pick up the phone and ask someone to spend money.)
The road to improved financials in a business has three waystations:
- Customer focus built into products and services from the beginning.
- Employee engagement as a given.
- Pricing as an expression of customer value – not just a multiplier of raw materials.
People buy with their hearts, not their heads, even at the pinnacle of corporate decision-making.
I live in and work from St. Louis, Missouri, which used to be the corporate headquarters of Southwestern Bell, aka SBC Communications, and its subsidiary, Cingular Wireless.
At the time Cingular was the best-loved brand in the wireless industry, and it delivered the best service on a number of key metrics. It made perfect sense that Cingular would be the first and only carrier to get the iPhone.
(AT&T, a separate company, had the worst service on those metrics.)
Ever wonder why SBC left St. Louis for San Antonio?
Was it the business client, the workforce, the tax base?
Nah. It was that the new CEO of SBC couldn’t get into St. Louis Country Club.
The departure of SBC started an exodus of corporate headquarters from the area that continues unabated to this day.
I hope the folks who didn’t want to play golf with that one guy think it was worth keeping him out.