Home

Comfortable Being Proud

In general I don’t consider myself a very proud person. There are so many different ways that statement could be interpreted I think I should put it in context a bit. There have not been many instances where I have been so proud that I could feel it welling up in side of me to the point that I get goosebumps.

truth-03b

In 1999 I debuted a 3 issue comic book series, and an anthology at the Small Press Expo outside of D.C. That weekend was a milestone in my quest of fulfilling my dreams. I had always wanted to create comics. This was my first real foray, and boy was I proud of what I had accomplished.

In 2004 I hit the comic book scene again… this time with nationwide distribution. I didn’t sell many copies, but the first time I saw it in Diamond’s Previews (the monthly catalog for retailers) I was pretty darn proud of myself.

I managed to keep myself busy between then and the next instance I remember. There were a ton of really important live events: my marriage, the birth of my son Wyatt, starting my own business; but none were the same sort of proud that I’m talking about here. In April of 2011 my sculptures were part of a group art show at Gallery 1988 in LA. I felt like I had brought my creations to higher quality than ever before.

Fast-forward to this past week. Three different nights driving home from the office I reflected on what we had done as a team and what I can see our future holding; I was proud. Proud of myself, proud of the two great guys I have partnered with, and proud of the younger team that is going to help transform our boutique agency into a creative powerhouse. This is a challenging emotion for me to wrap my head around because I’ve always had a desire to do as much as I can in a day. I push my limitations, leaving no real time to reflect on what I have done or how it makes me look. This week when it hit me three nights in a row I knew that what I am doing is on the right path. For me, my family, and my team.

Most of the time I would truly consider myself modest and humble, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that sometimes you just have to be proud of what you’ve done.

Easter Memories

easter-bunny

This time of year always brings back some fairly odd Easter memories.

When I was in middle school I already had two part-time jobs. The first and most regular was the paper route in my neighborhood. Nothing too glamorous, but it paid for a fair amount of comic books. The other job I had was on Saturdays and it was even less glamorous than the paper route. I grew up in a neighborhood that consisted of town houses. On every street there were two trash areas in which residents would deposit their rubbish. Two times a week it was my job to clean the area and get it to an organized state. I could probably write for quite some time on the social implications a job like this has on a middle-schooler but that hardly seems topical at this point in the conversation.

It was a month or two before Easter when I was in the seventh grade that I was asked to be the Easter Bunny. Now this wasn’t a one-time gig… This was a recurring role at one of the two local shopping malls. They wanted me to work three days a week! Sure it wasn’t at the cool mall. Somehow the idea of this job seemed more dignified and important than any other position I had held to-date. So of course I jumped on the chance. I was able to work it around my paper route, and my dad let me take a break from cleaning the trash bins for the month I would adorn the suit of the fuzzy bunny.

We have all had delusions of what our first day at a new job will be like. Mine however were grander than that of the average man. My naivety was in full effect in middle school. Somehow I thought that by transforming into one of the great holiday legends it would in turn transform my social status into that of one of the cool kids. Boy was I wrong.

My mom’s friend ran the Easter Bunny exchange in the malls and I met her 15 minutes before my shift would begin. It was the strangest thing, meeting in what felt like a janitorial closet at the far end of the mall. The room had a pungent stench with only a chair, a table, someone’s clothes and a hanging rack with two Easter Bunny suits dangling sadly from it. On the floor at their feet were two heads. My boss left the room telling me to suit up and she would be waiting outside to walk me to the photo area.

Looking back, the thought of me in a bunny suit is pretty hilarious. At full height I am barely hitting 5’ 7” and back then I was a good bit shorter. Putting the head on I could tell it had not been washed since it’s original fabrication. I did it anyway, because I had agreed to take this job. Once inside the head it was by far the strangest sensation. On top of being a little short for an Easter Bunny I also had super-big glasses that managed to fog up from my warm breath inside the mask.

My boss took me by the hand and led me to the sitting area where I learned that once sitting I didn’t look quite as small as I imagined myself to be. Over the short course of the holiday season I had a handful of incidents that will stay with me. The first was a toddler who had their hands all-up in their salivating mouth. Now this was at the beginning of my shift and I was already dreading the remaining six hours. That kid shoved his hand inside the mouth of the head… this lead directly to my glasses. Then those chubby little sausage fingers went back & forth all across my lenses. The remainder of my shift I was unable to see a thing.

The second incident I found the most traumatic. My hometown had a military base on it. Let me preface this by reminding you that I was in middle school and not so big of a kid. I had five adults in the army sit on my lap at one time. The bunny suit is one of the hottest things you could ever wear. It was like getting inside a roll of carpet that everyone wanted to touch. Trying to get five people to look at the camera when they are having a fun time giggling and jostling around took an eternity. At least it seemed like it from within the costume.

Every day after I was done my dad would take me to the local 7-11 to get a refreshing slurpee in hopes of rehydrating from all of the sweat that would exude from my body. This is where the point of this story starts to unfold. The owners of the 7-11 could tell that I had endured quite a bit and that I stuck with the work even though I wasn’t necessarily cut out for it. These same convenience store owners would later hire me to work at their store.

These early days of putting smiles on kids faces was the foundation of my strong work-ethic.. next time I continue on this retrospective I’ll reflect on my seven year career as a slush-jockey at the Sleven.

Flex Your Brain and Never Stop Learning

It is of utmost importance to never stop learning. You may have found your groove, the knowledge you’ve gained may be able to be rinsed & repeated on numerous customers… but if you want to be in the business for any true length of time you MUST keep your brain agile.

truth-02

It doesn’t matter what industry you are in. Computer programs are one-upping each other with each iteration. This technology should be keeping you on your toes, picking up new skills almost every day. Once you’re up to date on the programs your position requires.. maybe you should learn those that your co-workers utilize.

To run a company it takes much more than a mad business skills. I honestly believe that you should be able to perform every job in your company. You don’t have to be the best at each job, because hopefully you are hiring folks that are smarter than you (but more on that in a later post). You should, at least, be able to do the basics. There are a few reasons I find this extremely important.

  1. When I was managing a 7-11 in college a customer had an accident, defecating all over the floor. I couldn’t ask my co-workers to clean up this guy’s fece. I had never taken care of anything so horrific in their presence. I could only imagine how pissed off I would have been if my boss asked me to clean something like that up. I chose to do it myself and made light of the situation. After that day my crew did anything I needed knowing I wouldn’t ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do. You need to be a part of your team, not just someone up above them.
  2. When meeting with clients, nothing is more embarrassing that not knowing how to honestly answer a question. If you are selling a service and don’t have an understanding of how it works, then someone else can probably do a better job selling that same service.
  3. Going back to #1, there may come a day when your client is having an emergency and you’ll need to step in and do the work when no one else is available.

Once you know how to do a little of everything in your shop, its time for your company to offer something new. The thing that kicked this topic off was my recent foray into learning a new program last night. One of our clients is getting ready to open a new location. In the past when my team would provide mock-ups to show what the space could look like, we would show flat imagery…. These days that just doesn’t cut it. So I did a little research and started playing with SketchUp. I was blown away with how intuitive it was to build out a space. Below are some basic renderings I put together last night after I left the office. Next up will be putting colors and designs throughout.

Not only am I continuing to learn, but I am excited to be able to offer more realistic mock ups to our clients.

rendering-01

rendering-02

The #1 Truth. There’s a twinge of crazy in your blood.

The Truth in Advertising.

If you are going to jump ship and start your own business you have to be a little off-center. That’s not to say you’ve gotta be totally insane…. but you do have to have some sort of inflated sense of self. At least that is if you plan to really run a successful agency.

truth-01

There are tons of folks that are self-employed and do as little as possible to get by each month. I’m not talking about them. If you really want to make a go of it and have a creative team that is going to compete on a national, or even international level, you need to believe in yourself more than you believe in anything else.

When I stopped being an employee I didn’t have any real intention of growing my freelancing into a full-on business. It just started to evolve that way on its own. One client turned into two clients, two turned into five, and by the time three years had gone by I had more work than I could manage on my own.

I can attribute the clients multiplying (like Gremlins getting splashed with water) to a couple of key rules of business. Really they are more rules to live by. THE TRUTH. Be honest with people all the time. If for some reason you can’t get a design to someone by Friday at 2pm when you promised, tell them. Tell them why, and be honest.  If a client wants to spend money on SEO, but you know they are already doing as good as they are going to before they write you a check, tell them. Don’t take their money and spend it foolishly. Let them know why they shouldn’t spend it now. Being honest with them will lead to a stronger relationship where they can be honest with you as well.

The best client relationship is when you have gotten to a point that they can tell you the budget they have for a project and you can then tell them what they can get for their money. At that point they know that you are not going to do $2,000 worth of work and take the $10,000 they had earmarked. Sure you could take that big chunk of money, but somewhere down the line your client will realize that they have been overpaying and the trust will be lost. Once you loose your client’s trust the relationship will soon follow suit.

Trust always comes back to the Truth. If you are honest it will show, and that honesty builds trust.