You can learn a lot from a 30 minute coffee chat

About three months ago, I realized that I hadn’t spent as much time as I’d like with some of our creative team members.  So I decided to do something about it.  I decided to meet with everyone — over 250 people — over coffee for 30 minutes.  The questions were simple: what’s working?  What’s not working? What would you like to be doing more in 2018? What can I do to help?

coffee barI learned a lot (so far — I’m not finished).  The most important thing I learned was location is everything.  The first few meetings I held in my office — and they felt a little forced.  Not relaxed. Not free-flowing.  And that’s when I realized — I had to move the meeting from my office to a neutral location.  Coming to my office felt like you were being summoned to the Vice Principals office.  Something bad was coming. Everyone was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

That’s when I moved the meetings to the coffee bar. Yes, we have a coffee bar in our office. There are four high-top cafe tables. I’ve been having the meetings there — in full view of everyone in the office.  And magically, the conversations were loose. Fun.  Energetic. And dare I say, productive for everyone.

But most importantly, I’ve learned a lot.  And those learnings are setting multiple work streams in motion.  New agency projects have begun. New opportunities for team members have unfolded. And (hopefully) a more open line of communication between me and the rest of the group has emerged.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  1. Everyone feels like they could be doing more. “Challenge me.” “Make me accountable.” “Let me take risks and fail.” “Help me learn by doing.” “Don’t assume that lack of experience means lack of ability.” These are the common requests I’ve been hearing. Virtually every person has said some variation of these words. “I can offer more. Put me to the test and I won’t let you down.” And the most important part — these requests are coming from people who are the busiest. Who are working the hardest. Who probably don’t really have the time to do more. But they’re willing to do more if it means more ownership.  I love this.  I love the concept of ownership and accountability.
  2. Everyone wants to be a part of the new business process. Pitching is incredibly hard work. But its also the one time when you can do work exactly like you want. You can create concepts without thinking about legal and regulatory approvals. You can just create great ideas. And everyone wants in.  Luckily, we can always use more help in new business. Welcome to the party.
  3. Everyone wants someone to go to when they’re stuck, have a question or just need something. This was an interesting comment.  One part mentoring program. One part ‘Genius Bar’. One part wise sage. I didn’t realize how many people just needed help with a lot of simple agency stuff.  These are ‘part time’ relationships. Not really long-term mentors. But someone they can turn to when they have a stupid question.  And I realized that realistically, that person can’t be me.

There are more micro-suggestions on how to make things better. I’ll save those for another day. But once I’ve finished meeting with everyone here, I plan on taking this on the road. Listening to people from our other network agencies. To colleges and universities around the nation on what students are looking for in a new career. And I plan on attending multiple conferences to hear some of the best and the brightest in the industry on how to make our working environment even better.  Our agency philosophy is ‘Never Finished.’  And when it comes to learning — that couldn’t be more true.

Thank you




What I Learned in 2015

I learned a lot from 2015.

I learned that falling down is easy. Getting up is hard.

I learned that great ideas will come from the most unexpected places.

I learned to accept the ‘new normal’ that surrounds me every day.

I learned that it’s OK to let go.

I learned that wearing cashmere sweaters invites people to hug you.

I learned that the little detail could save someone’s life.

I learned that the toughest conversations could lead to renewed hope.

I learned to accept help.

I learned to enjoy the moment instead of just the achievement.

I learned how to put down my phone.

I learned how to stop making goals that are impossible to reach.

I learned who my true friends are.

I learned to fingerpick my guitar.

I learned the simple enjoyment of splitting wood.

I learned that 600 miles is not too far to drive for a football game.

I learned that I don’t mind hanging curtains.

I learned that I have the greatest team in the world.

I learned that awards don’t mean everything.

I learned that giving back is more important than just giving.

I learned that no matter how hard I try, I still over react to stupid stuff.

I learned to appreciate my time on this planet – as it could be taken away in the blink of an eye.

Thank you for making this year a wonderful learning experience. Thank you for helping me get back on my feet. And thank you for being there when I needed it most.  I will never forget this year. Or the lessons I learned.

Warmest wishes for a happy holiday season.





SCAD Grad Gives Recruiting Advice

Recently, I asked one of our copywriters — Kristine Brown to guest write for this blog entry.  I asked her to write about anything that she thought would be helpful to students graduating college and entering the workforce. These are her words. But what Kristine doesn’t mention is that since she’s joined the agency she has produced her first TV campaign, an internal promotional campaign, attended a brainstorming session in Amsterdam and created countless ideas that have helped us win new business.  It seems we both chose wisely.  Enjoy Kristine’s entry.

My Recruiting Advice by Kristine Brown

Being recruited is a whirlwind of confusion, anxiety, and what if. What if I pick the wrong agency? What if I hate the office? What if my boss is mean to me? What if I don’t like the accounts i’m working on? What if the agency is boring? What if!

There is no easy answer to calming the what if’s other than asking the questions you want answered, doing your own research, and trusting your gut.

My recruiting journey started out like any other recruiting story. I was primed and prepped to enter the consumer world of advertising. My teachers had trained me to write witty body copy about chapstick and window cleaners. I met with numerous recruiters who promised me big brand names paired with beer carts and ping-pong tables. Yes that sounded great, but they never spoke about the agency life, or whom I would be working for, or what I would be doing, or how I would grow. My teachers repeatedly said, “ you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you”, but I never left an interview really knowing what I was signing up for. Before I knew it those same recruiters were emailing me. Pressuring me to accept offers that just had too many what ifs attached them.

That of course changed when I met my current boss. He was my last interview I had while attending SCAD. I will never forget how he stopped my perfectly planned presentation 30 seconds in to ask me if I already had job. At the time I did, I had accepted an internship that I had been pressured into taking. And it was secretly freaking me out. Rich was the first person I interviewed with that spoke to me honestly about his agency, the expectations of the position, and the work he believed in. I could tell right away he was genuinely interested in furthering my career. And that was something very new.

I was lucky enough visit FCB Health and meet the creatives I would be working with. Meeting possible mentors and late night pitch buddies made it all very real for me. I realized I had found my niche in the most unexpected place. I quickly realized the decision I made based off of what my teachers and recruiters wanted, wasn’t what I wanted anymore.

So this is where I give you the secret I learned way to late in my recruiting process. Do what you want to do. Trust the process, ask the questions, and find the place that makes you tick. Find the agency full of passionate people that get you and want to grow with you. Because who cares if the agency is big or small, if it’s consumer or healthcare, or if it’s in Texas or New York. It’s about the people and the work they create. Make your decision based on what excites you the most. Pick the agency that makes you want to get up everyday and create work that you’re proud of. I was really afraid to make the wrong decision, but I’ve realized looking back the only wrong decision I made was not following my own path.



You Can Go Home Again — Returning To Temple University

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I graduated from Temple University before 1/3 of my creative department was born. I’m almost embarrassed to say, that I hadn’t been back on campus since I picked up my diploma. All that changed last Thursday.  I was invited to speak on campus about healthcare advertising. I was nervous. I was excited. I couldn’t wait.

I was met in the parking lot by the Director of Career Services. She walked me to her office and then graciously allowed me to camp out there all day. Throughout the day I met the Dean, the Chair of the Advertising Department and other members of the faculty. I also got to meet with some incredible students.  It was inspiring to see what the University had planned for the future of the department. It was great to listen to the dreams of the students. And I was in awe of the campus that had grown and improved dramatically since my last visit. (By the way — the Tech Center is absolutely amazing.)

About 150 students came to my lecture. Many asked questions. Several stayed after to ask one-on-one questions. I met a future Account Executive star, several incredible graphic designers, art directors and writers.  I was impressed. And I’m not easily impressed.

But I think the thing I liked the most was the hunger that everyone displayed. The faculty wanted to know my thoughts on how to make things better. Career Services wanted to know how to best prepared their students for the real world. And the students wanted to find a way to intern, get a job, keep in contact and get better in their craft before they had to leave for the real world.

Temple University students are hungry. To improve. To prove they’re just as good as the “advertising school” grad students. To make a difference.  I’ve always been proud to say that I’m a graduate from Temple University. Last Thursday only made me more proud.

Well done Owls.