He’s the cheapest and most passionate option you got

Hes the Cheapest and Most passionate option you got

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Everyone remembers when they got their first break or their shot to do the one thing they feel they were born to do. Sometimes there is many years of sacrifice and attrition. Other times there is circumstance which leads to that break (or upon reflection it ended up being one). Then there is just the luck of the draw in it all.

My break into R&A Marketing happened not because Dad always dreamed of having his sons involved in his business. R&A, for him, was supposed to be a one off thing and then hopefully someone on his team or an outsider would purchase the company. My break happened at R&A Marketing due to the trajectory of where the ad industry was moving, the insightful words of a current client (and future advisor) and the boots on the ground consulting from a man who my Dad viewed as the authority on being a principle in an ad agency.

Break 1: The ad industry trajectory

Facebook launched in 2004. Amazon was already perfecting selling a book online. The dot com bubble had burst and out of it came players who were serious about making commerce and marketing happen online. The shift from analog and traditional in the world of advertising was happening. The speed by which communication could occur and how files could transfer meant that regional operations could now become national. So, a company that had built it’s backbone on 4 color inserts for the midwest began to feel disruption not in clients needing that tool but having access to that tool from multiple places at a cheaper cost. Add in that factor plus the speed by which the world was changing it created a fork in the road moment for R&A’s owner.

The problem was the owner of R&A did not want to have R&A be a forever thing for him or his family. He had hoped to be retired and the thought process of doing a brand new pivot did not seem appetizing. From my experience in business ownership, we all only have so many big pivot moments in our entrepreneurial adventures.  Sometimes the thought process of pivoting again can paralyze decision making. This was the climate R&A Marketing was in beginning in 2005.

Break 2: David Lively Challenging Me

By the time 2005 had rolled around, Dad had succumbed to the fact that his journey at R&A might be lasting longer than he had hoped. This succumbing was welcomed news to me in the fact that I loved R&A and always wanted to have marketing apart of my life. So, I did EVERYTHING in my power to let Dad know that I was willing, able and desperately wanting to be apart of R&A Marketing.

Dad did start to listen and began to involve me in more of the daily functions verses the ceremonial things that the kid of the owner gets to be involved in. So, one of those moments included me getting to tag along on a client visit to Colonial Heights in Lancaster, OH with the store owner David Lively. At this meeting we reviewed a Columbus Monthly ad that involved a visual of Dorothy’s red slippers encouraging Franklin County residents to venture down route 33 to see how they can make their “no place like home” with CHF, reviewing the ad budget of the upcoming quarter and hearing the marketing master do his magic. It concluded with a lunch before we made our way home.

That lunch led to some big picture truth bombs coming straight from David. David was inquiring what I was focusing on at school at Arizona State and how I was utilizing that coursework to prep me for my future goals of being at R&A. At the time, Dad was not sold on me coming right in. He wanted me to get some perspective and work outside the company to round my view. So, I felt I needed to be ultra focused on understanding advertising and getting a marketing degree. That’s when David stepped in.

This is not an exact quote but since it has been engulfed in my memory, it has become the quote so we will let the evolution of the story serve that way. David, as most thoughtful and wise people do, looked me squarely in the eyes and said “Your Dad is the smartest marketer I know. He will teach you everything and anything you need to know because he has boots on the ground and lives in the reality of the moment verses the trends of the past. What you need to do is pour yourself into everything else that helps make an agency, business and firm run, and run well, because the next generation of any business always has to do more and be better to achieve the same success of the generation before”.

Beyond the impact in the moment of that statement, I see the path that it set my brother and I on when David came onto R&A as a consultant with his company The Lively Merchant to help advise and consult our family on moving onto the next generation. So, perhaps those weekly meetings have helped frame the impact of that lunch conversation but it put me to work. I shifted and changed my major to be centered on communication and business operations  so I could learn to lead an organization and began approaching each of my college jobs I had to be centered on how I could become valuable to the decision makers in those businesses so I could get their perspective.

Break 3: Tony Mikes Advising Dad

By the time fall 2007 rolled around Dad could see the trajectory of the furniture industry and as a result the trajectory of R&A Marketing. It wasn’t pointing in the direction that he felt was needed and the bandwidth he had to shift gears wasn’t where it needed to be. So, he reached out to an ad industry stalwart who had developed a group of liked minded ad agencies to come together to learn and grow. Dad had been a member since it’s founding and he felt it was time to bring in the big cheese to help him move forward.

That company is Second Wind and the late founder was Tony Mikes. Tony’s background was deep in leading and advancing creative agencies for 25+ years before he founded Second Wind in 1988 to help impart his wisdom onto other independently owned ad agencies. As apart of the membership, you had the ability of Tony to come in and give a full blown deep dive into your agency and what needs to shift as you move forward to capitalize on your unique selling proposition (or perhaps find one). Tony liked the mission and vertical focus of R&A. He knew it gave us a competitive advantage and the aspect of expertise is always a great feather in the cap of a marketing company. He did feel that the next phase of R&A Marketing would require new ideas, thoughts and movement to compliment the expertise due to the marketing landscape changing faster than it ever had before. He was concerned that the correct leadership or team members was not fully in place to do that.

That concern converted into an opportunity. As Dad was describing the future, he had mentioned my interest in the company along with my passion which was echoed by David Lively who was now consulting R&A on a daily basis as he transitioned from store ownership. Dad echoed to Tony the thought that he wanted me to get some lumps elsewhere and to evolve my skill set before I came into R&A. That is when a new quote came into the R&A ecosystem that is probably not verbatim but it sounds better when positioned this way. “Why would you do that?” he says. “Your business is going to need to change and you are in a position where financial risk is not easy right now. However, your son seems to love everything that your business is about but he is a fresh perspective. So, from my vantage point, he’s the cheapest and most passionate option you got. So, give it a go and see what happens”.

As we know, Dad doesn’t take shortcuts and always goes the extra mile, so he took that to heart and beyond extending me a job offer the next week after this meeting it set in motion a sequence of events none of us ever saw coming. One year after being on the job, a transition from junior level support person to President of the company to transition in ownership 2 years after being on the job. Tony’s wise words brought forth quick action and opportunity for our family.

Family business is hard. It can sometimes be messy and to the outsider in the moment the decision making can seem…odd. Being 23 years old and running a company of individuals who remember you as the boss’s kid is never an easy task. However, these three key breaks in time helped usher in a new period and era of R&A Marketing while also fulfilling a life long goal of mine which was to do what my Dad did and help give the independent furniture retailer a REAL CHANCE at success

Part 1 – So you want to be my ad guy uh?

Part 2 – If you can’t see the fashion it ain’t worth it!

Part 3 – He’s the cheapest and most passionate option you got

Part 4 – Yea he can play with his little social toys – June 2nd

Part 5 – You get my customer. Can you make it work online? – June 9th

Part 6 – How bad do you want this boys? – June 16th

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