A lot has happened since October 1st, 1996 — the day I registered Ameba at the San Diego County business registration office: monumental highs, occasional lows, and everything in between. The experience of building a business from the ground up and watching it bloom into what it is today, has been the ride of a lifetime. And although a lot has changed in the past 25 years, both with the world and myself, some things haven’t. It is these constants that have revealed themselves to be lessons, both in business and in life. So on our anniversary, I thought I’d share ten of them that have guided me along this journey, that might also help you along yours.
Yes Is Always the Answer
There’s a good reason why the word YES is emblazoned in huge red letters on the wall of my office. Over the years, it’s become more than a motto, it’s a mantra. The power of positivity — within the agency, in client relations, in our approach to strategy and creativity, in dealing with crises — is something that can never be understated. At ameba, we say yes (and then worry about the ‘hows’ ‘whens’ and ‘whys’ later).
Creativity Knows No Hierarchy
When it comes to true, inspired creativity — rank is meaningless. I’ve seen interns come up with better ideas than veteran creative/content directors. And an idea can come from anywhere. Even ideas that at first seem completely misguided, confused, or silly can contribute to the perfect, winning idea. In fact, some of our best and most impactful campaigns were inspired by very inexperienced members of the team.
Generosity Comes First
My father taught me that the universe always rewards generosity — and usually doubly so — not just financially, but in social and emotional ways as well. Whether it’s going above and beyond what a client has asked for, giving colleagues more than due credit to help them grow, making a point to really listen to every employee’s needs and concerns; being generous is always the right idea.
After a quarter century, hundreds of campaigns, thousands of projects, awards and accolades and all the rest — I’m still in awe every time a client entrusts us with their business. No matter the size of the company, whether it’s a hard-working startup or an established corporation, every client represents somebody’s dream, and the livelihoods of countless people. So to me, the sense of responsibility I feel when handling their business is sacred.
Create a Family Around Yourself
Being so far away from my immediate family, I always strive to create a close knit family here at work. One of my highest priorities is always to create an atmosphere and culture where every employee feels at home. You can find skilled employees anywhere. But creating a place that attracts positive, caring, loving and interesting individuals (who would then pour that life into their work) is more important than anything.
Care, and Make People Know You Do
When you truly care about your clients, and show them day in and day out, it really does have a powerful impact. There’s no distance we won’t travel, no deadline we won’t hit, no hour that’s too late — if it’s to their benefit, it’s done. And occasionally mistakes and shortcomings will happen. But if you’ve built that sense of trust and commitment, they’ll know your heart is always there. (And that’s something that no retainer can buy!)
Responsibility Only Comes With Authority
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is just how much I don’t know. That’s why, when giving responsibility to an employee, it’s important to give them the power to make real decisions in that project, with the understanding that they have my full support in their choices. Creating that professional space with my employees over the years has allowed them to make much better decisions than I would have in their place. During their first three months with us, I give team members two expectations I have in their work: 1) make a meaningful mistake (a mistake that was well intentioned and thought out), and 2) Show me how I can do better in my own job. These expectations not only let them grow as a professional, but they help me grow, too.
Passion, or Nothing
There are no two ways about it, you either do it with passion or you don’t do it at all. Whenever I am reviewing work, I can usually spot a lack of passion in about ten seconds. In those cases, I send it back. Someone’s unwavering belief in their own work is always reflected in the end product. If you love it, chances are, your audience will too.
You Must Be Agile to Survive
We’ve seen so many industry transformations in the past 25 years. From a focus on print collateral only, to predominantly digital; from face to face interactions, to virtual meetings. We have been lucky enough to survive these dramatic changes by embracing them, even leveraging them. If you expect the world to adapt to your own comfort, you will sorely be mistaken.
Do What You Love, Every Day
I feel so blessed to say that I still wake up with the same level of excitement and enthusiasm, every single day. The passion I had to deliver great work, to exceed clients’ expectations, to foster true creativity and bring out the best in those around me, is something that has only grown. So I can only say that whatever you do, make sure it’s something that you absolutely love, and it’ll be the dream that keeps on giving.