25 years ago, I arrived in Atlanta filled with a naive ambition to capitalize on what I’d learned as a 31-year-old advertising professional in New York City and build an agency of my own.
It was an optimistic goal by any measure. How else to describe relocating from the center of the advertising universe to Georgia, where I had zero connections?
Remember, this was two years before the 1996 Summer Olympics and two decades before Atlanta would emerge as a center of creativity and pop culture.
And yet, Atlanta offered an environment unburdened by some of the less attractive qualities of the business that I’d witnessed in New York—an ad world more focused on chasing the money than building a compassionate and collaborative culture.
Of course, I have great respect for the passion and work ethic in NYC, but the thought persisted—I could do this better. I placed my bets on the possibility of building an agency not just based on the grind, but on the fundamental way people relate and connect—through mutual respect, team work, and relationships founded on trust. I wanted people to buy in. Not buy out. I had no doubt that this foundation would inspire others to care more about the company, each other, and our clients’ business. I went for it. On August 1, 1994, Blue Sky was born.
Now, after a quarter century of work for clients from the Atlanta Braves to IHG, I’m proud (and relieved) to say building an agency based on these principles works! That same Blue Sky optimism, enthusiasm, and confidence still guides us every day.
It wasn’t always easy. There were hard lessons to be learned. Lately, I’ve been allowing myself time to reflect on what these lessons are. It’s my hope that these learnings might be as valuable to others as they’ve been to me.
That’s why I’ve decided to celebrate this milestone by sharing some deeply personal insights and experiences gleaned over the past 25 years. They may not be ones you’d read about in Ad Age or the Harvard Business Review, but they just might be of service to the next set of young, naively ambitious entrepreneurs driven by their blue-sky ideas.
Each month over the next 12 months, I’ll be sharing those lessons here. If they might serve you too, then I invite you to join me on the journey and to share your thoughts, questions, and feedback. (I’m always available to you via email.)