I know one thing: Most people would have quit by now.
I started Overit in 1993. As CEO, a constant slew of pressure is always running through you, From morale to payroll to funky clients to long hours, with a hint of never-ending responsibility – it all sits on your shoulders. Suck it in, folks. It’s the life of a CEO.
I won’t lie – running and growing Overit into a nationally-competing agency has been difficult. It’s been trying, upsetting and, frankly, sometimes a pain in the arse.
And I would not change a thing.
Being in the position to fuel my internal creativity and dreams at work is something very few people get to do in their life. I love being surrounded by inspired, passionate people and we have a great deal of them at Overit. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Or that there haven’t been times when I’ve questioned my footing.
We all have those projects that stay with us long after the work has been completed. I can recall working on a project where we had a very difficult client to please. The tone was set early on where, regardless of what we did, the client was inclined to spot a problem. I remember the design for the project going back and forth, ad nauseum, only to have the client change it back to the original way we had presented it.
These are the projects that test your commitment – both to your craft and to the mission of your organization. But we believed in what we were doing, and pushed forward with confidence. By the end, the client was in love with our work and the final outcome. They saw the passion in how we dealt with the many moving parts of the project and how it came together. They become believers.
As a business owner, this is the stuff that makes me tick. It’s what gets me energized. I truly believe that if more businesses let their passion and commitment to their craft guide them it would bring a tremendous amount of success, regardless of the industry.
Overit has seen impressive change over recent months. You may have read about some of them. As both Overit and I get a little older, it’s given me the opportunity to reflect on a great deal of my choices, business dealings and life lessons. I thought I’d share what running a successful digital media agency has taught me in hopes that my lessons can help others.
Trust your gut
If it doesn’t feel right, it’s not. I have gone against my gut on numerous occasions and every time I do it is a mistake. Believe in your intuition. If you get a funny feeling about a person, a project or a conversation, there’s a reason for it. Respect it.
I once had a not-so-great employee who was a tremendous talent. A tremendous talent, but not a team player and not a positive influence for our firm. The fear of losing them kept me in a state of chaos for far too long. It also caused frustration and a lack of trust from other employees. You know when something is not right. My belief is to act on it in a pragmatic, timely way.
Follow your passion
We hear this a lot, but how many of us truly live it?
Eight years ago there wasn’t much play out there for motion design and video work. This presented a hard road for our Motion department, however, it was an area that we truly believed in. We trusted in our talent and where the Web was going. We knew our solid stance would pay off, even if at the time it was difficult to get jobs on the national level without much name. It was also difficult to stay afloat on smaller jobs because that meant local TV and who the hell wants to pay for production on local TV? [Answer: No one] It didn’t help that, typically, the networks “bundle” production services for nothing if you buy enough air time. As they say – “you get what you pay for.”
But we stayed committed to our motion services. We focused on developing partnerships and proving our work. Word got out about what we had been creating and we started to get busier.
Fast-forward to today and the motion team has grown over 400% and is one of the most sought-out and innovative areas of the company. If we did not have passion in this area there would be no way it would have survived. There was no forecasting and no guarantee. This was for the love of the craft and it is paying off.
The Lesson? Have realistic goals and expectations, but think big. That’s how great things happen.
Do what you love and you will love what you do.
When I started Overit, I was motivated for all the right reasons. I believed in great design, I loved the technology, I was in love with everything the industry had to offer, and I could not get enough. Overit established itself as being a different kind of digital agency – we took risks, we were a little odd, and we pushed where others held back. But as time went on and the company got bigger, I felt swayed toward a feeling of great responsibility, monetary needs, and a push to become more “corporate.”
I struggled with this idea and whether Overit needed to “grow up” to continue finding success. Did we have to start player it safer? Should we change? As this continued, I began feeling detached from Overit and I felt the company digressing.
So I went to my team. We conducted one-on-one interviews with the staff to learn more about what attracted them to Overit, what they thought the company represented, and where they thought the company was moving. These conversations provided tremendous insight into who we were as a brand, and who we wanted to be. It also confirmed in my heart that I was doing right by Overit by sticking to our passion for innovation and creativity. We wouldn’t change the nature of the company. The nature of the company was what had gotten us here.
Looking back, one of the greatest things that happened to me was that bit of digressing. It helped the company to “mature” by putting better processes and goals in place, but it also showed me that my initial love and initial reasoning for Overit were a key to our success.
In realizing that, the balance, the love, and, again, the passion for what we do has given me another chance to be in the driver’s seat and fuel my love for this craft.
The initial love I had for the business is exactly the reason I love what I do. Not the money, nor the security. It is a wonderful thing. Go do it.
Those are just a few of the lessons I’ve acquired over the years. I hope my rambling may ignite a small spark in you. I feel this spark every day of my life and for this I feel so lucky and blessed to be surrounded by such gifted talented people.
Yes, the stress is overwhelming.
Yes, yes sometimes the clients are difficult.
I understand why most people would have quit and I do not blame them. But when you find something that is part of your genetic code, part of who you are, cherish it. Despite the struggles, there is nowhere else I’d rather be and nothing else I would rather be doing. How lucky am I?