13 Reflections from 13 Years at DW Green Company
by Ryan Joy — December 22, 2011
Last Wednesday was my 13th anniversary with DW Green Company—I started working here as a Graphic Designer on December 14, 1998. Since everyone is already reflecting on the passing of time as we near the year’s end, here are some lessons from my time here.
1. Companies—and people—can change. Real change doesn’t happen often; in fact we sometimes hit a brick wall trying to help a client reinvent. I’ve seen it though, in our company and others: intentional transformation. And it really is something to behold.
2. Brand is the most muddled word in all of business. It would be nice to coin a new word to describe that sub-rational stew of meanings and associations, but at this point I’m thinking it will never happen.
3. Great organizational cultures keep great employees. (They also drive some employees to leave, and that’s not a bad thing either.)
4. Culture is about the little things, and it comes from paying attention to what is true but unsaid in the organization.
5. Companies that stay focused and disciplined in booming times will maintain their momentum through lean times.
6. Business relationships are the foundation of sustainability. Advertising is a fickle industry that sees a lot of change for the sake of change. In the time I’ve been with this company, some clients have come and gone, but the majority have stayed for years, and it has been the relationships—company to company and person to person—that have made the biggest impact in our sustainability over this period.
7. Before you focus on planning and execution, spend some time making sure it’s the right project and everyone understands what the project means.
8. You will never solve all of the company’s big problems. The best you can do is maintain a list of all the things that are broken, and take them one by one. That takes some faith that you’ll keep moving through the list. Slowly, things do get better.
9. There’s nothing better than being part of a team that knows, appreciates, and depends on each other. I love watching great teams brainstorm together, navigate difficulties together, and challenge each other, quietly appreciating the way it all comes together. It’s a joy to do your part and know that the results are far greater than you could ever do alone, and yet, they would not have been quite the same without you.
10. Celebrate accomplishments. For the first decade or so that I worked here, I had a tendency to look to the next project before the current one was even finished. Noticing results and declaring the accomplishment has made my work more satisfying.
11. The two most important skills to master in life and business may also be the hardest: listening and speaking the truth. Truly listening for the wisdom and perspective of others is an act of grace that can transform any conversation. Saying what needs to be said, in the right way, at the right time is a beautiful, invaluable craft. As Solomon put it, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
12. Intuition is my most reliable tool in planning, executing, evaluating, and predicting outcomes in marketing, yet it remains underrated and mistrusted in the business world.
13. Technologies change, consumers change, but the job remains the same. I would have a hard time explaining much of my current job to my 13-years-younger self, but the heart of the job: creating amazing customer experiences and meaningful communications…that I understood when I turned on the old, beige Power Mac on my first day.
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