January 14, 2020

10 Takeaways From 10 Years in Business

On January 14, 2020 at 1:37 p.m., Ainsley officially crosses the ’10 years in business’ milestone. While we have many clients that have been around MUCH longer – such as DAP, who has been “On the Job Since 1865”, a corporate tagline we developed for them, and Daft McCune Walker, who will be celebrating 50 years in business this year – here are a few things I thought I’d share in reflecting back on the past decade: 


  1. Your path, and your company’s path, is unique to you. There are MANY ways to be successful as an agency, and every company/owner/team has to find their own path. Some agencies double-down on delivering one particular service, some are large, some are small. Some want to be acquired, others want to be independent forever. You have to find the model that works for you, your team, and your goals. 
  2. Help people. No matter what services your agency can offer at a given time, when you have the opportunity to help someone solve their marketing problems, just do it. Even if that means sending them to a competitor, or saying “I don’t know” – if you help people find the right path, they’ll remember your willingness to help, and it will pay dividends. 
  3. Give free advice/counsel. If someone comes to me for help, I’ll help them, on the back of a napkin at a Starbucks or on a first phone call. If there’s an opportunity for my agency to then partner with them, then so be it. But we help people first, and figure out the partnership model/contract later. If they take advantage of us and never call us again – then they weren’t a good fit for us anyway. Also, karma. 
  4. Surround yourself with smart people. I’ve been blessed to have received support, advice, and counsel over the past 10 years from countless friends and colleagues, including Jim Naylor, Mark Cissell, Lisa Gobrecht, Karyn Schell, Jon Jordan, Susan Katz, Marty O’Neill, Deb Tillett, Aaron Moore, Rick Faint and countless others that have answered my calls. Thank you all, and thank you to the countless others that have helped me, and members of my team, over the years. 
  5. Build a team – not a group of individuals. Surround yourself with a core team that complements your skills, instead of mirrors them. You need people that are strongest where you are not; that can take on the responsibility for those areas that are not the best use of your time, but need attention and prioritization nonetheless.  
  6. Keep it simple, stupid. There is beauty in keeping things simple. Simple doesn’t have to be small, it just means not complex. Whether it’s in the services you offer; the way you deliver those services; the types of clients you accept; your overhead; or any other part of your business – there is freedom, clarity, and even momentum to be gained by not overcomplicating things needlessly. Focus on what’s important – your people, your clients, the value you deliver to each, maintaining profitability and managing risk – and the rest is just clutter. 
  7. Deliver value every time. To every client, on every call, in every report. We take pride in helping clients see around corners, uncover new opportunities, find a better way to get the results they want. We want them to learn something new, or see a new opportunity, every time we talk with them. 
  8. Act fast (aka avoid paralysis by analysis). This is one area we will strive to improve the most in 2020. So many times we have the data, the idea, the insight to do something new – and then take longer than necessary trying to make it perfect, when timing is more important than perfect. Make it great – and go. You can always make it better. 
  9. Trust your gut, and your values. If something doesn’t feel right, no matter how smart the person saying it is, what degree they have, or how much money they’ve made – it doesn’t mean they’re wrong, it just not might be right for you. Stick with your gut reaction – it’s usually the right one. 
  10. Be Kind. Work Hard. When I first started this firm 10 years ago, we had a number of core values that were important to me in the way we conduct business, and I codified those into a set of 7 statements about how we work. But if you had shaken me awake in the middle of the night, I would have struggled to get out the 200 words I needed to describe them. With a nod to #6 on this list, we decided to keep our rallying cry and core values down to just 4 words.

Be Kind. Work Hard. If we strive to embody those words in 2020 and beyond, we’ll be working on 10 more takeaways in 2030. 

Thank you to our staff, our clients, our partners, our trusted advisors and our friends and families for supporting us over the last decade. We can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store.


-Tom Ainsley, CEO