Ratchet, a greedy arrogant robot voiced by actor Greg Kinnear in the animated film 'Robots' released in 2005.
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Musings from an entrepreneur

By NJ Goldston
January 31, 2017

The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question, “What’s one of the best business decisions you’ve ever made?” is written by NJ Goldston, founder and chief creative officer of The UXB and founder and editor-in-chief of the blog, The Blonde and The Brunette.

At the time, it seemed an almost impossible decision. But leaving the security blanket of my corporate career to begin my business life again as the founder of an advertising, branding, and interactive agency proved to be my best business decision ever.

Why was I leaving in the first place? I had found so much satisfaction in corporate life. The ability to learn from others, the nuances of teamwork, being involved in groundbreaking campaigns, solving complex problems with enormous resources available—but was it enough? Wouldn’t embracing both my creative and business skills create a more interesting, layered career with no expiration date?

I wanted to stop replaying in my head the advice from a famed studio head who was fired after 25 years on the job: “You only rent your job; you don’t own it.” And so I asked myself: Do I have the skillset and contacts to reimagine my career?

The answer was yes. I would make it happen.

Create an unstructured work environment

However, as I started to build and create my agency, fold in more projects, and build more companies as a serial entrepreneur, I drifted toward the familiar structure of corporate life. I found I was initially trying to replicate a dated approach, be it on a smaller scale, instead of creating a new work environment that met the needs of a multigenerational team.

It was my job to help change how we all worked together in a new way. It wasn’t just going to happen on its own. We needed to rethink how our teams worked in and out of the office.

The first step was creating increasingly flexible work schedules that ebbed and flowed with peak creative demands. It also included encouraging team members to float, as needed, between multiple office locations. The goal was to enable everyone to expand their skills, interact more with each other, develop more creative solutions on the fly, and do whatever it took to get the job done.

We also encouraged everyone to take full advantage of Los Angeles to create content, learn new things, and take field trips. We needed to tap more into the city’s do-it-yourself culture. It would make us freer to think and create. Our mandate was to get out of the office and bring back what you experienced to your team. This helped us learn more from each other.

 

Meet people on their turf

Clients often came to us because we were great listeners. This skill helped us decipher underlying issues when fashioning breakthrough creative solutions, new products, and marketing strategies. But about five years after starting the firm, we’d become more insular.

We had to get back to being more in touch with each other, clients, and consumers. Our new mantra became, “Meet people on their own turf.” We encouraged employees to walk to a workstation, have a five-minute informal meeting, call or meet a client or retailer, and attend an event that sounded interesting. We wanted them to get just as personal as our marketing approaches to niche audiences.

The initiative worked. The team now has a greater sense of purpose, embarks on new partnerships, undertakes exciting collaborations, and most importantly, delivers innovative work no matter what we take on.

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