New Chapter

Credit: Lou Levit, StockSnap.io
Credit: Lou Levit, StockSnap.io

It’s with mixed emotions that today I am stepping back as CEO of Blanc & Otus after two years in this role, and it’s with great pride that I pass the torch to Annemiek Hamelinck (and because it matters, it’s pronounced ON-a-MEEK HOMM-eh-LINK) as the agency’s new General Manager. Today is my last official full-time day in the office, though I am staying on as a strategic advisor to the firm.

I’m sad to be saying goodbye to my friends here. I’m excited to be moving on to an opportunity that was just too good to pass up—an opportunity I’m not at liberty to share just yet, though I can say it’s an in-house head of marketing position with an exciting young start-up. And I’m humbled by the tide of support from friends and colleagues around the world wishing me well on my next chapter.

The most overwhelming feeling, however, is gratitude. B&O is an amazing tribe. I’ve learned so much from working with this group of tenacious, resourceful and relentlessly authentic people. And I’ve had an opportunity to partner closely with some of the most inspiring CEOs, CMOs and PR professionals in the industry.

I’m also grateful that the company is on such a solid trajectory. We’ve added seven new clients over the past few months alone. We continue to grow our team, with the newest addition arriving in a few weeks, and we continue to deliver work we’re fiercely proud of for our clients.

But perhaps most remarkable to me is the stability and wisdom of the team that’s always been in place here, the team that both predates me and outlasts me. We recently promoted Simon Jones, Suzi Owens and Kristin Reeves to SVPs, as well as Danielle Tarp to VP. Kristin and our research and market insights guru Jay Andersen have each been here 16 years. Simon and Suzi have been here 12 years.

That kind of longevity is rare. This team’s commitment to their clients and to each other is what drew me to the firm in the first place. And that, along with the expert stewardship of Annemiek, is what will ensure the firm’s continued success long into the future. This year marks the 30th anniversary of B&O, and with people like this at the helm, the next 30 years will be even better.

Finally (and this will put me over the 400-word count the editorial staff at B&O imposed upon me, but after the past two years I hope I’ve earned a little leeway), I wanted to share something a little personal. On my desk I keep an old blue cookie jar with the words “Suggestion Jar” written on top, and a pad of paper and pen next to it. It’s a nice analog, humanized way for my team to share ideas with me.

In the past, I’ve had everything from “revamp the blog” to “office dog” and “company offsite in Vegas.” Today, as I was cleaning out my desk, there was just one note in there: “visit often.” And as a strategic advisor to the company, I plan to.   But it also occurred to me this was probably my last chance to offer a few suggestions of my own, so here it goes—things I wish I’d known earlier in my own career.

Demand mentorship. Learn as much as you can from anybody whose work you admire. Ask to work on different kinds of projects. Maximize your personal and professional potential by insisting on learning something new.

Believe in business karma. Treat people the way you want to be treated, and somewhere down the road it will pay off, financially and otherwise. My entire career is a testament to this principle.

Be entrepreneurial. The great thing about working in tech marketing and PR is you don’t have to know code to invent something valuable. I dare each of you to create a new service or methodology or technique and share it with the world.

Be fearless. Never live with the sinking feeling in your gut when work feels lousy. Nobody is ever truly stuck. Speak truth and offer solutions. Remember that we teach people how to treat us. Teach people to trust and respect you by being authentic.

Be curious, courageous and compassionate. Whenever somebody’s decision makes no sense or pisses you off, suspend judgment. Get curious. Try to feel what they’re feeling. Discover what’s behind their behavior. Not only will you earn their trust, you might just learn something.

Value the people you work with. My biggest regret over the past few years has been not spending more time enjoying the company of my coworkers. Revel in your work relationships. They matter.

Thank you, B&O, for everything. This isn’t goodbye. It’s just a new chapter …

Joshua