Bittersweet goodbye – Spunlogic – Engauge – Moxie

Today (May 9th 2014) was my last day at the agency I co-founded nearly 16 years ago (November 1998); it was bittersweet and difficult to leave my work-home.

After 15 years and 6 months with the “same” agency (Spunlogic, Engauge, Moxie), it’s time for me to explore a new chapter in my life/career.  I’ve loved the agency from the day I co-founded Spunlogic (from a backpackers hostel in Toronto, Canada) with my college roommate, Jeff Hilimire. It’s part of who I am, in my DNA, and it will always be in my heart.

On May 12th 2014 (this coming Monday), I embark upon my new adventure as CEO of BLiNQ Media in Atlanta. I’m truly excited for this next chapter and will continue to write of my experiences. Nonetheless, for tonight, nostalgia compels me to formally bid farewell and share some of my favorite memories from a wonderful career in an agency I created.

In no particular order, I’d like to say goodbye to the following.

  • Goodbye “Beer cart Fridays,”-  probably my biggest contribution to the agency :-). I may need to implement this in my new space.
  • RIP Netsuite, OpenAir, and Central Desktop – The almost perfect agency systems I put in place with the hard work of some amazing folks at the agency (Dave Burke, Mark Unrein, Jenn Leahy, Jenni McDonough, Victor Wise, John McElroy) and our vendors (especially Mark Fordham from Central Desktop, Carolyn Turley and David Sussa from Netsuite Openair).
  • Adios Suite 2200 at Promenade, the crown of my career, and a space I hope inspired our people to thrive and enjoy the work space. Special thanks to Gensler (Erin Greer ), HITT (Erik Kandler), and JLL (Mike Dolan) and Collier (Brenden Welch) for making the space speak for itself.
  • My red chair and desk that I’ve had for 10 years, I know Kelly Ruggles (best Office Manager ever) will find a good home for them (and not throw them away!).
  • Fun crazy trips like the Spun Cruises (the entire agency on a ship together, you can only imagine…), Tennessee leadership trip (moon bow experience and everyone getting drunk on the bus), and some of the more interesting executive retreats (I’ll say no more).
  • I think I was good at was throwing parties and the more control I had of the budget the bigger the party:-) Halloween parties, Casio/Speak easy holiday parties, Paris on Ponce, etc.

Above all, the hardest goodbye was to the people I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years. I wish all my friends success in their careers and personal lives and hope we cross professional paths again. Thank you for teaching me, evolving with me, laughing with me, and forgiving my bad spelling and grammar. By being the best you can be, you’ve brought out the best in me.

Jeff Hilimire – Memories to Share

My friend Jeff Hilimire and my first business partner is leaving the roots of the company we co-founded some 14 years and 10 months ago today. It’s a sad moment for me (and him) as we’ve shared a journey and this is the first time in our professional careers we’ll be apart. We have been close friends from the day we met 17 years ago and I know we’ll always be close friends regardless of our professional lives.

I met Jeff in August 1996 when I was an international exchange student at UNC in Charlotte, NC. Jeff was my roommate and we quickly became friends. At the time Jeff was a straight A student, great at math, tennis, computers, and a master of Tetris (really, the guy is bad-ass at Tetris). He was dating his high school sweet heart, Emily (his wife and the rock now behind him), and was the oldest brother to sisters that all looked up to him. His family took me in as another member of the family, especially his mum who welcomed me into a country I knew little about. Jeff’s commitment to his family has never waivered, and I’d say it’s been a model for a lot of us who know him and his family well.

Jeff and I had very different social lives (I think he’d agree), but one thing that bonded us was our love of the internet and the uncharted possibilities for a couple of guys who didn’t know any better. To observe us back then, we were unlikely friends or business partners; in fact, I’m not sure either of us ever considered working together. Yet, fate and pure luck brought us together a few years later and we never looked back. Continue reading

My Second Agency Exit – Engauge is part of the Publicis family

Five years and four months after selling my first agency, Spunlogic, to Halyard Capital, Jeff Hilimire, Raghu Kakarala, and I just helped sell Engauge to Publicis Groupe (Press Release). The past five years have been a learning journey for me and I’m a better entrepreneur and executive because of my experience with Engauge. It’s an exciting time for both Engauge and Moxie Interactive; this combination creates a powerhouse in the Southeast that we’ve not seen since the .com days of the early 2000’s. I look forward to the journey ahead.

When I think back to my first agency, Spunlogic, (co-founded with Jeff Hilimire), it’s amazing how much I didn’t know about agencies in general, M&A, holding companies, operations, etc. Thinking back I’m amazed we grew Spunlogic to 75 people and sold it in 2008. I’ve always said we were successful then because of what we didn’t know as opposed to what we did know. Back then we knew how to build value for clients, but I’m not sure we knew how to build value for the agency or investors, at least not purposefully or strategically. Halyard and Engauge have taught me about the latter (creating value for the agency and shareholders) and I’m grateful for the exposure.

Here are some quick highlights of the last 5 years with Engauge:

  • I got to take a 4 month sabbatical and travel around the world. Not many companies would let you do that.
  • I managed and grew our digital division as Managing Director, built out a bad-ass office and doubled the revenues and head count (140 people) of the Atlanta office.
  • I merged the three legacy agencies (4 offices) and built new operational systems and processes.
  • Most importantly, I had the privilege to work with amazing people that I’ve learned so much from. Thank you all for the support and friendship.

As my journey continues, I’m thankful for all I’ve learned and I’m excited for what the future has in store for me.

The essence of “Sought After” for Start-ups

I found myself referencing the term “Sought After” to a start-up I’m advising; I was trying to give them a good example of an essence or driving focus for a start-up or growing company to strive to. A rallying point that helps provide direction regardless of the current marketing conditions, trends, or day to day challenges.

The term “Sought After” was used by Spunlogic (agency I co-founded and sold several years ago) and was the driving focus of the agency as I think back. Jeff Hilimire (Co-founder at Spunlogic with me), Raghu Kakarala, Danny Davis, and I, really pushed this essence into the culture of the agency and what we aspired to be. We all believed and aspired to become a sought after agency. This was also brought into Engauge and I’m sure we’ll all continue using “Sought After” in future enterprises.

So you are probably wondering what the hell “Sought After” means. For me, the term can be applied to a number categories in a start-up or growing company. Here are some examples. Continue reading