A Decade of Reflection and Reinvention
What a year. What a decade.
Most business owners and entrepreneurs realize the end of the year is a ripe time for reflection. This year, I can’t help but reflect on the last 10 years. It is, after all, not just the end of a year, but the end of the decade.
My personal New Year’s ritual, one that I picked up from my friend and brilliant fellow entrepreneur, Amy Jo Martin, is to create a list of what I will LEAVE behind in the past year, what I will TAKE with me into the new year and what INTENTIONS I will set (or, basically, what I will DO in the new year). I write that list on a piece of paper, and then at midnight I burn it.
As we approach 2020, I think it’s crucial to bring this ritual to my business. We need to not only look back closely at what has happened this past year, but what has gone down this past decade, as well.
December marks the end of a banner year for All Terrain and the close of another amazing era. We once again reinvented experiential marketing but also rebuilt our own business from the ground up to set ourselves up for greater success going forward.
At the end of 2017, I split from my business partner of 19 years. The major change offered me a chance to reflect, refresh and reinvent, both in terms of the business and myself. Like any breakup, there were some hard lessons to be learned. But in the end, the parting of ways was a gift for both of us.
The last two years for All Terrain Collective has seen remarkable market share growth, very strong revenue and margins, and a complete reinvention of our business model. But I wouldn’t be where I am today without being able to reflect back on how I got here. And this new decade is the perfect opportunity to reflect back on what we will LEAVE behind, TAKE with us and DO next after a decade of pioneering an industry.
At the beginning of 2010, I was on top of the world. We had built the agency of my dreams. We had cemented our reputation as both a creator and innovator of experiential marketing. And we were spearheading campaigns for the world’s leading brands.
We were part of an incredible team that launched the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, which was the most groundbreaking thing that had happened in Las Vegas in years. After that, we created a new media channel for United Airlines that drove record numbers of consumers to the Cosmopolitan and created a new revenue stream for United, one of the largest airlines in the world. We engaged a brand new consumer base for the Illinois Lottery and developed one of the most effective tickets sales portals through live-experience marketing. We helped put Penfolds Wine, one of Australia’s most revered brands, back into consideration in the United States. And, again via strategic experiences, we drove countless butts into the seats of General Motors vehicles and drove overall sales up for the auto company, too.
Yes, times were good. To be frank, you couldn’t authoritatively speak about experiential marketing without mentioning All Terrain, too. That’s because we were among a handful of agencies solely dedicated to conjuring and creating branded experiences. While every other big name agency focused on being everything to everyone, offering one-size-fits-all corporate-style service, we stayed true to our mission of becoming the best experiential marketing agency in the world.
And we accomplished our mission.
While we became the pioneers in the experiential marketing space that we set out to be, over the past decade we started to structure our business model to be like every other big name agency, too. We began to act like every other big agency by trying to be everything to everyone. By adding layers upon layers to our infrastructure and process, we inadvertently took a heavy toll on both the creative energy we were known for and our own financial bottom-line. From there, poor profits, a number of overly expensive hires and a massive downward culture shift combined to lead us to a place where we never wanted to be: We were no longer the great and profitable company we had once been.
But looking back upon all of it now, I realize that the retirement of my business partner provided a great opportunity to reinvent the company and rebuild a business that was relevant for today.
So, as we look back at all the lessons from the past decade, here is what All Terrain will LEAVE in 2019, TAKE into 2020 and DO in the next decade:
- People who are not committed to our company vision and mission
- Clients that don’t appreciate the work, time and resources it takes to deliver the level of service we deliver.
- Taking on projects just to feed the overhead. Under our new business model, we will never have to do that again.
- Submitting entries for industry awards just because we feel like we have to do it. Doing so is a time-suck, expensive and sometimes you are only speaking to your competitors. Only submit when you believe in what the award stands for and would really care about it if you win.
- The practice of leaving great creative ideas on the cutting-room floor because clients push back or resist. Your way of thinking is why clients hire you; remember why you are so successful in your industry.
- Responding to every damn RFP that comes your way. Most of the time it is a race to the bottom and your time is better spent building the business relationships you already have. Hiring before you have the business to afford to hire.
- Our business culture. Since our inception, our culture has been one of our strongest assets. With our new business model, we bring along the same cultural rituals and practices to our remote and dynamic creative teams and it works.
- Our creative process. We have a blueprint and a road map that gets us to the big, game-changing ideas and that process has proven it works.
- Our brand of empathy. As a woman-owned company, we were known to be fair and compassionate business leaders. Today, gratitude and empathy remain character traits of our company and define how we work with others.
- Our style of innovation. All Terrain is known for game-changing ideas and break-through results. We will continue to bring new ideas and new ways of thinking into the next decade by constantly staying connected to popular culture, technology and thought leadership.
- Continue to build the team. In 2020, we will hone our collective model and add new members to the mix. The work to date is proof of concept.
- Keep pushing Experiential Marketing forward. We need to have seats at the table early on in the brand strategy phase. After all, we are the ones in front of consumers 365 days a year.
- Share gratitude and honors. We are only as good as our last project. Make sure you honor and acknowledge everyone that made your company success possible.
- Continue to make smart decisions about the business opportunities we pursue and the clients we bring our energy and creativity to.
- LAUGH A LOT. Every. Single. Day.
So, I leave you with these final thoughts: To succeed in business, to become an industry leader, you must be open to reinvention. You have to learn to find new, significant and sustainable sources of growth; personal, professional and otherwise.
Be prepared. Reinvention requires a significant commitment. But the more you put in the greater the potential pay-off.
Leaders who dominate their industry are typically not the ones who invented the industry. They are the ones who came along and reinvented it. Think Jobs, Gates and Musk. That’s exactly what we plan to do at All-Terrain in the coming decade.