Day 242

Farewell Chicago!

Tomorrow, I board yet another train and journey to a far away land known as Minneapolis. Unlike my other stops along the way though, I’m actually a bit nervous this time around. That's because every city left on my journey will be new to me, as I've never been west of Chicago. But, on the other hand, I find myself rather excited for the same exact reasons. This is what an adventure is all about—exploring new places, seeing new sights and experiencing new cultures.

On a very personal level, I’m thrilled to be venturing to Minneapolis for the first time. For those of you out there who don’t know, the Twin Cities are teeming with incredible indie hip-hop artists. It’s home to the likes of Atmosphere, Doomtree and Brother Ali and where you’ll find Rhymesayers Entertainment, First Avenue and the Soundset Hip Hop Festival. I’m not 100% sure why this city in particular has such a dense hip-hip scene, but there’s no denying that it’s one of the best in the country. What makes it even better is that most of the artists look out for one another and that’s something you don’t normally find in the world today.

But what do rappers have to do with the project? Well, these aren’t your ordinary musicians. They're individuals who’ve worked hard for their success and understand the importance of going the extra mile. Whether it’s playing unannounced shows in a parking lot or finding new ways to deliver music to fans, they understand the importance of creative marketing and thinking outside the box. Take the members of Doomtree for instance. They've built themselves into a collective, where every member has a role to play beyond their musical abilities. Some handle merchandise and social media, others the website and tour planning. It’s all about streamlining the process and doing things their own way. In the end, they’ve learned to balance business and creative with near perfect results and I consider that very inspiring.

So, just a forewarning to everyone out there. August is going to be a very musically-influenced month. I already grabbed a ticket to see two of my favorite artists (Sims and Astronautalis) and if all goes well, I’ll have a chance to interview them while I’m in town too. Even if you're not a hip-hop fan, their tight knit community is something that's very unique to Minneapolis. I think there's a lot to learn from how they do things and that's why I'm excited to delve right in. 

Eight stops down. Six to go. I’m nervous. I’m excited. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

-Steve-

Day Fifty Three

Artwork from Myers + Chang

The other night, I was trying to think of ways BEAM and Recess differ as agencies. And to be completely honest, I found they have more in common than I would’ve thought. They work hard, play hard and have a knack for concocting outside-of-the-box ideas. Perhaps that’s why I so greatly admire them.

However, despite all the similarities, I’ve come to find that BEAM has an entirely different atmosphere. For most of the day, everyone here is either shuffling between meetings or buried in their work with an unbreakable concentration. It’s only when a burst of laughter rings out that I’m reminded how much fun everyone is having. I think there’s this odd stigma to offices, in that the only way to enjoy your work is to be loud, carefree and treated to an endless array of distractions. That's where BEAM and Recess break the mold. 

In truth, if you love the work you do, it’s not only rewarding—it’s entertaining. I think that’s my problem with a show like The Crazy Ones. It makes advertising appear to be a big party, full of quirky characters. Don’t get me wrong, this industry is full of personality, but fun always needs to be measured against the level of work you’re doing. If you work too hard, your creative will suffer. If you play too hard, you’ll achieve the same results.

While Recess and BEAM go about it in different ways, they’ve both achieved a balance that works to their advantage. I know I’ve briefly discussed this concept in a previous blog, but I’m beginning to see just how crucial that balance truly is. I’m also beginning to understand that it’s something you can’t force. This balance must come about naturally, by gathering a team that understands one another on multiple levels. These individuals form an agency’s personality, in turn creating that ideal balance.

I’ve worked in agencies where some people absolutely hate being there, day in and day out. And they toss everything out of whack. It’s almost like throwing a wrench into a car engine—no matter how well you take care of it; you’re going to end up ruining it. So, if there’s one lesson I want to convey in this blog, it’s this:

Don’t force your agency to be something it’s not. Build a team that understands one another and find a balance that works for everyone. That’s how you’ll find your true identity.

I think as I continue on this journey, I’m going to find that most, if not all, of the participating agencies have found strong, unique personalities that everyone can believe in. I know I do. 

-Steve-

Day Ten

The Recess Team posing by the tree with some Cleveland Whiskey. 

Throughout all the agencies I’ve worked at in my career, I can honestly say that Recess has the best team structure I’ve experienced thus far. That isn’t to say other agencies are structured wrong, just that I feel most comfortable within this one. I know there are some agencies that falsely claim to blend fun and creativity with hard work and expertise, but Recess is the real deal. They own it. They live it. With Recess, what you see is what you get and that's truly magical.

Some agencies segment their departments, others break into teams and many don’t have a structure at all. At Recess, I’m finding that everyone here is on the same page at all times. The structure is one of a group mentality. We all work together toward a common goal. Sure, we might be working on different projects now, but chances are we'll all touch it before it leaves the door. I think that leads to increased collaboration, which in turn leads to a better product.

That’s the thing I really like about Recess. It feels as if everyone here has a say. Even last week, when we were discussing the upcoming Christmas party, everyone was able to share their ideas openly. In the past, I’ve worked at agencies that felt more like a dictatorship than a democracy and I just don’t think I fit into the mold. When I write a batch of copy, I want to know any missteps I have, so I can correct and learn from them. I don’t want to send my copy to a supervisor, only to later find out that they changed it. That doesn’t help me become a better writer and it doesn’t help the agency foster their talents or create quality creative.

However, since everyone at Recess has a say in what we’re creating, we have the benefit of shaping it through our collective styles, experiences and personalities. So, instead of pushing creative through the cookie cutter mold of one person’s vision, we’re capable of shaping every project differently. In the end, I think it benefits everyone involved and elevates our belief in the agency itself. 

That's what I think everyone looks for in an agency—to feel like a valued member of a tight knit and creative family. 

-Steve-