In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that
have shaped their business philosophy.

President and CEO, Brighton Agency


St. Louis-based Brighton is an integrated marketing and communications agency that offers brand development, market research, analytics, and digital marketing to clients including Monsanto and Mars Petcare. Brighton aims to combine the best aspects of a consulting firm and an ad agency in a philosophy it calls “Applied Imagination” to help its clients connect their brands and customers in creative ways.

The Mistake:

Not being open to different viewpoints earlier on.

When I came out of school, I went to work for the professional services company Accenture. It has a phenomenal business model. Accenture’s training helped make me successful. However, it is a different model than what works in the industry I’m in today.

At least at that time, Accenture took people who had certain types of degrees from certain schools with certain backgrounds and put them through the same training. So, when you came out, you all thought, acted, dressed the same and your thinking was very process-driven, which, for that model, was great.

Now, I run a marketing and advertising agency. It took time in this marketing and advertising space to adapt to and appreciate everybody’s differences. In this space, it’s important to have those differences and to let go of the desire to have everybody think the same.

Getting there is what’s helped Brighton evolve to where it is. Now, we could be sitting in a room and have an engineer and an artist and a musician and an accountant – people with all these different skills. And everybody has a story about how they got to where they are.

So someone might have an idea that makes you step back and say, “That’s not the way I would do it. And I maybe don’t even maybe agree with it. But, wow, that’s an interesting perspective.” At the end of the day, having an appreciation for different viewpoints is what our clients need.

You have two ears and one mouth for a reason.

The Lesson:

There are two ways it’s manifested. One is when I lost talent who left because maybe they felt stifled. In hindsight, if I had been more open to what they were bringing to the table, I would have held onto that talent. From a client pitch side, I’m sure we lost pitches where we went in with a narrow focus. Now, when we have a meeting, we don’t just meet to solve the problem at hand. We step back and say, “Let’s get one person from each department in a room and talk about what we’re trying to solve for and let the conversation drive where we’re going.”

From a client perspective, it’s a huge win because they’re getting creative thinking they didn’t even know they needed. They’re getting solutions that may not have been on their minds. That doesn’t mean they have to use them, but at least they are exposed to that broader thinking.

Internally, it makes us much stronger with our recommendations and makes it much more fun. The most fun to me is walking into a meeting with a blank sheet of paper. In that meeting, you are going to have people with so many different viewpoints. If you go in without setting where you’re going to land and you’re open to listen, it’s a fun journey to see what will be on that sheet of paper when you leave.

But it’s important to have the right people in the room. It doesn’t work when you have someone in the mix who comes in with an ego or comes in with all the answers. I think one of the best pieces of advice I got early on was that you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. You should listen twice as much as you speak. It takes an element of sitting back, listening, appreciating all the different viewpoints from all the different people because, in our environment, we add value by bringing together the analytics person, the artist, the musician and the engineer and seeing what comes out on the other end.

Brighton Agency is on Twitter at @BrightonAgency.

Photo courtesy of Brighton Agency.

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