Durable – Loomis Agency

Episode graphic for "An Agency Story" podcast with Mike Sullivan - title Durable - Hosted by Russel Dubree - picture of Mike in the lower right corner smiling.
Mike discusses the challenging experience of having to lay off half of the staff due to losing a major client. Despite this setback, he highlights their ability to recover, ultimately clinching the Small Agency of the Year award in 2016. This triumph stands as a testament to their durability in navigating through tough times.

Company: Loomis Agency

Owners: Mike Sullivan

Year Started: 1984

Employees: 51 – 100

In this podcast episode, host Russel interviews Mike Sullivan, the President & CEO of Loomis Agency, an award-winning full-service Dallas advertising agency specializing in defining and leveraging strategic advantages for challenger brands. 

Russel asks Mike to provide a quick overview of his journey, and Mike starts by mentioning that he joined Loomis Agency in 2000. He talks about how the agency’s founder, Paul, started the studio back in 1984 and shares an interesting anecdote about recording Vanilla Ice’s album. Mike explains that his father’s influence led him to the advertising industry and emphasizes his preference for the small agency environment.

The conversation then shifts to the topic of building an agency, and Mike discusses his partnership with Josh Whitaker. He highlights the importance of complementary skills and mentions Julie, who has been with the agency since Mike joined. Mike explains how they focused on developing digital expertise and the challenges they faced during the transition.

Russel asks about the impact of losing a major client on the agency, and Mike shares the difficult experience of having to lay off half of the staff. However, he also mentions that they managed to recover and even won the Small Agency of the Year award in 2016.

Throughout the episode, Mike emphasizes the importance of caring about the business and its people. He shares insights from his own experiences and mentions other successful entrepreneurs who have inspired him. 

Mike promotes his book, “The Voice of the Underdog,” which aligns with their agency’s tagline. He also mentions that he is working on other projects and promises to provide a sneak preview to Russel.

Enjoy the story.

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Show Transcript

Welcome to An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from around the world. From the excitement of starting up the first big sale, passion, doubt, fear, freedom, and the emotional rollercoaster of growth, hear it all on An Agency Story podcast. An Agency Story podcast is hosted by Russel Dubree, successful agency owner with an eight figure exit turned business coach. Enjoy the next agency story. Welcome to An Agency Story podcast, I’m your host Russel. On this episode, we have Mike Sullivan, president and CEO of Loomis Agency, and award-winning full service advertising agency focusing on challenger brands based out of Dallas, Texas. Mike joined Loomis in 2000 where he worked under the agency’s founder, Paul who established the studio back in 1984. And don’t adjust your air pods, there are some roots to Vanilla Ice in this story. Mike discusses how his father’s influence led him to the advertising industry and emphasized his preference for the small agency environment. When asked about the impact of losing a major client, Mike shares is difficult experience of having to lay off over half his staff. However, we discuss his amazing recovery and how they one small agency of the year back in 2016. Enjoy the story.

Russel: 

Welcome to the show today, everyone. I have Mike Sullivan with Loomis Agency here with us. Thank you so much for being on the show today, Mike.

Mike: 

Russell, it’s a pleasure. Thank you.

Russel: 

If you don’t mind, start us off with a quick overview. What does Loomis Agency do and who do you do it for?

Mike: 

We are a Dallas based advertising agency. We do work for clients that aren’t necessarily category leaders, so generally following brands trying to puncture the top of the class. That’s what motivates us. We’re a 38 year old shop. We’ve been around folks working with us and a list of clients that you probably know, including Dairy Queen and Golden Chick and McAfee, past clients like Stanley Steamer or Imperial One. Primarily focusing on restaurants, retail, franchising based organizations and that sort of thing.

Russel: 

You didn’t actually found the company but you’ve been there for a good long while. How did you get to the spot you’re in today?

Mike: 

You’re right, I didn’t, my partner Paul Loomis gets all the credit for that. Paul, he’s a musician and a composer, retired now. He’s definitely enjoying his golden years. He started the studio back in, gosh, I think 1984. It was a little studio off of I-35 here in Dallas. One day a guy named Rob Van Winkle walked into his studio and said, hey, I’m going to be the next hit Vanilla Ice. And so Paul recorded the To The Extreme album. At any rate, Paul made a little bit of money on that. Oh, he probably got rich off that. No, he made a little money, he built his passion project and that is a studio that our agency sits on back in the day, he took the money he made, took out a much bigger loan at the time between here in LA and here in Nashville. Paul realized, oh my gosh, I got to sell a whole lot more jingle. He happened to have a guy working with him who reached out to me. I’d been long into my advertising and asked me if I would talk with Paul about how to build an ad agency. I did. I fell in love with him. I loved his enthusiasm, his energy, his studio. Lots of ups and downs, as every entrepreneur knows, but 20 years worth of good stuff. That’s all I got here.

Russel: 

What a cool story, but it even sounds like you had an interesting career before before you stayed there. How are you coming up in the world even before you joined Loomis?

Mike: 

Gosh, Russel, I started my career right out of Texas A&M in 1987. It’s the largest agency in the Southwest, it was TracyLocke. I think they had something like 5 people. I’ve always been in school so I did think strongly about becoming a reporter. Very glad that I did not make that. But my father was in this business and so he persuaded me to come in this direction. Had a series of agency jobs. By about 25, I’d worked at a couple of big shops, including J Walter Thompson up in Detroit. I absolutely loved it. I didn’t have the courage to go out and start my very own agency, but I came back down to Dallas and I joined a guy that he hired as an account executive. I had a real interest in business development, a great business developer himself. I leaned in hard on that and in seven years we built that agency from five or six people to about 125. We were Adweek’s hottest shop in the Southwest two years in a row, 1996 and 1997. Over the course of that period, it was originally David Hadler Associates and then it became named Hadler Sullivan Ewing. It was cool. By the time I was 28, 29, I was president of an agency with a name on it. It was an all star agency in this little region here in the Southwest. I felt like I was on top of the world. From there, though, I left and we can get into the reasons why, I think there’s some lessons for entrepreneurs and the reasons why I left. Went to a much larger agency again for a very short stint and confirmed the fact that I’m a small agency animal. Don’t like the big agency world. From there it was an Omnicom agency, which is a large international conglomerate of agencies. From there, I joined Paul in 2000. That’s the quick rundown on my journey.

Russel: 

Speak to that, you mentioned the big agency versus small agency. What compelled you more about the small agency environment?

Mike: 

I love the energy of a small agency. That ultimately become what we call a challenger brand agency, an agency oriented toward smaller enterprises and scrappy, David and Goliath type scenarios. For whatever reason I find my environment, where you can know everybody, understand their stories, understand who they are. I’m not into the politics of large organizations that doesn’t creative shops interesting folks. Over the last couple of years, the very best work in this industry is being done by sm all agencies and smaller shops. I think the small environment appeals to me. Perhaps the biggest one, Russel, is that you get the sense that you can control your own destiny in a small agency as an entrepreneur, for better or for worse. You didn’t invent that. You didn’t start that. You’re climbing the ladder. You gotta elbow folks out of the way to get to where you want. I have largely accomplished that with the wonderful help of so many great folks who work here and bring their talent to every day. That small company feel.

Russel: 

You don’t have to sell me on it. I am a big fan of the small to medium business in general and definitely small to medium agencies. As you mentioned, a lot of things, the energy and maybe lack of politics and bureaucracy are definitely appealing, I think to a lot of folks, even hence why a lot of folks start their agency. Not having started the company, what stands out in your mind as actually being an advantage in the place you are?

Mike: 

In hindsight, I felt like I had the luxury. This may sound bad, but Paul took the original gamble, and so I felt like I’m catching a train in motion here, everything in place. I can start with a bit of a head start to go back and re engineer and retool and rebuild things. I felt gambling with my own treasure, if you will. I was, but I wasn’t. There is something psychological about that. I looked at Paul, who was 11 years my senior, I thought, okay, he’s done the daring thing. He’s basically attached his fortune to this. Ultimately it wasn’t that simple because I fell in love with it. I started diving in and developing, put my name on plenty of personal guarantees along the way. I got my own taste big time, but initially when I joined Paul, I had two young kids. They were three and four years old at the time, and my wife is a nurse. And so as hard as she worked, she simply didn’t have the income. It was scary to think about jumping off and doing my very own thing. My father told me to do that. He didn’t give me a check to go with. When you sign a lease and you hire somebody and you take responsibility for somebody, that’s weighty, big stuff if you’re a thinking, compassionate human being. I didn’t feel like I was in the place to do it. But over the years, all of the things that entrepreneurs are called to do, believe me, I’ve had to do them in spades and it’s been a delight. Lots of lessons, but it’s been exciting.

Russel: 

No doubt. You’re definitely obviously in even the stage you came in the business, the starting is certainly risky, but you’re certainly a big instrument in the growth. Speaking of which, it sounds like you had a pretty big accomplishment in your early days in a big account that you landed, and maybe that kind of sealed the deal in Paul’s mind about, he hired the right guy. What was that account and how did that actually evolve over time?

Mike: 

When Paul hired me and brought me in, it was definitely to grow the business. Our financials were a mess. He didn’t know either. Remember, he’s a trained musician, not a trained accountant. And so we were upside down financially from day one. I went to Paul actually about three months in and said, dude, I’m not sure you can afford me, and he’s, no, please don’t leave. I can’t afford you to leave. I worked real hard, hustled up on new business. One of the very first accounts that we won, before we won this account, we won a community coffee, which was a wonderful account out of Louisiana. The problem was we still weren’t organized well enough as an agency to handle that business. Maybe 90 days later, it was gone. We were on the cover of Adweek for this big win, and we had a couple like that. In fact, some other local agency started to tag us as yeah, Loomis can win business with Sullivan over there, but they can’t seem to hold the business. That concerned me. About 10 months on Dairy Queen, which is the largest group of Dairy Queen operators independently in the United States, they account for about 15 percent of the national system with their 600 stores. We developed the campaign DQ About Texas, and it’s funny, Texas Monthly, last month, there was an article they said, that song, DQ, that’s what I like about Texas, is more popular than the state song, which, that made us all happy. I’m not sure it’s true, but it was pretty neat. That account began to propel us forward. We won accounts like Stanley Steamer. Call 1-800-STEAMER. Stanley Steamer gets carpets cleaner. That was ours, they were out of Columbus, Ohio. We started to pick up some national accounts, and we started to roll, we grew from maybe 15 folks early on to 20, then 30, then 40, and on up to about 65, 70, which is where we are now. It’s been a great ride all along the way. Of course, over the course of those 20 years, as traditionally had to do to stay in the game, we’re always looking out over the horizon for the road that are going to shift and change our industry. There’s lots of that, obviously, on a regular basis.

Russel: 

Very fascinating.

Mike: 

It’s been a great ride.

Russel: 

I bet. I imagine we’d need a lot more time today to even get to all the ins and outs of it. Even going back to navigating probably even a couple of hurdles in there, right? When you talk about technological change and the move from traditional to digital, how did you guys go about that process and what are the lessons learned? Even as people are contemplating AI today.

Mike: 

Good question, Russel. As we look at AI and the changes it’s going to bring for sure, and are already starting to emerge. It does remind me a lot of the shift to digital. It’s funny, I was watching a clip of Bill Gates on David Letterman in 1996, and we got this Internet thing, and the audience was laughing and making fun of it. That was the naivete of the 90s that we still had. Now, today, when people are talking about AI, no one is laughing because we know how serious this stuff is. We were a traditional agency. It was radio, television, print materials and that sort of thing. We were completely analog. Making that turn to digital, a lot of agencies didn’t make it. Most traditional shops did not make that turn. I tried three different times and I finally got it right. Believe me, there was lots of staring at the ceilings at night. There was lots of hand wringing about how we were going to do this. At first I tried to train it up internally and that was successful to a point, but we develop an all star internal in house digital person and they get picked off by another agency. They’d go over to the Richards Group. One of them is, last I heard, still running the digital practice for Chiat Day in LA. These people were good, but they kept getting picked off, cause all the agencies were hungry for digital talent. I said okay, let me go out and find somebody who I can incubate, bring somebody in who’s got maybe a person or two and I can feed business that I’ve got and basically be a new business pipeline for him and see what happens. That turned out to be successful. I brought a guy in with his partner and grew them to about 15 or 16 people, and then I realized, my gosh, I’m sending all this income out the door. Of course, I knew this all along. This was a matter of survival. I wanted to reorganize the deal and basically set up a joint venture. He wanted no part of it and so he left. My little fledgling digital practice collapsed before my eyes. Thankfully, in all of the most unlikely places, I had a buddy who I used to race motorcycles with way back in the day, and he had gone on to have a big career at Red Bull and at KTM Motorcycles. I convinced my friend and now partner Josh Whitaker to join me and he brought his partner in and we did set up a joint venture and it’s worked beautifully. They’ve got now probably 30 folks over there who crush it from a digital standpoint. Josh is an authentic bona fide entrepreneur. This guy does not want to work for anyone. He wasn’t going to come work for me, he was going to work with me and I appreciate that about Josh. I’ve learned a whole lot from him about how to run a financially successful business. Remember, i’m a journalism major, so I made all the math mistakes on the way to this dance. Probably five or six years ago, we started to get our financial game together, and I should also say that over the course of time there’s one person who was here when I came on board. That’s my partner Julia Druzik. Julie was a budding account person who I mentored early on, and man, you talk about the student out running the teacher. She can run circles around me today, not only from an account management standpoint, but from an operation standpoint. Gino Wickman’s got what he calls the entrepreneurial operating system, EOS, where he talks about the visionary and implementer. I would be, and I hate to use the term visionary because I think of people like Steve Jobs when I think of visionary, but I’m the guy with the vision for the company. Julie is the implementer. She knows how to execute and she’s into the numbers, she’s awesome at it. She’s my right arm, I think we make a great pair. She’s a fantastic partner. I think that’s also important, too, is if you’re going to have a partner, make sure that you’ve got somebody who compliments you. Not somebody that you just get along with, there’s a whole lot more to it.

Russel: 

I always love the good yin and yang partnership stories, that sounds like a definite case there. One of the interesting things there, so even to this day, so many more dollars right now are in the digital world. Loomis outsources or basically has a joint venture for its digital arm, did I hear that right?

Mike: 

Yeah, that’s right. If you’re a client engaging with us, it looks like one shop and it is one shop. We show up that way. They’ve all got the Loomis agency email addresses and business cards. We’re all in one building here. Our offices are all connected, but we call it Illumineer. Loomis and Illumineer, they can be separated and they do have their own base of clients now as well. Initially, we were feeding them all of their clients, all the work that we had from our clients that was digital in nature. And there’s a crossover from a team standpoint. They integrate well. We’ve had to work on that over the years. Every agency seems to have these things set up a little differently. I think it all is a function of their evolution. Today, what you find are a lot of digital shops that don’t know anything about traditional at all. You don’t find any more traditional shops, but you find what I call maybe traditional plus. They’ve got maybe some light digital capabilities enough to get by. I feel like we’ve got the best of both worlds the way we’re set up and it’s high functioning. I think evidence of that is that our average client tenure is nearly three times the industry average. Our average employee tenure is right along those lines as well. Those are the metrics that I look at to determine success. By those accounts I think we’re doing just fine. But again, there’s lots of ways to set this up and this is one of them, and I think it works well.

Russel: 

I’m such a big advocate of, and you see so many agencies struggle where they try to be everything, or try to add service lines that might not be their area of expertise. You could even mention your origins of where those are so fragile or susceptible, that’s not the core of what the business does, but if we can be more open to partnerships. Stick to what you’re good at and find someone that can compliment you very well and everybody wins. What a cool story there.

Mike: 

That’s a key too, Russel making sure that your skills are complimentary. I’ve been in situations, not this agency, previously, though, where it feels like the skills overlap or are redundant, so that makes it difficult to stay in your own swim lanes. When you can’t stay in your own swim lanes, that’s where tension comes up. It’s, what’s yours? What’s mine? What’s your role? What’s my role? Here it is very clear what everybody’s role is, and we respect it. We understand it. It’s not territorialism at all. It’s simply a high regard for the skills and the talent and the expertise and I think that trickles down through the agency culture. Culture is something you’ve got to curate for yourself. You can’t go and say, hey, I like the culture X, Y, or Z, I’m going to try and download that onto our organization. We’re going to operate like that. It doesn’t work like that because every situation is unique unto itself. Like I said, I think what we’ve created here reflects us perfectly. We’re always mending it. We’re always tending it. It’s never a job that’s done but if you’re paying attention, you can keep it on the rails, and we’ve been able to do that.

Russel: 

I can think of some of the bigger failure points in my own career when I tried to straight up copy versus take some inspiration, take some lessons learned, but if you’re trying to copy, you’re missing something there in the equation. Best to leave things to their natural origins. Thank you again for sharing that, a very fascinating look at it. As you’re looking at the future of the business, what does that look like? I assume you’re planning for the business that you’re not going to be around there forever, but tell us the future of Loomis and how you’re involved with that, one way or the other.

Mike: 

When you build something for more than 20 years and you are surrounded by people who put their whole selves into the business, you have a great responsibility when you think about transition. I’m 58. I’d like to do this for another, maybe 5 years, and then I’d like to get on to maybe a more, I don’t know, contemplative phase of life and do some other things, who knows what? But thinking through how we transition this is what we are actively involved with right now. I think a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of company owners don’t like to talk about that transition. A lot of them don’t want to get out of it anyway or they think they’re going to ride it into the horizon. I think that frankly is a mistake, because we all do peak, and I feel like I’m peaking right about now. We are going to be on the hunt for, there’s a couple of ways we could do it. We could do an internal transition. We could have a layer of folks here take the agency over. That requires a lot of development. We’ve got some folks, I think, who are teed up and almost ready to have that discussion and maybe take on those responsibilities if they want to. That’s a real big if because this isn’t for everybody. Running something comes with, I don’t have to tell you, there’s a lot of responsibility that other folks would rather not have and I can’t blame’em. The alternative would be an external sale of some kind, and that’s something we need to be careful about because we don’t want to turn it over to the highest bidder, so to speak. Some of my greatest business heroes are guys like Kip to Container Store and John Mackey of Whole Foods. The way they thought, in particular with the Container Store, when he sold his company, it wasn’t to the highest bidder. It was to the best bid. It was to the folks he thought were going to take care of his company and his people like he would. In fact, he didn’t even give up control. I don’t know exactly how that situation worked, but being thoughtful about what comes next for the organization and for the people, all the while stick to, I have no control over that. When you step out and you exit, you give that up. You can only do the best to take good care of it with the right intention, and we’ll see what happens. I think, in some respects, the path is gonna emerge as I walk it here, but we’re doing all kinds of homework now and we’re looking way out on the horizon. I think five years is a good target for us, so the right time to start thinking about that is indeed now, and we are.

Russel: 

Couldn’t have said it better myself. The time is certainly now and it all leads to the kind of same business you would want anyway so yeah, absolutely. Why not? I think you mentioned such a key point there of, it’s not selling to the highest bidder. You see so many, especially in large scale businesses where they get sold or the founder gets removed and you start to see that business decline over the long haul. I think that’s always a great perspective, but speaking of how much you care about the business and people, you had a pretty tumultuous situation and losing that big first client you got and how that affected the agency, but quite a great turnaround story coming out on the other side so much better, if you don’t mind sharing that.

Mike: 

No, I’d be happy to, yeah, so that Dairy Queen client, gosh, we helped them grow over the course of 12 to 13 years. They went from lagging from a sales standpoint, so their performance was out of sight, and frankly, I thought we were golden. With that kind of performance, who gets fired? We got fired. Still to this day, I don’t understand why. I think what happened was that they, it started to look easy, frankly, to the clients. They decided to set up an in house agency and boy, agencies don’t love it when this happens, obviously. One Friday afternoon, I am sitting at my desk and the receptionist calls me, hey, Mike, so and so is in the lobby, our client. Like, oh, wow, I didn’t have an appointment with him. I go up there and he hands me a letter and says, hey, I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to terminate the relationship. I was stunned, beyond stunned. I didn’t see it coming. I was flat footed. It was 25 percent of our top line. As a lesson to entrepreneurs, I had been lulled into the false notion that that was a secure piece of business and I didn’t have to worry about that 25 percent. That was a lot in one basket. It got worse because 30 days later, another client and to no fault of our own. In fact, I had actually helped this client get the job as the marketing director. The Logan’s restaurant brand left the agency and they were 15 percent of our top line. The reason they left is they said we didn’t have the digital capabilities. Now, this goes back to 2013, we were developing them, but he was right. We weren’t as big as some of the other digital shops and he felt like he needed a digital shop. There’s more to that story and it was very aggravating, especially since I helped him get his job. At any rate, now I’m down 40%. The following Friday, this all happens within 30 days if you can believe it. Following Friday I have lunch with another client who had asked me to help him hire and find a marketing director at my recommendation because he was growing so much that I had services of a professional marketer he took me up on. I went to meet him and I sat down with him at breakfast and he started to hem and haw and he said, hey, Mike, I’ve actually hired a new marketing director and she’s going to meet us here this morning for breakfast. She comes in and sits down and tells me the very first act of businesses is to put the account review to make sure that they had the best agency services that they could get. I at that point, I was beyond numb and I said, thanks, but no, thanks. We’re not going to participate. Our review has been the last three years and your sales performance has reflected our capabilities and I left that. Now i’m down 50%, and I’m telling you, Russel, the most difficult thing that I’ve ever had to do in my career is go back to the office and tell everybody what had happened, and then I have to lay off half of the staff. It was god awful. It was probably the worst part of my life, to be honest with you. There’s lots of other things that were going on, but it was a real struggle. Anyway, fast forward. We pulled ourselves together. We reassembled. I started winning business again. We reconstitute ourselves in a much better way. Around that time was when my friend Josh Whitaker joined us and we started to develop the digital expertise. Anyway, we were sailing along doing great, and we’d actually picked up another great little QSR brand called Golden Shake, which is a wonderful client of ours to this day. In 2018, five years after Dairy Queen left us, their in house agency imploded. It’s very difficult to run an agency and they’re a complicated piece of business. They certainly have full appreciation for that today. They called us and they asked us to participate in a review, and, man, by the way, the reason they called us is because when we lose a piece of business, a lot of companies get all PO’d about that and they take it personally, and it is personal, but it doesn’t do you any good to cry and wail and scream. It’s, go out on a high note. That’s something my father taught me. It’s something that feels better, leave in such a way that they miss you, and it turns out they did miss us. I take great pride in the fact that they missed us and they called us and we participated in a review. Now, some of my team members didn’t want to participate in a review. They’re like, hey, we had 12 years worth of success with that. Why do we have to participate in the review? I said, the business has changed. Things have changed. We’ll go ahead and be great sports and we’ll do that. We participated in this competitive agency review and we didn’t get selected. Which is crazy. That kind of blew our mind. They picked another agency. Again, you make them miss you, by being classy about it. It’s, gosh, we felt like, what is it? Lucy and Charlie Brown with the football kind of thing. About six months later, I get a call from the client, the guy who’s a great guy running the association. He said, hey, Mike, will you meet me for a cup of coffee? We had been watching what was going on with this other agency and the client. We could see the work and I was like, I don’t know. I don’t think that’s going to work out. So I, at any rate, sat down and he asked me if we would consider taking their business, no review, none of that. I said we certainly would, but I told him, too, I said, in the meantime, we’ve developed a great relationship with this wonderful brand called Golden Chick, which also competes in the QSR segment, and we’re not going to let them go. They’ve been great partners to us. It’s oh, boy, I need to make a call and make sure that’s something that the board is going to be good with. By the way, I have a whole positioning on the conflict, it’s not a conflict at any rate. Called back and he said, yep, they’re good with that. The rest is history. We were delighted to take our good friends at Dairy Queen back on board and over the last 4 years, we’ve helped correct their sales trajectories, improved, and we put them right back on track and I feel great about it. And, we’ve got a great and thriving client in Golden Chick. I think there’s exactly one location where they’re within three miles of another. It’s been a great story and it makes me feel good to be helping these folks again. The operators are fantastic people. They’re small businessmen and women, they’re entrepreneurs, and we’re helping to put the wind back in their sails and man, nothing makes me feel better about this business and doing that, so maybe a little long winded story but that’s it and I feel great about the turnaround.

Russel: 

I can only imagine what that would have been like. What a devastating blow on so many levels but I love a good turnaround story. I feel like the theme is evolving this podcast of stick to what you’re good at. If Dairy Queen’s great at making blizzards, if they would have stuck to what they were good at come with their own internal agency, then all worked out for the better and didn’t need that. I guess absence makes the heart grow fonder, as you’re liking to say there.

Mike: 

It does, a postscript to that whole story, in 2016, we won Advertising Age Magazine’s Small Agency of the Year Award based on our turnaround story and what we were able to do through that. There’s lots of texture and detail to the whole story. But that’s exactly right, Russel. Stick to what you do. Do what you do well. If you’re running restaurants, by God, run those restaurants. If you’re running an ad agency, don’t get into the real estate business. We did a little bit of that, and that was a bad idea. We bought our building at one point and holy smokes, you talk about staring at the ceiling. I don’t know how to put tenants in a building. We flipped it, a few years later. I’m glad not to be in that business. It’s brutal, but do what you do well.

Russel: 

Awesome. I’ll have to circle back to that one here in a second, but as we’re wrapping up time here, last big question, and as someone that’s been on both sides of the table, are entrepreneurs born or are they made?

Mike: 

I think it’s a little bit of both. I don’t know that I was born entrepreneur, but I feel like I’ve been made over the last 20 years, I’m going to go with a little bit of both. I’ve always had an appetite for risk, but certain kinds of risk. I think you’ve got to be super creative and adaptable. You’ve got to have confidence and resilience and all that good stuff. I’ve got those things, sometimes more than at other times, but they’ve been tempered through the experiences I’ve had over the last 20 years. I’ll go with born and made. Maybe that’s a cop out, but that’s my answer.

Russel: 

I’m going to start keeping a tally and I keep saying this, but that’s where most people land anyway. Cop out or not, I think it does hold true. As we’ve said as well, in the course of this podcast, there’s no one way to do it all, so we can make it all work. If people want to know more about you and Loomis Agency, where can they go?

Mike: 

They can go to our website, it’s real simple. It’s theloomisagency.com. I’ve also wrote a book called The Voice of the Underdog, which is our tagline, the voice of the underdog, how challenger brands create distinction by thinking culture first, that’s available on Amazon, and they can certainly send me an email if they want. It’s mike.sullivan@thelumisagency. Com.

Russel: 

I’m going to make the assumption everybody knows how to spell that very simple name and likewise too, so many agencies I think talk about or do buy their own building and it’s fascinating to hear, so if you’re looking into that or you’ve done it and you want to know why they got out, hit up Mike and talk to him about why you shouldn’t become a real estate mogul. Man, so many great takeaways. I wish we had so much more time to cover it all, but maybe down the road we’ll have another session when you’ve gotten closer to that exit timeframe or whatever decisions you make there. So many great insights. Thank you for your time today, Mike. It was a pleasure to have you on the show.

Mike: 

It was great to be here, Russel. Thanks for the invitation.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from around the world. Are you interested in being a guest on the show? Send an email to podcast@performancefaction.com. An Agency Story is brought to you by Performance Faction. Performance Faction offers services to help agency owners grow their business to 5 million dollars and more in revenue. To learn more, visit performancefaction.com.

Mike: 

I’m young in my career, I’m a new business guy and I’m all about new business. I’m smiling and dialing and trying to get people on the phone. There was a fast food chicken restaurant chain, not Golden Chick. It was another one early in my career. I could not for the life of me get the marketing guy on the phone. I wanted to talk to this guy because I knew they were having a review. I was sure we were the perfect agency for him, so I’m thinking, gosh, how can I get this guy on the phone? I had the brilliant idea. Now, remember I’m young. The brilliant idea, I thought I would send him a live chicken in a crate, and I did. Russel, I got him on the phone. I was sorry. That guy, he was so PO’d. Because what’s he going to do with a live chicken in his office? We did not get into the review. It was not a good tactic. Maybe somebody else would have thought it was funny but I think this guy, when this rooster or whatever it was, showed up in his office. He was not entertained. But I broke through.

Russel: 

I said that I was like, Oh man, this could be interesting. We’re going to inspire all kinds of people to send some weird things to potential clients, but I guess maybe the lesson learned is be unorthodox, but maybe within a certain guide rail or something.

Mike: 

Go easy, killer. That’s what I would have told myself. I look back a little, there’s other ways to do this.

Russel: 

That’s funny. I love that. That might be the best one yet.