Growing Up Can Bear

Today I received a notification that I had been assigned a task. This might seem pretty basic, but to me it represents something extraordinary: Swash Labs is growing up.

We aren't quite as big as I'd like us to end up, but I am doing my best to play the long game these days. I don't want to hurry. Today we declared 2015 to be "The Year of No Emergencies" and we are doing a pretty good job of it so far. This gives us time to think about things like professional development.

We believe that we're the coolest company in town, and that working at Swash Labs equates to having a dream job. I have worked hard to create a place where I would want to work, and I am fiercely protective of our culture. This means we are largely informal and that everyone has the freedom and space to be creative, whether they are a copywriter, a designer, a media planner, or they work in operations.

This combined with growth further means that we have had to introduce some structure. You can't go get bigger accounts or rigorously develop old business into new business if you aren't growing in skills and capabilities as well as in staff. Last year we focused on The Work and The Way We Do It. The most recent example of that focus is The Hickory Street Project:


We did some of the best work we've ever done, faster than we've ever done anything. Creative ushered something into existence and Media turned it into the highest-performing campaign in the agency's history. We marshalled all of our resources and created something special. It was a real test for us and showed that we are at the height of our powers thus far.

Now we want the work to be even better, and the way to do that is to make ourselves more powerful, to find opportunities for improvement and to attack them with zeal.

So here I am, the founder of a young advertising agency, tasked with two professional development goals in our fancy project management system. We didn't even have such a thing for the first year and a half. I would list clients and projects on a whiteboard and send emails to a tiny staff when I needed help. One member of that staff still works here, along with eight other very talented people who came along later.

During that time I achieved one of my early goals: I hired smart and capable people and now everyone is better than me at what they do. The only thing I am still the best at is selling Swash Labs.

I think my two goals should be about being a better boss. How do I get better at running a company? How do I fully transfer out of day-to-day creative and start to function more like an agency president or chief creative officer? How do I make it easier for everyone to do their jobs?

Josh Berthume