What I Learned in 2013

Filed In: Culture and Process

This post originally appeared on Minneapolis Egotist. 

2013 sucked.

I witnessed the death of my father, the man who gave me stability and a mental crutch since I’ve been alive, and the courage to be who I am no matter how people judged me. The man who enabled me to start space150 and show the world Minneapolis is still, and will continue to be, a community of intelligence and innovative thinking. Now that he’s gone, it’s almost as if Peter Pan finally did grow up and that title is passed to my children. I only hope I can do as good of job building courage in them as he did for me.

Our creative community also saw great loss. Fallon alum and godfather to all, Joe Culligan, who also believed and gave me a shot on all my dumb ideas. Olson founder John Olson, the courageous soul and visionary mentor who did things exactly his way. And of course, Vince Flynn  (High School friend), Lou Reed, Ray Manzarek, James Gandolfini, Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nelson Mandela and Paul Walker. These people will be forever remembered and admired.

From a business perspective, we dealt with the fallout of 2012, which resulted in our largest client laying off 5,000 people and scaling back half our business. We faced layoffs, twice, which will forever be the bane of my existence. And a few local and talented digital shops closed their doors, which reassured us that the grim state of the outside world wasn’t just a passing phase, but a true sign of our economic conditions.*

By mid-year, it seemed as if we needed to stop before we could start again. Our new business pipeline showed signs of strength, but not until after summer. We needed to step down before we could step up. So we did.

We took a deep breath. Faced fear straight on and re-focused, re-invented, and re-claimed. Now, as I like to say, it’s time for re-venge.

Like many of you who are surrounded by resilient Minnesota business culture, we turned to our people. We asked them to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains. We asked them to believe in their managers. We asked them to work more, and eat and drink less. We we’re open and transparent about our condition and empowered them to help turn our year around.

Never before have I seen a group of people, from our interns to our top managers band together to achieve a unified goal. Not only did we crush the second half of 2013 with new and organic business, this momentum has already made Q1 of 2014 a record quarter for space150, and most likely the year. Conventions were destroyed. Culture is indeed king. I tip my hat to our team for the comradery, belief and courage demonstrated always, but especially in 2013.

With that, this year reinforced that transparency is always the best policy. The more you try to hide the numbers, the crappy news that you lost a pitch or business, or try to be something that you’re not will always lead to failure. I’m forever grateful to my father for encouraging this in me, and the continued courage it takes to do what’s hard because it’s right.


*I’d like to add that the shops that closed recently, especially Atomic Playpen, Popular Front and Sevnthsin, will forever be remembered, honored and respected in the walls of space150 for their brilliant contribution to our community. Nobody is immune to the tides of this business. We know it all too well. What they’ve done is pure success in our book. Much respect. 


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