Andy Strote: Writing on the Wall
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It’s Thursday, June 10, 2021, and this week’s founder is Andy Strote:
Rebelling against the… school newspaper?
From Employee -> Freelancer -> Founder
A not-so-school newspaper
Andy loved writing. He was always a bit of a rebel, though. Instead of joining the school newspaper in his Canadian hometown, he and a friend started their own. They wanted to write about music, events, and other cultural things. With nothing but a mimeograph bought from the local police department and some inspiration, they were on their way to stardom.
Of course, the school couldn't sanction the paper, so Andy and co were forced to sell their writing to students before they entered the school. So began his entrepreneurial journey.
He got the full treatment too – he and his friend found disciplinary trouble for their writings. Such is the life of an entrepreneur, though. Some people won't like your work!
Finding his way
Following graduation, Andy didn't go to university. Instead he traveled to Germany, where he was born, and worked odd jobs for about 8 months. He worked at a hotel for a while, he was a waiter, and bounced around after that.
Fast forward a bit, and Andy's best friend from high school has worked his way into a marketing role, making TV commercials for General Motors.
Andy was hooked. Within three weeks, he was headed back to Canada with a job and a budding portfolio in hand.
Andy worked for five different agencies before freelancing and working half-time at a sixth. After a gig with Toronto Hydro, provider of nearly 20% of Ontario's power, Andy's freelance career was off to the races.
From solo to co
Six years later, Andy had limited out on how much he could accomplish alone. He joined up with a designer and create a small agency.
Andy was able to increase revenues by adding fees that designers would charge – working with printers, for example. Some of these fees would be as much as 15% on the cost of the job, marking a nice bump to their bottom line.
Andy and his partner expanded Fireworks Creative three times, from 2 to 30 people.
After a few offers, they sold Fireworks.
Six months later, Andy and his partners were free to do what they wanted, so he started another agency! Context Creative followed much the same path as Fireworks.
Since then, Andy has sold Context and has watched many former employees start their own agencies.
These days, Andy wants to help creatives start their own agency. He wrote How to Start a Successful Creative Agency for just that purpose.
Choose your partner carefully. He worked a couple jobs with his first co-founder before building a company together.
Include employees in leadership conversations. They'll come up with ideas that are very useful.
Creatives should start their own agency. They'll get stuck in a role eventually if they don't.
When starting a business, 1+1 equals 3, because now it's you, your partner, and a company. Your introductions carry a lot more weight with a company name behind them.
When presenting ideas to a client, always believe in all of them. The client will inevitably choose the one you didn't want, or will see that there are weak ideas in your presentation.
A fun anecdote
Andy told me about one guy from New Zealand who was making his way around the world. He was far overqualified, but took a job with Andy as a receptionist. He was planning to stay in Toronto for about a year, and took the job to support himself while he was there.
He had IT skills that Andy's team couldn't match. The NZ native completely revamped their file system for them while he was there, improving far more than a receptionist would have been expected to do.
Andy’s team learned a ton and walked away better for having given their new friend a chance.
“Procrastineur” is a newsletter about modern founders’ successes and struggles, written by Will Whittenton. You can connect with me through Twitter, my website, or send me an email at email@example.com. If you enjoyed this issue, please share it with your friends!
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