My predecessor at Northlich once made a statement that impacted me: “A vibrant arts community is important to an agency because we are all about creative work and aesthetic excellence. The arts transform the community”
I had never really considered this statement. I realized that while serving as an agency leader, I was also a community leader. By fostering a top-tier arts environment in Cincinnati, I could strengthen the community and the industry at the same time. I knew I had to get involved.
Taking this advice to heart, I joined the Cincinnati Ballet Board. Since I was by no means a ballet expert, I showed up with every intention to blend into the process and keep my head down. After all, there were 60 people on the Board. But I started listening and asking questions, and the next thing I knew, I was asked to run a committee. A few years later, I was the Chairman of the Board.
This same mentality helped me become the CEO of Northlich. I didn’t keep my head down. I volunteered. Doing that can be scary, because you can be put into impossible situations and sometimes fail. It’s not easy. I’d never been a CEO in my life, and I’d also never been on a large board.
At the height of the recession, both organizations were dramatically affected, and the Cincinnati Ballet was particularly impacted. I faced the daunting possibility that two organizations could go under during my watch. Some days, I walked out of my office at Northlich with impossibly difficult decisions to make and went to the Ballet to face a different set of impossibly difficult decisions.
In the end, both pulled through. It was a labor of love, but the Cincinnati Ballet has continued to be a leading arts contributor in the community. Northlich itself has come to the forefront of the agency industry, including being named top ad agency in Ohio by AdWeek. While it wasn’t an easy road, I’m glad I took it. Acting as a leader and advocate for the arts while serving as CEO allowed me to develop a different set of decision-making skills and appreciation for the community as a whole.
I encourage you to look for opportunities to serve, keep your head up and your eyes open and do not let fear stand in the way of getting involved. I didn’t, and I’m a better person for it.