Sunday, November 22, 2009

Take what you can get? Or get what you can take? I'll take the latter.

Seth Godin, David Everitt-Carlson, CarlsonCreative, Armstrong Floors, KOBACO, bat, British American Tobacco, Fortune 500, business, Survival, Management Consulting, Korea, I'm going to do something I rarely do, and reprint nearly an entire post from Seth Godin, because this one really hit me where I was living at the time I read it. Now with Seth issuing a post to his blog every single day, the need for an editor comes seriously into question because 60% of what even the most talented writer can do is rubbish, but if you're willing to wade through that rubbish, many of his posts have real longstanding value. This is one of them.

Read Seth's post in the coloured print first, and then go back and see my own notations in the regular font. I think you'll see why it resonated with me.

Take what you can get (?)

When I started my agency in Korea, CarlsonCreative, things were fairly bleak for the first six months. My staff told me that we were not getting pitches because we would not do them for free. I had also set a bar that clients needed to be of a blue-chip and pressworthy variety, ie: I wanted big logos so that when we finally won something, no matter how small, we could publicize it and get the street-cred of being an upstart David (no pun really) who had won against the Goliaths.

We scored our first pitch with the Armstrong flooring company from the US and followed that up with the Korean Broadcasting Corporation (KOBACO) and eventually, British American Tobacco - all paid presentations with the latter two turning into well paying clients and significant press generation vehicles. Within 18 months, we had become a 'hot' shop and the big agencies were truly scared of us.

We took this to heart and I am still a believer in this today.

This has been redefined for me in the last few months with the pressure to get my feet planted in a new market representing the most basic of needs like eating and paying the rent. These things are of course primary, but certainly not the ultimate goal in the longer term. Why the hell, in a million years, would I want to teach business English in an already overcrowded market of teachers and schools who are busy undercutting each other on an almost daily basis, when I've got a quiver full of marketing and advertising arrows that have flown true for my entire career?

Because it's what I 'could' get initially, but it's not what I 'want' to get, eventually. What I'm after eventually is what I have been able to do my entire life - to balance business and creativity in a way which benefits my clients and provides me and my family a superior level of income and professional satisfaction.

So I'm surviving. But that's not my definition of success. And I'm doing the work and not dying on the vine waiting for perfect in an imperfect world - but I'm spending more and more time defining what makes me unique in the market and striving to build a practice off that. This last week I renegotiated a contract which now pays me 30% more and broadens my responsibilities to consult on marketing with a client who had previously only needed language instruction.

Later in the week, I'm having coffee with a blue-chip sort of guy who works soley in the marketing business and in the evenings I busy myself with promoting this blog and writing copy for various businesses from software to arts and achitecture. All of this is still a far cry from having my own company in Korea, but at least I can remember what that was like, before we landed the big-fish client, and retrench my current life experience to more closely chase the dream of 'getting' what I can take, instead of just 'taking' what I can get.
Many thanks to Seth Godin for helping me articulate this more clearly.


  1. Excellent post, David. Keep on keeping on!

  2. Thanks to the absolutely excellent reader above!


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