When William Joseph Communications’ CEO Ryan Townend was growing up in rural Saskatchewan, his parents knew from an early age he wasn’t your average kid. “My parents told me I wasn’t allowed to give away my fruit to the other children, so I came home one day and gave them a dime. They asked me what it was for, and I said, well, you said I couldn’t give it away anymore, so I started my next business – lunch-selling.”

Business owners and entrepreneurs can undoubtedly relate to 6-year-old Ryan’s forward-thinking mentality. When you have a vision, combined with drive and passion, anything seems within reach. Fast-forward 30 (ish) years and the 6-year-old lunchbox fruit peddler is the head of a successful marketing agency, one that is thriving despite the current economic climate. Read on to find out what makes Ryan want to buy Purina dog food and the real reason he wanted to start a company.

1) What led you down the path of entrepreneurship?

 I was always geared towards it as a kid, always thinking about my next business opportunity. I would draw a picture with crayons and then try and sell it. I had an art gallery of my crayon masterpieces at age 3, with price tags attached to every single one. The thing was, I always believed in my ability and the things I was producing, so selling something I had put my heart and soul into made complete sense to me.

2) Why didn’t you want investors, and what are some difficulties of running a privately owned company?

I always wanted to do it my way. I didn’t want to have to answer to a committee of people every time a big move needed to be made. That seemed inefficient and ineffective to me, two things I highly dislike. It really comes down to freedom. Having investors, they sometimes guide your actions and do so with a mainly financial mindset – I don’t always want to have that in the back of my mind. I honestly believe I know marketing, what works for some and what doesn’t for others. I want that to be my guide.

3) What is the best thing about being a CEO?

I am in control of my future. I wanted to say freedom again, and in a way that’s true, but not entirely. It’s a different kind of freedom, because it ‘s hard for me to put my company out of my mind. Even when I’m supposed to, like on vacation, or spending time with family, there’s still a part of my mind that is always with the company. It’s worth it though, because I have complete freedom to do what I think is right and make my own way.

4) What is the most challenging thing?

If something goes sideways, I can’t blame it on anyone but myself!

5) What was your biggest challenge in securing your first client?

It wasn’t tremendously challenging actually. I had worked in the industry for a while and built up a huge circle of influence. I realized that working for others I wasn’t fully able to fix and impact things that I believed weren’t executed in the best way possible. So, when I went out on my own, I think my circle saw my passion, believed in my skill, and gave me a chance.

6) Why do you think William Joseph has been such a success?

The people. We just finished up in a client meeting, and the client was so blown away by the work my team produced. My staff are so dedicated, so brilliant, and so passionate. The client expressed how great it was to feel as though she was our only client, that we took the time to understand her business and her vision and that the plan we put together for her was just what was needed to fuel her inspiration and her business.

7) Innovation is a huge buzzword right now. What makes William Joseph “innovative” and stand out from other agencies?

Again, I think a huge reason we stand out from the pack, is because of our people. Our team takes the time to share articles, industry trends, innovative campaigns, and inspiring stories. We also have quarterly “Innovation Days”, where the whole team gets together to introduce new ideas and discuss what’s working, what isn’t, how we can improve, and our future goals.

8) Speaking of innovative, tell us a bit about WJ University.

WJ University is our way to educate business owners on our views on branding, marketing, and communications. They are free seminars discussing a broad range of topics, which we hope will provide businesses with the tools they need to succeed. Anyone can sign up on our website.

9) How has Calgary’s oscillating economy affected your company?

Ahh, that’s a tough one. I think the thing is, no matter what is happening in the economy, there are always businesses peaking while others are falling. Even in a less-than-ideal economy, you still need marketing, if not more so than you do in a thriving economy. When else would it be more important to communicate the message that your business, product or service is necessary for success? We also see a lot of clients who see a recession as a perfect opportunity to capture market share or capitalize on an opportunity. To be honest, as marketers, as long as we’re hitting the mark and making our clients successful, we are always busy.

10) Which marketing campaigns have most inspired you?

Oh man, have you ever seen the Purina dog food commercial, where the man gets a little cocker spaniel puppy?  It goes on to show their journey through life together, them bonding, and everything the dog does for the man. It pulls at the heartstrings and tells a complete story. That is what marketing is about – telling a story. You want to tell a story that is going to connect with your audience. Make them remember you.

11) What do you think is the biggest trend in marketing right now?

I think we are getting back to relationship marketing. In an age where everything is so digitized, I believe humans are boomeranging back around to the need for real connection and human emotion. Technology is wonderful and continues to provide us with new marketing techniques, but I think building relationships and connections is going to make a comeback in the next few years.  People buy from people they like and trust.

 12) Your personality is pretty colourful. What is a word you think your staff would use to describe you?

Ummm… charismatic?

Interviewers noteWhen asking around the office, the following descriptions of Ryan were expressed by his colleagues: Dynamic, ambitious, driven, connected, beard, intense, kinetic, passionate, enthusiastic.

13) What are your future goals for William Joseph?

I almost said world domination, but in actuality, that is the farthest thing from what I want. I want to ensure we keep working with smart businesses, that we believe in. You know, for me, it is about quality over quantity. I would so much rather work with 20 amazing accounts, doing remarkable things than be crazy busy, taking over the world. I love the intimate, boutique environment that our agency has created, and I want to continue with that.

Connect with Ryan on LinkedIn