It’s been an interesting year – one that seemed to leisurely stroll by while somehow, at the same time, flying past all of us. In my experience, it’s been a year of opposites: challenges and solutions; easy wins and hard losses; looking out further for opportunities, while closely examining what makes my company, William Joseph Communications, really work.

I think the theme of the year can be best summed up in one concept: change. We work in an industry where change defines everything, and it often moves at a speed that always threatens to leave us in the dust. It’s not always fun, and it’s usually not easy, but it’s going to happen anyway, so all we can do is accept it and work with it. New technology, new techniques, and a lot of learned lessons all just reinforce the point – we have to evolve and adapt to our new reality.

In order to change for the better – to really make it meaningful and work towards a goal – I took a look back at what 2019 taught me about running my business and how to do it better. There’s plenty to choose from, but here’s what really stands out to me about how I’ll reorganize going into 2020, in my pursuit of always doing a bit better than before.


1) Invest your time wisely.

As a business owner, my time is valuable. If I am not in one of my offices, I am always at different events, meeting people, helping keep my business in people’s minds. But no matter how much you work, it won’t make a difference if you’re not putting that time towards your goals. All the best CEOs I know have mastered this, and for good reason. Know your goals, get the right people on your team to help you use your time well, and invest those hours to the places it will be of most benefit. When you can do your best work, so can everyone else. And this ties in with the next two.


2) Focus, but don’t overthink.

My best focus at WJ comes when I truly see where we’re going, what markets we’re chasing, the strategies we’re developing, how we’re investing and planning for our future. That focus lets me shape a way forward, not just for clients, but for ourselves as well. And having that plan is critical: as the marketing world moves towards a digital landscape, you can be ready to change along with it and harness all the power it gives you.


3) Play.

That one word holds so much potential – it’s short, but so important. You only have so much time in the day, and if you’re constantly working with no outlet, you’ll burn out. Guaranteed. Granted, when your job is your passion, it’s easy to lose track of time and spend a lot of late nights working – but you have to balance it with your hobbies, with home, with a bit of an escape. You’ll find, more often than not, that you come back on Monday morning with a new perspective and a fresh approach.


4) Surround yourself with people who can lead you somewhere.

Do you want to work with a company that only keeps up – or one that takes you somewhere new? If we played it safe and only involved ourselves with companies who had the same capabilities as us (or below), we would never be challenged, pushed beyond our barriers, or given opportunities to truly grow. We don’t want to be stuck in the corner. After all, I’m a full-throttle kind of guy, leading a full-throttle company. My favourite people are the ones who are way ahead and make us catch up to them.


5) Nobody knows everything.

Even a jack of all trades would have trouble filling all the roles at a modern agency like WJ. With internal specialists – writers, editors, designers, strategists – and other external partners like lawyers and accountants, there is no shame in admitting you can’t do it all. In fact, there’s quite a lot to gain by trusting a team of experts who can help navigate a constantly-shifting landscape of best practices, technology, and legal requirements. Find good people and let them help you get where you need to go.


6) Diversification is the key to success.

It doesn’t really matter what the area is in your business – but if you focus on only one to the exclusion of the others, bad things will happen. The sooner you can recognize this, the better off you’ll be, because multiple product lines or services will help you manage tough economic times. But remember, consumers can sense inauthenticity a mile away – you can’t just say, “Oh, by the way, we also do Y in addition to X”. That’s not credible. If you’re diversifying, you have to reposition yourself to fully and authentically serve new markets. Like I said in point #2, planning is important – do it smart, and do it right.


7) Stop watching the news.

Seriously, this sounds impossible, but give it a try. The news is just as much about ratings and entertainment as it is the facts, so apocalyptic negativity tends to rise up to the top – and when it’s all you hear, you may not even bother getting out of bed some mornings. But there’s always business to be found. You might have to be more creative and innovative on how to find it, but it’s there (we’ve grown through recessions, so I know it’s there). A good add-on here is to make sure you surround yourself with positive problem-solvers instead of problem-finders – you wouldn’t believe the difference it makes.


8) The only constant is change.

There are many ways to reach a destination – one way is not necessarily easier or harder, it’s just different. And with the world, and our industry, changing at such an incredible rate, there are more ways than ever before to move forward. It seems like the only option you shouldn’t take is “the way we have always done it”, because that doesn’t get you anywhere new. I’ve been at the helm of WJ for more than 17 years, and I can tell you – the rate of change has been insane. Things that are common now didn’t even exist a couple of years ago. All you can do is be open to it – be comfortable with being uncomfortable.


9) Be bold, or go home.

Anyone can follow in someone else’s footsteps and say they did the same thing as the person who came before. But it takes leadership, skill, and a lot of guts to be the first one to go somewhere new. In marketing, if you’re not bold and ready to make your mark, I can guarantee you that someone else will be. They’ll step in and take your opportunities before you’ve even booked a meeting. This idea drives a lot of WJ’s philosophies, and it’s really what sets us apart.


So, what lessons can I take from 2019, and share with you? Besides the importance of change and time management, I also found the importance of focus – being strategic with that time and how it’s applied. I have an appreciation for clarity, and I’m constantly trying to understand how to get both my company and my clients where we’re all trying to go.

But underneath it all, keep the core alive. Your culture, your personality, your idiosyncrasies, your why. All of it can survive the change of everything else, if you’ve done your due diligence in figuring it out. No business will be perfect in every area, but if you instead try to make it the best that it can be – well, that will take you to places you never thought possible.


Ryan Townend,
CEO of William Joseph Communications