In their own Words – Ryan Townend, CEO

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

In their own Words – Bryce McKenzie, Account Director

Meet William Joseph’s Calgary Account Director, Bryce McKenzie. As WJ’s resident farm boy, Bryce is no stranger to hard work, and is always ready to roll up his sleeves to get his hands dirty when needed. When this cool-as-a-cucumber guy isn’t working hard to complete the most difficult of marketing challenges for his clients, Bryce enjoys playing hockey or having a cold one with the boys. Read on to find out more about our quick-witted Account Director, including why he thinks WJ does it best, and why he’s known as “Captain Pun”.

1) How did you end up in your current role?

I was working at WJ for about 2 years, and then was promoted to Account Director last year.

2) What is your favorite part about your job?

Getting to work with a fun group of people on the WJ side, and then working with all different kinds of clients and learning about their businesses on the client side.

3) You have worked on both the client and agency sides of the coin. What would you say is the overarching difference between the two?

When I worked on the client side, I would go to bed at night thinking about one marketing plan. At an agency, you go to bed thinking and worrying about 20 different plans.

4) And on the flip side, what do both sides have in common?

Both have a team aspect. Whether you are working on the client side or the agency side, both sides are working together to achieve the same goal.

5) What is the one challenge you have found yourself facing time and time again managing your accounts, and how do solve the issue?

Budget is always going to be the biggest challenge. It’s always hard trying to match the client’s goals and expectations with their budget. It’s difficult though because I think a lot of the time, people don’t know or realize what things cost, not just in terms of the agency costs, but in terms of buying ad space and things like that. I think the best way to avoid problems is to just be transparent, in general. Try to give as much education to the client as possible about all the costs that will be associated throughout the entire project, from start to finish.

6) What do you think is different about the WJ account managing process as opposed to other agencies?

I think other agencies have separate people doing individual things that we as account managers at WJ do all ourselves. This is beneficial because this way, nothing gets lost in communication, we always know exactly what is going on, where projects are at and all that. We have all the information at all times, so there are less hold-ups and less confusion.

7) Which part of the WJ process do you believe provides the most value?

No matter what the project is, how big or small, we always take the time to get to know everything we can about that company or business. For example, if we get a contract in to do a brochure, our goal isn’t just to make that brochure look cool or pretty or whatever, without doing research. We take the time to look into the business, figure out their values, goals and finish with a product that not lonely looks great, but is also of substance.

8) When you consider the WJ brand identity, which aspect do you relate to the most personally?

 Hmm.. probably collaboration. I’ve always liked working on a team, and worked better with a team. With a group, you are able to get different ideas from different minds, that you might not have thought of if you were just working on your own. I’m also able to learn from clients, figuring out what their pain points are, and then apply that down the road for different projects. Collaboration can be a really good learning technique in a lot of ways.

9) Describe your most prolific attribute in terms of your job.

 My temperament. No matter what happens, crisis or not, I try to just stay calm and cool no matter what, and just try and find a solution to the problem.

10) What values do you find most important in running a business?

 Honesty and integrity, just because I think when it comes to business, people are attracted to people who share the same values as they do. If you start to run your business doing shady things, you will attract shady people. You want to put out what you are looking to bring in.

 11) If you had to guess what word your co-workers would use to describe you, what would it be?

 Oh man, I don’t know. In-control?

Interviewers note: When asking around the office, the following descriptions of Bryce were expressed by his colleagues: Reliable, professional, “snickers” (a reference to Bryce’s trademark laugh), flexible, committed, “Captain Pun” (due to his constant wisecracks), laconic, funny but monotone.

 12) Everyone at the WJ office is well aware by now that you are able to quote even the most obscure movie lines. What movie do you think best describes the culture at WJ?

Something with a lot of personalities, with a lot of strong characters all in one place. Because we have such an assortment of people, the off-the-wall creative people, the web people who speak their own language, then strategy and accounts who speak a whole other language and come from a more business background…. Maybe X-Men?

Connect with Bryce on LinkedIn.