While lying in bed one night, I began thinking about how unhappy I was at work and how I’d wished things were different. I’d spent so many years trying to keep my team happy and realized I’d failed them, and myself, in the process. I came to the realization that I was taking the wrong approach to growing the business: instead of figuring out what would make my team happy, why not start with making myself happy and build a company around that idea? Then it came to me in a flash.

For a variety of reasons, Jerry Maguire is one of my favorite movies. In particular, I appreciate Jerry’s “Mission Statement” that so inspired him (and his secretary), yet struck fear or skepticism in the rest of the office. As I lay in the bed staring at the ceiling, I realized I needed to write my own mission statement or manifesto, to help define what it would take to get me excited to once again go to work, and hopefully inspire others.

That night, I wrote down 40 values and intentions I believed to be requirements for employment at Anvil Media. By 1 am, I’d finalized the list and was finally able to sleep. The key concept around my manifesto-turned-credo was that my passion was problem-solving across the marketing and business spectrum and not specific to search engine marketing. As such, the first step was repositioning Anvil from SEM agency to marketing consultancy.

The very next morning, I met with a prospective client regarding improving the visibility of their website. Inspired by my new focus, I dug deeper into their business and realized the primary challenge was related to cleaning up their sales process, not optimizing their website. As a result, I recommended they work with three different consultants on sales training and marketing automation. The prospect appreciated our honesty and desire to help move their business forward.

While driving back to the office, I felt energized and completely connected to my new Credo, although I wasn’t yet able to share it with my team. Within a week, however, I was able to share the new Credo and direction as a marketing consultancy, and immediately a few seasoned members of the team balked. Within two weeks, four of my fourteen employees decided to leave.

Since the unveiling of the new Anvil Credo, I’ve been able to use it as a management tool and compass for decision-making. It has helped drive recruitment as well as employee and client retention. It’s not been easy, but the Credo has played a key role in guiding Anvil’s future and I feel obligated to share it with you in the hopes it may inspire your company or career. The following ten statements define the Anvil Credo:

I’m inspired to delight and elevate daily

I learned early in my agency career that the most common reason I lost clients was not a lack of ability to generate results. Rather, it was my inability to create a meaningful connection. On the other hand, a client may still fire me, even if I was able to demonstrate a meaningful return on investment (aka elevate their business), if they did not feel connected or appreciated. If I was able to “delight” my clients and create a meaningful connection, however, I found they were much more forthright and forgiving. As such, I’ve coached my team to focus on first connecting with the client before delivering meaningful results. In short, I believe that delighting a client before elevating them is the key to a successful long-term relationship. The concept has worked sufficiently well that it became our mission statement before it earned the top spot on our Credo.

As a growth-minded individual, I’m constantly driven to improve myself

There are two camps regarding a person’s potential: they have a finite amount of intelligence or talent that can be utilized, or that any individual has unlimited potential if they commit, focus and practice. I believe in the latter, that any growth-minded individual can achieve goals if they try. I also believe that it is always best to surround yourself with like-minded individuals when building a world-class team and a desire for personal professional growth is an essential ingredient. The Anvil team is provided with a professional development budget and is encouraged to read, network and take classes to perfect their discipline. With focus, commitment and fearlessness, the Anvil 2.0 team will have much greater success.

I’m not afraid to dream big or to fail, in order to achieve long-term success

As young children, we all tend to dream big, but over time, we tend to settle. I believe this is a critical flaw in our culture and educational system: lowering the bar. Similarly, we’re being told and are teaching others that failure is not an option. Unfortunately, we tend to learn all the wrong lessons from success, instead of learning a good deal from our failures. At Anvil, it is important not to lose the ability to dream big, or to fail (forward). It is the only way we will be able to make an impact. How many of the world’s greatest inventions resulted from small thinking or a fear of failure?

I solve problems more effectively when I utilize my unique abilities

I few years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Dave Rendall speak about a concept he calls Freak Factor. In short, he takes the relatively simple concept that everyone has a combination of talents, skills and abilities that make them truly unique, and takes it to the extreme. Essentially, he’s saying that everyone has a red nose like Rudolph, but until you understand your Freak Factor (red nose) and find your “fog,” you will not be able to reach your greatest potential. Regardless of what you might call it, your success and happiness is determined by your ability to unleash your Freak Factor. At Anvil, we do our very best to understand each team member’s Freak Factor and deploy their red noses in their respective fog.

I prefer to do what is right and just, instead of what is easy or comfortable

I’ve never been a fan of including values like honesty or integrity in our corporate values, as I believe those are prerequisite traits for employment. That said, I do see a difference in how employees approach problem-solving. Most notably, I’ve noticed former employees preferring to take the easy route, even if it was not in anyone’s best interest long-term, including their own. As such, I elected to include a statement about doing what is right instead of what is easy. While this seems obvious, it is much more difficult to live by, especially in business. When I hired a new senior team member from an integrated marketing agency, we had a window to “poach” clients. Instead, we lived by the Credo and gave the agency the opportunity to take care of those clients’ needs instead. Although we lost out on relatively easy and needed income, it was the right thing to do.

Creating and nurturing connections benefits my clients and my career

In 1999, I created a career-oriented networking group and online community called pdxMindShare. Since then, I’ve met thousands of Portland-area professionals at the monthly events who are interested in growing their networks. Those that have attended consistently over the years are generally more successful that those who do not. I believe the reason is that the people you surround yourself with influence your career trajectory. It can be a numbers game to a degree, but those that take a strategic approach and associate with motivated, high performers, tend to benefit tremendously from those relationships. Even though I created MindShare to help connect others, I’ve certainly benefitted by finding great talent, prospective partners and clients through the network. Anvil and I have both benefitted from the MindShare lifeline, and the Anvil 2.0 team now understands the true power of networking.

I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience to enlighten others

I’m currently reading “Failing Forward” by Maxwell, and in the book, the author identifies traits in successful people. One element is the ability to elevate people around you. I completely agree, and it has been my personal mission since graduating from college to educate others. I’ve been an adjunct professor since 2000 and speak 40-50 times a year. Knowledge is power, but the real power is sharing that knowledge. I’ve encouraged my teams to speak in the business and marketing community, in order to enlighten others. That experience is good practice for the team, good exposure for Anvil and elevates the community.

My most meaningful relationships revolve around trust, respect, empathy and patience

I’m not a micromanager. I tend to hire smart people and let them do their thing. Unfortunately, my trust in people has been compromised in the past, which erodes the respect of everyone involved. I also learned that a lack of trust or respect in team members leads to a lack of empathy and patience, which further erodes relationships and overall effectiveness. The only way I found I could resolve the issue at Anvil was to hit the reset button and clean the slate. Although I’m starting fresh with a new level of respect and empathy for the current team, it will take a good deal of patience to build mutual trust. I’ve made my mistakes over the years and will now be part of the solution, not the problem. Make sure you own up to your contribution to building relationships in your business.

My success is defined by the impact and contribution I make, regardless of my job title

While I was writing and refining the Anvil Credo, I happened upon an article that compares hierarchical corporate structure to the more modern interactive structure. People raised in a more traditional environment are more likely to prefer an organization with a layered organizational chart, complete with a variety of job titles. The new knowledge economy has brought a more interactive structure, which is flexible, dynamic and flatter than traditional companies. I found myself frustrated with the need of former employees to have greater definition of a career path within Anvil, which has averaged fewer than 15 employees and is naturally a flat structure. My goal has always been to provide an opportunity for any and all employees to become Partner. The Partner concept is based around the idea of empowering employees to utilize their unique ability every day to move our clients’ businesses and our agency forward. As subject matter experts, rainmakers or account managers, there would be a greater earning opportunity as Partner than as a traditional employee. The challenge has been convincing a relatively young team to have faith in the model. That’s where the trust, respect and patience we’ve built into our Credo come into play. I’m confident we will get there and that our current team will come to appreciate the reality that their career success and compensation are independent of job titles in a highly structured organizational chart.

I know what I want to do with my career and I want to do it at Anvil

Some of the most talented and special contributors over Anvil’s nearly 13 year history have departed the organization in the past year or so. As difficult as it has been to adjust to those changes, the most important consideration is that these people did not know what they wanted to do with their careers (in some cases, not even wanting to work on a computer) let alone pursue a career in digital marketing at Anvil. Those that have signed the Credo all have two common traits: they are committed to a career in marketing, and they believe they will be most successful in their pursuits at Anvil. My responsibility is to ensure we deliver on our end of the promise: to make Anvil a place our team will be truly successful. It’s a tall order and one I look forward to making a reality.

While we’re only in our first month under the new Credo, I’ve been pleased by the renewed energy, commitment to our core disciplines and even our clients’ patience and understanding. Time will tell if the new direction and Credo will create long-term success, but I’m optimistic that employees, peers and clients that understand what we’re trying to accomplish will engage at a more meaningful level than ever before.