S13E33: Building an 'impact' brand (and culture), with Brad Flowers (CEO, Bullhorn Creative)

An episode of The Impact Multiplier CEO Podcast

S13E33: Building an ‘impact’ brand (and culture), with Brad Flowers (CEO, Bullhorn Creative)

We're continuing our season on "business as a force for good", Richard speaks with Brad Flowers, co-founder of Bullhorn, an agency that builds impact brands with language and design. Brad leads naming and language generation at Bullhorn. He has a degree in literature, which he finds more useful than he expected. He co-founded the non-profit bike shop, Broke Spoke. Brad is also the author of The Naming Book.

In this conversation, you’ll learn:

  • How and why Brad went from bike shop owner to award winning creative agency founder for impact brands
  • Brad's three criteria for starting a business, and the business reasons for certifying as b-corp
  • Why the relationship between culture and brand is crucial to understand
  • Why you should read novels, as a business leader

"When culture and brand fall out of sync, customers smell that."

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Resources/sources mentioned:

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Transcript

Brad Flowers
The business itself isn’t enough for most leaders. Like most people have something out, some other thing, and it’s you kind of have to dig to find it sometimes. And so we’re, we’re not, we’re certainly not exclusive or judgmental in that, you know, you have to have this or that label. I think labels can sometimes be helpful And sometimes they can probably be harmful, but we understand that there’s a kind of a trajectory or I don’t know, there’s people can fall fall into all different sorts of places in their journey.

Richard Medcalf
Welcome to the Impact Multiplier CEO podcast. I’m Richard Metcalfe, Founder of Xquadrant, and my mission is to help the world’s top CEOs and entrepreneurs shift from incremental to Exponential progress and create a huge positive impact on our world. Now that requires you to reinvent yourself And transform your business. So if you’re ready to play a bigger game than ever before, I invite you to join us And become an Impact Multiplier CEO. Today, I speak with Brad Flowers, who is the cofounder of Bullhorn. This is an agency that builds impact Brands focusing on language and design and naming. And, really interesting conversation. Brad went from being the owner of a bike shop To an award winning creative agency founder.

And, we look at that journey, Understand his criteria for starting a business and the business reasons why he went ahead and certified as a B Corp. Lot of work. It’s gotta be a reason, right? We also look at the relationship between culture internally and brand externally and how this is something really important to manage And understand as a business leader. And we also look at a few other really nice nuances. For example, Brad’s a big believer in reading novels And he really explains that as a business leader, it’s really important not just to read nonfiction all the time as so many of us do, But actually to open our minds and our hearts through novels. So enjoy this conversation. We explore a lot of really interesting areas around The internal and external sides of a company and how you can align both of those. Enjoy this conversation with Brad Flowers.

Hi, Brad, and welcome to the show.

Brad Flowers
Hey. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. This is a fun one because what I know about you is you went from being a bike shop owner To an award winning creative agency founder for Impact Brands. So my question to you is how the heck?

Brad Flowers
Well, it’s not a direct line. Or rather I should say it’s not a straight line. Yeah. So I basically, yeah, I, I was one of those kids who liked to read novels. And so, you know, my parents were trying to help me find my way through. And of course, they think if a kid likes to read novels, the only thing they could probably do useful as an adult is teach other people about novels. And so I ended up getting a degree in English literature. And so I took time off After I graduated to apply to PhD programs, here in the United States.

And so While I was applying to PhD programs, I took a job at a bike shop and eventually managed the bike shop. So during that time, 2 interesting things happened. 1, I realized I didn’t like teaching at all, which was sort of a problem because that was My only plan.

Richard Medcalf
With the plan. Yeah.

Brad Flowers
That was the plan. So, that was, that was difficult. And the other interesting thing happened is that I really became interested to dent business. And a bike shop is sort of a, it’s sort of a good place to learn the basics of how do you, How do you buy something that you think someone else would wanna buy from you? And then after they do that, how do you provide useful service for the duration of the time that they have it? And hopefully in The, make their life better and more richer by providing them with experience, means of exercise, connecting with the community, their neighbors, those sorts of things. And so it kind of opened my eyes to, 1, that you could just start a business, that had never occurred to me. And 2, that business can serve this role of actually changing people’s lives for the positive. And so During that time I met my, who would eventually become my business partner and he was putting on a citywide music festival. And I was In addition to running the bike shop, I was also doing citywide bike events.

And so we kind of had this idea early on that we would start a company and do event marketing. And we quickly found out a good business lesson. If no one wants to pay you to do what you wanna do, you should probably think about doing something different. And so we, that’s the first lesson for all of you out there. If no one wants to pay you to do it, you shouldn’t do it.

So, so yeah, we kind of quickly reoriented around what could It’s kind of do 3 things. 1, what provides, what creates a solid foundation for the business? What are we good at? And then what kind of benefits our community? And so as we’ve now, that’s been 15 years ago, I think we still think about those things. And interestingly enough, what we think we’re good at has gotten quite a bit smaller where we started off doing kind of broad work. Now we really just do naming, brand identity, brand launch. But how we think about our impact on the community, we’ve gotten quite a bit more ambitious. And so in 2017, we became a B Corp. We re certified in 2020. We’re planning on recertifying now again, next year in 2024.

And we’ve really reoriented most of our outbound marketing towards attracting and introducing ourselves to the sort of clients that we think are out there trying to make a positive impact on the world, because we think if we can, As a small organization of 14 to 15 people, you know, we’ve done a lot of the internal work so that now A lot of that sort of incremental improvements, which is still important, but where we see the real impact is if we can move small brand barriers for our clients, their impact can be huge. And so we spend quite a bit of time thinking about how how to do that.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. That’s it’s It’s a great story. And I love that idea of what we’ve got good at has actually got smaller as you’ve become more focused, and then your ambitions for the impact you can make has got bigger. Tell me about the B Corp stuff. You’re recertifying. Obviously I have a bit of a nervous twitch whenever I have to do certifications or tax returns or anything like this. So Why go, like, why go through the pain of certification the first time and then recertification? Is it fundamentally a marketing strategy? Does it do something else for you? Because obviously you could still be making the impact you want to make without the label. So I’m just curious as to The value you CEO in that.

Brad Flowers
Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s probably a couple of reasons. The, I think Particular to us in the marketing, being in a company in the marketing services space in general, I think The challenge we have to overcome when communicating is they’ll think probably half of what we’re saying is BS. That’s kind of the first step, is our organization is sort of like BS riddled with like half of what all marketing agencies say. It’s just nonsense. So that’s part of it. That’s sort of related to our industry, But then also as a broader international trends towards thinking, issues around greenwashing, impact washing, those sorts of things, We just felt that it was important to go through this certification, which is the only kind of internationally recognized certification to say that we’re actually doing what we say we’re doing so that it’s not just, you don’t take our word for it. Here’s our B Corp score.

You can check it out. You can actually go through how we answered all of the questions and know specifically, like, you know, how how are how are policies related to gender equity and insurance or however deep you want to go, you can go. Got it.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Okay. So it’s, yeah, it’s transparency, right? Yeah. It’s transparency.

Brad Flowers
That that would’ve been The shorter answer. Yeah.

Richard Medcalf
Wow. It’s easy to it’s easy to see it’s easy to see it’s easy to see it’s easy to see it in hindsight. Right? 

Brad Flowers
Right. My job.

Richard Medcalf
We’re bringing it Yeah. Like, you can be afraid.

Brad Flowers
Yeah. I appreciate that.

Richard Medcalf
CEO you see if you see it, it’s a drawing interview, one word answers that you’ve been worrying out. So it’s just fine. So 2 part question, really. Why focus on Impact Brands? Where did that desire come from? When did you make that decision? And then How do you find them? Do you literally just, like, you know, stalk the B Corp, directory listings? Did people come to you? How do you kind of like attract those clients to you and perhaps repel the ones that you don’t want to work with?

Brad Flowers
So the first part, I think partly a lot of people who start agencies start off as designers. And so they’re, you know, they’re maybe a good designer and so they get hired and then they need to hire someone to help and then The next thing they know they’re running a design agency. And their passion might be brand design. For me, you know, I’m kind of a language person. And so I think The unique thing we bring to our space is that we do, we kind of talk about language and design is kind of hand in glove. And so that’s The part of it, but that’s still like not quite enough. Like I don’t actually care about branding enough to like go through all the stress of running a branding agency if there wasn’t something else. And so for me, there had to be, I just wouldn’t do it if I didn’t feel like there was some not higher purpose or just like some higher end.

Like Just making an organization look a little bit better, isn’t enough to keep me going. And so that’s really why I ended up in Impact Branding is to kind of keep it interesting for me personally. But then also I think it was necessary to attract the sort of people I wanted to work The and surround myself with is people who wanted to The were excellent kind of, subject matter experts, whether it’s design language development, but also oriented around utilizing those tools to some end. We sometimes have this, it’s sort of a throwaway phrase, but the idea that branding is ethically neutral, but we’re not. And so it’s like, you can brand any sorts of thing effectively that’s evil and nefarious or whatever, but it’s like, what’s, how do you orient that tool? So I think that’s the answer to the first Impact. Like why we wanna be an impact branding agency. And then when we think about how do we Impact, or how do we go after, I think one thing to know about Agencies in general is that we all suck at marketing. That’s kind of another thing across the board.

If you’re in the marketing space, you’re not allowed to be good at it for yourself.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. I have to deal with anything you can do. Yeah, absolutely.

Brad Flowers
Yeah. So that’s Partly true, but partly joking. We do spend quite a bit of time around, thought leadership. We attend conferences. We’re active in contributing to the B Corp community, Real Leaders, SOCAP, you know, 1% for the planet, some of those organizations that are conscious capitalism The are kind of like oriented in the same direction and that give us a hint that likely people participating in that space would would be thinking along similar lines.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Makes makes sense. So, yeah, so just going with the yeah. Yeah. Being part of that community of people who already nailed their covers to the mast on that.

Brad Flowers
Yeah. And we get quite a bit of work from referral, so It’s not like we say, you have to be this or that to work with us, because what I’ve found is Most founders or leaders of business, I found that The business itself isn’t enough for most leaders. It’s like most people have something out, some other thing, and you kind of have to dig to find it sometimes. And so We’re certainly not exclusive or judgmental in that you have to have this or that label. I think labels can sometimes be helpful and sometimes they can probably be harmful. But we understand that there’s a kind of a trajectory or I don’t know, people can fall into all different sorts of places in their journey.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah, it’s interesting what you said that The has, most business owners, at least have a, have a deeper purpose. In fact, I’m really clear. My mission is personally to help the world’s top leaders, find and We’ll create what I call the ultimate Impact. Yeah, because there is something like there’s all the business stuff you’ve got to deal with, and that’s great. And you’ve got to nail business and generate the money and everything else. And that’s fun. But there’s always beyond through that and beyond that, there’s like the real way that you want to change the world. And that’s the game I love to play is to find that out for people.

How do you really want to change the world? And then how do you really go big on that thing? Right. Because I find that often people are very strategic and they’re working on big projects, But they’re not necessarily working on the things that deeply matter to them or they’ve lost the joy in that. Right? And on the other hand, you could have what I call the frustrated visionaries, you know, who are kind of like, they know what they want to do, but they’re not thinking strategically enough to get there or they’re not magnetizing the people to come along with them on the journey. And it’s those kind of 2 angles. I think that’s interesting. So, yes, I love the fact that you’ve chosen that Lane to kind of work with on Impact branding. And actually, let’s talk about greenwashing or impact washing. You mentioned it as you get into The, Despite the fact that you’ve said that’s what we’re up to, do you find yourself in situations where you’re like, my word, this is not, you know, how are we going to make this look Better than it is, you know, all that kind of stuff coming up.

It could be a perennial challenge for any marketing and branding agency.

Brad Flowers
Yeah. We don’t come across situations often where we feel like we have to, where we feel like we have to position something to be something it’s not. Luckily, I think Partly another part of just talking about things the way that we do it, I think probably how we talk about things is a turnoff to a lot of people, which is, which is probably a good thing. And so there are some people who are going to read our website and be like, The, that’s not for me. And I think that’s totally fine. I think that’s Effective communication, you know, some people should really be into it and some people should probably find it, you know, not so. And so I think the people who are more interested in sort of, like lipstick on a pig sort of idea, and I think The they probably just don’t come to us or don’t make it that far. The trick though, occasionally there’s still sort of ambiguous or murky waters in some things.

And so there are occasionally sometimes where maybe someone would wanna recuse themselves from a particular project because they felt like, wow, It was in line with our business goals and our stated objectives. There’s still room for some individuals have a specific moral compass that might be different than the business. And so that’s an interesting thing we’ve dealt with recently. It actually came up for the 1st time last year is how do we create a policy so that people can can recuse themselves. How does that work? What, when, when do they need to tell us? Because we do wanna leave space for what the, what the biz, like what the business says we’re doing, but what and how individuals feel about So for that’s sort of general and vague. So for example, specifically, we were working with, an organization that helped smaller farmers bring products to a bigger market. So in general, that’s really good because, you know, They can get better prices, they can have a more sustainable business, smaller farmers tend to have more sustainable growing practices, etcetera. A lot of good reasons why that would work.

However, you know, tomatoes maybe aren’t the thing that they’re going to be selling. So oftentimes it would be meat products, that they would sell through this particular thing. And so some people The felt like that was out of alignment with their, Even though generally, big picture, helping small farmers is good, they didn’t wanna help sell hamburgers or whatever.

Richard Medcalf
I hope you’re enjoying this conversation. This is just a quick interlude to remind you that my book, Making Time For Strategy, is now available. If you wanna be less busy and more successful, I highly recommend that you check it out. Why not head over To making time for strategy.com to find out the details. Now back to the conversation. Yeah, that’s helpful. Yeah. Really interesting.

On the other hand, you probably as a brand, you probably want somebody working on your project who actually does care about what you’re doing And not somebody who’s a bit turned off by that. So that makes a lot of sense. Let’s actually talk about the work that you do. Where do Impact focused Brands, businesses fall down on the marketing side. So what are some of the main issues that you correct? I mean, is it more that you just on the tactical level of, well, they need to have a, b and z in each of a new, I don’t know, website Impact, logo Names. Yeah. Is it mainly that or, you know, is it is it something else they’re not doing, not getting their message out in a certain way? I’m just thinking of what advice Or what sort of mental checklist The you might offer to somebody who is, you know, is serious, got impact and has got a business that is going that way? What diagnostic would you give them to run through?

Brad Flowers
That’s a good one. And I think it’s not dissimilar from how you were talking earlier about helping people tap into what, how they really wanna create their best impact as a leader. I think organizations have a similar function. And what we see is that when an organization’s culture and brand fall out of sync, there’s dissonance there. And anytime there’s dissonance between culture and brand, consumers perceive that as suspicious and like a lack of transparency. And so it can have real damaging impacts on a brand and it can be totally innocent because oftentimes cultural changes happen and brand changes lag. And so a culture can change maybe a leadership decision, new hires, a new orientation on a specific service or product. And The so a culture is dynamic and changing all the time, but some of the static brand assets can sometimes fall behind.

And so oftentimes what we find we’re doing is bringing the brand assets back into alignment with the culture that has kind of run out in front. And so, like, thing we hear things like, we feel like we’re a really dynamic organization, but we don’t know how to talk Got it. Or we feel like we have this really cool culture, but our website portrays us as stodgy or whatever. And so that’s often for us because we’re we’re primarily working on some of the really foundational elements. We’re we’re not too executional in an ad campaign or digital marketing or something like that. We’re really thinking about, you know, does this name strategically put you in the best position for success. And so, which are, those are huge decisions. Like a name change is one of the biggest decisions generally a leader is gonna make because it has all the downstream impacts.

And sometimes again, it’s just like over time, you know, there’s maybe a new era of leadership and the name that was decided on by the previous generation maybe no longer puts you in the best position for success. Maybe it’s misrepresentative or, negative in some way, and it needs to change, but it’s still scary change. So I think that’s probably the main diagnostic for us is We The a really culture based approach to branding and because of that, we use a lot of the same sort of tools that like an anthropologist or something would use. And so we’re really digging deep into understanding what’s the culture of the organization, what comprises it, what are the elements, what are the stories, What are the, the people, the heroes in the story? Yeah, that’s a little bit about kind of how we think about it.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. No, really interesting. The idea about the brand lacking the culture, I think is really fascinating. Obviously explains why my website is always out of date, right? Because since I finished it.

Brad Flowers
Yeah, you have another idea, right? You’ve changed.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah, exactly.

Brad Flowers
And because you’re always getting better, you’re talking to people and thinking, oh, I should, you know, I could go about it in this way and that would be effective.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. And on a personal level, my own scale of ambition, you know, has gone up and the impact I want to make in the world has gone up. And but that happens before the tiring work of thinking, okay, perhaps I need to think about the language for that. I completely get that. So let’s get back to the question I was almost going to ask very early on, but we’ll go back to your English language literature studies. And you said that you love reading novels still and love business leaders. They just, you know, eat, nonfiction up, like it’s going out of fashion, but novels, the thing you might leave The summer vacation on the beach. But at that point, probably they’re not the world’s best novels, right? Something that doesn’t require so many brainpower. The do you waste your time reading novels is my question.

Brad Flowers
Yeah. So I have a policy, I always have 2 books going, so I always have The non fiction book going, something related to a growth area. And I always have a fiction book going. And I think if you’re a business leader and you’re not reading fiction, you’re doing yourself a great disservice because your greatest asset as a leader is the empathy that you show the people around you. And the greatest way to build empathy skills is to read fiction and be able to put yourself in the position. The act of reading fiction in and of itself is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes so as you can understand their perspective. And so I think that act and practicing that muscle is there are probably no strategic things that you can learn that would be more important than having empathy And, being able to see thing from the perspective of your coworkers or your customers.

Richard Medcalf
Fascinating. Because obviously that’s what, yeah, people write these books. Well, the great literature is really tying into that human experience and yet suggesting, like, so many leaders. I, I love reading fiction, but I must admit, I don’t Read it as nearly as much as you’re suggesting there. And that definitely opens up, food for thought. The do you think that is? Do you think people just The feel it’s more pragmatic, expedient to read the nonfiction to people who don’t know where to start. Do you think that people feel that fiction is just going to be boring, like whether it’s You know, your summer thriller or your weighty The but boring classic or, you know, what’s going on do you think for people?

Brad Flowers
I don’t know. I think it’s probably baggage from school because we were made to read these things and made to write boring reports about them rather than seeing them in like the dynamic exciting light. Also, it’s probably reading the wrong things. You know, we have this idea of like, oh, I have to start with Shakespeare and then go through like all of the Bronte sisters, The of the, you know, it’s like, That may just be boring to you. Like if you don’t like Dickens, don’t read Dickens. Like there’s a lot of literature out there, you know, you don’t have to read that. So it’s probably finding the right, it’s hard to find the right thing, something that’s interesting and something that you find engaging. And I think there’s that negative.

Also, it’s not, it doesn’t feel as productive. I think that’s another thing. Like it feels a little bit like you’re wasting your time where when you’re reading nonfiction, you get this, it’s sort of a false sense of improving things, even though you actually haven’t done anything. You get a sense that you’re doing something. It reminds me of there’s The, there was It was like a psychologist explaining why people don’t save money. And psychologically, it’s just as rewarding to think about saving money as it is to actually save money. And so what happens, people think about saving money and then The, okay, I got the dopamine thing going on and I feel good about it, but then you don’t ever actually have to start saving money. So it’s sort of similar.

It’s like you read a business book and it feels like, oh, I’m getting all these actionable insights. But it’s like, If you think about the last books, like how much do you remember and how much did you actually use? It’s probably not as much as you think. I mean, I wrote a business book, so don’t get me wrong. Like I think people should read them.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. I was about to start a fight fight for you, you know, with my bashing you over the head with my own book over here, making Making time for strategy. But I wouldn’t really, it’s a happy marriage.

Brad Flowers
No, I took an awful, I took a lot of my life to write a book.

Richard Medcalf
So don’t, don’t you?

Brad Flowers
Don’t take me wrong. I’m just, I’m appealing to balance. I don’t want to throw The out.

Richard Medcalf
No, definitely. Definitely. So, one thing I know that’s going on for you is you’re really thinking about, you know, how you let go of it in your leadership and perhaps think about flattening your organization and keeping it kind of, keeping empowerment at the maximum across that. But tell us a little bit about that journey. I mean, I know you’re right in the middle of it and you haven’t got all the answers at this point. But tell me, like, what set you on that journey and what are some of the things that have been bubbling up for you?

Brad Flowers
Let’s see. I think what started probably And so we’ve always had some remote or distributed teammates. And through 2020, we realized that our practices, and just how we did things made it really hard for distributed employees to thrive. And so we’ve stayed a distributed team up until now. And I think what happened is slowly over time, some of the cultural equity that we had by being in the same room a lot started to erode. And this last year we started to see some real cultural problems. And I think a lot of it came down to, I’m not like a as far as my natural leadership that, mentoring isn’t one of the things that I find is really natural and I don’t do it naturally. It’s kind of been like a bootstrap sort of like culture.

You kind of need to come in and do it for yourself. But We were getting to the point where that was not helpful to us, it wasn’t serving us. And so these cultural problems started happening and people were like, you know, I’m here because The culture’s great and because of the orientation, like I could get a job somewhere else that pays more. And it’s like, if the culture’s gonna stink and it’s not kind of enough to keep me around. And so I did a lot of introspection and The, and have spent a lot of the last year doing kind of monthly The on ones with other teammates And have heard over and over that people want a clearer, well, they just want to have a better hand in how we make decisions and decisions and participating in that. And so I, that’s sort of the impetus was how to, How to do a couple things that are seemingly contradictory. It’s like having a clear hierarchy gives people really clear career ladders or career trajectory, and people want a clear career trajectory, but they want a better culture around that as well, and they want to be empowered. And so I don’t know, we’re trying to figure out how to balance all of that.

And One of the first things we’re doing is flattening. And so if someone hired us, they wouldn’t work with a creative director, they would work with a design lead, for example. And so we don’t have like the traditional kind of ad agency model where you’d have junior designer, designer, senior designer, art director, junior creative director, creative director, whatever. So we’re sort of pushing that model aside also because it just isn’t how we work. We’re more like consultants really, we’re not really liking that agency. And so The other thing I would say is where I’m thinking about it because it really more accurately represents how we actually work. And so we wanna model, There’s a book that’s really popular here right now, back to nonfiction to totally contradict my point. There’s a book called Traction and it’s sort of a way for people to operate.

It creates a method for operating your business and it’s especially effective I think for smaller and medium sized companies. But it’s sort of in order to do it, you bring in an organizational chart that’s pretty traditional. And so we started onboarding all of these kind of things because I don’t have a strategy background. So it helped me think about, okay, what does like a 1 page business plan look like how do we kind of start to think about strategy in a different way? But I think the org chart was a bad fit for us while a lot of the other attraction stuff was great for us. And so now we’re kind of undoing that and going back to the beginning. I don’t know. But if you interview me in a year, it might be a bust. So we’ll have to CEO if, see if it works.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Well, what’s what’s the stretch for you in that? Like, what are you feeling is, like, hardest about, like, trying to keep that flat organization or trying to empower people to make more decisions? How does you know, what’s What’s going on for you as a leader, right, it’s not always easy.

Brad Flowers
No, it’s not always easy because you think of the main role of a leader as being decisive. And now there are situations where I have to not be decisive and sit back and think about how to be a facilitator and an power or I don’t know if that’s a word, and someone who and I’ve just used it. So Yeah. And so it’s something where I, in my experience, I could see, okay, here’s how we create, this is the decision that should be made, but that’s maybe not the process by which the decision should be made. And so now I’m thinking about the process by which decisions get made is probably more important than The decisions and bringing along people because that’s the culture that they’re here for. It’s not like beer in the fridge and like ping pong tables. It’s engaging and bringing your whole self to work towards a meaningful task. Like that’s what people actually care about.

And so trying to pave pave the way for that. And I I mentioned before the show, there’s a book called, the master and his emissary, and it’s this huge 1,000 page tome about all left brain, right brain research. And he gives this analog at the beginning of a bird because birds also have the same kind of hemisphere construction of their brains, but it’s a little easier to understand because their brain’s so much simpler. So you picture a brain, a bird on the beach and the birds kind of doing 2 things. The thing they’re pecking and sorting stones from seeds. So they’re trying to pick up and decide which is which. And so The left, let’s see, Their let’s CEO, their right eye, which is connected to their left brain similar to us, how it kinda crosses hemispheres. Their right eye is associated with all the details and it’s it’s doing this complicated sorting task where their other eye is keeping and scanning for context to make sure they’re not going to get eaten by a hawk while they’re doing this important sorting work.

And so I think in our business, I was using that bird on a beach analog to think, like, what we often get good at is doing this complicated sorting task and maybe it’s like finding the best name for an organization or the best, logo for a particular organization. But what my job as the leader is to constantly provide context and context doesn’t happen in the annual planning meeting where I say, this is the context, because the bird doesn’t decide at the beginning of the year, I’m not gonna get eaten by an owl this year. Like it has to constantly do that. And it can’t decide quarterly, I’m not gonna get eaten by an owl. It has to decide, it has to constantly reiterate. And so I think Thinking of myself as a context setter is different than visionary, I think. And it’s setting like all of our decisions that we’re making and saying, okay, what we’re Doing now is we’re deciding on how do we, do a particular thing on our profit and loss statement. Like how do The, account for cost of goods sold on our profit and loss which is something we did yesterday.

It’s boring like a detail. It’s a it’s a seed from a stone task, but it’s like we’re doing it in this broader context because we wanna be able to assess our businesses next to other businesses and just accounting for revenue to revenue isn’t a good way to do that. Anyway, that’s an example.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. It actually reminds me of when I’m working with executive teams, which I do pretty often. I think often my role is to help remind them of the context that they’ve set for themselves. So because often, like, you know, you have a team off-site or retreat And people agree that we need to be doing these things for this reason. It’s that big vision we want to be as a team, the kind of team you want to be, how are we going to lead at this new level? And then very easily they go back into all The, all the stone sorting, if you like, and it’s very hard for them to actually realize, oh yeah, are we actually being the team that we said we were going to be in this moment? And so it’s a little bit different, but it is actually kind of just reminding people of, yeah, of The context, of that context as well. There is the business context and then there is that The of the identity that we’re trying to live out.

Brad Flowers
Yeah, I think that’s a great point. And I think that’s the part that resonates. Another example for us is, are we putting ourselves in The position to then The relationship with a client, for example. So say we create a Visual Identity and We know that if we can help them launch that into the world, it’s gonna be more successful for them and more compelling and their investment is gonna be, better utilize over time because we’re gonna help launch it in a way that’s consistent and coherent. But if I’m saying, you know, it’s an uncertain business environment. You know, like our cash flow is down. We have to resign this business. Like The are 2 different ways of saying the same thing.

Like it may be that we need to resign this business because there’s this financial reality, but it’s putting it in the context of, wow, that’s true. What’s also true is we’re not doing our, We’re now kind of fulfilling our mission, which is to create the best impact possible if we don’t re sign. And so it’s kind of like, It’s kinda putting context around everything, all of these small and big things that we talk about as an organization and doing it constantly so that you’re so sick of hearing yourself say it. That’s maybe the hardest Impact. It’s like not getting so sick of hearing yourself say it that you stop saying it. I don’t

Richard Medcalf
know. Okay. Well, let’s discuss, I’ll wrap this up. Brad, what would it look like for Bullhorn Creative, to Multiplier Impact over the next few years. And how are you gonna need to shift yourself to

Brad Flowers
make that happen? Well, to multiply our impact, we need to put ourselves in a position to take on larger, more complicated problems. And so several things need to happen from, for example, the example of the profit and loss statement. We’ve been self performed business. So it’s like, we have a really simple P and L. So like, you wouldn’t believe how simple it is. But as we, change and become more complicated, we need to rethink how we do that so that we can account for taking on a partner so that we’re doing a launch and our client needs an app. And so now we have a friend, okay, who can design and develop the app. And so, all of these things can happen together.

And so, a lot of our In the immediate future growth is around collaboration and working with other people who are great at what they do, whether they’re developers or, marketers, interior designers, architects, whatever they are, it’s through collaboration and seeing things through from here’s this small project we did to here’s like pushing it out big scale at the most compelling. And so, I think it’s getting better at collaboration and all of the kind of cascading things that The, I think it’s keeping our team engaged and seeing through this process that I’ve mentioned, we’ve already started. And so it’s, so for me, it’s keeping a tab on our culture and making sure that this model of a distributed agency can work and that we can make it engaging and compelling and personal. So there’s kind of no shortage of challenges. But on the flip side, I’m sorting no shortages. It’s my dog. No shortages of opportunities too, I think.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Thank you. Well, hey, Brad, it’s been a, you know, great fun conversation. You know, we’ve looked at the merits of, high end literature. We’ve talked about burns and stones, and if The point of context, we’ve looked at actually B Corp and, what certification is brought to you. We’ve looked at your 3 criteria of starting a business, why what you’ve got has got smaller, and then your ambition correspondingly has grown. And I think we’ve looked at a lot around this relationship of culture and branding and how you kind of see the relationship between those 2, which I think is, was really fascinating it’s core to what you do. So thank you for this conversation.

It’s been a lot of fun. If people want to find out more about you or about your business, where do they do that?

Brad Flowers
We’re at Born Creative pretty much everywhere on the internet. That’s probably the best place.

Richard Medcalf
That’s That’s simple. And, yeah, I guess there are many tools we can use to find that that out now nowadays. That’s great. Brad, it’s been a real pleasure. Thanks so much. Look forward to following along on the journey. Thanks, Richard. The care.

Well, that’s a wrap. If you received value from this conversation, please do leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. We deeply appreciate it. And if you’d like to check out the show notes from this episode, head to expodrent.com/podcast Podcast you’ll find all the details. Now finally, when you’re in top leadership, who supports and challenges you at a deep level to help you multiply your impact? Let’s cover more about the different ways we can support you at Xquadrant.

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