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Creative Director Steve Vengrove Is the ‘Reel’ Deal

In fly-fishing, it’s incredibly challenging to land a fly in just the right location to entice a fish to strike. Steve Vengrove, who’s spent his career catching big ideas for some of the world’s largest brands as an Executive Creative Director/Board of Directors for Saatchi & Saatchi, understands this very well. “Fishing and idea generating […]

In fly-fishing, it’s incredibly challenging to land a fly in just the right location to entice a fish to strike. Steve Vengrove, who’s spent his career catching big ideas for some of the world’s largest brands as an Executive Creative Director/Board of Directors for Saatchi & Saatchi, understands this very well.
“Fishing and idea generating can sometimes be an elusive experience. You must be willing to invest the time because both are highly specialized activities that require large amounts of patience. They also happen to be the only two things I’m good at,” joked Vengrove.
Steve once responded to an ad for a copywriter posted for the agency Dancer Fitzgerald Sample (DFS) by sending this risky response to their Creative Director, Jack Keil – “I would like to work for you because I believe that every ad agency should have a fly fisherman on its staff.” He sent no resume, included no samples of his work. The plan paid off. After an interview with John, he landed the job.
In 1986, Saatchi & Saatchi purchased DFS. Today, Saatchi is still one of the largest global communications agencies with over 140 offices in 76 countries and more than 6,500 workers around the world. Steve spent close to sixteen years working alongside some of the most prominent brands in the world, including Toyota, Proctor & Gamble, General Mills and Wendy’s.
Jack Smart, a Creative Director who worked with Steve at DFS and Saatchi, said this about working with him, “Steve always had a clown nose in his pocket and would put it on in a restaurant, his office or in a meeting. Working for Steve wasn’t work, it was clown noses, jokes, funny commercials and very happy, successful clients,” said Smart.
Steve’s Son, Tony, Founder & CEO of Miles Finch Innovation has fond memories of his Father’s unique approach to his work. “When I was a young teenager, he stormed into our family room one afternoon and asked me if I knew of any current songs about legs. I said, “She’s Got Legs” by ZZ Top. A few months later “She’s got Legg’s” was the new campaign for Legg’s pantyhose. Sparks of ideas inspired in the house seemed to have a magical way of making it onto television. I certainly learned from my father that creativity benefits from teamwork and not being afraid to ask questions.”
Steve understood how to navigate the waters of the agency world. “I was lucky in that I was able to surround myself with people who were better than me. That’s what made the difference. I always worked with really talented people. Many times I would come up with the initial idea, but I always counted on my team to find ways to make it better, and they would.”
Steve and his team were responsible for creating the wildly successful ‘Oh, what a feeling!’ Toyota automotive campaign featuring people jumping in slow motion over their excitement of owning a Toyota. Another successful campaign Steve had a hand in was ‘Cuckoo for Coco-Puffs.’ Featuring ‘Sonny’ the Cuckoo bird who goes crazy every time he tastes the chocolaty cereal.
Saatchi once had the opportunity to present to Wendy’s a new concept. The agency was in the process of acquiring the rights to the song ‘Georgia On My Mind,’ and after reworking some of the lyrics, Steve hired jazz musician Grady Tate to re-record the song as ‘Wendy’s On My Mind.’
“It was such a strong idea that I believe had they bought it, it would have sold them a lot of hamburgers,” said Vengrove. Even though this idea was ‘one that got away,’ Steve keeps it in perspective. He’s proud of the people he has mentored over the years, his lifelong agency friendships, and the work he did on behalf of Saatchi and DFS’ clients. Since retiring to Bethlehem, Steve no longer has to worry about catching his next big idea. He now pours his creative energy into getting the Saucon Creek trout to bite his hand tied flies.
He kept the ideas he caught while working for Saatchi. Now, he’s at peace with releasing what he catches.

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Innovation Will Not Grow in a Toxic Environment

Smart business owners today are always looking for new ways to attract top people to join their organizations. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to have a creative, vibrant and empowering workplace environment and it all starts with attracting the best people to fit into that culture. As the workforce tightens and […]

Smart business owners today are always looking for new ways to attract top people to join their organizations. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to have a creative, vibrant and empowering workplace environment and it all starts with attracting the best people to fit into that culture. As the workforce tightens and competition for exceptional workers intensifies, finding those candidates can prove challenging.

Margo Trott Mukkulainen, a nationally recognized freelance writer, creative marketing consultant and editor of myHR Partner’s myHR Blog agrees, “Every new addition to your team creates a new dynamic that will impact your workforce. The right person can move your company forward in new ways. They can and should have a positive influence in a way that grows your business, or at the very least maintain your success.”

In my career, I have experienced both. I’ve worked in environments where a healthy life/work balance was encouraged by the leadership, the work was creative and meaningful, and the employees were invited to share their ideas openly. I have also worked in toxic environments, and they will sap your energy, drain your soul and make it difficult just to get through the day.

“I have seen time and time again how one or two bad hiring decisions can derail an entire workplace. I have also seen how a good hire can go bad quickly if the workplace was a toxic one. The best workplaces are innovative enough to evolve to meet the needs of the customers, the company, and the employees. Part of that “secret sauce” is knowing how critical the right hire is for every position—and knowing how to keep them happy within the organization.” Mukkulainen added.

Having even one toxic person poisoning the culture inside your company can prove costly. “The average cost-per-hire is $4,129, while the average time it takes to fill a given position is 42 days, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2016 Human Capital Benchmarking Report. And the cost of making a bad hire can have on your company can be several tens of thousands of dollars.” Mukkulainen cautioned.

So, what does this all mean? Well, owners need to be open to set the conditions that create a culture where people openly share their ideas, are not afraid to take risks, respect each other’s contributions, and have autonomy to solve customer issues without involving management. If you’re lucky enough to work in that type of environment, you are more productive, will have lower stress levels and you will look forward to going to work every day.

Consider this, have you ever found yourself getting anxious on a Sunday evening because you have work the next day? That’s a dead giveaway that you should seek other employment.

“The best workplaces I have seen are innovative enough to evolve to meet the needs of the customers, the company, and the employees. Hiring someone who does not fit into your company culture can set up a climate of stress and distraction for everyone.” Mukkulainen warned.

“People are more interested than ever in company cultures and employer brands, even when they are not job hunting, which is why developing these is crucial to building a strong workforce. Hiring someone who does not fit into your company culture can set up a climate of stress and distraction for everyone. And your talent will flee if there’s too much negative drama.” Mukkulainen stressed. The best companies know this and work hard at retaining and evolving their workplace cultures. Don’t ever underestimate the power a good hire can have on your success. Give it the attention it deserves.

Margo has written extensively about many of these issues on myHR Blog, and you can find it here at… http://myhrpartnerinc.com/category/myhr-blog/

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Can Creativity Drive Revenue?

Whether it’s an idea for a new product or an innovative way to solve a business challenge, companies today should embrace creativity if they want to stay relevant in the marketplace. We are rapidly entering an era of creative intensification, and corporations that are unwilling to foster a creative environment will find it difficult to […]

Whether it’s an idea for a new product or an innovative way to solve a business challenge, companies today should embrace creativity if they want to stay relevant in the marketplace.

We are rapidly entering an era of creative intensification, and corporations that are unwilling to foster a creative environment will find it difficult to compete with those that do. So how does it work? How do you bring more creativity into a place of business? Can it be used to drive revenue?

Absolutely.

For starters, it’s about being willing to foster an environment where employees feel comfortable and are encouraged to share their thoughts openly. Leaders within the business must be prepared to listen to everyone’s ideas because the best leaders understand that innovation can come from anyone, regardless of their position in the company.

That’s what trips most people up. When leaders feel like all the ideas must come from them, they miss a tremendous opportunity to gain insight from the people who are in the best position to help the company grow — the employees.

For example, a two-year, in-house creativity course at General Electric resulted in a 60% increase in patentable concepts, while creativity-training participants at Pittsburgh Plate Glass showed a 300% increase in viable ideas compared with those who didn’t take the course. Those are significant increases and worthy of attention.

Linda Naiman, founder of Creativity at Work, said, “For innovation to truly flourish, organizations must create an environment that fosters creativity; bringing together multi-talented groups of people who work in close collaboration together — exchanging knowledge, ideas, and shaping the direction of the company’s future.”

But you must be willing to go all in. For creativity to truly deliver an ROI, everyone in the company must be on board. Check your ego at the door and embrace a culture where everyone can feel safe to voice their opinions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a room and witnessed someone get destroyed because they had summoned the courage to speak up, only to be told by management, “Well, we’ve tried that already, and it didn’t work!”

That employee took a risk to offer a thought, only to be made to feel like their contribution was silly and unworthy of consideration. Creativity will not flourish in that type of toxic environment.

Too often, today’s risk-averse business conditions don’t support creative thought and ideation the way they should. Most are great at tracking production costs, profitability, taxes and payroll. Essential items that go into running a successful business. But, creativity doesn’t receive the same status and gets brushed aside.

Consider the recent survey on creativity by Adobe who surveyed business people in the US, the UK, Germany, France, and Japan. 80% of respondents felt that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth. 75% said they are constantly under pressure to be more creative at work. Therein lies the challenge. Creativity isn’t something that can be mandated. You can’t order employees to be more creative, then criticize them if positive results don’t immediately show up on your spreadsheets. Businesses that tap into the power of creativity stand a much better chance of developing new products, unlocking new markets and discovering new revenue streams. Focus on creating an environment for employees to grow and develop creatively, and support their efforts by allowing them to take risks.

Don’t stigmatize mistakes. Be willing to entertain different opinions. Have the courage to try new approaches. Embrace ambiguity. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Be open to hearing the things you need to hear as opposed to what you want to hear. Do these things consistently, and you’ll see an impact.

Creativity is real, and it’s here to stay. Those companies who are brave enough to accept that fact can capitalize on creativity’s undeniable power and use it as a force for change and growth.

The good news is the future only comes one day at a time. The bad news is if you’re unwilling to bring creativity into your business, you won’t have much of a future to worry about.

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