This is part six of the ten part series. Follow the Hiscox Courageous Entrepreneur interview series on Under30CEO.com.
Interview Series Sponsored by Hiscox Small Business Insurance. Hiscox specializes in protecting IT/technology, marketing, consulting, health and beauty, photography and many other professional services businesses, tailoring coverage to the specific risks in your industry.
ColorJar is a creative technology agency with expertise in positioning strategy and creating custom websites and mobile apps. They take pride in always delivering to their customers and being a little different from the industry standard. “We’re outsiders. Most people strive to be insiders, and that’s natural, but we strive to be outsiders and we started that way. None of us had ever worked for an agency, so inherently we did things a little bit differently.”
David Gardner, who stands at 6’9”, isn’t an average guy and he embraces it. As the Founder and CEO of ColorJar explains, there are three traits that their team believes is at the heart of being an outsider:
#1. They listen with the intent to truly understand. When you assume you know less, you tend to listen more.
#2. They are unafraid to ask the tough questions. Asking those tough questions often leads to uncovering deeper truths, which allows you to solve greater problems.
#3. They are free from the gravity of conventional wisdom, or the things that everyone thinks they know. They’re not pulled down by that gravity, which allows them to dream without constraint.
Before launching ColorJar, David was leading an internal product team at an e-commerce company when he came up with the idea for a new agency. “We were looking to engage other similar product-driven team agencies to work in tandem with our newly created team. In doing this search, I just didn’t love what we found from the other agencies out there. That was when I first saw the opportunity and launched ColorJar to fill that void.” The main problem he encountered was the industry’s reputation of missing deadlines, poorly communicating with clients and “blowing through budgets.”
The company was boot-strapped with a modest budget when it launched in 2009. David had the chance to land his first big client – ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, but there was a problem. Understandably, Stephen A. wanted to meet in person over lunch in New York City. David had to make the tough decision of whether or not to use most of his early budget to travel to take a potential client to a fancy lunch or lose the opportunity to work with him. David made the trip, and it turned out to be a great match as ColorJar was able to work with him for several years. “I’m happy I got on that airplane.”
Before the plane ride, David got his start as an entrepreneur while at an undergrad at Dartmouth. With a close friend, David started a website that highlighted cool and positive things that were happening on campus, but were going unnoticed. The site quickly built a following and a professor from Auburn University did a case study on what they had built. “That’s really when I got bit by the entrepreneurial bug.” After Dartmouth, David describes his time as a professional basketball player in Europe as a temporary, but valuable detour during his entrepreneurial journey.
ColorJar has doubled in size over the past year and is projected to double again in 2015. Not bad for an agency full of outsiders.
Don’t double dribble and leave, score a slam dunk and listen to the full interview with David Gardner below!
– “Imagine your brand as a person. Define its personality as if it were human. Imagine that it walks into the room and has a short conversation with you and leaves. How would you describe its personality?”
– “We see a lot of over-messaging. That happens when people are too close to their own company, and they are in complete love with the top five features or benefits, and they want to share them all at once.”
– “The only way you can be successful in your brand is to define it before putting it out into the world.
– “Go slow. People want to grow so rapidly and quickly and I think they tend to get overextended and lean out ahead too far over their skis. If you want to win the race, it takes time.”
– “If you were to develop a bad reputation, you would never recover from that.”
– “Developing a clear brand personality is vital. It’s vital for consistency, it’s vital to bring your brand alive.”
– “If you’re lucky enough to get someone’s attention, you’re not going to have much of it.”
– Q: How important is insurance for your business?
A: “I think the biggest thing is to make sure that you’re on the same page as your clients before you begin.”
– You played professional basketball in Germany. What’s more exciting – playing professional basketball in a foreign country or working on your own startup? It was nice having people cheer for me when I walked into work, I don’t get that much anymore. Both felt like huge adventures.
– Being tall, how often are you asked if you ever played basketball? At 6’9, I definitely get asked if I’ve played basketball slightly more often than I get asked if I’ve ever been a jockey. It’s become apart of my daily life and I really love being tall.
– Favorite thing to do to relax? I love going to the movies. To clear my head, I work out.
– What’s a movie you’ve seen recently that you would recommend? Snowpiercer
– Other than hard work, why do athletes make good entrepreneurs? I think athletes make the best entrepreneurs. Beyond hard work, discipline is another. As an athlete you have to be incredibly disciplined in a lot of areas of your life and do things the right way when no one is watching.
– What drives you on an everyday basis as an entrepreneur? When I wake up, I really just want to build something that’s bigger than myself.
Listen to the full interview here: