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Home » 40 Lessons Learned from a 40-year Ad Veteran

Capitol Communicator reports that seasoned communicators hold the promise of making "a substantial impact in the boardroom," writes Cary Hatch in the Washington Business Journal.

40 Lessons Learned from a 40-year Ad Veteran

by | Oct 22, 2021

By Cary Hatch, CEO, MDB Communications

It may be luck, pluck, or our date of origin’s good karma…but the fact that we’re still doing work that works for our clients, 40 years later, is something just short of amazing. As one of the most recognized independent advertising agencies in Washington, DC, we salute our clients and partners, and the many team members over the last four decades who have fueled our success – and the accomplishments of the brands we’ve had the good fortune to represent.

Success is certainly not guaranteed. Who knew that we’d continue to grow or that we’d have the opportunity and honor over the last four decades to work for brands like Sprint, National Geographic, Roy Rogers Restaurants, the DC Lottery, Chevy Chase Trust, the US Mint, Fannie Mae and many, many others?

As the principal of an advertising agency, I learned early on that our success is based solely on the sustained value we provide (and continue to provide) for our clients. In our industry, as with most, that means “leaning forward” to fiercely pursue ideas, methods and channels that can advance our clients’ brands in an increasingly competitive marketplace as well as being thoughtful stewards of their investments.  Period.

 I continue to ask our team, partners and vendors one simple question. If we don’t continue to be a renaissance resource in brand leadership, why would anyone hire us? We continue to lead the charge on new and evolving marketing fronts, conditions, and opportunities. Including numerous sports sponsorship engagements, and a liquid content methodology to creative campaign production during a pandemic.

As we take time to reflect on our humble beginnings in 1981 (when MTV was introduced, the IBM PC was announced, and long before the internet) we also appreciate our growth and diversified services, as well as numerous business and industry recognitions. I’m filled with overwhelming gratitude for the joy of being part of an exceptional team and industry, and all the lessons learned along the way. Onward and upward!

 Top 40 lessons learned:

  1. Believe in yourself. Don’t let others define you or marginalize you. 
  2. Relationships are not just for now – but for the future. 
  3. Invest in the moment – it pays off in the long run.
  4. Give and do more than what’s “required”.
  5. Follow your passion – the money will follow (not the other way around).
  6. Fear of failure is a wonderful motivator.
  7. After you’ve made your point – stop talking.
  8. Know your weaknesses and act accordingly. Sometimes you have to “bench” yourself. Know when to put the best players in. It’s not always you.
  9. Reach beyond your comfort level or you’ll miss plenty of opportunities.
  10. Half effort produces no results.
  11. Surround yourself with the best, and loyal, people. Being the best is the basic benchmark –mutual loyalty is mandatory.
  12. Reward those who contribute. Share the spotlight and the rewards.
  13. It’s not your cash, it’s the company’s. Treat it that way.
  14. Hire well, fire well.
  15. Invest thoughtfully in people.
  16. You can’t make someone care.
  17. A phone call or email can change your destiny. Return calls and emails. Hey, you never know.
  18. Show up with your “A” game at all times.
  19. Be a resource to people entering the business/industry.
  20. Treat people well – regardless of station in life. 
  21. Sometimes you need to fire a client.
  22. Lead by example and have integrity (always, and especially when it hurts).
  23. Take smart risks and make thoughtful investments. 
  24. If you can’t help someone, provide access to someone who can.
  25. Live up to your word.  
  26. Trust but verify. 
  27. Don’t get too high on your success or too low on your failures. Things can change quickly.
  28. Learn to grin and bear defeat. Even the score by winning the next time; then celebrate.
  29. Negotiate from a position of strength.
  30. Be willing to walk away from a deal, sometimes the price of winning has a high price tag.
  31. Remain curious. 
  32. Be humble.
  33. Believe in the power of “what if?”.
  34. Give yourself permission to dream.
  35. You can do “everything right” and still lose (in the short term).
  36. Be gracious in defeat.
  37. Avoid certainty. 
  38. GRIT is a necessary element of entrepreneurship.
  39. Say thank you, sincerely and often.
  40. Take time to celebrate: the small wins; the people on your team and those who believe in you.

MDB Communications, a Capitol Communicator sponsor, has championed brands in the DMV and beyond for 40 years. 

As a full-service advertising and marketing communications firm headquartered in Washington, DC, MDB has been privileged to work with many brand leaders including: The DC Lottery, Chevy Chase Trust, Destination DC, Fannie Mae, the International Spy Museum, the MetroNow Coalition, PEPCO, National Geographic, Roy Rogers Restaurants, Sprint, US Mint, The Washington Business Journal and many, many more.

About the Author

MDB Communications

Sponsor: MDB Communications is a full-service, media-neutral agency that's powered by experienced leaders and innovators. As an independent agency with the drive and determination to help our clients succeed, we're also able to chart our own course for success and make decisions that are always in our clients' best interests. From brand development to media planning, creative execution to public relations, we deliver solid thinking, airtight strategy, messaging that motivates and the metrics to prove it. MDB top executives carry demonstrable credentials shaping strategy, positioning and creative for major brands. Clients such as Sprint, the American Bankers Association, National Geographic, Destination DC, DC Lottery, Fannie Mae, the United States Mint, and the International Spy Museum have discovered that MDB delivers a solid return on their investment.

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