Capitol Communicator is running a series of profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “up close and personal” profile, we feature Jimmy Learned, president and managing director of Elevation in Washington, D.C. Photography for this series is by Cade Martin; wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson and Janice Kinigopoulosfor THE Artist Agency.
Jimmy, tell us a bit about yourself.
In 1966, I was living with my family in Lima, Perú. Even though I was very young and spoke only Spanish, I remember sitting in a small theatre watching The Beatles in “A Hard Day’s Night” and being totally mesmerized. That seemingly small moment was the catalyst for my lifelong celebration of creativity, art and expression. Today, that celebration is at the heart of Elevation, the communications agency I founded in 2001. Initially conceived as a creative boutique focused on the Hispanic market, we’ve grown Elevation to be an award-winning, full-service agency with an array of global customers – including Fortune 500 companies and federal agencies.
Because Elevation is a family, in every sense of the word, I may be most proud of the fact that Elevation was recognized as one of the Best Places to Work by Washingtonian magazine. We also received the Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as one of the 2013 Top-100 Small Businesses in America.
I earned my BA Degree in Communications from Quincy University and started my career working on MCI and Bell Atlantic’s strategic marketing teams. In 1986, I was the director of marketing for ZGS Communications, a leading Hispanic-owned agency where I first began to see and feel the future boom of the Hispanic community’s impending growth.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
As an agency, we take great pride in working with several non-profits, often on a pro-bono basis to help in their respective missions. In particular, we have had long-standing alliances with Mary Center and The Family Place – two fantastic organizations that help under-served families, primarily in the Hispanic community.
What are the things you are most proud of?
Without question, my two glorious daughters, Peyton and Devon. They are the lights that fuel my soul! Additionally, I have tremendous pride for what the Elevation family has become. It has been a tremendous journey and, each day, I realize how blessed I am to be able to work for and with such dynamic and talented people.
Who were your personal role models and why?
My mother, Cusie, who taught me the values of hard work and self belief; but even more so, the importance of treating people with respect, kindness and honesty. Secondly, my older brother Ron – a tremendously generous, noble and great man.
Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
Absolutely, I try to steal professional insights and best practices from brother Ron every day! More than anything, his advise has been to dream big and believe in my goals and never stop learning.
What professional advice do you have for others?
Be true to your beliefs and follow them with conviction. For me, it truly is about culture and an environment where people have – and know they have – a voice and are free to express it. Hell, we spend so much time at the Elevation “campground” – it better be filled with love, energy, trust, inspiration and fun – and, it is.
What advice do you have on what’s appropriate attire for your organization?
Elevation is a rather whacky, expressive, loud and colorful place. Individuality is celebrated and encouraged. In general, I believe in dressing for the occasion and to simply be comfortable. Some days, casual; some days suited up for battle.
Where do you buy most of the clothes you wear to the office?
It runs the gamut – from tailored attire to Banana Republic, Nordstrom’s, Johnson & Murphy and yes, a little Joseph A Banks for good measure.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
A source of great fun and pride for me is that I was/am the singer on the omni-present Jiffy Lube jingle – “Be good to your car, and your car will be good to you”! Thanks Art Ehrens, another mentor, for the opportunity!