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My story, my journey.


I started my entrepreneurial journey right out of college. I was 23 years old. It was the economic doldrums of the mid 70s in Michigan. The times were tough and I couldn’t find a beginner gig anywhere in the advertising business.


To pay rent, keep gas in my car and eat, I started freelancing as an art director/graphic designer.  Going door-to-door with my design school student portfolio.


My first freelance gig was the art director of a local city magazine. I got the gig because, while in college, I worked in typesetting and offset printing shops. I knew a little bit about print production but had no clue about putting out a magazine every month.  With an unforgiving deadline, it was a big job for one person to handle so I talked an art school buddy (who was also unable to find an advertising gig after college) into helping me produce the magazine.


Between the two of us we got things done. We were a good team and enjoyed working together. He designed and produced the ads and I worked on editorial content. It was fun staying up all night producing “keylines” and going on press checks. Seeing the finished magazine on news stand all over town was a monthly moment of pride.


So as roommates, we opened a freelance art director/design office. We split the rent and expenses just like in college. In a short time, we found other clients and were able to pay our bills sometimes with a little money left over. We were young and ambitious wanting to make something of ourselves as creative entrepreneurs.


In 1980, with $7500 in my pocket, and a wife with our first new born child, I opened my design office in a small closet space in an old office building in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. As I recall, the rent was $150 a month–which at the time felt like $15K.  


From a cold call, I landed my first client–a small office chair manufacturer. I loved the furniture industry. Design, as a value-added discipline was much appreciated by these companies. That first client led to a referral to a much larger and more sophisticated furniture company. Which led to a rewarding and successful 20-year design and creative chapter serving leading companies in the office furniture industry in North America and Europe.


By the late 90s, my business had grown from a one-man show in a small, cramped closet of an office to a well-respected corporate communications and design agency employing a staff of 15+ people in a glamorously designed office in the nicer part of downtown. By any of my earliest visions and measurements for professional success, I had accomplished them all. Including raising a family and putting three awesome kids through college.


But after two and half decades I had grown restless and weary from the demands of serving large corporate clients, attracting new clients, finding and retaining a talented group of people, administrative bullshit, taxes, and growing overhead. I longed to get back to the simpler days being solo immersed in the craft of creative design work.


As fate would have it, an opportunity for a radical life change appeared. I didn’t hesitate and went for it by trading my successful design business for a citrus grove on the central coast of California. From there, my creative work was focused on corporate communications, identity and branded environment design, serving corporate clients in diverse market sectors.

These were the glory days of my corporate design business–living in an orange grove paradise working on exciting and important projects for leading companies like Acura, Brunswick, Coleman, Delhaize USA, Energizer, Fellowes, Haworth, Herman Miller, Hewlett-Packard, Honda, LALA USA, Jockey, Mannington Flooring, Micron Technology, Steelcase, ThedaCare, Volkswagen, Wolverine Worldwide and X-Rite Corporation.


By 2016, after completing a successful two-year branding initiative for a large health care system, I realized it was time to move on from creative services to another chapter in my professional life. The design business had become over saturated with practitioners and do-it-yourself online platforms. It was getting much harder to attract the right-fit clients and sustain a profitable business when the skills and processes were abundantly available  and commoditized by technology. The writing was on the wall, and it was time for a new professional chapter to begin.  


By chance I began writing articles for Brand Strategy Insider, a highly regarded blog on brand strategy and marketing disciplines. Brand Strategy Insider is read by 50,000 corporate leaders and marketing professionals worldwide. Once again, I found myself in completely new territory. After a long and successful business career in creative services, I began writing, speaking, teaching, advising, facilitating workshops, and guiding early-stage and mid-size organizations transforming their business from its current state to a higher one. The wild world of advisory consulting became my focus.


For over a decade now, under the White Hot Center, I’ve been advising and guiding business leaders on matters relating to business transformation strategy–helping them to focus on the big pieces–what their business and brand stands for, to whom it matters, and how their desired image and reputation shapes their competitive advantage and future success.


I love my advisory work helping leaders and teams increase their knowledge and effectiveness when managing the implications of change and transformation. It’s rewarding to know some of my early-stage clients have taken their business to exits worth $100s of millions.


After four decades and 1000s of engagements across diverse industry sectors in business transformation, brand strategy, marketing communications and visual design disciplines– I’m truly grateful to still be in the game–learning and expanding.  My best work lies ahead.


Let's work together. Contact me for:

Fractional Executive Leading Brand Transformation Initiatives

Bespoke Business/Brand Strategy Educational Workshop Facilitation

Keynote Speaking and Event Seminars

One-on-One Advisory Consulting Programs

If your business is facing a change or transformation challenge, let’s get acquainted in a conversation.


Book your Conversation.

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