924. A Day in the Life–What's It Really Like to Be an Advertising Agency Executive?
“My greatest source of satisfaction? I’d say it’s seeing people succeed. To see our team do the best work. Now my role is the most rewarding role ever–to be in a coaching and mentorship role and to celebrate others’ success. It’s one thing to be in the room and be doing it, and that was exciting. But it’s actually even more rewarding and exciting to see the team succeed. I’d say that for sure.”
Tom Shepansky is one of the three founders of Rethink, a creative agency in Canada. Rethink has just celebrated its 20th anniversary and was named Agency of the Year. Tom is transitioning to a governance role with the company allowing the business to remain independent. He’s also active in the community on two non-profit boards. Tom loves cycling, hiking and skiing and has recently taken up bass guitar. He plays in a band called “Never Too Late.” Tom lives with his wife Roxanne on the North Shore of Vancouver.
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
“My two future partners, Chris Staples and Ian Grais, and I, under Frank Palmer’s leadership, helped transform his agency—Palmer Jarvis—into one of the best, creative-driven agency’s in Canada, which was also honored a number of times as Agency of the Year and the top ranked creative agency. Frank sold the agency to Omnicom in 1998, and we continued to work there as senior executives another 18 months or so. Serendipitously we read a book about a couple of agencies in the UK that were involved in a similar merger with a multi-national agency. But instead of joining in the acquisition, one of the agencies broke away and decided to keep their independence—they grew quite nicely from that point on. We read the book, were inspired and said to ourselves: ‘Well, why can’t we do that?’ That was 20 years ago and our agency, Rethink Canada, has been thriving ever since.”
The Most Powerful Lessons Learned?
I’ve learned many vital lessons over my lifetime. Here are just a few:
1. Strong Family Values. My dad had a very successful career in the radio business and was very community-minded. My mother was a stay-at-home mom who supported us and my dad in his career. Those strong family values laid a rock-solid foundation for my personal and professional lives.
2. Internships and Hands-on Experience. While still in college I did a research paper for the president of an ad agency. By nurturing that relationship, I was able to land a job when an opening came up, which began my lifelong career in the advertising business.
3. Learning the Business from the Ground Up. It’s vital to learn all aspects of the business you are in. I started as an entry-level account coordinator and worked my way up, absorbing every dimension of the advertising world I possibly could along the way.
4. Coaching and Mentorship. Both are crucial for your personal and professional development. I cannot fully describe the powerful, positive influence a couple of my mentors had on my life.
5. The Power of a Creative Idea. I learned early on that one creative idea that embodies the best aspects of a product or service, solves a want or need of the customer, and is presented in an imaginative and compelling story line produces remarkable, measurable results for the brand.
6. Finding Clients You Can Stand Behind. We have always sought out good people who are collaborative and always striving for excellence in the work they do and that we do together.
7. People. Product. Profit. Creating the conditions for a positive culture, that develops and nurtures people and their talents and skills, results in the most impactful end product and the best return on investment.
On His Bookshelf
Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul, Jonathan Lear
Connecting With Tom Shepansky
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Careers: Advertising, Business Owner