The Long Shot- How Our Agency Recruited Someone from Silicon Valley to be our CTO

It was a long shot, and when I say a long shot, I mean a really long shot.  Like “convince Dave to leave a 20-year career with Intel to come work in our family owned independent agency” long shot.  Like “move his family across the country from California to Florida and uproot everyone from their life and friends” long shot. The chances were slim, but I had to try.

This has always been my philosophy at the agency, that no matter how slim the chances are, we will not be afraid to try new ideas. And it always works out, sometimes as a success, sometimes as a learning experience. But no matter the outcome, I knew we had to try.

That was the summer of 2018, and the story starts at the FAIA state convention in early June. The talk of the convention that year was that tech disruptors were coming. VC money is flowing in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and companies named after fruits and vegetables are coming to take your clients. It was a grim warning to get your tech house in order or be gobbled up by companies with deep pockets that are nipping at your heels.

Jared Townsend, our CFO, was with me that year and heard the same messages I did, and our conversation quickly turned to, “How do we get in front of this tech wave? And what does that even mean?” We were a small agency in Winter Park, Florida that my dad and I started in 2006. While not the most tech advanced, we had always tried to stay up with the latest industry advances, like being a paperless agency from the start.

But at the convention that year the onslaught of tech start-ups pushing the latest and greatest advances at us was too much. What did it all mean? What tech do we need to be able to keep up with industry advances? Where do we even start? As I looked around at the other agency owners, I realized a few things, we were all confused, all scared that we were going to be left behind, and none of us knew where to start.

And there came the long shot idea — the crazy plan, that if it somehow worked, we hoped would help us navigate the web of technology solutions and move the agency confidently into the future. Hire my brother-in-law, Dave Davis, to come be Chief Technology Officer for our agency. Dave worked for Intel, and in fact, at that time was the acting VP for his organization with over 600 employees under his watch. The likelihood of him coming to join the agency was extremely slim. But sometimes slim chances work out, and Dave agreed to join us and relocate to Florida. In this case the journey from the introduction of the idea to him saying yes took a year and a half of conversation.  And, ultimately, a trip to the Agency Nation Elevate conference in 2019 sealed the deal. Dave realized that our industry was at the very beginning of a move into the technological future and was ripe with opportunity for growth.

It has been a year since he started and we have made good progress working on some of those opportunities, some of which I hope to write about in future articles.   

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