61: "The Teacher, The Preacher, The Weird Kid and The Absurdist" - John Boiler, Glen Cole, Evin Shutt & Matt Jarvis

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"The Teacher, The Preacher,  The Weird Kid and The Absurdist"

This is my conversation with the four people at the heart of over the last 14 years. The two initial founders: John Boiler and Glenn Cole. And the two people they added soon after to help build the business. Evin Shutt and Matt Jarvis. Rarely do I see partnerships that - both in their intention and in their casting -have been formed on lasting foundations. Ego, insecurity and yes, fear get in the way. But when you get it right, it sounds like this conversation.


Three Takeaways

  • Respect one another.
  • Relentlessly pursue what else might be possible.
  • Bring perpetual optimism.

"FEARLESS CREATIVE LEADERSHIP" PODCAST - TRANSCRIPT

Episode 61: "The Teacher, The Preacher,  The Weird Kid and The Absurdist"

I’m Charles Day and this is Fearless!!

I’m spending a week at the Cannes creativity festival, and I’ve sent part of the time recording episodes of Fearless. The production values aren’t perfect. They’ve been recorded in hotel lobbies, and villas and apartments and on the street. But they are filled with openness, honesty and insights. And because all of them were recorded before 3pm, I can attest to the fact that the rose, for which Cannes is famous, played no part in any of the conversations. Instead, the palpable energy drawn from an environment that all for its flaws, is filled with creativity.  

This is my conversation with the four people at the heart of 72andSunny over the last 14 years. The two initial founders: John Boiler and Glen Cole. And the two people they added soon after to help build the business. Evin Shutt and Matt Jarvis.

This episode is called, “The Teacher, The Preacher,  The Weird Kid and The Absurdist.”

Partnership is extraordinarily difficult. It’s also extraordinarily human. 

The need to be connected to something like us, something more than us, is as fundamentally human as breathing. 

I am told that everyone in their lifetime, reaches self actualization. For some, like the Dalai Lama, it happens relatively early. 

For most, it happens in the instant before we die - a sudden realization that we are pieces of a whole. Independent. And Integrated. A reflection of the tension of an existence in which hot and cold and right and wrong not only co-exist, but are critical to each understanding the other.

This is the challenge of partnership. To bring individual passion and perspective, beliefs and knowledge in the quest of a collective goal. And to do so with the endless courage of your convictions married to an limitless respect for the possibility that someone else might be even more right than you are.

Successful, lasting partnerships are rare. Much more rare than successful businesses. 

In my work, I am often introduced to partnerships that are broken beyond hope, damaged been repair. The romance and hope of the early days now worn away by the realities of business. And life.

Rarely - too rarely - do I see partnerships that - both in their intention and in their casting, have been formed on lasting foundations.

Ego, insecurity and yes, fear get in the way. Common sense and win-wins leave the building. Replaced by missed opportunities, broken promises and in some cases life long resentment.

But when you get it right, it sounds like this.

“Last question for each of you. I'm going to go around. John, what are you afraid of?
John:                                              Hmm. 
Matt:                                              How honest should we be here?
Glen:                                             Is that's what's going on?
John:                                              Yeah. Only one thing comes to mind. And if I'm really honest, my only fear is losing this partnership. Yeah. I think that's it. Once you've been forged into a group like this, you know, yes, it becomes difficult to imagine being able to do the things. The ambitions that I have individually, and I think that we have collectively, I fear that we could not achieve them without this group. So yeah. That's it.”

I ran into Glen Cole the night after we recorded and he said something to me that I thought was important to add here.

He said he wished he had talked about the power of the partnership from one other perspective. It’s ability to support each partner individually - to give each of them enough trust in the others to openly admit when things were hard. And especially when any of  them felt lonely. Leadership is a lonely purview, even in a partnership is strong and intrinsic as this one. And in many ways, Glen’s point, might be the very best measurement for any partnership. The power to elicit acknowledgment of our own fragility. 

Here are John and Glenn and Matt and Evin.

Charles:

[crosstalk] All right. Well, occasionally, I'll wanna reach out and ask a question, I will preface it with the wrong name in some cases. It's already been a long week, so I might not always get it right.

Glen Colev:

It works to my benefit. [crosstalk] That's also probably to his detriment, yeah.

John Boiler:

By Thursday maybe. At nine in the morning.

Matt Jarvis:

Yeah, you've got your radio voice now.

Charles:

Okay. Good. You guys all fair? Okay, good. Oh, actually, one more question. How do you describe yourselves. Because you guys are the original founders and you came right, is that right? You came right after that? What's the description? Because I was about to say founders and realized that's not technically, is it technically true?

Glen Colev:

Two of us are founders. We're the global leadership team, I guess, would be the current, if you're to like, what connects us four.

John Boiler:

What do you think about individual owners?

Charles:

[crosstalk] Yeah, that's what I was gonna say. But that's not technically true, right? If I say "founders and," then it starts to -

Matt Jarvis:

Diminish, yeah.

Charles:

Yeah, diminish you massively.

Glen Colev:

The global leadership team? Elizabeth nodding her head to that.

John Boiler:

Agnostic about saying founders because it's easier.

Matt Jarvis:

Leaders of 72andSunny. Whatever. I mean -

Charles:

Can I say that I'm with the people that built 72andSunny?

John Boiler:

Sure.

Charles:

Is that all right? Okay. All right. Good. So I am here with the team, the people that built 72andSunny and I wanna welcome Matt to the show.

Matt Jarvis:

Great to be here, Charles. Thank you.

Charles:

Glen.

Glen Colev:

Charles, thank you.

Charles:

Evin.

Evin Shutt:

Hello.

Charles:

And John.

John Boiler:

Good to see you, Charles.

Charles:

Good to see you, too. I'm gonna start with the question I ask all my guests. And I'm gonna give it to you each in turn so that, both because I really wanna hear the answer, and also because I wanna give the audience a chance to identify your voices a little bit. So Matt, let's start with you. When did creativity first show up in your life? What's your first memory of something striking you as creative?

Matt Jarvis:

I grew up in a family that placed a high value on story-telling. And so I grew up with story being kind of woven in my family's culture. I'm from a long line of preachers and professors. It didn't really occur to me that creativity could be a job or a career, really, until I got to university, where I got exposed to people from, I grew up in a rural environment. So probably from people from cosmopolitan backgrounds who had a greater sense, their parents were editors and musicians and had models that creativity could be more than a passion or a hobby, but could be a center of a career. And so that's where the light bulb went off for me that that might be something available to me. It never occurred to me before then. Because I just wasn't around that in my kind of rural upbringing.

Charles:

What kind of preaching?

Matt Jarvis:

Both my grandfathers are Methodist preachers.

Charles:

Wow. Story was a big part of that obviously.

Matt Jarvis:

Yeah. Very much so. I was watching my grandfather tell a story every week. Whenever I got to, it was valued in my family culture. Very much so. It was valued. And so that was kind of the germ of my creative path.

Charles:

And also part, I would imagine has informed kind of your areas of interest as you focused in from a strategic standpoint. That strategy being the story-telling discipline in many ways.

Matt Jarvis:

Absolutely. Well, my greatest curiosity is the human condition. Not to get to highfalutin. And I think that I'm just fascinated to try and understand it, probably try to understand myself. But story is the unlock to that. That is how we understand the human condition. So that's the link that drew me to it. So as a strategist, yes, I think there's high value in story because that's how people understand things. That's how we make meaning. But I think focusing on story without really, what is the underlying question that you have is what are humans relationships particular thing, or this moment, or each other is the thing that got me, I would say still keeps me wildly curious. I mean, that's a lifelong journey. There's no doubt. You end up in the ground without figuring out. Or at least that's what it looks like. That's what my forecast is.

Charles:

That changed my perspective on the entire week. Realizing I'm never gonna know the answer to that, in fact. Thank you for that.

Matt Jarvis:

Sorry to bum you out. It's fun with the right attitude, I will say though. It's fun with the right attitude. Trust me.

Charles:

Glen. What about you? When did creativity first show up in your life?

Glen Colev:

Well, first of all, welcome to the art of following Matt Jarvis. And I'll demonstrate how this art is super clumsy and not really an art. Just something you gotta do sometimes.

My family really valued, in different ways, silliness. I was fed on the entertainment side of things a really healthy diet of, and a mix of, my diet was a mix of Monty Python movies, and then like Naked Gun movies on the other side. It was like a constant stream of those two sorts of influences. With a lot of out loud laughter and affirmation that this is the right way to orient towards the world. It's absurd. Life is an absurdity. Which wasn't ever spoken, that was like dinner conversation. But that's sort of what I took away from it.

I was really encouraged, I was lucky enough to be encouraged by my parents to be experimental, be self-expressive. Identifying my creative voice was important to them. And I didn't know it at the time, but I was exposed constantly to different creative templates. Which in hindsight was really the kind of the creative vitamins I needed at that stage of my life to guide me passively to a career like this. Some examples, you know, I would, as my weekend activities, would be like, we're going to make felt pillows in the shape of some object you care about. That's what I would work on, you know? It starts with a hamburger, by the way. You take the cheeseburger template. You work your way to some other ones. And I started making my own templates. And go shopping for felt and stuffings and try to make cool pillows. And then we'd move on to something else. I gotta really into ventriloquist dolls at one point. And the clothing for them, which Bryan Rolls, one of our partners, is listening to this will mock me actively.

John Boiler:

Way to get in front of it though.

Glen Colev:

[crosstalk] Exactly. And I tried to make own little radio show with my friends. And those were the things that my parents would encourage me to do. Regardless of result or output. It was always like, "Yeah, keep doing more of that." Make your own comic book. And later, actually, when I got into a creative career, I felt like I had fallen into it. And then like I had discovered it, but in hindsight, I think I was really pretty well-groomed for it. Thanks to some parents who emphasized trying things. Trying to find your creative voice early in your life.

Charles:

How did that translate academically? What did you focus on in school?

Glen Colev:

I was really good at math. So that's actually been really valuable in this partnership. Being able to toggle between the two things. I actually had to force myself into some creative writing, like avant-garde writing classes in college just to sort of round out the mathematic interests. By the way, if anyone's wondering where that leads you, it leads you to an archeology major. At least I flirted with that for about a minute. Some sort of calculus meets creative curiosity. Yeah. That drops you off at archeology, which if you start projecting out, involves a lot of digging. So I chose to dig in some other holes. It didn't directly correlate to studies. I think the thing that correlated to my studies was just the system of, the school system triggered my sort of competitive instincts to master things or get the good grade or succeed. And that I was more interested in being a sponge and understanding what the metrics were for success and try to crush those. So I have sort of a competitive spirit overlaid with the creative upbringing.

Charles:

As you said, the combination of art and science is such a powerful foundation for actually starting a business. To have those curiosities and abilities is really, really helpful.

Glen Colev:

Yeah. Now more than ever, it seems relevant. I wish I was in the act of making more every day. But we are busy making a culture and trying to help some other people trying to find their own voices. So try to leverage it that way.

Charles:

Yeah. Evin, what about you? When did creativity first show up for you?

Evin Shutt:

I think, really, my mom was an elementary school teacher. And that was in the days before there was an art teacher who'd come in to your classroom, or an aid, or whoever. So she taught a kindergarten class with 35 students, twice a day, morning and afternoon, where she was the art, science, math, everything teacher. And her favorite part of teaching was coming up with different ways for different learners. So art projects played a huge role, right? Very tactical. Clay, cutting, pasting. I mean, that's part of kindergarten anyway. And I just loved being in her classroom as a kid. And even when I went to the same school, I'd help after school. And just the idea of constantly figuring out a different way other than a worksheet to show learning, what that art project could be, I loved that from day one. And then I think that carried through kind of all of my education of what I loved about it.

And then in terms of it being a career, and what could you do with it? The first time I was ever exposed to advertising was a show called "Who's the Boss?" Angela, is the boss. And she owned an advertising agency. And I think that's the first time I'd - also, I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin - been exposed to a woman in the business world. And so, for some reason, that show always caught my - I can't even really tell you besides Alyssa Milano was on the show - anything else about it. I don't even know the name of the actress who played Angela, but I can tell you exactly what she looks like in my head. And so for some reason, that kinda always stuck in the back of my head as like, "That'd be kind of a cool career. I don't know what she does, but that seems cool."

John Boiler:

She's the boss.

Evin Shutt:

Yeah, exactly. And then I actually ended up going in to education. Originally. Right out of college. And I realized quickly what I loved the most about that, again, was creative part of the job. Was trying to figure different outputs for my students, especially I was teaching in inner city Los Angeles, so I had students who were way behind, who weren't as equipped to write or to read books. So I had to find different ways to teach them concepts about ancient civilizations. That's what I was teaching in 6th grade. And so I loved that part about it. But I learned very quickly the parts I didn't love about it and where my passion wasn't and why I didn't think I was a very good teacher. And luckily, met these guys, and was able to then experiment. I studied journalism and advertising in college and fall back into that. And learned that it merged kind of my love of all those parts of the world that were my passions.

Charles:

Have you brought teaching into this?

Evin Shutt:

Yes. Well, when I started, so when I was teaching, my classroom was 95% boys because I was teaching developmental reading and ancient civilizations in middle school. And a lot of the kids who get passed through are young boys that didn't know how to read. And so I spent a lot of time with middle school boys, and when I started 72andSunny, I was the only woman. And I was like, "I can do this. No problem."

Glen Colev:

I think we served the middle school boys role pretty well.

Evin Shutt:

Yeah. But I think that the part that probably transferred the most for me was, you know, I was not trained as a teacher going into the classroom. And then coming into advertising, I didn't know anything. And so, just like in a classroom, you have to figure out, "Okay, how do I manage this classroom? What makes sense? What's the flow of the classroom? How do we do that?" Luckily, these guys were just kind of like, "Sure, we'll do it that way." Or I was like, "Well, doesn't this make sense?" And you know, I used a lot of that approach of just figure it out, and well, that doesn't feel right so let's adapt and change. Which you have to do, nonstop as teacher and in this career.

Charles:

Yeah, for sure. John? What about you? When did creativity first show up for you?

John Boiler:

I don't know. It feels like it was kind of always just a mode of self-expression as a kid growing up. I grew up in a family of seven. And they'd dubbed me early on "The Weird One." Because I was constantly, I'd been drawing since before I can remember, two or three hours day. Watching cartoons and then drawing Fred Flintstone, watching cartoons and then drawing Underdog. And then taking my brother's tape recorder and making a war audio track. And then they would give me models to build, but I would never build them into what they were supposed to be. So I'd turn the battleship into a submarine or an airplane. And there's constantly just like, everything was just kind of something to be messed with.

I remember my mom saying to me this one time, I was dubbed "Weird Kid" because I'd be making up these elaborate stories with the legos. And I'd be putting together the legos and telling the story of the thing that I was building as though it already existed. And my mom would be overhearing me from the kitchen, just tell this two-hour story of the thing that I was building. And just come out shaking her head as like, "What are you doing?" And then I'd run it off the stairs and smash it into the wall.

Glen Colev:

[crosstalk] creative act? That's how it works, isn't it?

John Boiler:

We like to have stories with climax. So I think that just all through my life, I guess I was always kind of called out in grade school as the kid who had to do the lettering on the poster and the banners. Because I liked lettering and I liked color and I liked painting and all those things. So you know, you get sort of pigeon-holed as the art kid. Yeah, so it's always kind of been with me.

Charles:

Where did you fall in the seven?

John Boiler:

Second youngest.

Charles:

What was that like?

John Boiler:

Awesome. You're just in the sweet spot. My older brother, who was just older than me, was kind of the black sheep. Because he fell very near the middle. And you don't get the youngest thing and basically you have none of the responsibility of the oldest. By the time they get to you, you can kind of get away with anything.

Charles:

And did you? Were you a risk-taker?

John Boiler:

Yeah. Yeah.

Glen Colev:

There's stories.

John Boiler:

Yeah, I did a few fun things. Probably wouldn't have been allowed in today's society. But my folks didn't care that much that we would, we used to do things with our bikes. Like roll them down this hill and jump off and try out more dramatic wipe outs than the next kid. And we'd come in, just cuts and bruises and covered in dirt and stuff. And they just, I feel like we were lucky to grow up in that time when you could kind of get away with all kinds of crazy behavior that is frowned upon now.

Charles:

Yeah. Evin, what about you? Were you a risk-taker as a kid?

Evin Shutt:

Not really. I'm the youngest of three girls. And my middle sister was kind of the rebel. And so I was that was like, would see the reaction from my parents for her. Or the heartbreak of my parents. And so I, definitely, was the one that felt like, "Okay, I've gotta follow. I don't wanna make my parents feel bad. Oh no. Oh no." And it's funny now. That sister is a teacher now. Her daughter is very much like her. So it is karma for my mom. So that's good.

Charles:

And Glen. So you won't have to follow, Matt, what about you? Were you a risk-taker? Growing up?

Glen Colev:

I think I was a calculated risk-taker. The math side of things. But i think when you're doing that stuff, I'm not sure when you're thinking, "I'm being risky." You're just, at least for me, I was just following my, "I must go do that. I want to do that." Rather than calculate will this result in death or not and work back from there. And if it was usually not death, I was up for having a go. I was definitely into experiences. As many experiences. I've kind of always been wired that way. As many new experiences I can have, that's been a north star for me.

Charles:

And Matt, what about you?

Matt Jarvis:

I also had a real passion for trying new things, and doing new things, and kind of just stretching the rubber band. I never thought about it as risky behavior. You know I think the line between taking risks and being committed to growth can be thin. And I'm here to... but I didn't self-identify as a risk-taker. I more self-identified as someone who was up for anything. And puts value in being uncomfortable.

Charles:

So taking that theme of being uncomfortable into starting your own business, let's leap forward to the foundations of 72andSunny. So John and Glen, you were the original founders. What was the catalyst for deciding a) you wanted to start your own business and b) that it was this?

John Boiler:

Oh, we didn't decide. That's helpful. The first thing we did is Glen and I were co-directing, we were directing some commercials in between our last gig and starting 72. But we had to somehow pay the bills because we were basically directing for free, so that people would hire us. And so we were doing some freelance stuff. And as I recall, we were mindfully walking backwards into the potential of starting a company.

Glen Colev:

We couldn't answer the question, "Why does the world need another ad agency?" It took us two years to answer that.

John Boiler:

That's right.

Glen Colev:

Even then.

Charles:

Well, the fact that you were even asking the question is pretty interesting. Most people don't.

Glen Colev:

Yeah, we would usually get to the end of the second beer and be like, "Nope. Not today."

John Boiler:

Yeah. Exactly.

Glen Colev:

There's a lot of good ones out there.

John Boiler:

Yeah, I think it took good coffee for us to actually [crosstalk]

Glen Colev:

As soon as we switched beverages. That's probably true.

John Boiler:

I think we'd finally conned ourselves into it when we started answering that question with "Is there another way to be an advertising agency?" Not a what to make, but a why to do it and a way to do it that would feel more sustainable and better for us long term.

Charles:

And how did you guys describe that to each other and to yourselves?

Glen Colev:

Well, sticking with the backing into it line of argument, there was a recurring conversation about how we were both experiencing, maybe not entirely surprise, but experiencing a bit of surprise over feeling like we're in creative environments as free-lancers or as directors, and feeling that constant weight of cynicism or an ego to push against. It's hard enough to solve a marketing problem or commercial problem creatively with the variables that are native to the problem than add a cynical environment or cynical people or people who just really need to get their thing as part of the thing, becomes almost, it can cripple. It felt like for us, it was crippling the creative process. And we sort of naturally aren't wired that way. So that started leading to conversations about what would a culture look like, creative culture look like that

What would a creative culture look like that was an antidote or an antonym for those things that was based on just a daily dose of optimism and opportunistically obsessed and taking the energy that probably is behind that sort of cynical comments or some of the ego and channeling it in a way that could be more constructive to ultimately create an impact that you need to create? And that led to talking about a value system, which really is what the company is based on, a set of values.

Charles:

Did you write them down? Were you that explicit?

John Boiler:

It took us a few more years to write them down. But, we talked about them a lot. I know that we did that, and actually it was Matt Jarvis who finally got us to -

Glen Colev:

Yeah, he helped us codify it.

John Boiler:

You know, codify them, so that we could help. And that was really helpful, obviously, as you were building that global agency because you're bringing a lot of people into the network from a lot of different cultures, a lot of different places. But what was surprising and actually awesome was that these values seem to translate globally quite easily and are still differentiated enough from what the general value system is of the industry that keep us slightly out of that mainstream.

Charles:

How did you guys connect with Matt? What was the relationship?

John Boiler:

We were introduced by a friend who was a co-founder, and Matt had really impressed him by moderating this table of legendary outdoor giants like the Patagonia guy...

Matt Jarvis:

Yvon Chouinard

John Boiler:

...Yvon Chouinard and Knight from Quicksilver and anyway, kept everybody in check, so he introduced him as a potential replacement, because he was wanting to go back client side. So we met Matt, and hung out, had some beers with sunglasses on, like three or four sessions of that and finally ... speaking of Matt, I'm the one that doesn't know how to do math. And I remember on a napkin, I think, trying to con Matt into like, this'll be really good, man! It'll be great for you, like look at this math that I'm doing for you about how great this is going to be for you. That math, turns out it was actually undershot the mark, but in the long-term, but that took about ten years.

Matt Jarvis:

I think I still have it. I think I have that napkin.

Charles:

What drew you to this? What made you think this is something I want to do?

Matt Jarvis:

It's funny because with the clarity of hindsight obviously, this was a great decision for me and I think for us, but at the time I was just stumbling forward. I was at a place in my career where I wasn't as inspired as I wanted to be. I saw our industry forecasting a tremendous amount of tumult and I really wanted to be on the vanguard, I really wanted to be on the pushing change, driving change versus reacting to change, and so just [inaudible] of the company and it's value system, just intuitively was this incredible fit for what I was looking for and then really just the personal connection with both John and Glen.

It's funny because I didn't realize I was getting married and when you get in a partnership with someone and it's a business, the more successful it is, the deeper the bond in a lot of ways. So my version of diligence was two beers, AI had to talk to them twice and I'm actually really glad I didn't understand the depth that I was getting into because I'm not sure I would have done it and that would have been a loss for me.

Charles:

Because of the concern about being not committed?

Matt Jarvis:

Yeah, yeah, and getting into a relationship with two people who've been together at that point, 15 to 20 years, there's a lot of unknowns and I have been ... the old saying is better to be lucky than good, I think in this particular circumstance, I was incredibly lucky.

Glen Colev:

And you say you're not a risk taker.

Matt Jarvis:

When I met both John and Glen and they got under the hood a little bit of 72andSunny, I think one of the other things that really appealed to me was how remarkably developed the spiritual center of the company was and the values and the consideration around them was so deep, it wasn't one of these things where you come and say oh boy, everything's wrong here, far from it. I said, oh my gosh, I can't believe you guys sat around a picnic table with no clients and just talked about this excessively I'm sure. Just how developed it was and I loved the idea so much about optimism and about giving each other the benefit of the doubt and about empowering other people and having a more aspirational posture in the world. All of those things just absolutely spoke to me. Then conversely, there were these huge opportunities I thought I'd be really good at. I don't think the company hadn't found its market relevance yet. So it was a very developed idea and a very underdeveloped business.

John Boiler:

Passively at best.

Matt Jarvis:

So I loved the opportunity and the challenge of trying to take this beautiful thing and I think in this business you have two markets, you have a talent market, you always have to be on market with your talent and then you have a client market where the revenue is, you always have to on market with them. So you really have to manage two markets and this idea was intuitive to the talent but not codified, so hard to scale and interesting but confusing to clients. I saw that as okay, there's this beautiful thing but I'm actually good at this thing that they need. So that just amplified the opportunity for me.

Charles:

From your perspective, were you conscious of the risk of bringing someone else in? As Matt was saying, you guys had been together for a long time.

Glen Colev:

You know, I think John and I, we thrive on the insight and we can come up with our own insights but there's a magic to having partners in this case or a partner at that time, who can deliver insight that we can trust. Greg had done that for us initially, it's funny, I remember when I asked him on his the way out, what do you think we need, he said, you need Matt Jarvis. I remember thinking to myself, that is absolutely good enough for me. I met Matt twice and my due diligence as I recall two beers and a coffee, [inaudible] and that was all I needed to know.

Same with Evin, my wife actually introduced me and us to Evin. They were both in the same Teach for America program and we play on the same soccer team and I saw how on defense, how she handled attacking players and I was like, that's all I need to know. Because those people are going down and we're going to have the ball. Then we will figure out what we're going to do next, with a good attitude.

I'm struck by these two antidotes, the importance of knowing who the people are that you trust and going with their gut and your gut and that's enough. I really didn't need more than that. It has born itself out, it has proven itself, but I think the primary filters are do I get along with these people, do we seem to share the same values, which is a feel thing, and then do they look like they're going to hustle like mother fuckers, because that's what we do. At the end of the day, that's the thing you can control the most and I think you know that after a couple, at least in our circle, that's how I identified with the two of them. It seemed like a no brainer at the time. I was actually nervous it wouldn't happen. I didn't do a napkin of math, but I recall some version of not very good negotiating with Matt, which is an experience I think many people have, he's an incredible negotiator and I felt great about that. I felt like we were winning. I felt like the whole organization was going to win.

Matt Jarvis:

I remember when John said, yeah, I'm just so glad to get here. I just told Glen, we need this weapon pointed at other people.

John Boiler:

That's definitely how it felt, yeah. Perfectly put.

Charles:

John when Evin came into the picture, what need were you looking to fill?

John Boiler:

Sorry this is great, okay.

Charles:

Did you know this was a comedy question?

John Boiler:

I'm going to hand this off to you very quickly, because every need was the need that we had to fill. Literally, every need from is somebody going to pick up the garbage next week to can you help us put the furniture together while Glen and I scraping the things off the floor ...

Matt Jarvis:

Audience Segmentation.

John Boiler:

Then we were working together and she's really our creative director at the wall because there's like four of us or five of us ...

Matt Jarvis:

And the brand person.

John Boiler:

And the brand person and that's where we began early on, exploring this idea of embracing the creative identity in everyone regardless of their specialty and when you've got people early on in the company like that, that is a creative company, everyone has to do that because the one thing that you need most, is objectivity, creative objectivity, is like does this speak to you and you can't allow yourself to get in your own head and I think your creative voice emerged in parallel with ours as the company grew and then with other people we would all gather around like that. Everything is the answer.

Charles:

What drew you to the opportunity?

Glen Colev:

Oh this will be good.

Evin Shutt:

At the time, I was planning to go to law school and it deferred for a year and I didn't know what I was going to do. I was introduced to Glen and John and met the guys few times so looking back on it now, I can identify it. I don't think at the time I could and I know my parents couldn't when I told them I was taking a pay cut from teaching. I had just finished my Masters in Education and was like oh my God do I need to waitress on the weekends, how am I going to do this.

Charles:

Was that part of John's napkin? A pay cut from teaching?

Evin Shutt:

I did negotiate.

Glen Colev:

I remember that. We were on some bleachers after a soccer game I think.

John Boiler:

Did we meet you in the middle anywhere?

Evin Shutt:

You did, You did. It's all good. It was a pay cut from teaching but ...

Charles:

It's worked out okay.

Evin Shutt:

It's worked out okay in the long run. It's made me a better negotiator with people coming in now. But when I look back on it now, I know it's the values and who they were as people, kind of the same thing Glenn was saying. I met them casually after school a few times. I would finish teaching and I drove over to the space, which was about the size of the room we are meeting in now. Now I know looking back at them, these are good people, I share their values, I share their enthusiasm for what they love and who they are as people, I want to be on their team.

Charles:

Could you say was there a vision early on about what this was trying to become?

Evin Shutt:

I use the analogy of the freshmen on the NCAA team who's really good and doesn't know they should be that good. I didn't know anything going in so I had no expectations. I didn't realize, I didn't even know who John and Glen were sorry guys, what they've accomplished in the advertising world. So I literally was oblivious to it all and really just came in and there's a lot that needs to be done so just start doing and found the way through that. I don't think there was a lot of time spent talking about vision because I was like, what's a mechanical. We need to make a printout? I don't know what that is, but we'll figure it out or I'll figure it out, you'll teach me and I'll call someone. So I feel like so much time was just spent, how do we get going what we need to get going and through the how we did it, was living the values more so than time spent talking about the values. It was just about start doing and do it the way we want to do it.

John Boiler:

I feel like you brought as many of those values as we had. You kind of get lulled into this feeling like oh all the values existed. They didn't and they are still growing and evolving every day. Just listening to you now, do you know what our bias to action comes from? I think your contributions early days because we didn't talk about it. Remember when we used to say don't talk about, just get it up on the wall. It doesn't mean shit until it's up on the wall. I think a lot of that Evin was just like, I mean we all have kind of this shared bias for action, but it didn't really become a value, I don't think, until you made it.

Glen Colev:

And our culture. We wanted to create a place that would foster self expression better than any other place, which is [inaudible] a great places in the world that foster self expression. But Evin had a phrase that she wrote on the wall early in her first few months which was, culture, people, culture. Culture, people culture. That was her way of saying it's Friday, lets go do something together. We're friends, let's be friends. We can't always be so obsessive about the work because I think we were pretty on the work all the time as you are in a start up or when you have the highest ambitions creatively, which we do. I think in our industry, the best places orient that way, but it's a good reminder that yes the work will be one thing, but who you are is really the thing. That phrase I think passively existed in the ecosystem for a while and in the last probably, five years, not coincidentally with Evin's accedence, it's our culture, its been that plus bias for action. Look at some of things the company is doing or has done or is trying to achieve, yet it may never fully achieve it is aspiring to do. I think that comes from Evin as well. John and I had our version of it in the beginning and John, Matt and I had our version of it, but that's really been another Hallmark of your influence.

Charles:

How did you guys define success early on?

Glen Colev:

Survival?

Matt Jarvis:

I think for us, success has always been first and foremost, what's the quality of our work? What's our creative standard? What peaks are we achieving? The great recession of 2008 - 2009, was probably the best that ever happened to 72andSunny. The company was very fragile at the time and was existentially threatened. We used to measure how much longer we could be in business before we just have to wind the thing down because we're out of money and couldn't make the payroll in two weeks. We got down to four days ...

Charles:

You were four days away from extinction?

Matt Jarvis:

... four days away from extinction or furloughing, we were about 30 people at the time or furloughing everyone except nine people. So very close to the cliff.

One of the awesome things that happens when you can't keep score by the balance sheet anymore, you start figuring out other ways to keep score and measure your success and I actually think that process yielded a deeper success metrics than simple profit loss, margin, the more traditional ways of looking at a business. We oriented towards, okay, is our work interesting, exciting, impactful. How strong is our core muscle, when we look around this company how many people are just, we just don't want to do this without them. That might be an EA, that might be someone answering the phones, that might be a creative director. So lets not think about how much money we're making this year, we're not making any money. We're going to stay in business and we're going to build our core muscle. When we get a little more money, we're going to go and find another piece of muscle fiber to build this core and that mindset made us a culture first organization and actually put some sustainable mindsets around talent and practice and unlocked the meta inside that I think we've used to drive the company.

Particularly in this business, I don't know if it applies to all businesses, but certainly this business, your talent strategy is your business strategy. Often times people have a business strategy and they try to figure out how to get talent to fulfill it and one of the things that I think have been exciting about 72andSunny, and one of the reasons we've had the success we've had, is we've turned that 180 degrees upside down and said no, our talent strategy is our strategy. That allows you to be successful even when your business is telling you that your revenue is going off the cliff and you don't have any margin, etc. I think that's how we defined success during that period and as we began to scale, we got a lot of validation that this kind of new way of looking at that inversion, works or it's worked for us in our industry with our personalities and our natures. So kind of in the hedgehog principle, no one thing, talent strategy is our business and if we can be elite with our talent strategy and innovative and modern, and expansive, than we can drive an expansive into modern business with that.

Charles:

How old was the business at that point? In 2008 - 2009?

John Boiler:

Five years.

Matt Jarvis:

[crosstalk] 2004 founding or? Yeah.

Charles:

So five years in, you come within four days of extinction and have to regather yourselves essentially and go through that process.

Matt Jarvis:

Unfortunately, I was only a month in.

John Boiler:

So now we're going to show you the books, it's not good.

Glen Colev:

The napkin wasn't looking very appealing at that point.

Matt Jarvis:

Where's that napkin? Where's that we talked about? This wasn't on the napkin.

Glen Colev:

Can I cash this in now?

Evin Shutt:

It was a smudge. It was a smudge.

Charles:

What was your reaction Glen and John when this happened? Did it require an outsider to come in and look at it through that lens or were you already aware this was the reality you were facing?

Glen Colev:

I think we were aware of it. We got pretty used to seeing that cliff, as we used to call it, for the first five years and sometimes it would be three months out, sometimes it would be two weeks out. It tended to be right in that range for the first three to five years. At that point, we could see it, we had equal eyes on everything in those days.

John Boiler:

Absolutely.

Glen Colev:

So from the finances and everything else and the creative work and the operations of the company, so we saw ...

John Boiler:

and the operations of the company. So we saw it coming together and I think we deployed ourselves. And that's the other thing about the talent thing is like I think part of really running a talent business is knowing each others' strengths and weaknesses, knowing everyone's strengths and weaknesses and be able to deploy in times of opportunity and crisis to maximum effect. And that's what we did as I recall at that point. We made a couple desperate Hail Mary's. And picked up some business within those four days. And it floated us for another couple months. And then we leveled the altitude and started to ascend again. But it definitely takes everyone all eyes on and nobody gets compartmentalized in those moments.

Glen Colev:

I just really appreciate the need to just constantly disrupt your own processes, thinking, business model in that case. We tried a couple things there that kept us afloat. And then I think when things stabilized to a degree, some things went back to quote unquote normal. And some things were the new normal. And the better normal. And I really appreciate it for that. I think sometimes now we try to actually, not create crises, but we try to operate under the impression that you can find yourself in that " holy shit moment," looking at that spreadsheet without having to look at that spreadsheet, and ask ourselves what would the organization need now. I really appreciated it for that. And it does teach you to play loose. It's very hard to play loose in this business. And I'm not saying anybody should be cavalier with anybody's salaries or business, but there is a degree of clench that doesn't go with a creative business that that taught us.

Matt Jarvis:

I think for our partnership, that part of the journey was an incredible forging in the get to know you.

Charles:

What did you find out?

Glen Colev:

Who's wiling to sacrifice what.

Matt Jarvis:

What I learned to find out, what I found out was I had found myself with two incredibly talented, kind partners. So that was a wonderful reveal. And I found out that I believed that this ideal's worth fighting for. And I've found a deeper passion as it was threatened. Even though... and then also, it's interesting as someone who, for me, who didn't found the company, but came into a position of ownership with all the implication, emotional and commercial, it was an opportunity because we kind of got so close to the ground. It was an opportunity for us to rise up together.

Glen Colev:

It was. I think it did found the modern version.

Matt Jarvis:

And that was just for me, personally, a beautiful gift. And it unlocked a lot of, I probably learned I was more capable than I thought was. When pushed. I was surprised how hard I pushed back. And that was a really, there're few things as energizing as being shot at but missed.

Glen Colev:

I think it's great when you feel like that.

Charles:

I've heard that. I don't want to find that out for true.

Matt Jarvis:

I don't either, but that's a Bob Dole quote. But that, you know, and obviously we're talking business, and there's a gravity to that statement in his experience I don't want to minimize. But the emotions around existential threat and recovery are electrifying.

Charles:

Yeah, I think that's true. We lived through the post 9/11 depression in the industry when we were nascent business. And I remember thinking, years later, that that was, in our case, the most valuable thing we ever went through because it forced us to make really hard decisions and get really clear about what value meant to us and to our clients and how we were gonna deliver that.

Glen Colev:

I think it's always exhilarating to rediscover that when you think you're in your highest gear, there's another one. Because almost everybody, anybody who's done any sport recognizes that and then probably the creative industry also. You feel like I'm at max output. I think a lot of people say it every day or every Friday, like "I can't give anymore." But when push comes to shove, you'd be surprised to know that that car has a seventh or eighth gear.

Charles:

I think that's frequently true. I also think it's frequently not. I think it also shows that there are some people that just can't get to that point actually. Which is why some companies don't succeed and don't survive because not everybody can go to that place. Not sitting here patting us all on the back, look how special we are. But I do think there are some people who can take a company forward and can discover wow I didn't know I could do that.

Glen Colev:

We're definitely gear-finding junkies.

Charles:

Yeah, yeah.

Evin Shutt:

Well, I think competitive in the belief in what it is, right? That's the big part of it; if you really believe in it that strongly, you'll go to that next gear.

Charles:

Yup. Were you part of this? Were you at the company when this stage was being lived through?

Evin Shutt:

Oh yeah. Yup. It was a lot of, that's where we were trying to new things. We tried our first e-commerce website. So to the point of not knowing how to do things, and take, I think, you know, that's where, if you ask about the risk-taking, that's where that started to come in in my life of like, "Okay, we'll now figure this out." And so, dug in with people on a team to figure out to do that even if that was super painful and hard. And I've learned a ton. But it also meant what's next for the company, and it was important for us to take that project on and seize that opportunity.

Charles:

What did you find out about yourself?

Evin Shutt:

Capabilities. Again. You know, just like, I've always been someone that strives for like, put yourself in the position for the most opportunity. Take that class, so that I learn that, so I will never not get an opportunity because I don't know that skill or whatever it is. And so I think this was one of those chances of take the opportunity to learn it. But then also be pushed so hard and I think, to what these guys were saying. You realize there's another gear when you don't think you can keep going. And then ready for the next one. I think I also, one of the best gifts of that time to me was the variety of project that we were working on and how quickly it was going through. And as a small company, the learning curve was just exponential of go from an e-commerce site to now a global ad campaign that we're translating into Japanese to a local retail store. So the amount of, the variety of things that we were able to learn so quickly was unbelievable.

Charles:

So let's role forward ten years. You survived, thrived, both individually, collectively and as a company. What's your perspective now? What are the things, what are you most concerned now, sitting from this position of success by anybody's definition?

John Boiler:

That we don't, if it's concern you're looking for, probably that we don't lose this spirit that you're listening to right now. But I've been telling these guys this this year, I've kind of never, I haven't been this excited about the industry or our company since 2009, since this thing. And by date because there's so much opportunity and disruption. It goes back to the model. You might be putting together a battleship, but you might need to put wings on it. And in the world that we're living in right now, everyone is turning their submarine into a helicopter, you know? Or trying to.

Glen Colev:

Star Blazers, great series.

John Boiler:

But I think that that's the exciting part of the industry all the time. And you can either choose to get excited about these kind of disruptions, fragmentation in the industry. Or complain about it. Or just "yes and" it. See the gaps. See the opportunity in there. And I think that's what I'm most excited about right now. And looking forward to, hopefully years to come, and if we can keep that ethic forward no matter how bent this industry gets, how fragmented or whatever it is, there will be a place for a 72andSunny-like object. Not because we're in the agency business, but because of who we are and our adaptability and our desire to bring creativity to every place you can touch it.

Matt Jarvis:

Amen. Whoo! Oh Captain, my Captain.

Glen Colev:

The only build on that, that concerns is dogma. You know? Because the operate, it's so exciting right now, there's so... anything feels possible. Which is really feels like, when things, when we started the company that the same environment. And we've had some success. The thing that I lose sleep over, if there's any, is just succumbing to dogma, our processes, ways of doing things, think codification leading in to a way instead of a spirit. Process over -

Matt Jarvis:

Well, 72andSunny is a fundamentally open idea.

Glen Colev:

Yeah, fuck dogma is the bumper sticker.

Matt Jarvis:

Yeah, because our mantra born modern. In the definition of modern that inspires us is comfort with change. In our kind of core DNA sequence is a belief that the company must adapt to meet modern challenges. And so at it's core, it's wide, wide open. And there are lots of forces that try to close, close, close, close. Internal and external. And I think that's part of our job as leaders is to maintain the maximum openness of the stance because the firepower that 72andSunny has, and the engine that our culture is, has so many applications and exciting spaces it can graduate to in some ways. That's the future that I think we're all very excited about. But I think that represents a headwind to that expansiveness is in conflict to where we want the company to be.

Charles:

Evin, how do you encourage people to take the kind of risks that we've just heard are necessary, right, to turn submarines to helicopters in the image I'm gonna carry with me? It's a good one.

Evin Shutt:

It's good.

Charles:

How do you balance that with realities of running a business?

Evin Shutt:

Well, I think anytime I hear the term "72andSunny way," the way, that's usually, the hair on the back of my neck starts to stand up a little bit because, unless you're talking about the way we look at the world and the optimism and opportunity and belief and best intentions, there is no other way. If it becomes a process or a limit of like, a lot people talk about how we use the wall, we put work up on the wall. If that's not helping us get to better ideas faster, don't use the wall. You don't have to use that wall.

Or you know, collaboration is a big thing that we talk about a lot of, everyone's creative and it's important. But as teams have grown and diversified and you now have experience design, people who join the meeting plus brain people in different levels, it doesn't mean 38 people have to be in a meeting. That does not help lead to great works. So whenever I hear process and things like that, I think it's constantly redirecting people to what's going to make the work the best work for the client that's going to make their business better and that's going to make an impact in culture.

So just kind of redirecting people is what I feel like I spend a lot of time doing. Having that conversation of "what do you mean." If process is not leading to the best work, there is no process that's dictated at our company. And I think that's hard for some people that come into our industry, or that are in our industry that have been at other places where process is the way. But I think that's the biggest threat to our industry in a lot of ways versus [crosstalk].

Matt Jarvis:

And our advantage, right?

Evin Shutt:

Yeah. Exactly. Versus focus on how do you get to the best work? Let's make sure we do that. It doesn't mean we're not responsible about how we do that. Because it's about what the client needs. Anytime the process starts to dictate things, there's a constant like, turn people the other way to talk about the how.

Charles:

Last question for each of you. I'm gonna go around. John, what are you afraid of?

John Boiler:

Hmm.

Matt Jarvis:

How honest should we be here?

Glen Colev:

Is that's what's going on?

John Boiler:

Yeah. [crosstalk] Only one thing comes to mind. And if I'm really honest, my only fear is losing this partnership. Yeah. I think that's it. Once you've been forged into a group like this, you know, yes, it becomes difficult to imagine being able to do the things. The ambitions that I have individually, and I think that we have collectively, I fear that we could not achieve them without this group. So yeah. That's it.

Charles:

Thank you. Evin?

Evin Shutt:

That's hard to follow, what John said. Yes.

Matt Jarvis:

It was really... yeah. Profound.

Evin Shutt:

You know, I think mine goes to our mission of expand and diversify the creative path. My fear is our drive and our impatience. My fear is that the whole world doesn't embrace what needs to happen. And that we're the outlier of making that change. And I don't think the world will be a better place. And let alone our industry, let alone our company, let alone our competitors. If we can't learn to embrace them, you just look at the news every single day. So that definitely is on my mind and how my aspirations for this company go beyond what we do day-to-day. So that's definitely my biggest fear.

Charles:

Glen?

Glen Colev:

I reject your fucking question, Charles. I'm not ending on fear. I think fear is the biggest problem right now. And I think it's greatest threat to the company, too. I think creativity's role in commerce and culture. Actually, it's probably also the biggest opportunity for creativity and culture. And hopefully, that'll make its way back to commerce. My north star is how can I inspire. The job is to inspire. It's to inspire this crew. It's to inspire the greater 72andSunny crew. I'd love to be able to inspire the world through what we do. If there's any concern when I wake up, it's how well will I do that today. How well will we do that today. How well will 72andSunny do that today. I flip that really quickly to we'll fucking figure it out.

Charles:

That the best rejection of a question I've ever had. Matt?

Matt Jarvis:

I think one of the things that I think moves all of us, really moves me is our covenant with our people. I really think we have extraordinary group of humans who give more than people commonly give to a company. And for that to be fair, I think they need to get more from the company than is common also. I believe in quid pro quo and reciprocity. And so, I wouldn't say it's a fear, but a kind of something that's always on my mind, and probably a point of anxiety is checking in on the covenant. Because it's what's gotten us to where we are. Again, I'm back on talent strategy. Pick that up. It's gotten us where we are and it just, I think on a lot of levels, on a very practical level. And then on a very aspirational level, I think it's important that we honor the covenant. And there are, that's... so I'm not afraid, but I would be afraid if that stopped being the most important thing in that relationship. And it takes daily attention to honor it.

Charles:

Yup. Yup. It's... I wrap every episode with three takeaways that I've heard. And you know, I know you guys obviously, and so I've been conscious of trying to make sure that the takeaways that I'm experiencing today are just not informed by a number of years, but actually by what you guys have said today.

So the three things that really strike me: incredible respect for each other. Obviously. For the mission that you're clearly all on. And for the people who are helping you to do it.

Second, I think is this relentless determination to continue to disrupt yourselves, not allow the status quo, not allow things to become norms. And to be relentlessly in pursuit of what else might be possible.

And then third, I think best embody, Glen, by your answer, your rejection, my question which is this perpetual optimism. That everything you do is framed through the possibility of what could be, rather than the fear of what it might not be. And that even when faced with imminent demise, as you said, you took a chance, right? And you hoped that this was gonna work. And I think you put those three together and you get the kind of company you guys have built.

I wanna thank you all for taking the time to do this. But finding the time to all be together in one room, which is not a small feat. It's been a remarkable conversation and I'm really grateful to all of you.

John Boiler:

Thanks.

Matt Jarvis:

We're grateful, too.

Glen Colev:

Your superpowers are on display right there. It's amazing.

Matt Jarvis:

It was nice to connect with you all.

Evin Shutt:

Agreed.

Glen Colev:

Fuck dogma.

Evin Shutt:

I know. I learned.

Glen Colev:

Thanks, Charles.

Charles:

Thank you.