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Running a Company Is None of My Business


I don’t know how to run a business.

Yep, I said it. And it’s true.

Back in 2005, my business partner came to me and said he was leaving. He was leaving to pursue a lifelong passion and a new career.

At that time, he was the business manager, in charge of the books, the people, the taxes, and all the bullshit. I was in charge of creative direction, production and making sure the clients were happy.

I had some decisions to make.

I could just walk away from ABC, let him walk away and then form a completely new business and take all the existing clients who I had close relationships with already and fold them into my new venture.

Or, I could dust off my 10-year-old resume and go knocking on the doors of the local ad agencies and – gulp – ask my longtime competitors to hire me.

Or, I could do what I did and take over the company as is.

We had some great employees and solid clients. We had some brand equity and I had already busted my ass for 10 years growing this thing. I will not bore you with the year-long process of buying out my partner. That is a whole other story for another time.

In the fall of 2005, I signed the papers. I was now sole owner of ABC Creative Group and I now owned a business. I was 33 years old with a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old at home.

But, this is not about the trials and tribulations of ownership, however, or the fact that the stock market crash was looming only three years later or the fact that my partner had kept the books for years in a way even a seasoned CPA couldn’t understand.

This is more about the fact that I had no idea what I was doing.

I was a creative, a MacGyver. That is what I was good at – solving problems and creating kickass campaigns; not balancing the books, AR/AP reports, taxes, workmen’s comp and any of that HR crap that still makes my skin crawl.

I hate anything that requires an Excel spreadsheet.

Running a company is about common sense and surrounding yourself with people who actually know what they are doing. It’s about not being afraid or too pompous to say you don’t know something.

I have actually spoken with many very talented, mostly young entrepreneurs who have revealed the same thing – that they have no idea how to run a business.

They are good at what they do and they focus on that.

Hire people, create good partner relationships and let those other people do what they are good at – like HR and accounting and all that Excel spreadsheet nonsense.

So, fellow entrepreneurs and creatives who have no idea how to run a business, you stick to what you’re good at.

Go ahead start a business, buy a business, have fun and be passionate about what you know.

In my case, more than a decade after the fact, ABC has more than tripled in size and I am still having fun, most days. I haven’t opened an Excel sheet in years.

Of course, sometimes I still get sucked into some kind of business owner boredom. Unfortunately, you have to.

But, most of the time I get to create, think, do and collaborate with very talented people and clients. That is until I finally have enough money to buy that island, then I’m out of here.

About The Author

Travis arrived at ABC back in 1995, when photography was his main creative outlet. That passion evolved over the next decade as Travis began thinking beyond imagery and pitching his broader ideas and strategies to clients. It was the birth of the idea-based marketing philosophy: Getting to know the client inside out, learning about the successes and failures, then spinning that into an idea that could build a better outcome. That’s the cornerstone he’s built his creative-first agency on since buying the place in 2005. ABC has grown exponentially since then both in terms of people and clients. Local, regional, national, banking, destinations, nonprofits: Travis has greatly expanded services over the years to accommodate them all. He’s also assembled a talented team. Just like them, he’s greeted each morning by a simple reminder etched on the wall: “Create Cool Sh!t Today!” He’s proud to run the kind of agency that does.