Episode 109: Finding Motivation, With Veronique James
Veronique James founded The James Agency (TJA) in 2005 with the goal of creating an agency focused on open communication and transparency with clients and employees. Today, the award-winning, integrated agency specializes in consumer advertising, public relations and digital and continues to exemplify Veroniques original vision.
Veronique and her team collaborate to produce creatively-fueled, results-driven campaigns that help clients achieve their goals and positively impact their bottom line. TJA has worked with notable brands such as Hotel Valley Ho, Mountain Shadows, Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery, Spinato’s Pizzeria, Marriott International, Epoch Residential, Fox Restaurant Concepts, among others. Under Veroniques direction, TJA has been honored with numerous industry and culture awards, including being named to the Inc. 5000 and Entrepreneur Top Company Cultures lists.
Actively involved in the community, Veronique is currently a member of Entrepreneurs Organization, Arizona Chapter. She served as the organization’s third female president in 2017/2018. She has received numerous accolades for her leadership, entrepreneurship and community involvement.
Veronique is originally from Southern California and graduated with a BFA in Visual Communication from the University of Arizona.
What You Will Learn:
- Why The James Agency (TJA) being 16 years old helps to uniquely position them in their field of expertise, and what kinds of “business-to-human” work they do
- What key challenges and lessons learned helped Veronique and her team continue to grow beyond seven figures
- How going through a difficult period of financial hardship and divorce served as motivation for Veronique to push harder for business growth and success
- Why avoiding taking on debt and bootstrapping the business proved instrumental in teaching Veronique valuable leadership lessons
- How the journey to $1 million showed Veronique and her team that they were operating in the right niche in their industry and had something unique to share
- How Veronique and her team get intentional about their company’s Culture and maintain their identity even as they grow
- Why putting on blinders to block out distractions was crucial for Veronique to be able to grow her organization’s brand and build a reputation
- Why building the business in an authentic way was crucial for maintaining the TJA identity through periods of rapid growth
- Website: https://thejamesagency.com/
- LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/veroniquejames/
- LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/the-james-agency/
- Facebook: facebook.com/TheJamesAgency
- Twitter: @TheJamesAgency
Listen to the podcast here
I’m happy to be able to introduce my guest. Her name is Veronique James. She is the Founder and CEO of The James Agency and they do some amazing marketing things, some brand work with companies that I’m going to actually have Veronique share because I don’t want to mess that part up. Welcome to the show Veronique. We’re glad that you’re here.
Thank you for having me. I appreciate that.
Give us a little bit of the lay of the land and the way that you want it shared. What is The James Agency? What do you guys do?
Absolutely. The James Agency was founded in 2005. We’re over sixteen years old and that makes us rare. I think there are a lot of firms that are sub-five years old or super antiquated 30, 40 years plus. We’re in this fun, tween sweet spot. The agency is full-service. I prefer the word integrated. Integrated to us is utilizing all facets or all disciplines of marketing, advertising, PR, web, and social media in all elements of connecting a brand or a company to their audience, their consumer. We prefer the phrase B2H versus B2C or B2B, business-to-human connections.
The agency’s inception started in brand development. That’s my trade. I was a graphic designer coming out of school, so we did all elements of Visual Communications for clients. When I say we, I have a long-standing friend who’s now our Chief Creative Officer and who’s been with me since day one. His name is Shane. As the company evolved and we did great work for clients in that realm of graphic design and brand development and brand and tone messaging and exploration, clients would say, “You did a great job. Can you help us with our PR?”
Thus, PR was born. We learned a lot about integrated PR and how that voice and tone that we’re creating and inevitably amplifies out into the public. The digital age came about. Remember, I started this company before social media existed, Facebook and Instagram. None of that was here. When that became a robust pillar from marketing and communications, we became an insights-first agency. Insights-first means that we’re using all of that fun data and insights to inform what that brand messaging and that PR and some of those efforts look and sound like.
Integrated to me means that we are taking all of this information, these data points from all of these disciplines and working together in a holistic mentality to approach how a brand will solve a problem, business objective or a problem and their community. The agency specializes in a lot of cool hotel clients, in a lot of restaurants. We have experiential clients that would be anything from medieval times to a go-kart racing company to music festivals, you name it.
We’re currently the agency of record for the Fiesta Bowl which is a lot of fun. We have a three-year contract, so I do some info multifamily real estate, and we have selective clients, fringe clients and some healthcare and some tech. It’s that principle of business to human. We’re not very discerning if you’re a B2B client. We’re not going to say, “That doesn’t fit our model.” If we can apply that definition formula that we’re proud of, we’re happy to embrace that.
Here we are now, years later. We have between 30-35 team members, not quite that large agency format. We’re extremely nimble and agile to be able to adapt to the constantly changing environment. COVID was no stranger to having to pivot every day and a ton of fun. I don’t practice creative anymore. I play that role of boss lady and oversee the agency, and our culture, and health and operations. I have discipline leaders for each department that oversees those services for our clients. Hopefully, that was a good summary for you.
That’s a great summary and I’m going to play back a few key things that I heard. Veronique is the boss lady at The James Agency and sometimes you say TJA.
More likely than that, I think people know us as TJA.
You are a full-service or rather integrated marketing firm. You’re not in this five years or less category nor in this 30 years plus. You’re in this sweet spot where you’re nimble and super creative but very experienced at the same time. In addition to the integrated agency concept that I took from what you said, I also heard B2H. I love that. Business to human for connecting the brand, the identity of the business, with real people, real individuals.
What our readers may have read is from 2005, around 30, 35 people. Many of us in this 7-figure space, maybe we’re on the lower end of that and we 7 figures or it might be 6, 8, 10, people. Whereas up there, toward $10 million, it might be around 30 to 35 people. What we want to do is get some of the key things that you learned along the way that enabled you to go from 6, 8, 10 people to, now, where you’re out of the creative altogether and you got this great leadership team.
That doesn’t happen overnight. There’s a journey there. There are some lessons learned. Let’s talk about maybe some of the things that you bumped up against. I think you mentioned Shane was with you from the get-go. You guys bumped up at that million-dollar mark. There might have been a hurdle or two there, a little ceiling, and you had to figure some things out and keep growing. What were some of those things for you that enabled you to figure out how to keep going?
I am a sole proprietor and the business is 100% self-funded with my own money. I did not seek out debt or equity from any investors. I want to start there because I think that it’s important to know that the journey to seven figures can be founded on a bunch of different financial principles. How you manage your money can be determined based on what you have to play with. I’ll start there. Let me tell you a little bit about my history and my background. When I graduated from school, I started a small agency with five people.How you manage your money is determined by the business factors you have to play with. Click To Tweet
I think they did a total gross billing of $2 million. It was an excellent experience for me. I was thrown into the deep end very quickly. I learned a lot about agency practice and having client relations, and the most difficult part of our industry, is the variable of the client. You never know what email they’re going to send. I don’t know where the call that you’re going to get or the unexpected deadline. It was a great experience for me. It was female-led and operated and I got to spend some time in the trenches. Quickly thereafter, I went to a larger firm.
At their largest, they were about 50 people and they managed some significantly large hospitality clients, beautiful, big client brands, for example, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. That was a very different perspective for me, going from a small operation female-led, very independent to a larger entity that had 40 years of experience robust operational policies and procedures.
They’ve had tenure members upwards of 10, 15, 20 years. You can imagine it was a culture shock. It was a different level of career that I was used to working in my small firm, but certain things I loved and certain things I didn’t. I didn’t enjoy the very corporate environment. That was a very corporate advertising environment.
It was at Central Phoenix operation and a large high-rise where you took an elevator every day. I appreciated the dress code, very buttoned up. There were hierarchies of communication and it was very corporate and it was well-operated. As I mentioned, they had been around for 40 years, but I was going through a very difficult time in my life. I got married early out of school and got divorced shortly after school. It was only a year before my marriage was annulled and I have amazing parents who supported me, but it didn’t feel right for me to call on them financially during that time. It was like the bed that I made. Now, I needed to lie in it.
I started what I joke was called the side hustle. I used to freelance, and during my time, at my day job, I would come home. I ate dinner and then I worked from like 6:00 in the evening until 2:00, 3:00 in the morning. I know that a lot of entrepreneurial journeys start in a similar fashion where we don’t have the ability to completely go autonomous because of the financial needs of having a job, but we need extra cash. I needed that extra money, so I would go from working on these great, big, beautiful brands to coming home and working on local clients, friends, and family or maybe the local tanning salon.
It was a shift, but it would become a perpetually strong little business. The revenue was growing. There seemed to be a reputation that was happening there. There’s no time like the real-time when you’re desperate for money and going through divorce to not look back and say, “There’s no other option,” but for me to put my foot on the pedal and continue to work hard. Lots of late nights and early mornings and I joke. I would act as if I built a brand. I had a website that looked very professional and I was the pitchman. I was the designer. I was doing press checks. I was doing remedial coding for web.
I did as much as I could and created this persona that I was an agency and I was bringing friends to help me with freelancing. My journey in my early years started as such. I was a freelancer purely in desperation. I needed the money. When it started to take on some sense of traction, I took the leap of faith and I resigned from my corporate advertising job as an art director and put in my two weeks. At the completion of my two weeks, I woke up that next morning, dressed like I was going to work, and walked across my hallway. I sat in front of my home with an archaic computer and put in eight hours as I did.
I took a lunch break and that’s always been my personality, which is to be very regimented and consistent. Early in my career, it was purely a freelance gig and because of the divorce I went through, I was put in a financial position where I did not have a lot of extra cash. If anything else, my credit score was completely obliterated and that’s a whole another story over Martinis in a completely different show. There was very little access to any liquidity in my parents. I went there, personally, out of my own choice to not ask them and I don’t have an extended family. I knew there had to be a better way.
I felt like in marketing and advertising, there was this constant challenge between the service delivery team and the client. The client would say like, “How did this cost so much, or why did this take so long?” It was a challenge of value perception, and as a creative person, you bleed over this work. You feel this tenderness towards creating something that we know is going to help your client move their needle and their business. When they don’t see that value of the cash, that’s hard.
I was starting to process how can we get over this hump that’s constantly seen to interact the quality work or the quality relationship? That’s when I started pulling in some friends of mine who were feeling the same way. We were meeting up for happy hours and they were tired of maybe the toxic environment or the challenging clients. We put our heads together and I said, “I’m going to keep going with what I’m doing because I feel like I’m on the right trajectory.”
It felt right to me. It was very difficult, to say the least, and to have no dollars to my name but trying to project a business into the public required me to make some sacrifices. My 0 to 250, let’s say, was like a rocket ship. The reason why I say that is because I had to donate my services. I looked for key philanthropic events here in the city to expose the brand in exchange for trade, and that was a great way to get free advertising and to expose the brand of those key stakeholders in the city. I also needed to get paid. I couldn’t do free work all the time.
I was also taking on whatever I could, networking and joining every group I could. It was fast, but it started to work and I started to find that there was something out there that I was catching on to where I think clients were craving that honest and genuine relationship with their agency partner. Fast forward about six months, I found a couple of friends, like I said, who had left their businesses. They started to work for me in a freelance capacity because my ability to service the amount of work that I had captured was starting to shrink. I was doing all these things.
That was great, but I would pay them only when I got paid and sometimes the client wouldn’t pay us because they’d either the project or they were a bad pay. I had these thoughtful conversations with these people and I said, “I’m not a large operation. I don’t have any liquidity. If you’re on this journey with me, this is what you’re going to expect.” I rented a home that had a small studio, so they started to come and work with me. All of a sudden, within a year, I had seven contractors working for me. A friend of mine was actually a virtual CFO, she did this consultative financial work for clients.
We were talking one day and she said, “You can’t keep giving seven people consistent work and having them have a place to come at your home. It’s tax evasion.” I started thinking about forming a formal entity and writing it. All the things made sense in sequence, but they happened because they had to. It’s not like I was somebody said, “You should do this.” It was because, inevitably, that’s where the company was moving in that direction. A formal business bank account was opened, and then I started doing bi-weekly checks to these people.
All of a sudden, I’m subleasing a space from a friend of mine who has extra square footage. Very corporate office, not ideal and now those guys are coming to work with me and it was all bootstrapped. The first $500,000, I guess you could say, year or so was DIY everything. We would take our cell phones and we would do conference calls with clients. We put it on speaker and stick it in a bowl so we can amplify it. I had this inexpensive little laser printer and it was printing all the time.
When a client would say, “We’ll come to you for a meeting,” we’d say, “No, we’ll come to you because it’s so much more convenient.” We bootstrapped the heck out of it and I only bought furniture or computers when I had cash in hand. I was never taking on any debt. A reminder that I had gone through a pretty difficult divorce that eliminated my ability to get credit. Having a credit card even was not a thing for me in my early years. I was in my early 20s. I would Craigslist, IKEA and secondhand stores, and I’d put things out to my friends like, “Does anybody have anything in storage that they’ve been paying on forever? Let me take that off your hands.”
“When you want to back, let me know. I’ll give it to you, but at least I can save you the money that you’re spending on monthly storage.” We get desks. A friend of mine would give them those old computers, and that’s how it was. It was fine. It was fun. It was like boiler room, late nights and early mornings.
It turns out that the people that we were sub-letting our office from stopped paying the rent and I had made a great relationship with the office management team in passing. They gave me a heads up and so that Sunday, we went and gathered all of our DIY stuff. We got a U-Haul and I sent everybody home and those people were evicted.
I was like, “I guess I got to go get an office. Where am I going to put these people?” They all worked from home that week, and I diligently went looking for an office and this was during the time when there were no personal guarantees. It was luck, but great crash in real estate, all the things that happened. People were desperately looking for tenants for these spaces.
I found a little 1,200-square-foot space in the heart of Scottsdale, where we live, in a Coffee Bean Plaza. It’s a very hip. It felt trendy being near a coffee shop. I built hundreds of dollars worth of IKEA desks by myself and three days later, literally, it happened overnight, our team had a place to go to work. I was like, “This is crazy.” We’re literally becoming something before my eyes by evolution and by necessity.
I engaged that CFO to help me on a contractual basis. I did not have enough money to pay for what she was worth, but she was willing to support us and said, “You’ve got to convert these guys to W-2 employees. You’re on a rocket ship right now.” We did that and all of a sudden, it went from one woman shop and a bunch of what they called boy band. It’s a bunch of guys. We were eight people. That was all within the first eighteen months. That was the inception of this engagement.
It was a lot of fun and we started to win. We started placing our work in a word. There are some notable word collaborations here and getting recognized in the community. We won our first big integrated opportunity that put us on the map and that was when we hit our first million dollars. It was after the two-and-a-half-year mark.
There’s a saying like, “Keep it small and keep it all.” I would say that’s totally true in that early journey. There are lots of margins to be made when you’ve got a small group of people. You’re taking on a business and you’re extremely agile. You can profit quite well, but the sacrifice of the trade-off is you’re doing all of the work.If you keep your business small, you keep it all. Click To Tweet
I was working eighteen hours a day sometimes. My team loved it. It was literally something out of a movie, late nights in a bullpen and pen all over the walls and stuff posted everywhere. It’s a typical design creative studio. We were billing upwards of $150 an hour. At the time, that was a pretty strong rate and it was fantastic, but we were all working very hard. It was interesting because, “Keep it small, keep it all,” that’s a beautiful thing. It depends on how much time and the willingness to sacrifice your personal life. That was our $0 to $1 million and it was a domino effect of subsequential events that led from one thing to another, all founded on the premise of, “I needed some extra cash.”
I will caveat that what came out of that was the realization that we were on to something in regard to transparent agency practices and bringing clients along in the journey. Having fun while we’re doing it and not having those combative, disruptive, challenging conversations about how this cost so much or why it took so long. We were on something different.
When Shane had started with me and had left his previous agency, he was like, “I’m all for it. Let’s bring our clients along, stick them in the driver’s seat, and completely show them what’s going on the curtain,” and because of that, we now have clients on our roster since day one. Some of our hotel clients have come with us for many years, which is amazing.
Veronique, your story is awesome.
When you think about this idea of bringing people along, and I worked at a place we talked about briefly before we got on and into recording mode, where everybody was all in. We truly created a unique place that the team is all in. You hear this with some of the text startups out there that, they sleep there and they eat there and they’re all in. It sounds like there was a period of time, a season where you and the team were all in, and that is a fun and exciting time. It’s not forever sustainable. You can’t do that as you grow and grow.
Now you can have a culture that’s all in, but expecting that you’re going to get 14, 16, or 18 hours a day out of people more than a season is unrealistic. You go through that period and you get this thing off the ground. Every business, I think, takes a fair amount of blood, sweat, and tears, the proverbial, everything to get it off the ground. You do it and then there’s a shift. There’s something that has to happen if you haven’t figured out a unique way to bring value.
You’ve mentioned your clients found something and experienced something different. There was something around transparency with you. “Come be in the driver’s seat with us. Every step of the way we’re going to show you.” I don’t know anything about that world of integrated marketing, but it sounds to me that was a little different enough that people took to it and maybe started telling others about it and you continue to grow.
When you slide into your identity, which makes you unique as a business, now not as Veronique, but as TJA, which is its own thing and there’s a life to it, how do you keep that intact as you continue to grow this thing? You go from 1 to 8 and then eventually 8 to 30, 35. How do you keep TJA, TJA? How do you keep it from becoming something else?
I’ll start with something. I’ll say that even now, years later, everybody is still all in. It’s a magical place to be a part of and to work in. We win the awards of best places to work, all the culturalists, and all the good stuff. I’ll start there and say that I am very privileged to lead an organization that still has the same magic. It’s a different organizational structure than it was back in the day.
A great question in regards to how you start to evolve. We were all in our twenties and I met the love of my life. I knew I wanted to get married. Many of the people who were joining me on this journey were of the same age and demographic. We had the same life trajectory going on and we knew as everybody started to grow up, we wouldn’t be able to be at work until 11:00, 12:00, 1:00 in the morning. We wanted to be with our partners and we wanted to have babies. There were things there that were pushing us into this evolution of growth.
I was very fortunate to be approached by an organization called Entrepreneurs’ Organization. It’s also known as EO. There’s YPO, there’s EO and there’s Accelerator. EO is for businesses that do a minimum annual revenue of $1 million. YPO, I believe, is $15 million up and then Accelerator is at $250,000 to $999,000.
After it hit my first $1 million, a friend of mine said, “You should join this. I think you would benefit.” I’m like, “I don’t have time.” He’s like, “That’s why you need to join EO.” I’m like, “I literally have barely enough time to brush my teeth right now,” and he’s like, “I get it but I think that this is going to serve you well.”
I took the leap of faith and I joined EO and I found some interesting things in my early journey in that organization. My mentor said. “You need to be running the businesses if you’re going to sell it every day.” What does that mean? I didn’t know what that meant. Can the business run without you? At the time, if you asked me that question, I’d be like, “No. That business cannot run without me.”
I was writing SOPs. I was the one doing the billing. I was the one handling all the client meetings. I was very involved. My first long-term objective was placed on me is to start peeling off those onion layers and start delegating. That’s a difficult thing because delegating means you have to spend more money on other people. I was lucky to have these incredible people who believed in the vision.
I started appealing off a layer for me and trusting someone else that freed up that space for me to then think a little bit bigger picture. I have to be honest, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I was able to completely remove myself from the day-to-day. It has been a very long and arduous journey for me to get to that place where I’ve got everything succinctly running in the way it should. If I were to leave for a week or two, the business wouldn’t fail.
To answer your question, how do you go from being The James Agency and being 8 people to then maybe accelerating to 15, 20 people and still maintaining TJA, I don’t have a rule book or a playbook for every business owner. What I can share with you and this is something that I strongly believe in, is we have to pay attention to our rule book and not be influenced by what everybody else is doing in our industry, as well as what people are telling us that we think that we should do now.Pay attention to your own rule book. Do not allow yourself to be influenced by what everybody else is doing. Click To Tweet
I think subject matter expertise and advice are crucial for a young business owner. If you can get as much of that knowledge and that thirst for learning and bounce ideas off from mentorship or groups like EO, that’s fantastic but easy. I found myself in this acceleration mode, being very influenced by what my competitors were doing.
There were 4 or 5 businesses that were in the same race as I was. Scale, revenue, types of clients, we’re going after. It’s easy to be like, “They redid their website. We should sound like them,” or “They’re out there in the market doing activations. We should do that.” The shiny penny syndrome is very real for entrepreneurs. There’s an ability to go into this dark place of comparison and that can take you off of your lane or your freeway to continue to move forward.
I had to put my blinders on and pay attention to the purpose of the agency we had created. What was the intention that I was setting for myself as a leader and what was my long-term objective? I was able to stay the course and not be distracted by I think some of these external influences, so it allowed us to continue to grow a brand that was more about a community and less about one person. Thus, the reason why The James Agency started to evolve into TJA.
While my name will always be on the door, and I am the founder, I call it the glue of the company, it was important to me that the consortium of people who were supporting the vision was being recognized as a community versus being subordinate to myself. TJA became the more recognized brand because we wanted clients to trust our other team members.
What I didn’t want was for them to always be calling me, because it got to the point where I was no longer the expert on the web anymore. I had hired somebody who was incredible at that, but the client was calling me. I’m like, “I need to get back to you about this,” because I need to go ask the person who was in the seat at that time.
That was difficult because of a little bit of ego. The client’s calling me and I don’t have any answers, but then I also need to explain to the client like, “Hopefully you respect the fact that I’ve hired somebody who’s smarter, stronger and faster than I am within this category. Let’s bring them into the fold and have that conversation.” When the client would see that I had trust in Jane or Dawn or whoever it was, that allowed me to elevate and pull myself away from the engagement further, but it took a long time.
Trust is a very important factor in business, especially when you have these economic ups and downs. At the end of the day, I think when you’re working with a business like ours and they’re writing checks, this is not a widget. We’re not selling widgets. There’s no quantifiable machinery that comes out of it. It’s all about trusting and seeing a deliverable come out of our work together. They want to know that the owner has your back.
There’s no secret sauce other than the fact that we stayed the course and built trust in the relationships. I hired the right people and trusted the right people. There was a year when I had a hard time letting go. It was very difficult for me to delegate and get out of my own way and I was 100% slowing the process down. I was clogging the drains, as they would say because I was not letting them go fast. I had to be a part of everything.
Those people didn’t feel that I trusted them, then they would leave, or maybe they wouldn’t feel like they were being utilized to their best ability, and it created tension. That was a difficult year or year and a half for me of being like, “You’ve got to get out of your own way to allow this business to grow.” If I keep my finger on the pulse of every single little thing, it’s never going to get past what I want to be.
That was the next several years. While I was still very involved in process solutions and working through some of the intricate challenges of culture hiring and software, I could now bring on people within my organization for their intentions and what they felt was best for the company. When I believed in their decision-making, it only helped them thrive, too.
You said so much there, Veronique, that I want to grab onto. One of the things that you said was it had to be us. We couldn’t build this thing the way that subject matter experts said or examples or looking at competitors and trying to copy them. I love that you said that. You value an organization like EO. You’ve been a long-time EO member, you’re part of Vistage or you’re part of our Elite Community, whatever group of folks you want to associate with and get the benefits of being around people who are going to push your thinking, share best practices or hold you accountable, there are lots of reasons that we go to these various groups.
At the end of the day, you got to take all of that input and say, “How do we do this our way? How do we do this the TJA way?” Once you identify that, then you get to preserve that. It sounds like you’ve done a fantastic job at that because it’s still alive and well at 30, 35 people. Everybody’s all in, whereas before, it was easy. You’re all young and this is like your hangout group, too. You’ve worked together, played together, you’re together, but life does change. Your identity as a business has to be so strong that it carries through the evolution of the team and the people involved and all that. Well done on that. My hat’s off to you.
Before this interview, you and I had never spoken and you don’t know that I teach this, but there are three things that I talked about for seven-figure business owners. One is to set the vision. One is to build the team once you know what that vision is and the third is don’t run out of money. Secure fuel for growth and you rattled off all three of those things in our time together.
The team has to know what the story is and you’ve done a good job of creating a brand for TJA that is beyond you as the owner. It’s its own unique thing and you’ve built a team. It sounds like a tremendous team that you can now delegate to. It wasn’t that they were ready, but you finally got ready to give them more of that ownership and responsibility. From the get-go, you said, “We bootstrap.” Whether you go finance or you raise money or whatever, at some point, you figured out a way to make sure you’re going to have the fuel we need to keep growing.
You experientially went through what it took for you to grow in that seven-figure business to $1 million forward. All of us need to keep that in mind because we love what we created. Our identity is wrapped up in it. We’re right in that thing and then it’s so hard to start to relinquish control and build the team and give ownership to others. That is the only way to scale beyond our own capabilities.
Even if you’re a superhuman, and it sounds like you are, your business can’t go any further than your own abilities until you learn how to set the vision and build the team to be able to let it go. You get to make sure that we’ve got enough money to keep this thing going, but it’s fantastic and everybody can do this. One more thing I want to point out, you studied architecture, which is very intentional, design oriented. We’re going to create something mentally or spiritually first before it’s physically created.
It’s very linear thinking. That’s right.
What you described in the way you described it was we took steps out and necessity. It was there. We were almost forced to take this next step. It wasn’t by intentionality at first, which is fascinating to me. Here’s an architect by training and then switch to design, but very intentional. The way your business was born and grew was like, “What’s the next step? Now, we do this. Now, we do that,” which is the opposite. It’s fun to see both those things inside of you and your story. Thank you so much for being with us. If people want to learn more about TJA or connect with you, we’d love to know that and then any other parting thought you want to gift us.
If you want to learn more about The James Agency, you can certainly find us on all social platforms @TheJamesAgency, consistently across the board, and then, of course, you can call our office. If you’re here in Scottsdale, I highly recommend you pop by and say hello. We love having guests pop in and meet the team.
I would say, if I could leave this, is that it was not easy and it still isn’t easy. We had up years and we had down years. We lost money some years, we made a killing in others. The humility that comes from that up and down is the tenacity that’s built where we go now. I talked about those leaders. Over 80% of my directors are six years plus. I have 16 years, 9 years, 10 years. Those people have been part of the journey and they can take us back to those humble beginnings and keep us grounded, which I think is important for us.
Even now, the agency is debt-free and self-funded. As an agency representing most hotels, restaurants, and entertainment, I am sure you can imagine that 2020 was very difficult for us. There were moments where I was like, “This might be the day that I lose the business,” but because of the intentionality, the things that we learned and the adversity that we had gone through for the first fifteen years, we were able to apply those same learnings and decisions to what we all know as the pandemic.
Not only did we survive, but we thrived. We kept everybody on the payroll. We did not do any pay cuts or fires, so taking those learnings and applying them to those cyclical challenges is an amazing way to grow a business and you don’t have to start from scratch every time something gets hard. It may look a little different, but you can apply a lot of that education, then turmoil and some of the things that maybe you went through as a business owner. That’s my parting wave. I don’t want to make it sound like it was all unicorns and rainbows. Owning a business is hard and kudos to everybody who takes that leap to create their own vision and their divine destiny because I think it’s very rewarding, but it comes with some sacrifices as well.
Yes, a lot of growth is involved, isn’t there? Thank you for reading this episode. It was fantastic having you, Veronique. I appreciate you making time. Please, readers, share, like, review, and do those things. We want to put these episodes in front of as many seven-figure business owners as possible so that everyone can benefit from the great guests that we bring on. We will see you all next time. Thanks for reading.
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