Please also visit the CEO Chat Podcast to learn more about their other guests.
Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you’ve come to the right place, Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you are in search of. This is the I Am CEO podcast.
Gresham Harkless 0:29
Hello, hello, hello, this is Gresh from the I Am CEO podcast, and I have a very special guest on the show today – Patrick King of Imagine. Patrick, it’s awesome to have you on the show.
Patrick King 0:38
Thanks for having me, Gresh.
Gresham Harkless 0:40
No problem. Super excited to have you on and before we jumped in, I want to read a little bit more about Patrick so you hear about all the awesome things that he’s doing. It says he founded Imagine in 2004. Patrick has helped brands from small local companies to Fortune 500 brands like CenturyLink, Nestle, and Xfinity. His business and marketing advice has been published in Ink Magazine, Smart CEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, Comcast Business, and Chief Marketer. Patrick is currently the president of the American Marketing Association’s Washington, DC Chapter. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for CASA, a nonprofit that provides volunteer advocates for child victims of abuse and neglect. Patrick, are you ready to speak to the I Am CEO community?
Patrick King 1:22
Absolutely. Let’s do it.
Gresham Harkless 1:23
Let’s do it. So to kick everything off. I want us to rewind the clock a little bit and hear a little bit more about how you got started. Could you take us through what I call your CEO story? We’ll let you get started with the business.
Patrick King 1:33
My story started when I was really, really young. My brother and I were at a family reunion. We were staying at an uncle’s house, we’re running through the house being crazy, you know, like kids that age do, and my uncle in an effort to slow me down, maybe to preserve his house was to sit me down at the kitchen table and go “Look, I heard you like to draw. Could you draw a logo for my company?”
I said, “Absolutely. What’s a logo?” and we went to the kitchen, and he started showing me the Post Cereal box, the Post logo, the Quaker logo, Campbell’s logo, stuff like that. Basically, it’s a way to draw a name and a way people won’t forget. So I spent about two or three hours at the dining room table and ended up creating the logo that he would use until he retired which was maybe less than 10 years ago.
And in my mid to late teens, I started to fall in love with the way that marketing works. The way that you know, a message. Commercial, a piece of print can alter somebody’s behavior. And I thought “I don’t know what type of black magic that is.” But I’m going to learn it. So that set me on a path to learn all about marketing and advertising, and in freelance through my 20s. And then, when I was 26-27, my brother came to visit from DC. And he just got out of the military and gotten a job up there. And he said, you know, if you really want to make something out of this good, you have to go where the clients are. So about six months later, I had a U-Haul going up I-95 N to DC and stayed with him for a little bit. And six months after that, I decided, hey, I’ve got two or three projects, not necessarily, you know, long-term clients, nothing to base a company on but I’m going to do it anyway. And that was the end of 2004. And Imagine has been around ever since.
Gresham Harkless 4:09
Nice. I absolutely love that story. And it’s so funny. You know, going back to running around the house, I always feel like sometimes our gifts and the things they were that our passions or even our callings maybe might be a better word are often kind of placed to us early on in life. And sometimes we ignore them. But I’m glad to hear that obviously. He took that opportunity to create that logo and you ran with it with everything you’re doing with Imagine now.
Patrick King 4:32
Yeah, it’s funny how those things that you can look back and go, Oh, well, why didn’t I start this sooner? And I think it’s something that we all have.
Gresham Harkless 4:42
Yeah, absolutely. I would definitely agree with that. And so I know you touched on it a little bit. Can you take us through exactly what you’re doing with imagine how exactly you save the clients that you work with?
Patrick King 4:51
Sure. We are a full-service marketing/branding agency. I would say we’re digital marketing, so they’re really smart. marketing agencies are digital nowadays. Our work is mainly in professional services, tourism, hospitality spaces. And the tourism and hospitality work we do is usually with local governments. We’ll work with their tourism or economic development departments and come up with either reimagining their brain, developing long-term campaigns, or serving as just a consultative and execution arm to whatever they have in-house, so their campaigns can launch much sooner. They’ve got support for thinking big and having bigger ideas. A lot of our professional services work is in the digital space, a lot of social, email, and a lot of branding. As a business, I’m sure you know, a lot of brands are rebranding more often now, just as a way to try to stay top of mind. And that’s something that we do a lot of.
Gresham Harkless 6:08
Nice. Yeah, absolutely love that. And, as you mentioned, especially, during, obviously disruptive times and non-disruptive times, I think you always have to have that kind of pulse to your client, pulse of what’s going on. And I love that you’re able to help people, as you said, imagine those, reimagine those things, because I think so many times, and I don’t know, correct me if I’m wrong, clients don’t necessarily know how to communicate some of those things, and how they can kind of manifest themselves to everything that you are creating.
Patrick King 6:35
You’re absolutely right. And it takes a process in order to be able to get it done right and get it done early. And sometimes it’s really easy to go, Yeah, I know our brand needs to be different in response to the way that our customers change, or the way that the competitive landscape has changed. But to actually have a step-by-step process that gets it done, right, and make sure that the brand is authentic, it’s something that you sometimes need a partner to guide you through it.
Gresham Harkless 7:04
Yeah. And I feel like sometimes being too close, especially to the business or the organization. As you mentioned, sometimes it’s a better exercise to take a step away, and be able to see exactly what might be those things that should be at the forefront when you’re trying to create that brand and that foundation.
Patrick King 7:25
Yeah, that’s exactly right. That’s a good point. A lot of opponents are just too close to it, and having a more objective set of eyes can be helpful.
Gresham Harkless 7:31
Yeah, and not to mention that experience you have as well. I wanted to ask you now for what I call your secret sauce. And this could be for you, or your business, or a combination of both. But what do you feel kind of sets you apart and makes you unique?
Patrick King 7:45
A couple of things, I guess when it comes to a meeting: (1) Personally, I have a different background than maybe a lot of agency owners. I created. Imagine, as I created without a prototype I created without having worked in an agency, I never stepped foot in an agency. So I think my perspective is a little more unique. I spend a lot more time working with clients and more of a customer service capacity. For me, Client Services is just as important as the work that we do. I’m just as passionate about that, as I am being able to roll out a great campaign. What makes Imagine unique, I think, is how deep our industry focuses.
There aren’t a lot of agencies out there that really hang their hat on being able to do local government, tourism, hospitality, that sort of stuff. And while there are some, of course, is, it’s a huge industry, you’ll see that a lot of agencies will do that, and like seven or eight other things. And I think in order for you to do really well, you really have to spend your time staying on top of how trends are changing, you have to really dive deep into what the industry is all about. I think as far as magic goes, it is a really deep specialization.
Gresham Harkless 9:11
Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And I want to ask you for what I call an SEO hack. This could be like an app, a book, or a habit that you have. But what’s something that makes you more effective and efficient?
Patrick King 9:24
Well, as far as books and apps and things go, I tend to bounce like a pinball between being inspired by this book or being totally addicted to this app. But I think the one thing that’s been helpful throughout the entire journey is the strength of your network. And it’s not necessarily from a sales perspective, although that’s helpful. It’s having peers that are more successful at running their businesses than I am at mine. And that’s a great way for me to learn. Because now I can ask questions, I can see it firsthand. Having a strong network of fellow business owners that I’m not selling to, they’re not selling to me. We’re on equal footing. I think that’s probably my biggest hack.
Gresham Harkless 10:21
Now I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. And this could be a word of wisdom or a piece of advice, it might be something you would tell a client or if you have to do a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.
Patrick King 10:32
Well, what I would tell my younger business self, and I probably still wouldn’t listen to myself, is take your time, be patient. You know, I started the business thinking, wow, this thing is just going to take off and where I’ll be retired in three years, I was such an idiot. But at the same time, you don’t have to rush it. If you’re going to be successful in business, take your time at it. Make sure that you’re really good at your craft, make sure that you’re really enjoying the journey. Because in my case, sure, I thought that I would be retired in three or four years. But, here I am in year 16, or 17. And I still would rather be doing nothing else.
So, enjoy the opportunity that you have. I guess those pieces of advice I’d give to myself is, while you’re not doing it for money, having money does help. Learn to appreciate it. Yeah, I think the biggest thing is to take the time to enjoy it. It’s crazy, it’s hectic, you’ll spend most of your time dealing either on cloud night or wondering if you’re going to make it through the month, but enjoy the opportunity to use the gift that you’re given.
Gresham Harkless 11:53
Awesome, awesome, awesome. And so now I want to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And we’re hoping to have different critical CEOs on the show. So Patrick, what does being a CEO mean to you?
Patrick King 12:08
To me, being a CEO means working at the top and the bottom at the same time. So yes, it’s your responsibility to set the vision, it’s your responsibility to make sure that, you are your true north, your user is the one providing the direction.
But you’re also the one that needs to demonstrate leadership in the trenches, you’re the one that needs to be on the front line, also, learning how the business is evolving, learning how it’s growing, learning what changes need to be made to that vision. It’s a matter of working up top, making sure that the C suite runs fantastically. And it’s also your job to work along with the people that are really working day in day out to make the company grow.
Gresham Harkless 13:03
Nice, yeah, I love that definition, you know, working at the top and the bottom at the exact same time. And, and like you said, obviously, you want to make sure that you have that vision, you’re setting that vision for yourself as a team, but I love how you know, you talked about, you know, the bottom, so to speak as well, too. And, and I feel like it also doesn’t. So your secret sauce and how you mentioned not being in the industry sometimes gives you that different perspective. And I think so many times when you’re in that industry, or you have been doing it sometimes you lose focus on the bottom, so to speak, and you lose sight of your customers, your side of your team, and the reason why you’re ultimately doing what you’re doing. So I love that kind of balance beam, so to speak, that you articulated. Yeah, thank you. You’re very, very welcome. And I appreciate that. And I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is pass you the mic so to speak, just see if there’s anything additional, you can let our readers and listeners know. And of course, how best taking it home view, find out about all the awesome things you and your team are working on. Oh, cool.
Patrick King 14:03
I guess there is, there is one last piece of advice I guess I’ll leave with and that is that. Right now I’m outside of Orlando, and our offices are in Northern Virginia. I’m taking some much-needed time off to spend time with some family down here. And I think that while all this crazy stuff is going on, we all feel like we need to be “all hands on deck” all the time. And there’s usually no one that we’re harder on than ourselves. I think it’s important for every CEO to make sure that you’re getting some recharge time in because if you don’t, you deal with rapidly deteriorating results. And it’s better for yourself, both short-term and long-term and it’s better for your team. Make sure that you’re squeezing in some sort of a bit of an escape.
Gresham Harkless 15:06
Awesome, awesome, awesome. And for people that want to get a hold of you, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Patrick King 15:11
I think the best way is our website. It’s imaginedc.net. And then you can find us on pretty much every other social channel by just going to the channels “we fight ugly.” And that’s our tagline: “Doctors fight disease, Lawyers fight for justice, We fight ugly.” So it’d be “we fight ugly” after pretty much any, any channel.
Gresham Harkless 15:32
Absolutely love that. And we will have the links and information in the show notes as well too, so that everybody can click through and find out about all the awesome things you and your team are working on. And I appreciate tremendously that that reminder, because I think as you said, so many times, you know, especially if you’re a Gemini, you have a vision, you have a goal, you can beat yourselves up, we can beat ourselves up and we can treat ourselves worse than you know everybody. And I think if we don’t keep our cup full, we don’t take those time to recharge and realize the benefits of doing that and often how much more effective we can be by taking those that time away and time to recharge. We’re doing ourselves and we’re doing our clients and even our team members a disservice. So I appreciate that tremendously during times like this and other times as well. Thank you. You’re very welcome. And I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.
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