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Hail to the chief!

September 28 2015

Tim Smith

Six months ago I shared with you a manifesto of sorts, my personal credo to “Dare Mighty Things.” This statement is based on a quote from Teddy Roosevelt and it is a daily reminder for me to be willing to risk much, even if it means failing more often. A year ago, it helped Skidmore dive into our newly positioned reality of connecting millennials with entertainment brands.


A couple weeks ago, that presidential quote was ringing in my ears, as my wife and I stood next to President Barack Obama. There I was, having a conversation with the most powerful man in the world. The President of the United States. It really was a “pinch me” moment.

 

President Barack Obama participates in a photo line at the Macomb Community College Sports and Expo Center in Warren, Michigan, Sept. 9, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This photograph is provided by THE WHITE HOUSE as a courtesy and may be printed by the subject(s) in the photograph for personal use only. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not otherwise be reproduced, disseminated or broadcast, without the written permission of the White House Photo Office. This photograph may not be used in any commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


For a few exhilarating minutes, I was given the chance to share our story with the president. He called my wife and me by name. He mentioned Skidmore by name. He made me feel like I was the center of the universe. If you look closely at this picture, you can see a smile you don’t see on my face very often in photographs. It is complete joy.


The story of how I ended up standing next to POTUS is an entertaining one. It’s a tale of risk and reward, of authentic and heartfelt appreciation. In fact, it shares many similarities to the Skidmore Studio story over the past five years.


Almost seven years ago I made the decision to purchase Skidmore. At the time the studio was in the process of recovering from one of the worst economic slides of our lifetime. President Obama was wrestling with the issue of bailing out the auto industry. The future looked uncertain, and I was trying to rationalize my intuition that buying a creative business in Detroit was a smart move.

 

Dare mighty things.

 

Fast forward six years to last summer, and the decision to purchase the studio was looking pretty savvy. Skidmore had grown from 17 people to nearly 30. We were realizing profits, winning national accounts, and enjoying a positive outlook on the future. I felt very fortunate and grateful.
So I woke up at 3 a.m. one morning and wrote a letter. To the president. I wanted to tell him that the risk he took to lend a helping hand to the auto industry made an impact that he probably didn’t imagine. I felt a strange obligation to make sure he knew that small businesses in Detroit had benefited in meaningful ways.


It felt good to share some positive news. I wasn’t sure how much good news he got, and wanted him to know he had made a difference. After I sent the letter, I felt better and I moved on. Until about three weeks ago.
That’s when I got the strangest phone call. The number was blocked on caller ID, and I assumed that it was someone selling gutter guards. When I answered, they asked for Timothy, which immediately made me suspicious.

 

I only get called Timothy when I’m in trouble.

 

But I wasn’t in trouble. I was being invited by the White House to attend a speech by the president. My first question was, “Why me?” When I learned that the president had read my letter and wanted to show his appreciation, I was shocked.


The President of the United States wanted to show me his appreciation?!
Fast forward several days, and there I was standing next to the president. My wife Colleen was with me, and I was thinking about the fear I felt seven years ago when we bought the studio. I thought about the journey that everyone at the studio had taken with me, and the clients we’ve come to help along the way. I thought about the clients we are going to help in the future. And my heart filled with pride.


We are daring mighty things. We are creating the extraordinary. We are kicking ass. And we are having fun. So thank you all for being part of the journey with us. And stay tuned: I’m sure there will be more tales of daring mighty things to come.