A little over nine years ago, Tim Smith asked me to play a round of golf. I accepted even though I didn’t care much for the sport. I figured I’d follow his lead. But, just two holes in, I could tell he wasn’t much of a golfer! “We could’ve just gone to breakfast,” I lamented. “Why’d you pick golf?”
Tim replied with a smile and shrug, “I thought this is what business men are supposed to do.” Hours later, ending at more than a few strokes above par, a true friendship was born.
Tim and I spent that day discussing his upcoming purchase of Skidmore. I was inspired by how passionate he was about this little company and what he thought it could become. Even more inspiring was his enthusiasm for wanting to be different. To cultivate a successful business that didn’t feel like a business. To do amazing work, but not with all the conventional workplace nonsense. When he asked if I wanted to be part of it, at the surprise of even myself, I was in. No official interview, no meeting the team. Just yes. I was following his lead.
I was inspired by how passionate he was about this little company and what he thought it could become.
There have been many ups and downs the nine years I’ve spent at Skidmore. We’ve grown, we’ve scaled back, we’ve won work with huge brands outside of Michigan that we had no business winning. We’ve fundamentally changed how we do our work. We’ve hired, we’ve fired (unfortunately), and we’ve done the business-y things we had to do, in a way that was as authentically human and anti-corporate as possible.
And we’ve failed—many, many times. We’ve lost, we’ve laughed, we’ve cried. All the while following Tim’s lead. (Quite literally: he was usually the first to cry.)
When Tim passed earlier this year, we lost our leader and I lost one of my best friends. But what remained was this amazing, storied company that he loved so dearly. What transferred to me as the studio’s president and de facto leader, in a way that was beyond what I could have expected, was that love and passion for the very soul of the entity.
This studio has a life of its own, and it deserves to live forever. It’s a decades-old icon and pillar of the creative community here in Detroit. As I processed Tim’s passing over the last nine months, I knew I wanted to be the one to make sure it continued to live, breathe, evolve, and improve. The studio needed a new owner to safeguard its legacy and that became my calling. Here are a few reasons why.
The studio needed a new owner to safeguard its legacy and that became my calling.
Our creative work is unparalleled in the region. We’re relentless about making our clients successful. We constantly strive for perfection even if we know it’s impossible. These things are incredibly important and I’m proud of them all. What I’m most proud of, however, is how we care for each other as individuals in a way that would make a lot of families envious.
Skidmore—or our “studio family,” as we call it—is a place to show up as you are, make a good living, and be a part of a loving community. Our culture isn’t just one of creativity and fun; it operates with an unconventional level of compassion and care. When someone faces a personal tragedy or loss of a loved one—which has happened too many times to our team in the past year—we rally and find ways to provide comfort beyond the standard bereavement days. In times of celebration, we’re not the obligatory, put-out-a-cake kind of place. We transform our office into a Hawaiian luau, bring in rescued bunnies for a petting zoo, fill a little red wagon with books and supplies for a soon-to-be mom.
In other words, we embrace every opportunity to care for and love on our teammates. I have benefitted from this directly and understand how special it is.
Our culture isn’t just one of creativity and fun; it operates with an unconventional level of compassion and care.
The Skidmorvians of the world deserve another leader that cares as much and works as hard as they do. Someone that understands the significance of the Detroit icon that is Skidmore Studio, and will fight to protect it. A leader that creates opportunities for all of us to be better creatives and better human beings.
Because I love the studio as much as I do, I am one of those freaks who can’t wait to go to work on Monday mornings. It’s why I’m sitting here writing this blog way past my bedtime, and why I just put everything I have on the line to buy this fucking amazing place.
I’m so excited for what’s ahead. I am humbled and honored to get to play a role in the continued story and real-life community that is Skidmore Studio. Here’s to you, Tim. Oh, the places we’ll go!