Top 10 Things I Learned at Brains on Fire

Gentle blog readers, it is time for me to bid you farewell. My husband, wunderkind, and I will be moving to Washington, D.C. in the new year. This move will bring us closer to family & friends and a new WOMM post for me beginning in January. As a fitting end to an exciting 2007 and my amazing time with the Brains on Fire team, I wanted to share with you the Top 10 things that I learned in my time here.

From the home office in Greenville, South Carolina, here are the Top 10 Things I Learned at Brains on Fire …

10. Blogging is a Muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Robbin helped provide me with some discipline by setting a goal of contributing 1 post per week. This kept me on the lookout for ideas and constantly writing.

9. Meetings should be used strategically & sparingly. Other than a regular touch-base meeting with the entire company, there are no regular weekly meetings at Brains on Fire. As a result, there is time during the day to do actual work and when a meeting is called, attendees come prepared to interact.

8. No one will die if you leave your laptop at the office. The first time I saw someone do this, I thought it was a mistake. Turns out, taking a night a week to ‘unplug’ and focus offline is very productive ” personally and professionally.

7. Nurture long term client relationships with ideas. It is easy to get complacent when you speak with the same clients over months or (if you’re lucky) years. Senior account guru Cathy Harrison taught me that the way to keep it fresh is to proactively brainstorm and share at least 1 new idea a week with your client. It keeps everyone energized and focused on the future.

Real Genius final scene6. Like brands with true personality, Popcorn is Polarizing. A lot of great people love it, but certain people (like Real Genius villain Dr. Hathaway and Spike) find it abhorrent. But, if no one hates you, chances are no one is moved to be passionate about you either.

5. Sow 10,000 seeds ” OK, this was originally a Guy Kawasaki principle, but I have never seen an organization practice it in the same way that Brains on Fire does. In my favorite example, 3 little kids found us by Googling ‘naming company’ and wrote Spike about their lawn raking business in need of a name. Instead of responding ‘Sorry, you have no money to hire us’, Spike shot their email to the entire company and we brainstormed a few doozies over email. I don’t know if winners like ‘Fall Releaf’ helped the kids, but it was a breath of fresh air for the rest of us and I strongly believe that small gracious acts will come back to benefit you tenfold.

4. There is no greater way to instill ownership than by giving fans a piece of a brand to give away. The Fiskateers taught me this through their random acts of crafting in San Antonio and Brains on Fire made it happen by bringing in outside speakers to inspire clients and friends at the FIRE sessions.

3. Everything is your brand. As remarkable as I originally found the way Brains on Fire answers the phone to be, I became immune to its coolness after a while. At the last WOMMA conference, however, I overheard a longstanding Brains on Fire client telling someone else how much they always call in through the front desk to hear today’s unusual greeting. Good reminder that you are the ‘small stuff‘.

2. Don’t be a chameleon. I personally have a bit of a chameleon tendency ” I can echo back tone, topics and language of those I am trying to reach or persuade. This is not always a good thing in the agency business. While chameleon behavior can help land new business, staying true to your identity no matter what will attract kindred spirits. Working with partners who have been attracted to you as you truly are is a strong foundation for long term success.

1. Have fun. My fondest memories of Brains on Fire are of my adventures with Geno & Spike ” checking into a hotel at midnight only to find that our reservations were for the wrong night, being punch drunk after 50 nonstop hours with enthusiastic scrappers, getting stuck in an airport and watching stupid videos on the big MacBook, hotel clerks’ reactions when they hear our names at check in (Miracle, Church, & Spike Jones), lugging the humorously oversized projector to a big meeting after our travel model broke on the worst possible day, the endless discussion about tattoos, the list goes on and on. My favorite is probably them ‘surprising’ me by inserting a photo of me sleeping gape-mouthed on a plane into my bio slide for a presentation to a Fortune 50 brand (they of course had their professional headshots on their bios). I will desperately miss being the straight man of the trio, but take with me the knowledge that having fun while you work is, to continue the Real Genius theme, “a moral imperative”. Fun is contagious and attractive. All things being equal, people will always chose to work with people who are having fun.

I move to Brains on Fire ‘Alum’ status with a grateful heart. I wish you the happiest of New Years and hope you will keep in touch in the future at my new blogging home – www.virginiamiracle.com.

6 Responses to “Top 10 Things I Learned at Brains on Fire”

  1. December 31, 2007 at 5:46 am, Billy said:

    Congratulations and good luck, Virginia.

    DC is going to be a much more palatable centricity of corruptness and misuse of power with you there, and you will move on to more appropriate things… as you will always be connected to the folks you love at BOF. Exciting times await, indeed.

    But do not kid yourself for even the shortest of moments… you are going to miss Greenville, SC with the most stinging pang of nostalgia you’ve ever experienced.

    I’m just sayin’.

    Reply

  2. December 31, 2007 at 6:09 am, Patrick said:

    It’s been great getting to know you and other BOF people this past year through the blog and curiosity team. I work close by and do similar work but have been glad we can all learn from each other and add strength to our own niches.

    I just added your virginamiricle.com web site to my newsreader and look forward to new conversations in 2008.

    Reply

  3. December 31, 2007 at 6:45 am, olivier Blanchard said:

    Excellent post, Virginia. (Now I have to go update mine to link to to this. Doh!)

    Good luck in DC, and safe travels. :)

    Look up my friend Ernie Mosteller when you’re up there. (He’s on the googles.)

    Reply

  4. December 31, 2007 at 8:25 am, Bill Mosher said:

    VeeDub – What a great post! Have a wonderful 2008 and good luck in DC. Keep in touch!
    Have A Great Day!
    Bill

    Reply

  5. January 03, 2008 at 11:41 am, Money shot » Top 10 Things I Learned at Brains on Fire said:

    [...] post by Virginia and software by Elliott Back This entry is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any [...]

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  6. January 13, 2008 at 9:07 pm, i am dave said:

    [...] read something rather interesting today about owning a business as laid back as Brains on Fire and it made me reexamine myself quite [...]

    Reply

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