Posts Tagged ‘brilliant’

Clients on twitter

March 18, 2009


@jenisplendid & @jenishusband




















(I won’t)

January 15, 2009

In case you weren’t ‘leisure working‘ yesterday, let me bring you up to speed.

Personal insurance is one thing — fine — but direct mail is another.

I promised before I wouldn’t waste your attention or pummel you with messages and I won’t.

Nobody wants that:

Just give me the $ and let me create something that might actually add value, instead.

(As @jonmyers said: but that would be too obvious.)

My goal has been to operate independently and create a new culture from the ground up — something I could believe in.

And I’ve done it.

BUT, brilliant is a boutique division of a traditional insurance agency, still (one of the top 25 independent agencies in Columbus, no less).  I got folks to answer to.

but But BUT… as somebody over at the Brains crew said at one point — and I firmly believe — you MUST:

Everything I’ve done so far has been for a purpose.

From whom I do it for: local, independent businesses, creatives, collectives, non-profits, etc — i.e., cultural entrepreneurs.

To how I do it: wherever (I’m mobile), whenever (day, night, week/end), I come to you — just make an appointment.

(That’s IF you want to meet.  If you’re too busy or in a pinch, we can do the whole thing via twitter, chat, text, email — whatever you prefer.  And you ALWAYS know how to get in touch.)

So here’s what I’m going to do.

I’m going to start handling some personal insurance.  On a limited basis.  Only by referral.

I will not work with just anybody.

This a boutique: I provide specialized services to select group of clients.  I have litmus tests.  I am picky.

I underwrite accounts with a curatorial eye.  My network of clients reflects that.  We work collaboratively towards the common good.

So you have to either already know me, know somebody I’m working with, or else we need to be connected somehow online.

(Likewise, if these conditions apply, you can refer friends.)

I figured out long ago that great clients inspire great service.  And I don’t bother feigning impartiality about either.  This is the deal.

One last semantic note:

From day one, the adjective in our name was meant to be descriptive of our clients, not us.  (Of course.)

I got the idea after doing this gift card.

Between you and me, I’ve always thought of it more in the cheeky, British sense — as in ‘particularly good’ or ‘unusually wonderful.’  Rather than meaning quite literally brilliant.

Think you might be a good fit?  Get in touch.


November 26, 2008

This was just over a year ago now.

Plenty rough.

It was all just an idea and didn’t have a name.

(And AmyD was still platinum blond.)


September 16, 2008

Day 2 of forced digital nomadism due to the remnants of Hurricane Ike.

Hasn’t been that bad, really — our house isn’t damaged, we can still shower, the cars have gas, etc.

Jamo doesn’t have school…

Probably about .005% of what the folks down in Galveston and the Texas coast are experiencing.

A minor inconvenience, at worst.

Plus, about a month back I was having thoughts like this:

Which I did, like, the very next day:

So while neither my office nor the JDA office has power or phone service or Internet access, I’m holed up at the Cup O’ Joe in the Short North (pretty much all of which neighborhood has power, by the way) with full access to pretty much everything work-related.

And I’ll be damned if the tunes aren’t consistently good here.

If you’re a client, you already know how to get in touch.

If you want to be a client, you probably already know, too.

In case not:

Cell: 614.598.1729

Mobile email:


Twitter: @slimgoodies

I’ll be in and out of meetings all day, so if you don’t get me, leave a message and I’ll get right back…

P.S. Anybody else going to the Wex tonight for Real You Inc?  I’ll be the skinny, balding, bespectacled guy… Shoot me an email, text, tweet — whatever.

P.P.S. Just shared a basked of potato chips with Jeb Stuard Magruder.


September 11, 2008

My litmus test for taking on new clients is unscientific and subjective as hell and goes a little like this:

  1. Are they local?
  2. Are they independent?
  3. Are they passionate about what they do?
  4. Am I passionate about what they do?
  5. Is it interesting?
  6. Can I give them my full, unequivocal endorsement?
  7. Am I a customer of theirs?  (If not, why not?)
  8. Do they help set Columbus apart?
  9. Are they making things better?
  10. Etc etc etc.

The answer isn’t always ‘yes’ for all of the above.  Nor is it by any means an exhaustive list.  But it should give you a pretty good idea of the type of folks we like working with.

So should this.

skreened + brilliant = 3327 n high

August 21, 2008

eViL pLaN:

effective 9/1, i’ll be operating from a new office inside the new skreened retail/design shop at 3327 n high in clintonville.

on that same block: central city, seagull, and embassyplus, last i heard, a possible new thai carryout in the old modified soul space right next door… (fell through, apparently.)

not to mention pattycake, element, wholly craft, amyd, sage, giorgio, studio 35, black market, northstar and all the other awesomeness going on in clintonville right now.

all just in time for the terrible twos:

Skreened Columbus Grand Opening


love is a circular transaction

June 26, 2008

(thought and well-turned phrase courtesy of brains on fire.)

doing my best not to sound like a blathering fan boy with a crush… but we got a little love from advertising’s red-stilettoed superhero, advergirl, today.

“fantastic execution.”

it’s GREAT to hear feedback like that — especially when you’re navigating with little else besides your gut.

amyd seems to feel the same way

i think it works because:

(a) we’re genuinely passionate about it;

(b) it helps us connect with people over something BIGGER than ourselves (jeez, guess that’s a brains on fire thought, too);

(c) it fuels collaborative partnerships; and

(d) it shows people there’s another way.

that you can be a not-only-for-profit.  and do well by doing good.

which is how i got the idea for brilliant in the first place: working with inspiring clients who have larger purposes at the heart of their organizations other than just profit.

all of which is roughly the equivalent of our five-step recipe for how to change the world.

so, thanks advergirl and amyd.

we you both.

[note: an old thought, had many times before by countless other people, but the real story here is how marvelous technology is. how it’s levelled the playing field. and enabled someone like me, here, to have access to some of the brightest minds in whatever biz, wherever they are. to listen and learn. to converse. and their willingness to share, rather than hoard. all part of the aforesaid circular transaction. isn’t it great?]

whatever your version of a planner is, get it out

June 16, 2008

two events coming up in the not-too-distant future we’re happy to be a part of:

on july 5th, from 2pm until midnight, is the 3rd annual here comes your weekend parking lot blowout at, you guessed it, the surly girl parking lot (next to goody boy).

this is the annual fundraiser for the columbus music co-op and helps fund some important initiatives i wish i would’ve thought of myself, like the columbus musician’s assistance program (cmap).

admission is, well, there is no admission — it’s FREE.

plenty of food and beer available to purchase; last time i checked there were ten bands (and counting) on the schedule…

100% volunteer run. and a certifiable blast.

stay tuned for more…

then, further on down the road a bit, september 12-14, you’ve got scoot-a-que 11.

(see the process behind this year’s design here.)

don’t be fooled by the website — the agenda isn’t up and registration isn’t open (yet).

if you have a scoot, this is a can’t-miss. and, even if you don’t, it’s fun watching everybody take off on saturday from the north market.

plus — not coincidentally — that saturday also doubles as the columbus microbrew festival at the market, too.

good times, people.

they call me slim

May 21, 2008

ok. things are ready to start happening finally.

if you look over here, you’ll see i’ve got a new online hub of sorts.

poke around a bit, and you’ll see that the site for brilliant is up!

thanks to adam and jen at i love treefort for that (their business and personal websites have just been updated recently, too, take a look).

they also threw a site up over here to help the victims of the hit-and-run last week at haiku. there’s a meeting tonight at 6:00 at junctionview for anybody interested in helping pull resources together for that cause.

brilliant is based on two ideas:

(1) work only with clients we believe in

(2) do something worth talking about

take a quick spin around the site. i think we’ve only got, like, eight of the client profiles up for now, but we’ll be doing the rest soon. and hopefully adding a bunch more.

if we already work together and you know somebody who you think might fit the bill, get us in touch.

if you’re reading this and we haven’t met yet, we should.

and, as far as the do-something-worth-talking-about-part, if you follow me on twitter, you’ll see that i’m going to be riding around town (bike or scooter, haven’t decided) today, passing out 1,000 Buy Local stickers to businesses city-wide (or, as far as i can pedal/the vespa breaks down) as the first ingredient of a collaborative campaign.

so if you want to get in touch today, call my cell or send an email. i’ve got my handheld thingy.


April 25, 2008

if you would’ve told me six months ago that it’d take six months to get all the content to treefort for the website and that, in the end, it’d only be, like, six sentences, i would’ve said you’re nuts.

but it is what it is — no more.

and in this case, though what we say and how we say it is important, what we don’t say is just as important — if not more.

no hyperbole. just the truth. trusting that the right people will get it. and that if we create the right preconditions for something to happen, it might.

also, the presupposition that nobody cares. especially about a category like insurance. it’s liberating once you accept that.

the way i figure it, people are pretty smart. especially the people i like working with.

smart people doing interesting work.

so it’d be pretty stupid to try and convince people that our products are somehow better than everybody else’s, right?

or that, somehow, our level of customer service is — this is my favorite — “unprecedented,” as another local agency would have you believe.

no, i’d rather not waste your attention. i’d rather see if we can’t give people an altogether different reason for doing business with us than everybody else.

so: no advertising. no direct mail.

getting pummeled with messages? not by us.

don’t even have to do business with us to appreciate that.

instead, how about creating something that actually adds value?

something meaningful. something that might actually make a difference or make peoples’ lives easier. or change the world on our clients’ behalf.

so we decided to follow our passion and do something we’ve always wanted to do: a campaign to support and promote the local businesses that help set our city apart.

the first element is this sticker, which you’re going to see popping up all around town in the windows of your favorite, local independent businesses.

from there, we can do anything with this. but we can’t do it ourselves. have some ideas? want to help?

your participation is key if we’re going make this work and have a measurable impact.

if you’re a business owner or an engaged citizen looking to get involved, get in touch.

run a business and need a sticker? need a sticker to give to your favorite business?

i’ve got 1,000, and as soon as treefort finishes building the website, they’re going up. after that, we’ll probably have a little ho-down for anybody who’s interested in playing a part.

coming soon…

March 3, 2008


buy local columbus


January 21, 2008

back when i just got out of school after four and a half years with a creative writing degree (a choice fueled by the notion that i didn’t think i could ever handle a proper ‘desk’ job (i know now what i really meant was ‘corporate’ job)) — i read infinite jest for the first time and it totally ripped to shreds my conception of what i thought writing had to be.

either it’d been a failure of my own imagination or a failure of the university faculty — both, probably — and i couldn’t figure out why the book hadn’t been required reading. this was waaaaay different than everything that’d been drilled into me for the past couple years. broke all the rules. it was great. (probably had something to do with the notion that you really should know all the rules before you go about breaking them.)

book changed my life. and i’ve been reading it at a pace of about once every other year since. tracking down every single piece david foster wallace has published in the meantime.

lately i’m having the same experience. only now it’s about business. and life. and meaning. throw everything out the window i used to think about business, because it doesn’t have to suck. you don’t have to surrender your soul. it doesn’t have to be bureaucratic. the old rules no longer have to apply. in fact, turns out the quicker you disregard them, the better off you are. how’s that for irony?

so take a guy like me who shirks convention and then put me in a traditional industry. but then also have the balls to let go and trust yourself to trust me — relinquish control — and see what happens. yes, everybody’s going left and we’re going right. and that’s bound to make you nervous. and it should. but don’t you also feel a little twinge of excitement? like maybe something’s happening here. like maybe this thing’s not going to quite fit in with the rest and that’s a damned good thing. like maybe we can choose exactly who we want to work with and we can it all by just being ourselves. and everyone else can go…well. that, even though on the surface it may look like this is about insurance, in the end, what it’s really about is what we’ve been interested in all along: remarkable people.

why can’t an insurance agency be remarkable, too?

one of my friends who doesn’t live around here read that last post about passion and said this:

It is clear you have no regard for the cynics; nor should you. Well done.

true, i suppose. never thought of it that way.

i’m building brilliant myself from inside a traditional agency — innovating from within — and the other day somebody here basically told me you can’t do anything remarkable with insurance — nobody’s going to care; it’s insurance. yeah? now, that’s cynicism, yes, but also limited thought. this was somebody who i used to think ‘got it.’ i said f@#% you. watch.

from the

January 8, 2008


ok, here’s the thing.

i don’t, like, love insurance or the insurance industry, no. (if you think that’s the case, we obviously haven’t met or talked yet, and we should.)

BUT… i’m passionate about people who are passionate about what they do. that’s inspiring to me: people who love what they’re doing. it’s hard to fake that.¹

and what i love, more than almost everything else except my wife, is helping those people. they’re so ‘in’ to what they do, i can’t help be ‘in’ to them — it’s an attraction, of sorts — and all i want to do is get behind them.

and the way i’m best equipped to do that right now — to have the most impact — is through insurance. through, not with.

let me explain.

before, it simply meant we offered all the traditional stuff: proper coverage, a fair price, nothing-is-too-much-trouble service, etc. plus a personal and professional investment from me. and, odds were, if i was compelled to seek you out in the first place, it was because i believed in you, so at some point i probably ended up writing about you here (or here), too.

for me, though, that’s never really been enough.

see, the people i want to work with, they’re not average folk. they might be unassuming, self-deprecating, and humble — yes. but they’re truly exceptional people. doing truly exceptional things. rooted in passion. people like jeni and john and liz and artie, who, each, in their own way, were the inspiration for what i’m getting ready to do now.

so why not, i thought, why not do something exceptional to better serve the people who inspire us? because we’re in the position to do so. and then, maybe, if we do it right, maybe at the same time we’ll inspire others to do exceptional things, too?

so we take the traditional stuff — everything you’d expect from a top-25 independent agency — and keep it standard. but we create a new-model agency specifically for helping those who inspire us so they can hopefully continue to inspire you. that’s where our mission starts. and we tailor our services — shoot, maybe we create new services — for them. just tell me what you need. but, again, that’s still the traditional stuff; we’re just doing it in a nontraditional way.

no, where the rubber meets the road (this is the through part), is that, far as i can tell, the other 3,999 insurance agencies in central ohio are about one thing and one thing only: profit. for me — us — that’s not enough. especially when you consider the position we’re in: insurance is an inherently social business. and by the sheer volume of people we’re in contact with, it puts us in position of influence.

so maybe if we’re public and open about our principles, aren’t shy about mentioning them, and — most important — continue to act on them, leading by example, using insurance not as a tool for profit, but rather as a tool for making things better, for making a difference, as agents of change, maybe by leading our efforts will in turn help inspire OTHERS to find their own way to do the same. just like jeni and john and liz and artie — and most recently daniel — did for me.

just maybe.

¹it also helps, too, if what you’re passionate about is, in some way, interesting. i.e. worth thinking about. and ethical. i.e. not solely about $. and relevant. i.e. of social or cultural meaning. maybe it’s part of a solution? e.g. the local cycling community is interesting to me because (a) die-hard folks were out commuting last week in 15° degree weather and because (b) it’s part of a solution to a number of different problems. likewise, the local crafting community is interesting to me because (a) crafters are so damn creative and because (b) handmade products are part of the solution to a number of different problems. etc. so the five-way intersection of passion and interestingness and ethics and creativity and relevance.


January 4, 2008

one thing i’ve always strove for is complete transparency. all the cards out on the table. leveling the playing field. clients making informed decisions. no surprises.

another thing that’s been clear from the get is part of what sets me — now us — apart is the company we keep. i’ve always worked with a certain type of client. why? great clients inspire great service. not exactly a secret, i don’t think.

now, when i go back and read the prescient copy on the scoot-a-que 10 gift card i have to chuckle.


and because treefort are conceptual thinkers and ‘get’ me plus all this, they say how about white-on-white — something transparent, almost — that’ll recede into the background on the website and make full-color pics of clients real prominent right in front. because this is about them, right, not you?


keep the period or no?

making it better

December 28, 2007

back in november, in his keynote speech at the 2007 futuretrends conference in miami, fl, piers fawkes issued the following challenge:

if there is an economic reason to change the world…

…as a trends analyst, researcher, innovation director or concerned party, it’s your job, should you choose to accept it, to create that change.

your job is to inspire your companies. inspire them:

  • to lead
  • to be good
  • to make things better

right about that same time, 1200 miles away, here in columbus, i was issuing a similar challenge to our agency principal at jda, except with a singularly immodest proposal attached: give me the resources, backing, and budget, and let me create a new agency — from the ground up, on my terms — so we can lead and help shape the future.

he said ‘yes.’

that night, i unpacked the still-germinating idea into a clumsy powerpoint and uploaded it:

jump cut a month-and-a-half forward, and we’re getting ready to meet piers’ challenge with brilliant.

this is about columbus.

this is about passion for the potential for the future.

and, if you’re engaged locally in the commercial application of creativity — a cultural entrepreneur — this is about you.

stay tuned.