20 years later with Nick Grant

Posted on Jan 22, 2020

This year, Imarc CEO Nick Grant celebrates his 20th year with the agency. I had the chance to catch up with Nick as he reflected on his 20 years here, the history of the agency, and what’s in store for Imarc in the future.

In the year 2000, with the Y2K scare behind us, as we were waiting on the first iPod and getting DVDs from Netflix through snail mail, Nick Grant was starting his career at Imarc.

Can you tell us the story of how you became the CEO at Imarc?

I started my career as a Production Coordinator, shepherding wide format print projects through production and working with different departments to get projects done on time and on budget. In 2000, I moved into Web, doing essentially the same thing but instead of buildings and bus wraps, it was websites and custom applications. Over the next 10 years, I really learned the details on what makes a successful project and what makes the ideal team. As the company expanded, the need for additional Project Managers became apparent. Based on my experience, I was the ideal person to define processes and oversee our production environment, so I spent the next 5 years as the Director of Operations. When Imarc’s original CEO stepped down in 2014, I became the natural fit because of my experience, client relations, and understanding of the underpinnings of the company.

What was the first big project you worked on at Imarc?

One of the first clients I worked with was Starwood Hotels. At the time, the internet was new, and companies were still figuring it out. Starwood’s print assets were literally in a 3-ring binder on my desk, so I worked with the team to transfer these into digital files in an online database. We still work with Starwood (now Marriott) today, managing the Starwood Asset Library (SAL).

What’s one of the challenges of being CEO?

Everything from accounting and banking relations, insurance, sales, and marketing, everything needs some level of my involvement. Luckily I have amazing managers and directors in place that can handle the day-to-day, but ensuring all of the departments and behind-the-scenes demands are humming along together is a significant task. You have to make sure that all the cogs in the locomotive are working together to get it down the track.

What are 5 things you wish someone told you before becoming CEO?

  1. Create the culture: Culture is important. It’s not just about putting a kegerator in the kitchen, it’s about creating an environment where people want to actually hang out with each other.

  2. Stop looking at month to month: In an industry where we have milestone payments and retainers, our months tend to fluctuate. You can’t freak out because of one potentially bad month, because the next month might be your biggest of all time. It’s best to review your monthly performance in detail, but take actions based on your quarters.

  3. All in, no half ideas: Don’t be wishy-washy on the direction you want your team to go in. There will be times where you’re wrong and it’s important to learn from that. Good judgment comes from experience and learning from the past.

  4. Stop, collaborate and listen. Vanilla Ice was right: Collaboration is key. It’s how we perform our best work, and it’s how we deliver value to our clients. Creating an environment that allows folks to get inspired from each other makes for an amazing deliverable.

  5. Hire great people, and get out of their way: I find myself saying we’re curators of talent. The “Dad knows best” approach isn’t ideal. We have spent a ton of time curating the right talent and you have to let them do what they do best… that’s why you hired them in the first place. When you let the rope out a bit, it allows employees to shine, and it allows you to take more of a birds-eye view to see what's working or not.

How do you stay at the top of your game?

Work/life balance is important. You need to figure out other ways to get inspired. At Imarc, we have musicians, snowboarders, motorcyclists, surfers, readers, artists… we have it all. If our folks aren’t doing what they love outside of Imarc, we’re going to see that in their work.

What are your goals right now?

Global domination for starters – but in the meantime, efficiency. It’s about making sure that all of our employees adhere to a certain level of quality while leveraging our talented staff to keep an eye on the future to help slingshot us. Most of all, it’s figuring out how best to add value for all of our clients.

What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?

I am continually figuring out the shape of my legacy, but I want to be remembered as an authentic leader. When things go right, we celebrate them, but when things go wrong, we don’t fake it. We recognize the problem and address it. I hope that the Imarc team continues to be authentic with each other, and recognizes that everyone has an important part to play for this to work.

Where do you see Imarc in the future?

One of the things that I’m most proud of is that as Imarc continues to grow and move forward, we never lose sight of our vision and who we are. In the last 20 years, we went from a small office on the East Coast to a national company, and I’d love to see Imarc go international. We have always pushed the limits of the technology we use and deliver to clients, and our team is always on the pulse of what’s new. I’d like to see Imarc always chasing the next big thing, being innovative, and striving for client satisfaction. Success isn’t an endpoint, it’s something we are always working towards and redefining every day.

That’s a wrap! As we look back on the last two decades of Imarc history and how far the company has come, we’re excited and ready to see what’s in store for us in 2020 and onward.

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