Looking for a better way of life.
A year and a half ago I decided that ten years in Washington, DC, was enough. My nine-mile commute took roughly an hour each way. I saw the dysfunction and cut throat style of politics playing out daily in the business world. My wife Susan and I simply wanted a better environment in which to raise a family. I knew there would be sacrifices as far as my professional life, but I was willing to look past those for a superior quality of life. In the end, I would find that those professional sacrifices would be minimal – or nonexistent – because I landed at the right firm.
The idea of returning to South Carolina, the state in which I grew up, gave me the false opinion that leaving DC meant I would be saying goodbye to global thinking, strategic-minded agencies and marquee clients. Too many years in an international city can build a false perception in one’s mind that only firms that reside in these types of cities can have a global perspective. What I expected to find in South Carolina, was a collection of small agencies that executed on tactical initiatives to solve singular issues. In fact, at first glance many of the agencies I found in the region did just that. It was easy to find the five-person PR shop that did a great job promoting local companies in local markets. It was equally easy to find the small yet talented local marketing firm that worked with local clients targeting local audiences. Talent was not a shortcoming of the state by any stretch.
Yet when I was introduced to Chernoff Newman in early 2016, what I found was an agency that was structured much like any in New York, DC or Chicago : full-service and fully-integrated. Wonderfully, CN does not try to present itself as a hip startup, though we have plenty of right-brained thinkers within the firm. Nor does CN try to be an agency that looks like a law firm; analytical but lacking a creative soul. What I found in every interaction with the team here at Chernoff Newman was an agency that approached creativity from a strategic foundation. The leadership of Chernoff Newman looks at an issue holistically regardless of tactical solution. With each meeting I find that the broad background of the team means that no matter the solution to a client’s need – Interactive, PR, Marketing, Advertising or Media – the skill set exists inside the firm. With confidence in the breadth and depth of the agency’s skills, there is never a need to sell only to our strengths, but rather to solve the client’s problems with the greatest long term impact.
Finding an agency with a real understanding of how to solve complex issues, with a national client base and a proven track record, was a welcome and unexpected surprise. Yet, what makes CN stand out from other agencies with better-known names in marquee cities was the quality of team. Maybe it’s southern hospitality. Maybe it’s the long tenure of so many people at the firm. But the ethical and caring nature of those within the company is what places this firm above all others. It may seem like a small thing, but agencies that lack an ethical ethos lose big clients and important employees all the time. That turnover effects client service and overall morale and eventually the viability of the firm itself.
So, a year and a half later, I now live in Charleston. I’ve traded a two-hour commute for twenty minutes. I’ve given up a “watch your back” political work environment. But most importantly I haven’t given up striving daily for impactful strategic and high quality work for a wide range of clients. Chernoff Newman has delivered the best of both worlds.