- What’s the genesis story of T3?
Ben: T3 was started 30 years ago when our founder, Gay Gaddis, had a new vision for what an agency could be. She cashed in a $16,000 IRA in 1989 and founded The Think Tank (T3). Thirty-one years later, we’re still fueled by the same entrepreneurial spirit and drive for innovation that we were founded on.
- What previous work experience did you bring to the table?
Ben: My experience began in the early days of digital. I started on the brand side at The Richards Group in Dallas and then pivoted to focus on the digital space, running some of the earliest search campaigns and digital projects for brands like American Airlines, Nokia, and Frito Lay. After that, I moved into the mobile marketing space, at a time when text messaging was rocket science. That led me to discover my real passion — the combination of technology, marketing, and business innovation. And I was lucky enough to get to bring a diverse work background to T3.
- What surprised you the most about joining T3?
Ben: What surprised me the most was that a company with 120 people (at the time) was so far out ahead of some of their competitors. T3 was extremely early to digital and new technologies and I was blown away by the talent and the passion in such a small team. Being nimble and entrepreneurial was a competitive differentiator and led to better work and a larger impact. They also had a bunch of dogs and babies running around… which was a bit odd but a huge part of the culture.
- What challenges did you face as you grew your company, and how did you overcome them?
Ben: We faced many challenges as T3 grew, but part of our DNA is consistently reinventing ourselves, and as you do that you have to evolve your hiring, your people, and how you communicate that value to your clients. We’re constantly faced with embracing that evolution, being ok with ambiguity, and thriving in an environment where next year we’ll look very different than we do this year.
- What’s one thing a lot of people don’t know about you?
Ben: I can hold my breath for 4 minutes, 30 seconds and I wear the same thing every day (a white shirt and jeans). Guess that’s two things but sometimes I do both at the same time.
- What’s the most important thing you’ve learned that has made you a better leader?
Ben: It’s extremely important to over-communicate why we are doing the things we believe are most important. I’ve found you have to keep going back to “The Why” — explaining not just what we’re doing but the reasons behind those things. This gives the team the ability to take ownership and the autonomy to do the things they know are going to be best for their team, our clients, and the company. Early in my career, I spent a lot of time focusing on the what and not enough on the why.
- What do you think makes a strong company culture and why?
Ben: I believe company culture is determined 95% by the people inside the organization and 5% by the leaders. You can foster culture but you can’t dictate it, and that’s why one of our values is Damn Good People. If you emphasize the fact being great at your job and being great to the people you work with are not mutually exclusive, I’ve found it leads to an environment where people perform at their highest. And it creates a culture that people want to be a part of. I think that’s a large part of why we have T3ers who stick around for 10, 15, 20+ years.
- What’s your favorite thing about working with the brands you partner with?
Ben: I love when we, collectively with our clients, find a problem that has to be solved and isn’t optional. A competitor is changing a market or a technology threatens an entire business model. There are times when clients don’t have an option — they have to evolve or die. While it may seem dire, it’s when I see innovation come to life and we have the ability to collectively take a risk and create something that didn’t exist before.
- What are some of the challenges you see brands face during a rebrand or in the process of launching a new marketing campaign?
Ben: One major challenge we see brands face is they often believe that messaging alone is enough. It’s not. But some believe they can use marketing or a rebrand to convince customers that they’re different than what they were before — even if they haven’t really changed much.
Customers today are smarter than ever and have less time and willingness to listen to BS from a brand. They expect brands to be useful and expect that what the brand says it stands for comes across in every touchpoint and experience. The brands that are successful are the ones that create an experience that makes customers fall in love with them and they then wrap their brand, and messaging, around those experiences.
- What are you most proud of about what T3 has accomplished?
Ben: I’m extremely proud of the fact that we have built a team that is world-class in so many areas — product design, brand design, CRM, and modern loyalty. But I’m most proud of the fact that we’ve been able to do so, and compete against the biggest agencies in the world, all while retaining our nimbleness, agility, and the culture which has set T3 apart for the last 31 years.
And of course the The Forrester Wave: Loyalty Service Providers, Q3 2019 Report that came out recently makes me proud. And our team is tired of me talking about it. But you should read it anyway.
- What are you most excited about for T3 in the next year?
Ben: I’m most excited about the fact that T3 can expand our scale in partnership with LRW Group. We can now bring best-in-class capabilities, combined with the broad capabilities of LRW Group, to deliver on our mission to build Useful Brands. But now we can do it in a way that’s bigger, more comprehensive, and faster. It’s going to be a great year!