If there’s one thing we’re more proud of than our clients and their projects, it’s our employees. The list of individuals who started or expanded their careers at Tactive is a long one, so we thought we’d catch up with a few of our “alumni”. Today, we check-in with Jenn Rarick, who started thriving marketing agency Pivot with a gentle nudge from Tactive’ owners Kurt Ellinger and Tim Browning.
When did you work for Tactive?
I started in June 2003 and officially left Tactive in December 2005. I took the early part of 2006 to build a brand and business plan for Pivot, which officially launched in March of that year.
What was/were your role(s) at Tactive?
I started as a graphic designer and then moved into a Marketing Director role. At the time, Tactive was handling some of the marketing strategy and branding work for about 5-10 clients – a few of which transferred over to Pivot once we launched. I also ran the Stutz Art Gallery, which was connected to our office space at the time.
What are you doing now?
I’ve been slaving away at Pivot for going on 12 years! Actually, I have a great team of creatives and consultants that handle much of the day-to-day work of the agency so I can spend most of my time on strategy, consulting, and acquiring new clients along with my business partner, Keri. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Tim & Kurt for helping me start Pivot almost 12 years ago. When Pivot broke off from Tactive we shared office space at the space where Tactive operates now. Since then, we’ve moved to Fletcher Place and have found a niche in helping cities and community-based organizations create big change through strategic marketing.
Is there anything you learned at Tactive that you are using in your current job?
Friday lunch, drinking at work, hiring good-looking people, keeping your HR department small, and taking lots of vacations!
Okay, seriously – Kurt and Tim taught me to pay attention to the many talents of my team and to help them develop and discover those talents. They weren’t afraid to shift people into different roles when it made sense. And I learned how important it is to stay in touch with the local community, especially the arts community.
They were also great models of what it means to have a business partnership. With Tim and Kurt, there was always a bit of method and a bit of madness. And Keri, my business partner, and I are very similar. I had a chance to see how that can work – both the positives and drawbacks. It’s helped Keri and I appreciate and play to our strengths. Tim was always more casual and chatty with the client and always acted like he didn’t need the business, which was a good thing! He always seemed to have fun with the client/vendor relationship. There’s a good lesson there. Kurt was more interested in the process, the margins, and was the perfectionist of the two. He and Tim balanced each other and it was a great example for me as a young business owner.
Do you have any memorable moments from your time at Tactive?
There are so many! The annual holiday parties and the naughty gifts people would bring for the White Elephant Gift Exchange… Tim and Kurt showing up to work in matching outfits… and our office puppy, Ike. All of the gallery parties, of course, are memorable. Hosting 300 people in the Stutz Gallery space for the Red Nose Studio show was one of my favorite events. We had really great artists come through our space, including the band Here Come the Mummies!
We also had an electronic, remote-controlled “fart machine” that we’d strategically place in the conference room during meetings and calls. It was all in good fun and still something that makes me giggle.
Kurt & Tim are notorious for sharing words of wisdom with their employees. Are there any that stick out for you?
“Try to be on time.” I was late a lot my first year of employment. I’m much more punctual now.
“Choose your battles.” I know that was a big one for me. And, “ try not to act like Kurt’s Grandma.” I was a little uptight in those days. I’ve loosened up a bit since then.
Anything else you’d like to share about Tactive?
I always appreciated that, in a way, they helped me realize my strengths by telling me what I thought I should be doing well before I knew what I should be doing. They could have just let me struggle as a designer, but it was pretty quickly after I was hired that they said, “We think you’d be better at this marketing thing.” I was stubborn and stuck on being a graphic designer. They snapped me out of it. If they hadn’t floated the idea of breaking off the agency, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I’m glad that I found them and they found me at the perfect time in my life to set me on the right path. They were good bosses because they got me to work my butt off for them. And I really appreciate that.
Thank you, Jenn!
Be sure to check out how Pivot Marketing his changing cities at pivotmarketing.com.