James McNeal:

Hey, everybody, welcome to The Q. I know most of you are probably listening to this podcast and maybe quarantined inside your homes. It's been a rather unusual time for the country right now, and we totally get that. Q1 Media as a company has gone completely remote and I believe we're on day maybe 12 of quarantine if I had to pick it. I know everybody else is dealing with the same thing and we hope everybody is staying safe out there, you're healthy, keeping in touch with family, and obviously keeping social distancing per the guidelines of the CDC or all the other different local governments that have their different recommendations.

James McNeal:

Hope everybody is doing well. I know there's been some shifts within the market space. I know Q1 media, we're seeing a lot of shifts within our own partners that we work with, to offset some of the changes that have happened. Obviously, you can always reach out to Q1 media, go to q1media.com to see case studies, and even just send a quick note, and if you need any sort of help to navigate the space, we are here for you.

James McNeal:

With all of that said, we actually had our first virtual podcast today and we had a great guest on the show. Her name is Gay Gaddis, she's a true pioneer, trailblazer within the advertising world. She's an artist. She's a writer, has a book out there, it's called Cowgirl Power: Kick Ass in Business and Life. You can get it on Amazon, she also has it on Audible. She did her own voice work for it, which had interesting story in this podcast to talk about.

James McNeal:

But her real work started back in the days of... She's from East Texas, small town girl but then really had some motivating reasons to get into business and get in the business world that interested her. Beginning in the advertising space of the Mad Men era, so to speak, as she called it, Mad Men era with boots, but it was a great conversation with her, talking about the advertising space, her being in that.

James McNeal:

She worked for the Richards Group in Dallas as a creative, in the creative department, one of the first two women hired into the Richards Group. That was very interesting to her to talk about being a woman in the workforce back then, especially within the advertising industry. She actually successfully sold T3 just this past October. She's been just really getting out there and getting in touch with a lot of different people, helping lead.

James McNeal:

I think this conversation along with her art and her creative aspect was really a good conversation to have and just to listen to her in a time where we all need a break from the news cycle that we're all listening to. I hope you guys enjoyed this conversation. Again, you can check out the book, it's called Cowgirl Power, it's on Amazon. Then you can go to her website at gaygaddis.com, and you're in the Q.

James McNeal:

Well, thanks, Gay. Thank you for joining us here in The Q. I know this is very unusual time that we're all going through, and this is our first virtual podcast that we're recording. It's Friday, March 27. We're already about what, 12 days into the quarantine?

Gay Gaddis:

Yes.

James McNeal:

How have you been doing during this time?

Gay Gaddis:

Well, I am totally fortunate and blessed to be honest, because we have a ranch that's about an hour and 10 minutes outside of Austin. I'm always yearning to be out here because this is where I do a lot of my creative pursuits. I'm a painter, I'm an artist, I'm a writer, I wrote a book, which we can talk about. Also, just it's where I do my thinking, and I'm working on some new initiative.

Gay Gaddis:

It's like when I was writing my book, I had to sequester myself for a while to get it finished. If this doesn't go on too much longer, this is actually a welcome retreat for me to get work done, but it's also extremely difficult and just watching what's going on around the world and the suffering and terrible situation going on with our businesses. It's really disturbing.

Gay Gaddis:

It's almost not the same, because where I would normally be out here feeling good about things, and able to come out and do what I want to do, now, I have a heavy heart and even just trying to do basic tasks and things, it's just really difficult for all of us.

James McNeal:

Yeah, it is. I think you nailed it on the head, it doesn't feel like a normal for yourself giving away the ranch and really letting loose and relaxing or focusing on writing or painting all the many things you do. It's with a heavy heart and you're constantly thinking about it. We're all trying to go about our business and do our part, which is good. We're all doing that, we're social distancing, and quarantine. I don't know what day you're on, but I know it's been like day 11 or 12 for most people.

Gay Gaddis:

Yeah, it is.

James McNeal:

Speak to the business portion. I guess I know we can get into a little bit later about your sale of T3, but have you heard in keeping close contact, I know your son is very heavily still involved.

Gay Gaddis:

Well, of course, I'm concerned. What I always tell everyone is that, like I said, I've been through several recessions and unfortunately, the advertising business takes a really hard blow like sometimes other industries now that are during this unprecedented time. But sometimes marketing and ad budgets get cut early. I've been concerned, but I'm not there, and I'm not really able to affect what's going on. But I'm always concerned, it's my baby, I started the business almost 31 years ago and I always want it to do well and the larger company that bought us. But all businesses are suffering right now. Unless of course, I think you're in the paper goods business and perhaps you're doing okay because of the rush on toilet paper, et cetera. But everyone's suffering in the same way.

Gay Gaddis:

Like we say, we're all in it together. But it's just really, really hard to watch this. I'm also the chairman of the Texas Business Leadership Council, and we are having weekly calls and briefing the media as well, because, it's one thing to watch it on an international level on a national level, but we're also home here at Texas and what are we doing about it? What can we affect?

Gay Gaddis:

The oil and gas business is extremely suffering right now as well, as we all know, and that was happening. Just watching that and watching what's the good things that a lot of people are doing? That gives you some uplift to know that people are volunteering and helping and doing what they can. But again, it's just a really, really tough time on every level.

Gay Gaddis:

I'm out here in the country is what we call it. In Burnet County, there've been a couple of cases, it's still feeling remote though. I was just in New York City literally, March 6th, I left there. To see the difference... I was at a conference of almost 1,000 people on March the 6th, I was staying in the Harvard Club and people were business as usual pretty much. It was getting a little spooky, but nothing like now. My goodness, the whole city is [inaudible 00:07:54] it's just really hard to believe.

James McNeal:

Wow, yes, I know that that's, right now, especially in New York City being really ground zero for all the cases and it's really insane. You mentioned something earlier too just before we popped on and normally during a crisis or say natural disasters, we're able to come together as communities and you said that's difficult now with the way we're separated. Whether that's family or friends, coworkers.

Gay Gaddis:

It's everybody we want to be in touch with. It is family, it is... Especially we talked earlier today about the elderly folks that I don't know where I fit in all that, but we want to be careful with some of our at risk population, and you just cannot take a risk with that. But the other thing is really, every crisis I've been through in my life, I was able to pull people around me that I loved. Be it co-workers, be it just people in your community coming together. I think about my parents going through World War II, and my father was involved in those conflicts and fought overseas.

Gay Gaddis:

My mom talked to me so much about it, about how everyone would come together and women went to work. Everyone was out there doing their part, but we were together. Every recession that I've been through, be it bad or good or when at one point we lost a big piece of business, in my company. But again, we brought everyone together, and we solved problems together, we hugged each other, we cared, we took things to each other, it was just a different feeling altogether that I've never experienced.

James McNeal:

Yeah, I think it's a... We won't talk about it too much. We will get over into your story. But I think it is interesting that nobody really alive today has been through this. It's very strange, and I think it's very difficult for some businesses to navigate, especially if you're small businesses, which I know you're very closely tied to. I'd be interested to know, are there conversations around all the economic reasons or I guess trying to get some business loans, or the grant or whatever it is, what are conversations being tied around right now?

Gay Gaddis:

Well, everyone was waiting for the House to pass this bill, which, again, is unprecedented. I can't believe $2 trillion, and it just passed. It will be signed by the president. We hope, all of us as a business community hope that some of the businesses will be able to use this to stay afloat till we can get through this. The odd thing too, is that our economy was in great shape before this happened. Thank goodness, because if it had already been in recession mode, and then this on top of it, it would have been even worse, but I do hope that some of the relief that, fortunately we had a bipartisan agreement on this and we're getting something out there, I just hope they can get it out sooner than later. Because there's a lot of folks who really, really need the help in any way we can support each other, we're trying to do.

Gay Gaddis:

People doing takeout at restaurants or just ordering things online or doing things just to try to keep the economy moving is so critical right now.

James McNeal:

I just ordered food for lunch. We're recording this a little after lunch, and I just ordered food and I got a really nice post it note from the local business saying really thank you for supporting us and local business, keeping us afloat. It was a smiley face, handwritten note. I'm like, wow, this is amazing. I'm not doing... Yes, I love the food and I'm supporting it for that cause, but I also need to eat.

Gay Gaddis:

Exactly.

James McNeal:

Well, thanks for talking about that a little bit. I do want to get into your life and where you're from. You mentioned obviously, the roots and I guess, the World War II veterans side of things, but I really wanted to get into where you're from, and what your family was like. I imagine being on the ranch, you have that going on in your life.

Gay Gaddis:

Yeah, I always had been a Country Girl. My parents grew up in Missouri, and after the Korean conflict, which my dad was in the Corps of Engineers at that point, they were looking around the contrary and saying, "Where should we move?" Everyone said, "Go to Houston, Texas, because there's a lot going on there." He ended up moving to Houston in the early '50s and was engineer with Gulf Oil.

Gay Gaddis:

Because of that, they transferred us to the small town north east of Houston called Liberty, Texas, a very small town of less than 10,000 people, and that is where I ended up growing up. I had my small town roads and values and ethics that a lot came from there. Being close to people, and again, I mentioned in my book, and I tell people that my father died really unexpectedly when I was almost 13 years old, or I just turned 13. There was another crisis where everyone came together. I cannot imagine people right now losing a loved one, and not even being able to gather those from around the country around them that cared about that individual.

Gay Gaddis:

My small town roots taught me a lot. I was, in a lot of ways on a small stage, but a big stage at the same time. I was an extroverted child and got to be in plays and musicals and led things in my school, was a good student. I was really involved with my godfather's rice farming and spent a lot of time out there and I can remember-

James McNeal:

What kind of musicals were you in?

Gay Gaddis:

Listen, this is what's so funny about my book, Cowgirl Power, is because one of the ones I was in was Annie Get Your Gun, which is about Annie Oakley who's one of the Cowgirls in my book. But I did Mame and Annie Oakley and Hello Dolly, we did all these in our local theater. It was a lot of fun, a great community project actually. I did that.

Gay Gaddis:

I was an artist in school. I led the drill team. I was head of the student body. I had a pretty interesting childhood. Although, did lose my dad when I was 13, which changed me forever, because it taught me how to really appreciate money. I had my first job when I was 13, and I went to work at a jewelry store and they taught me how to engrave. That was a high risk job. You get an expensive silver tray thrown in front of you and say, engrave all this stuff from the PTA to the head of the school, superintendents, this and that. It was these long epistles that we put on these engraved pieces. I started working at 13, I've worked all my life.

James McNeal:

Wow, that's crazy. That's a very high pressure situation when you're 13 years old, you got a lot of people above you-

Gay Gaddis:

It was.

James McNeal:

You're like, they actually could decide my fate if I mess this up.

Gay Gaddis:

Well, I actually did. They told me if I messed anything up, I had to pay for it. The way I paid for it was by loss of wages for the rest of my life, I guess. One quick funny little story is that one day they came in with a pewter jigger that had a long horn on the top and they said, "We want you to engrave Hook Them on this." I looked at it because pewter is really soft. It's not like the other metals I was engraving on.

Gay Gaddis:

I tried it, and the minute my stylus went into the pewter jigger, it sank in. I got through the Hook Them, but it was pretty blur. I walked out crying, and I said, "I guess I have to pay for this." They looked at it, they said, "No, this one's on us, because we just wanted to experiment and see if you could do it anyway." I still have that jigger at my bar at home, because it reminds me that we can forgive. It was one of my first life lessons as a worker that, we don't always punish the employees for things that can't be their fault sometimes.

James McNeal:

That's good. No, you learned a very valuable lesson. That's good that you had that tutelage, somebody who was there. It could have gone the opposite way, but you had a really good manager, whoever that was that allowed you to be at ease.

Gay Gaddis:

Exactly.

James McNeal:

It wasn't a mistake, it wasn't your fault.

Gay Gaddis:

That's right. Well, I tried my best.

James McNeal:

Yeah. Obviously, you got very interested in the arts. You were heavily involved in that. How do you think that... I know, making money, obviously was a huge priority with your growing up. But how do you think that shaped you, the art side of it, and that maybe helped you in the business world being involved in that early age?

Gay Gaddis:

It's really interesting. I was very good at art and it was something that my mom really encouraged me to do, because, I have a very short attention span. I think sometimes if she could get me to start on an art project, I get focused on that. It was really a discipline for me that was very helpful. I ended up majoring in art. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts and studio art from the University of Texas at Austin. Honestly, I look back on that now knowing that I really needed to make money when I got out of school and I could have gotten in any other schools at UT, I had very high grades. I chose art though, and ended up with, like I said, with a studio art degree.

Gay Gaddis:

But while I was at the university, I started looking at options for getting a job. We had a class inside the art program at the time that taught us how to be art directors and writers. I was writing copy and I could draw. Back in the day when I got out of school, we didn't have Macintosh computers, and you didn't have ways to do advertising comps. We had to draw everything. My first job was at the Richards Group in Dallas, and I literally drew all the comps that I needed to and I wrote the copy. That was my first step into the advertising business.

Gay Gaddis:

But the other thing I learned and I didn't realize it at the time, but as I reflect back on my time at the University of Texas, when you're an art student, you work really hard. It's nine hours of studio work for three hours of credit. Where my other friends would be going three hours a week for three hours of credit, I was in the studio a lot, and I was working really hard. The other part of it though, was that you learn to take a critique. This was a valuable lesson that I didn't internalize until later in my life. That is when you do your work, you bring it into the classroom and the professor stands there, and we'll critique sometimes the other students, could critique you. It was all about learning to get better.

Gay Gaddis:

Very rarely did I feel like someone was pot shotting or being snarky, it was really about let's make this a better piece or let's work on how you can improve or be a better photographer or a better illustrator, whatever you're doing, a painter, or watercolor is what all these classes that I was taking. Later in life, I realized, you know what, and I was a little thicker skinned about taking a critique along the way from mentors and co-workers and people around me, even clients because if they were trying to make us better, then I didn't take it personally. I said, okay, let's figure this out. That was a very valuable lesson that art students learn that I think a lot of other disciplines don't have.

James McNeal:

No, you're right, you're very correct. I think it's because it is so surface. It is there, it's tangible, it's in your hands-

Gay Gaddis:

Exactly.

James McNeal:

But you're right, I even in college did broadcast journalism, did sports broadcast and I would get critiqued all the time as a journalist. You constantly, you get what looked like it's just your article or paper got bloodied on. Then they're like, oh, yeah, you did all right, but you're like, wait, you edited this whole thing. But you learn through a lot of different trades and I do appreciate that.

James McNeal:

That's awesome. Taking that art ability, over to Richards Group, one of the most well known agencies at the time, and this was a different time. I can't speak to that. I'd love to learn how the ad space was in that moment when you first got in there?

Gay Gaddis:

Well, we call it Mad Men with Bell Bottoms. I had moved on to that to the '80s, early' 80s... Late '70s actually. It was really different because I was a second woman ever hired there, except for the secretary and the accounting gal, we called her. It was really different in how women were treated in those days. You had to go toe to toe with the guys you had to compete. There was no coddling of anybody. But it was also... I have to tell you, the more I look back on it now with the Me Too movement and some of the things happening, there was some pretty compromising things that happened along the way.

Gay Gaddis:

Fortunately, I always tried to focus on competing and being good and I didn't let it get under my skin too much. I got cat calls when I'd walk up the stairs and things like that, which is the way it was. We didn't think about it too much at the time, but you look back and it was intimidating in a lot of ways, because it was guys and then these two women, just me and this other copywriter. It probably changed a little bit of my performance now that I look back.

James McNeal:

How so?

Gay Gaddis:

I became a little bit isolated there and actually I got... I was about to leave, but I got fired. It was terrible. I felt I was in an introverted environment all of a sudden, and I'm a big extrovert. It was not a comfortable place to be, but it wasn't really because of that. I just don't think my work flourished there. It took me into my career into the third job when I figured out what environments that I was going to be best in.

Gay Gaddis:

I had a very fascinating experience. My second job was as a PR director at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas, which was a fabulous opportunity. But I moved to Atlanta, and worked for four guys who had gotten their MBAs at Harvard. We were doing leadership training, strategic planning and decision making, team building all that stuff in some big fortune 100 companies because of their relationships, through their internships at Harvard.

Gay Gaddis:

I was working with them and writing about all this and helping to administer some of the personality tests and that sort of thing. I learned about several personality tests and about the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. That was a huge defining factor for me the rest of my career, because I found it for the first time what my real strengths and weaknesses were and one environments where I would do best. Fast forward that, I built my whole company around those principles. I really did, I think, better than average job building teams because I understood diversity of thinking and personality type as well as other diversity aspects. But we were able to put people together on teams that would shore up each other's weaknesses and think differently. Because I learned from the Harvard men that if you put everybody in the room who is too much alike, you're never going to come up with the creative good ideas because we all... I can agree with someone just like me all day long, I need a contrary and I need someone who comes at it from a different point of view.

Gay Gaddis:

That's how we would do fast prototyping and get into concepting and things that were a little different than what we would have done had it been just we're all these creative so let's do it this way-

James McNeal:

When do you think that shift started to happen? Was it during that era of the tests and finally starting to realize that hey, personalities are what make up the business and let's figure out internally operationally, how this business can perform best. Was that around that time when you-

Gay Gaddis:

Well, I was pretty early with all this. Really, I got exposed to it, like I said in 1980, and it was really a game changer for me, the rest of my career. I used it in another company before I started T3 and started to use it. I was putting it together. I certainly built my own teams and I used it with my clients too, because what we would find is that most clients are not like the same personality type is the creative types and agency, it's different. That's why we need each other.

Gay Gaddis:

I learned how to put those two modes of thinking together and help each other communicate better so we could get to the greater good at the end. But I felt like I was a bit on avant-garde with that, it's become popular in and out for years, the Myers Briggs has been around for a long time [inaudible 00:24:35] team that came up with this thing. But it's not like a be all, end all, but it certainly is the way to get to someone's zip code is what I call about it. It's not a straight address, it's a zip code. If you can get there and really help people to build on their strengths and put their weaknesses behind them, it's a great gift.

Gay Gaddis:

I talk a lot about this in my book, but that's where we have to focus, each individual, you have to focus on what are those strengths that we bring and build on those.

James McNeal:

I love it. For those of you all who do not have Gay's book yet, you should definitely get it. I know we can't necessarily go into Barnes and Noble these days, but who's on Amazon? I actually purchased it. It's called Cowgirl Power, and all I had to do is type in that and it populated. Even say Gay Gaddis there. You'll find it on Amazon. Although it might take some time, we know that it's a different time to get the book in. But yes, definitely I want people to go out there and read it.

Gay Gaddis:

Well, there's two things to do. One thing without tooting the horn on the book, but this is funny. When we sell the book, the print book, my agent said we're going to sell the audio book to another company that focuses on just audio. We did, and so there is an audio version of it. What some people don't know if you haven't written a book, the audio group or whoever is producing it will say, "Would you please read a couple of chapters or read several paragraphs and send it to us, and then we'll determine if you're going to read the book or if we're going to hire an actor to read it for you."

Gay Gaddis:

I didn't know what was going to happen. I thought, I've got this East Texas accent and who knows what they'll do it. They listened to it, got right back to me and said, "Oh, yeah, you're reading the book, because nobody else knows your stories like you." I said, "Well, that's true." I ended up doing it in two and a half days in the studio in the can, it's hard work. I have a new appreciation for voice talent. But I also found out that I was mispronouncing a few words in my entire life.

James McNeal:

Oh, no.

Gay Gaddis:

If you have a second, I'll tell you a funny one.

James McNeal:

Yeah, sure.

Gay Gaddis:

I was standing there, reading along and I got to a paragraph and I said, "And that was the most humbling experience of my life." I have this guy from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and he's voicing in and correcting me and helping me get through the read. His name was David, and David says, "Gay, you just mispronounced the word, humble." He said, "Go back and reread that, the word is humbling." I said, "What?" There's an engineer on the other side of the glass for me, he starts laughing and he's from Texas. He said, "I bet Gay grew up near Humble, Texas. I was like, "Well, I sure did." We had Humble Oil. That's just how we said it.

Gay Gaddis:

My whole life I've said the word H-U-M-B-L-E as humble. I had to say it right for the book though.

James McNeal:

All of those Houston folks that are out there, I'm from Austin, and I'm familiar with, Humble. I actually had a very good friend that I went to college who was from there. That's how I knew about it. Again, if you drive through there to this day, it's not Humble, it's humble.

Gay Gaddis:

That's right.

James McNeal:

That's interesting. I think they knew it. He pinpointed exactly where you were from. That's getting down to the zip code, right? You can find it. Well, that's awesome. I wanted to ask you too, we've talked about your creative side, but what really impacted the business aspect of your interest in not only just advertising but, what was it that really got you interested in the business aspect?

Gay Gaddis:

Well, let's get back to this. Like I said, I started working at 13. I always had to make money, and then I got really motivated by it. Not just making money for myself and my family, which was first and foremost, we had to survive because I started T3 in 1989, which was in a very deep recession, Texas was in horrible shape. I was highly motivated to turn a profit because my family depended on it, basically, I'm not kidding, we had to survive.

Gay Gaddis:

That was highly motivational to me. But then it became interesting because I realized that if I grew the business, and we could hire more people, and I could give more people jobs, and we could do some pro bono work, and we could help clients in a different way and we could invest and new people to bring forward new ideas. We could invest in new technologies. It became something that a lot of people, and I will say women don't really scale their businesses. That's always been a big thing to me is how do you scale something? It's not enough for me to say, okay, we're happy with 10 people, I always wanted to make this thing where we touch as many lives as possible, for a lot of those reasons I just mentioned.

Gay Gaddis:

I get really fascinated. I will say this, that when I was at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas, I started taking some business classes at night, it's a community college, because coming out of art school, I didn't know the language of business, and I knew that when I was at the Richards Group, because we'd be around a client, and I really didn't understand what was driving their business, and that upset me and I got curious about it.

Gay Gaddis:

I started taking business classes at night, and then he fast forwarded me to Atlanta with the Harvard MBA guys and I really wanted to get an MBA then. I went back to school again at Georgia State. I studied, and tried to get my MBA in marketing. Came back to Austin, we had no Executive MBA programs or no night programs. I'm just shy of an MBA.

Gay Gaddis:

But that's not really what it was. I really always enjoyed how businesses work. The fun thing about being in my business was that we were able to touch so many different industries. Everything from technology, to healthcare, to EPS was a big client of mine for years. That whole shipping logistics business is fascinating to me, and how they would share certain items that had to be from the healthcare industry with certain temperatures and just getting down in the weeds if all these clients was so much fun.

Gay Gaddis:

We worked with big banks and [inaudible 00:30:43] chase first big digital agencies and Marriott corporate. I was always learning about different industries, which was so fun. We would apply what we knew to those and then cross pollinate the learnings, especially as we became very savvy digitally early on how we could share best practices across these different industries.

Gay Gaddis:

I just love business. I love the team building, I love how businesses work, and how we could make a difference and really impact their bottom line, which was what we were supposed to do. So, it was fun.

James McNeal:

You're very right. Myself being in the digital marketing industry for 10 years, I think there is an aspect to... There's always a story with whatever business is out there, and there's always going to be a goal. Like you said, you wanted to scale. Businesses might have different goals, they all have different stuff. Every place you walk into there's a different story, and there's an opportunity for you to learn, which it sounds like you are also somebody who really enjoys education, and the actual just gaining knowledge, which we featured a lot of people on The Q, and that's a common theme. It's just you're seeking information and seeking as much knowledge as possible-

Gay Gaddis:

Well, that's why I'm always interested in new things. I could have told you that I was an art major, but I didn't think I could make a career out of it at the time, and I probably would have failed miserably. But now that I'm going back to it, I'm really trying to learn that industry. Not to beat this drum, but women are still underrepresented in galleries and in art sales. I've been trying to beat that record.

Gay Gaddis:

I've had to learn all over again. It wasn't something that I was doing, and I've learned the techniques again, and what works and what doesn't, and certain mediums that I want to be. It's all over learning again. I think that's what always excites me. We have to be lifelong learners in some way. You can shift your gears a lot of different times and it gets to be a lot of fun to learn something new each day.

James McNeal:

It does. There's a lot of hiccups along the way that you learn from, which actually ties into a question that you've mentioned in the past, there was a specific moment while you're working at agencies right before you started your own, that there was a presentation you gave to the higher ups about what changes you wanted to make. They just said, you know what, that's cute as the quote that you put it. I would love to just get your feedback on that moment in your life, and maybe even give people out there who are also in that similar situation.

Gay Gaddis:

Again, when I started T3 in '89, right before that and during that was a very deep recession, and Texas was in terrible shape. We were losing business in the agency that I was in. Again, it wasn't really because we weren't doing a great job, it was because what I mentioned earlier, is that advertising budgets get cut really deeply when the money runs out, it's one of the first things to go. You're going to keep your production up, or you're going to try to keep your business going but you don't have to spend as much money in advertising, you'll cut it. That's what happened, and that is what happened to us.

Gay Gaddis:

I decided to step back and write a business plan around what we could do to shape the agency to succeed in the future. It really wasn't accepted. I had a lot of peers in the agency that were excited about it. But as far as the most senior person there, he was not. I look back on it, I was asking a lot, because I didn't bring him along, like I should have, and that's a lesson for all of us. You got to bring people along, just come out with the tablets and go, tada, here's what I'm going to do. I was making a lot of assumptions that I would go do a lot of this stuff, and it would shift power to me really to think back on it.

Gay Gaddis:

If you want to make something work, and I did learn a lesson from that, you got to bring everybody along. Because, you don't just always surprise somebody with this big idea and expect them to accept it. That was something I learned that we literally work with our clients on, because a lot of clients wouldn't have always gone to some of the conclusions that we did if we didn't take them to the steps and bring them along and work on it together. People don't like to be just well, here it is. They want to say, "I was a part of that." Or there was a decision I came to. It's a really valuable life lesson.

James McNeal:

Yeah, it is. No, you're very right. I think it's tough to navigate that at the moment. That's a great piece of advice, because there is always going to be a defense mode or mechanism that gets brought up with a change.

Gay Gaddis:

People don't like it, people don't like it. The funny thing too, I talked about Myers Briggs and I happen to be married to an INTJ and some of my favorite people are INTJs on the Myers Briggs, and they have a tendency to as a type to go off and they go in their cocoon and they come out with here it is. One of the things I was able to do in working with INTJs is I would take their stuff, which was good. [inaudible 00:36:09] the time, they had really thought through it, and it was very intelligent and great. But I could help then sell it into the rest of the teams. Because if they just came out and said, "Well, here's the way we're going, people would immediately reject it, and say, "Well, why don't you let us come in there and work on it with you?"

Gay Gaddis:

Yes, these are very important lessons that all of us can learn, regardless of what time or what industry you're in, because especially now I think with us working remotely, can you imagine, all these people trying to voice in and even when we get through this pandemic, I think that we're never going to work exactly the same. We're going to have to be really cognizant about how we include people and bring us together to get to something more quickly so we can make decisions fast enough.

James McNeal:

Right. You have to break the clutter. Obviously, there can't be too many voices, but the voices have to come from the top and you have to... But you also have to listen to the people who are on the front lines. It's a very very big... There's a learning curve going on right now, and you're completely right with being in the business currently, it's like, okay, well, you have to listen to the people who are on the front line and just get the feedback, as much feedback as possible as you can, and learn. Because guess what, we're all going through this together.

Gay Gaddis:

That's right.

James McNeal:

Nobody really entirely knows how to operate it. But, you've given some great advice just in pieces of certain recessions, the times that you've gone through in the business space. Then moving into T3, you said you really wanted to scale this thing up. How did you do that? I know you said you put people in place and properly and operationally figure that out, but were you just hitting the streets cold calling? How was that?

Gay Gaddis:

Well, one thing that was really interesting for us, we were in Austin, and in 1992, we started working with Dell. Dell was small, and we were, but you fast forward that story, and it's pretty amazing because Michael decided in the early '90s, by '94, that Dell was going to start selling on the internet because it perfectly fit their direct model of sales.

Gay Gaddis:

We all joined hands together and figured out how to do this internet thing. Because of it, T3 was one of the really big pioneers in online marketing, and all different techniques. There are emails and the online media we placed in so many of the things that we did, that's what we opened the New York office. It really grew the business.

Gay Gaddis:

What happened, as that started to happen, we got pushed sometimes aside though, with the larger agencies out there still doing a lot of television saying, well, they just do below the line work. I never thought of it as below the line. I thought it was direct to consumer, direct marketing, and I thought it was really strong, and we could measure things.

Gay Gaddis:

When I started T3 in the beginning, my whole mantra was, you got to measure everything, we got to measure things. We couldn't in the beginning. Then you get to the '90s, I started seeing how we could measure things online, and it was so exciting because all of a sudden, our decisions became so much more informed. All this learning was going on. At one point, Dell started to grow so much that I had to back away from it a little bit. I was always fascinated with it, and I always ran in there. But as far as a business standpoint, I had to sell around it.

Gay Gaddis:

I brought in these really strong people to help run the business and I went out and used what our knowledge was there and sold it into other companies. By the time our youngest son was a senior in high school, I hit the road really hard. I went and talked to people, I put myself in front of anybody I could, who would listen to me about what we were going to do with online marketing and how they could shift some of the dollars from their traditional budgets over to what we were doing and could prove things.

Gay Gaddis:

I worked really hard on the business, that's what I'm good at. I wasn't out of my wheelhouse by doing that, I was very much doing what I love to do, and that was meeting people, selling what we do, talking to people, garnering ideas and selling the business. I had some strong operational people, including my husband who joined the company at one point, who helped get everything working.

Gay Gaddis:

When I would bring the beast back to the door and drop it there, they would have to dissect it and take it apart. I would go off and bring in another beast. My husband always said, "The bloody carcass would get thrown on the front door, as Gay would go off and find another one."

James McNeal:

Right. You like [inaudible 00:40:52]

Gay Gaddis:

That's right.

James McNeal:

Using your strengths to its best abilities and that's your words. What was the digital... Those conversations back in those days because you were such a pioneer with digital marketing, how was it educating these clients? Was it difficult? Were they resistant to it, or were they accepting of this new technology?

Gay Gaddis:

Both. But my whole mantra for T3 from the beginning was kick ass work for clients who want to kick ass. You think about for clients who want to kick ass. It started to define the kind of clients that we wanted to work with. We were not always happy with the clients or they were complacent, and wanted to do things as a status quo. We were looking for clients who were pushing it out there and looking for new ways to reach their audiences.

Gay Gaddis:

By and large, a lot of the clients that we ended up with were the ones who were a bit avant-garde, who were a bit wanting to change their own careers and their companies and experiment with things. It was pretty exciting to be able to do that. But it wasn't easy a lot because again, we were up against these enormous budgets that were going into broadcast television and media and around that, as well as some other traditional advertising.

Gay Gaddis:

Us getting our little small fair, what little piece of the pie was sometimes really hard. We were getting into these big companies because of our Dell experience, because we had proven we could scale. When you talk to me about scaling, that was always the big question. I'll never forget, I walked into Allstate in Chicago, and was trying to meet with somebody there, and the first thing they said to me was, "If we give you some work, can you scale with us?" I said, "Yes, we can." I'm like, let's prove to you how we did it, and we did it with Dell over and over.

Gay Gaddis:

Sometimes, if Dell came in with a big new agenda, we'd have 20 people on the ground in a month, ready to go. It was something we had proven we could do. That's how we were able to get some more business and convince some of these clients who said, "I had a track record of being able to scale." One of the things for a small business, especially in our industry you have to be aware of is that these large companies, if you want to work with the giants, don't want to gamble on a small company, because if they give you too much work, and the wheels fall off and you break, then they look bad and you screw up their project and you're out. It can waste dollars and time and be really, really horrific.

Gay Gaddis:

They always want to know, can you grow with us, if we give you the business? Because we don't want to invest in you is what they're saying, and teach you our business if you can't grow to the next level with us. That was how we did it. We would always say, yeah, we're there with you. I invested in employees ahead of my clients, like I said, and I couldn't do it because I was independent. I never borrowed a dime to run the business, there were no banks breathing down my neck, no investors, no board of directors. I just made decisions that if I wanted to spend my profit or a lot of my profit that year on hiring five new rock stars, I did it. Then we would trot them out in front of clients and say, "Hey, here's what's next." 99% of that time, that paid off for me.

James McNeal:

Wow. Of course, when your goals are aligned, and it's your goals as a business and their goals as a business align, you can both... Fruitful. You got to find the right businesses, and you did that.

Gay Gaddis:

Well, we were fortunate.

James McNeal:

They were critical to do.

Gay Gaddis:

We were fortunate, I think we hit that track record with Dell. It was huge, just the fact that we had that.

James McNeal:

That's a good case study to go into. Although Dell wasn't... Like you said when you first started working with them, Dell was big, but they-

Gay Gaddis:

They were little really, you think about it. In '92, they weren't very big. It was just a small company in a lot of ways. For us to be able to grow with them, we had a 16 year relationship with them and it was truly a game changer for us in many ways and then we lost the business, because I wouldn't sell the company, they wanted me to sell to a holding company that they decided to do business with, and I said no in very colorful terms.

Gay Gaddis:

We had to walk away from the business. Again, it was very painful, and it was a huge chunk of business to lose. But it was another time that I went back out to the market and said, look at the staff that I have built, that can do these things that you're starting to transfer your money into. See, this was in the 2009 recession. Everybody was hurting anyway, but it was an interesting story, I could tell that I would go to his fortune 100s and say, you got to shift your advertising dollars out of traditional, because it doesn't make sense to spend that much money. Give us X percent of what you have left in your budget after this recessionary hit, and we'll prove it up. We proved things and move up and move up and then once all the dust settled around that, we end up with a nice piece of business.

James McNeal:

No, totally. I guess at that point, the digital space was changing even more rapidly with the growing ad space, pre-roll, obviously ad serving was a lot better then, and then you crack things a little bit better, social media. Throughout the entire time you had the agency, you had so many different changes, did you have a research team, or did you have an implementation team that really... I'm sure you were on the forefront of it, but how did you navigate that space?

Gay Gaddis:

Well, we were always looking at what's next. That's just the way I do everything. I'm never satisfied with the status quo, and I'm always looking at well, what's next? Or how is a better way to do this or something [inaudible 00:46:41] is where are the clients we always used to laugh or talking into their watch, then we better be on the watch. Now, I'm laughing because Apple did that. But, that was years ago, or talking into a ring or whatever we would laugh about. How do we want to communicate with these end consumers?

Gay Gaddis:

We would always figure out, well, how are we going to get there? And how are we going to do it, and how are we going to do it creatively and do it best? So that when our clients are ready to go, we're there. When you ask about do we have a research team? Yes, off and on we did, but I tried to instill in everybody in the company, ideas come from any place. Nobody has a corner on the truth about being the innovation team, or the research team. Yeah, we have people who are good at that, and that's what they do. But everybody is responsible for coming up with something different, a different way to look at it, or challenge an idea. That was just a culture we built, it was around, hey, what's next? What can we do? How can we make this better? It can come from anyone and we welcome that. That's the kind of people we hire.

James McNeal:

Yeah, that's crazy. I think that's a very inspiring thing to say, too, for a lot of people who are maybe at a bottom level. Hey, I have these ideas, let me... Again, like you said, bring along those people to then come up with the next big innovation. That's just how business is done.

Gay Gaddis:

I honestly think that after we go through this time we're in right now, that we really do need to call down to every person, and we used to... The Harvard term is in the lowest level implementation. That's just a base school term, but it's where anyone who's in any part of a business or whatever has an opportunity to speak up and be a game changer and look at things differently, to improve all of us.

Gay Gaddis:

That's something I'm really looking at. One of the things that I enjoy is building leadership skills. That's why I wrote the book. I'm really looking at how to scale that, again, moving forward because I really believe that we have a dearth of leadership in many ways right now. I don't mean that necessarily from what's going on with this specific thing. But I do think that moving forward, we have got to build in a pipeline, strong leaders. How do we do that, and how do we impart those values and ethics and skills and tenacity and all the thing that takes to lead people? Because we need that.

James McNeal:

We're in a society where like you said, if everything moves remotely, how do you lead in that environment, and how do you navigate that landscape? That's a whole different beast, which it's interesting. I think in the value of you being able to offer up what you've been through, your experiences goes a long way to someone like myself, somebody who is in the midst of first quarter of their career maybe, I don't know when I'm going to retire, who knows. I'm a millennial, so it's not like a thing even in my mind. With that said, you're right, I think we need more examples of good leadership and-

Gay Gaddis:

Well, examples and then also just really that tangible example. I've done a lot of mentoring in universities and with students all over the country and actually in the world. It really is helpful for someone to be able to touch and feel and understand these people. I've had so many... Especially women who say, "I've never met anyone like you." I don't mean that in the way it may sound, but they never really had a chance to sit around at a lunch table and really talk to somebody who had been through some of these things and has advice that they could learn from it. Maybe they just hadn't been exposed to people like that. We have to be more tangible, we have to be more hands on... Oh, my gosh, that is my dog, Henry in the background-

James McNeal:

Oh, no, he's fine.

Gay Gaddis:

Oh, henry, goodness. We are at the ranch everyone. But it's really an interesting time I think to be able to teach in a way that we have to impart these skills when a lot of folks don't really have exposure to it. You may have some but it's not hands on. You know what I'm saying? Someone they can really relate to.

James McNeal:

No, totally. Honestly, I think something else I also wanted to ask you about which is your women's equal rights in the workplace, and that what you did at T3 specifically with your T3 and under. You've talked about that numerous different publications, and I definitely wanted to get your thoughts and maybe give some other women advice on how to navigate the space. Still-

Gay Gaddis:

I'm a big believer and I do talk about this in the book as well, that don't totally get out of the core is what I'm saying, If you do have children and you want to stay in the workforce, I'm totally fine with someone who doesn't necessarily want to go back to work and who wants to be a stay at home mom or... That's a career choice, that's something that you decide to do.

Gay Gaddis:

But I worry about anyone who has in the back of their mind that they'd like to go back at some point or whatever, the longer you're out of touch, and the longer you're out of ideation and being around active people who are solving business problems, the harder it is to get back in. Now, more than ever, because we're changing so fast, and technology changes so fast. I always say, stay in the game somehow. That's why one of the reasons I did the [inaudible 00:52:32] Program almost 28 years ago now is I wanted women and then a lot of dads participated and still have, to be able to have that necessary time with your child, but to come back in the workforce, bring the baby in and be able to segue back so that you don't completely drop out.

Gay Gaddis:

That's the time where I see most moms including I've been through this myself where I was tempted to drop out of the workforce, because... I didn't have the chance to work remotely, that wasn't even an option back when I was having children, but I think you have to... For all parents, be a great parent, but think about they're going to grow up someday and then what are you going to do? All people have to make money and you don't have the luxury of just walking away. But stay involved, stay informed, stay curious, and freelance or work somewhere where you can still stay in the game because it'll make you a lot more marketable down the road, even when you do go through that time when you have to consider having a family.

James McNeal:

You're right, it's difficult to stay in it when you do lose that perspective, and you also gain a new perspective, because you have kids.

Gay Gaddis:

That's right, and you learn a lot from them.

James McNeal:

Yeah, and that's an interesting thing to feed back to the work environment, workplace. It's very true. Well, I definitely wanted to ask you too, about what you're doing now with speaking, and then also, with your art. You mentioned that you're at your ranch art exhibit right now, but I wanted to give people the word on what you're doing with your skills.

Gay Gaddis:

Okay. Well, I was so fortunate, because a few years ago... Once again, I'm a master connector. That's what I call myself. I love the fact that I'm able to connect people all the time to individuals that can help them or open a job opportunity, or even recently, I was able to connect someone with a very high powered physician that they couldn't get into. I was just glad I could do it because it could save their life, to be honest.

Gay Gaddis:

I'm a master connector. I connected in New York sheepishly with some boats because I wasn't really an artist who might be able to help me with my art career and ended up with a one woman show at a gallery in Chelsea in New York. We broke all the gallery records. I sold 22 paintings in a few days, it was unbelievable. But it was all went back to just all right, who do you know? How do you do this, and how do you make that work?

Gay Gaddis:

But that's really, really what I love to do is connect things. I'm right now continue to write, I'm going to come out with something new. I've realized through the sale of T3 that I'm in a very, very small percentage of people, women especially, who started a business from the ground up and was able to survive first of all five years. Then to survive almost 31 years and make a profit every year and sell the business at a good time is very, very unique. There's not many women like me.

Gay Gaddis:

I'm trying to cancer, some of the things and lessons on how it all worked and why. Also, like I said, I want to focus on mentoring and leadership. There's just a lot of things. We've built this gallery here, in a ranch, and we built what we call the Fossil Ridge Creative Center, which will be an enclave for creative thinking. This is what my whole life's been about, from the time I was a child as an artist, all the way through, the thread that runs through it all has been around promoting creativity, creative problem solving. Honestly, people don't realize this, but when you're an artist, you're solving a problem every time you pick up the paintbrush for me, it's problem solving.

Gay Gaddis:

I get frustrated with my painting sometimes, and then I fall in love with them, and then I hate them, then I fall in love with them again. It's really a problem solving. But back to the Fossil Bridge, we built this center here to promote big issue solving. People coming together with concepts that they like to bounce off each other and do brainstorming sessions and come out with some real thought leadership. That's where my husband and I are focused right now is making those things happen and continuing to foster creative thinking.

James McNeal:

That's great. It's all facilitating creativity, innovation and all that. Where can they get involved? Can people... I know that you have your website, but if you want to tell people how they can maybe get involved in all this.

Gay Gaddis:

Yeah, I would love to know more, if people have ideas. We do offsites here. We're also having some university students come out and professors and that sort of thing. It's a nonprofit that I'm involved in. But you can go to gaygaddis.com and all of the things fly through there. We have a way to contact me through that, or really if they want to, they can by email know it's changed. It's [email protected], and I would welcome people's input. We're really looking for some exciting events to happen here. But for right now, with the virus, no one can come, but we're trying to set up some things as soon as all this clears up where we'll have some pretty exciting things happen.

James McNeal:

Well, you're right, we will get through this, and things will clear up eventually. I think you've mentioned a few things that possibly could change throughout all this. But I think one thing does remain constant is that people do need that connection, they do need that creativity, they need things. There's not a halt on creativity, and that's still going on. Business is going to go on.

Gay Gaddis:

It will go on, life goes on in some way. Since I told you I'm an extrovert, I really feel for all the extroverts out there because some of the introverts are probably enjoying this time to be away a little bit and not be in the middle of all the fray. If your life revolves around extraversion, and really bouncing ideas off people, and that team and content, this is hard. I find that I'm trying to deal with that for myself that how to use this time and not get sad really, because a lot of my energy and a lot of people who are extroverts, our energy and our thinking, and our creativity sometimes comes around just that human contact and interaction. We have to deal with this a little differently, maybe.

James McNeal:

It's very true. Honestly, I've realized that I'm in somewhat relief that there's technology that can still give me that outlet because I've talked to my family more than I ever have, and it's through FaceTime. It's not that I'm a bad son and I don't call my mom, which I know sons don't call their moms enough. [inaudible 00:59:42] calling my mother right now.

James McNeal:

I feel like I am connecting to some people who I probably hadn't connected with in a while. I do think this has given us some clarity of we need this connection, we get it on a daily basis out in the world, but we've been trying to grasp at it right now, and really we're at this point within first two weeks in of what we are quarantined, that we're really grasping at the people closest to us and people who we really miss. That could be coworkers, friends. I know a few of my co workers we did a meeting and I could see their faces. I was like, "God, I miss your faces."

Gay Gaddis:

I know.

James McNeal:

It's like I just like seeing people again and then it's needed for society.

Gay Gaddis:

Yeah, it's interesting, because I've seen through emails and texts and things, some people popping up that I hadn't even talked to in a while. I think those of us who need to reach out and reconnect, this is a good time to do that. But I've also noticed that a lot of people are kind of withdrawn. I think people are frightened and they're dealing with business issues that are so serious that there's not quite that... If everything was okay and we were sick, but everything was okay from a business standpoint, it would probably be a lot different.

Gay Gaddis:

But I know everyone's dealing in their own way, with some very, very difficult decisions and some tough things. Let's say you invest in the stock market, there's a good day, and a bad day, and there's just a lot of things going on that affects all of us.

Gay Gaddis:

Like I said, sometimes in very unique ways that we can't even imagine. It could be an elderly parent you're worried about, there's just a lot. Then these families who have their children home right now, I'm sure by seeing this flying around on social media, but one of my favorite quotes was, "If they don't open the schools soon, the parents will come up with a vaccine before the scientists." I have a lot of friends and employees and folks that are out there with their children and how in many ways it can be good but it's also hard, it's really hard to down and shift gears like that and be at home.

Gay Gaddis:

I'm wondering most what the dogs and some cats are going to do when we leave, because the dogs are all getting really used to having people around them all the time, they're probably going to be sad when we all go back to work.

James McNeal:

You're exactly right. My dog has been a shadow to me in the past two weeks. My wife has been really jealous. She's like, I've realized during this time that he loves you more than he loves me. It's created some sort of issue. But no, I feel like he's looking at us like, did you guys lose your jobs? What's going on? Why haven't you all left?

Gay Gaddis:

Okay, enough already?

James McNeal:

He's like, "All right, I need my space."

Gay Gaddis:

That's right.

James McNeal:

You're right, I think there's going to be some separation anxiety on the part of that and even children. I can't imagine having a toddler to really I guess, young adult, like 16, in high school and they're just kind of trapped in this environment, and they have that separation and like, "Are we to go out in this?" There's going to be some paranoia there.

Gay Gaddis:

Especially out, depending on the ages of the children, that they won't realize, well my mom's going to be back all the time now.

James McNeal:

Where's mom again? She's drinking in the afternoon because she's so tired of you all, she's actually going off and working. Well, Gay, honestly, this has been such an enjoyable conversation. This is our first virtual podcast, thank you for being a part of it and allowing us to... And making time for it, because I think a lot of people at this time do need to hear a voice like yours. Really, I think it's really good to hear. Really appreciate you joining us here in The Q.

Gay Gaddis:

Well, we've all been through some rough things, and we did mention earlier that we have some of our generations who've never been through anything like this, and I've never been through anything like this. But I had been through some pretty rough recessions and some pretty rough business decisions over the years. You just have to look ahead somehow and say, all right, how are we going to get through, and how are we going to help each other out and get through it? It will happen, but it feels really rough right now. I empathize with everybody out there.

James McNeal:

Yeah, well, I feel better after this conversation.

Gay Gaddis:

Well, good. So do I. I needed to talk to somebody. My husband's an introvert and he's tired of talking to me.

James McNeal:

Hey, thank you so much.

Gay Gaddis:

All right, thank you. Take care. Best wishes.

James McNeal:

This episode of the podcast is brought to you by Q1 Media. Q1 Media partners with agencies and brands all across the nation for all their digital marketing needs. Whether it's CTV, OTT, location based mobile device ID targeting, search engine marketing, targeted display, any research in data that you need, whatever it is, Q1 media can help with your marketing efforts. Please check out Q1 Media's website at q1media.com that's Q, the number, one, media.com. You can view case studies, examples of our work, or just check out more episodes of the podcast, The Q, Conversations in Digital Media.

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