Most people want to make a difference with their lives. To leave a mark. Dent the universe. Have a legacy. In order to make a difference, often times, one is presented with a risk of choosing the road less travelled. But that’s scary. The road less traveled will make most people balk.
I realize I’m no different as I find myself at that proverbial fork in the road.
I’m leading a team that’s been building a digital agency for the past 14 years. We have been doing great, strategic work that has produced significant results for our clients. We have a lot to be proud of, and in our own way, we are making a difference for our clients by delivering results.
But something is missing. Or rather, it seems like what we are doing, albeit successful, is just not good enough.
Over the years, we’ve had an eclectic mix of clients. They ranged from faucet manufactures to national retail chains to jewelers. We even had a nice mix of international clients. But then we landed a type of client that turned on the light bulb for us: Higher Education. We started working with small private schools, helping them rebrand and better tell their stories so they could reach the right type of student. In essence, our brand work was helping our clients become better versions of themselves, which aligned well with what our Higher Education clients in turn were doing: helping their students become better versions of themselves.
We make a difference by helping our clients get results, but there is a glaring juxtaposition between helping our clients sell more diamonds or helping our Higher Education clients impact and improve their students’ lives.
As a result of this realization, I hit the pause button on life and did some quick math. What I calculated was shocking. I realized I had a mere 240 months left (give or take) to do meaningful work. I don’t know about you, but for me, months are going by like weeks, and soon, weeks will be going by like days. I want my work to count. So, do I want to help sell diamonds, or do I want to help improve people’s lives? I want to help improve lives. I bet you do, too. How could we make the work we do more meaningful?
While I was mulling over how to make such a change in focus for our agency, our work and our services continued to resonate with Higher Education. We grew from working with small private schools to some of the largest and best public schools in the southeast. This…drive…to improve people’s lives seemed to resonate with our clients. We began working with Clemson University and soon thereafter we started working with Auburn University. Ohio University reached out, and next was George Mason University and The University of Georgia.
We helped one client drive the second largest incoming class since the 1960’s. We helped another college lift enrollment by more than 10%. And yet another, we rebranded to see a 25% increase in enrollment after just one year. And it wasn’t just numbers that were the difference. Our clients were recruiting the right type of student; the student who wanted what our clients had to offer–and that’s a win/win for everyone.
Since those results came in, both Florida State University and the University of Kentucky have teamed with us on new recruitment campaigns. And though we have a focus on higher ed, our team’s experience and desire to do good extends beyond education. We’ve done amazing work for companies that focus on health and wellbeing as well as companies that place a premium on sustainable practices.
These success stories and our desire to do more meaningful work brought me to a fork in the road. Do we continue doing the work of a digital agency by just selling more product for our clients? Or do we focus our efforts as a purpose-driven agency to impact people’s lives by connecting them with the good our clients do? Even though our decision is in its infancy, I’m believing Frost was right more and more every day.
Our name and brand changed to reflect our new mission of impacting people’s lives by connecting them with the good our clients do. We were Merge, and we made a difference for our clients. We are now Up&Up. We will continue to make a difference for our clients, but we’ll also help them make a difference in their customer’s lives too–and that makes all the difference to us.