Today we share a story of love and admiration. July 1st marks 25 years to day when Jeff showed up for work at the agency. He just showed up. Without a job offer even. We had been talking about things, but he decided to just cut to the chase and get to work. It’s a career strategy that wouldn’t work for everyone, but certainly did for Jeff.
We have actually had the pleasure of working with Jeff for over 25 years now—and I mean closely. We talk every day, we share responsibilities, we encourage and correct each other—and together we have survived and thrived during a period of seismic change in a very dynamic and stressful industry.
Jeff Morris is one of the most competent, balanced and intelligent leaders we have had the opportunity to work with. He has the ability to step from one high-tension situation into the next with ease and to be able to lead with wit, humility and integrity.
The Historical Perspective. We first met Jeff when he was handling our business at the largest post production facility in San Diego. We were a young start up and were producing 12-15 commercials every week—with three people. Needless to say there were a ton of logistics and last minute changes. If Jeff had to jump in his car at midnight to drive a tape to LAX he would do that. (That’s how things got on the air. You made a copy of the tape and you shipped it to every station on the buy. How neanderthal!) If he needed to convince an editor to come in early or to stay late, it got handled. We had confidence in his ability to navigate the system and never let us down. So when the production company shut down unexpectedly, we thought it would be a good idea if Jeff were to join our company in some capacity. So while we pondered that, Jeff decided to do what good leaders do, he took matters into his own hands and showed up for work. He figured being in our office would be the best way to figure out all the details and he was right about that. It’s hard to not hire someone when he is already working away in the next room!
Doing The Hard Stuff. Jeff started in the toughest job in any business, new business. He spent almost a straight year on the phone, cold calling potential clients around the country day after day after day after. (You see children, this was before e-mail. Yikes! You could call, or send a letter. I KNOW, right?). As our business evolved from being a TV production company to a true advertising and marketing firm, Jeff’s responsibilities evolved as well. He still oversaw production and he added account service to his job description.
As we grew and evolved, Jeff did as well. We made Jeff a partner in the business a few years back. We did that not because he simply persevered in his job, but because he excelled in it, adding skills to the team that we don’t have.
You may have heard this truism before: We live our lives in days and months and weeks and we remember them in moments.
Does that ring a bell? Anybody?
Two Moments. What better way to tell the Jeff Morris story than with a couple of stories…
One. In late 2011, we were pitching a large account that had required months of preparation and over $100,000 in hard costs to assemble. Months of work and worry boiled down to 90 minutes in a beige hotel meeting room. We had put together the best presentation we’d ever done and we had even rehearsed several times. We were ready to blow this thing out of the water. As the lead on the effort, Jeff realized that at the end of the day, marching bands and fireworks (figuratively) were not going to win the business. The client had to be comfortable with the people, the relationships that would evolve out of the meeting. So Jeff began our presentation by walking into the room with 10-12 business executives—alone. He drug a chair out into the middle of the U-shaped table and sat down. And he just talked to them. About his pride in the work they were about to see, about how much passion we had for their business and how he knew that they were going to be working with people—and that it was important that the team you worked with shared your values and that we were that team. And Thank You, genuinely Thank You, for having us here today. As we were about to bring the rest of our group in to start the show, the President of the client said “Wait a minute.” He almost tearfully told Jeff how much he appreciated the effort and that we meant so much to them. That moment of emotional connection tapped into everything important about the day and set up our actual presentation to be the best one we’ve every delivered.
Here’s perhaps the most amazing part. We lost that pitch. It was LATCB. And then we got it back a year later—in no small part because of the passion in our original presentation.
Two. Jeff announced a few years ago that he was taking a trip to Peru. For a guy who doesn’t take that much vacation, it initially seemed an odd choice, but OK. Come to find out that Jeff had signed up himself and his boys to go on a Mission Trip up a river in the Peruvian jungle! He and his sons trained for weeks before the trip, not just on where they were going and who they would encounter, how to mentor them, how to stand up in front of a group and pray for them. And somewhere in a jungle far, far away, in conditions that were decidedly NOT Southern Californian, he did just that. And he brought back incredible stories of not only touching other people, but having them touch him and his kids in life changing ways. To step up and do that requires courage that most of us simply do not have—and we are so proud of Jeff for seeing that—and so many other journeys through to completion.
And there was that whole hiking Kilimanjaro thing too.
We have been so blessed to be with Jeff from his marriage to the wonderful Ally (Jeff is great, but he still married up!), from the birth of his three amazing sons, to having all three of them in college at the same time. Yikes! And all along the way, he has remained a pillar of strength and constancy and a friend that we would trust with our lives.
So today is not a “fine” day.
Not at all.
It is an excellent day.
A day to celebrate an incredible human being and the impact he has every day on all of us.
God Bless You Jeff,
August & Hal