Three Roots Capital CFO, Chris Miller and Founder & “Club” President of Best Behavior, Chris MacAdoo got together for some coffee and donuts, and explored how companies could best tell their stories.
(for clarity this post will refer to Chris MacAdoo as “Chris” and Chris Miller as “Chris Miller”.)
Chris came from a family of farming entrepreneurs and was familiar with the concept of being his own boss. He actually began his first “startup” in middle school and explained that he had always “kind of made his own road”.
After completing a fine arts degree with a minor in political science, Chris began Revolution Letterpress, which allowed him to gain valuable experience but left a lot to be desired financially. He worked as a painter and a printmaker and was successful. Chris’s art was even featured internationally in the Ruby Tuesday restaurant chain. Check out more details on his bio here.
Working at The Knoxville Chamber was the only “real” job Chris claims to have had, but in truth this entrepreneur has been making smart business choices his entire career. After being a creative “solopreneur” for many years, Chris decided to form the Best Behavior Creative Club. The stated goal was to”surround myself (internally) with people who made me better as an individual”. He knew that with a group he could grow and expand Best Behavior in ways beyond what he could do alone in a studio.
A valuable point was made that creator time and management time are two very different but equally important aspects to running a company. Chris emphasized the importance of choosing to work with individuals that he could share a vision with. In keeping with this belief, Best Behavior has established a set of core beliefs, defining attitudes, or as they like to call them – “Club Rules” for themselves and customers.
- Don’t be an a**hole
- No pleated pants
- Keep your act together
- Expose yourself (in a good way)
So what do these rules mean? It was explained that Rule 1 is simply having character and expecting the same quality in your customers. It is important to be willing to walk away (money on the table or not) from customers/jobs that violate this rule. If not, the “not so good” customers will take time, energy, funds from the good customers. You have to be true to yourself and to your company.
Rule 2 is not really about trouser style, it’s basically a reminder not to take yourself too seriously, be coachable, willing to listen to alternatives, and always value honest feedback. Chris stated that “choosing process over performance is a pitfall, you have to remain open to learning”. It is possible to manage productivity and creativity and have a balance. It was pointed out that a company works for the “end” customer and is judged on the overall quality and effectiveness of the work produced. “It is critical to know the customer and not fall into the trap of being overly enamored with your own company’s product or service” added Chris.
- identify : know what the audience responds to
- don’t overload customers with too much or overly technical information
- simplify the message
- always keep the target in mind
The 3rd Rule covers keeping your act together. Chris said that he has learned that life is more than fulfilling professional responsibilities, there has to be a good work/life balance. He decided that Best Behavior would embrace a mobile first culture. According to Chris, these values afford him and his team freedom of schedule. His employees work from different locations and come together when collaboration is needed, “There are no ping pong or foosball tables at our company” said Chris. Best Behavior’s company culture embraces personal responsibility and quality of work.
A danger that Chris warns against in the startup business culture, especially during the heavy growth stage, is maintaining balance. It is easy to get lost in the workload. It was suggested that companies utilize tools, such as Basecamp, to facilitate communication and track customer information. This keeps everyone on your team informed and all needed information easily accessible.
Lastly, Rule 4 was explained. Successful companies expose themselves to new ideas and novel ways of doing things. Chris noted that the creative service industries tend to silo. They look for ideas, leadership, and mentors within their own groups of business people. He encouraged those in attendance to “go outside of their comfort zones on purpose”. He shared that Best Behavior had spent time studying other service based businesses, like the teachings of Jason Fried and books such as Rework.
Chris Miller asked, why is branding an exercise in choosing your own adventure and what role does strategy play? Chris answered that Branding/strategy is identifying to yourself who you are, what your company values are, what are you building , and why are you doing it? He added that this should be one of the first conversations you have when you start a company. Have a realistic plan going in for your company’s longterm success and growth. The pitch or procedure of the business can continue to evolve and improve – the details will follow if you are character driven and value the customer relationship.
Best Behavior is a Knoxville branding and strategy firm with customers across the U.S. Southeast and a focus on helping growing, young businesses tell their story in a compelling manner using branding, design, interactive materials, marketing, and content development. Several companies in Meritus Ventures (companion equity fund to Three Roots Capital) utilized Best Behavior for successful branding and new product campaigns. Chris is an artist, storyteller, and entrepreneur with over fifteen years of experience working with small businesses.