All’s well that ends… and starts anew… well.

I wrote a post about my friend Dale last summer.

So artsy…

It talked about how he was unceremoniously dumped from Landor (the design firm where we were co-workers) after 23 years of faithful service and brilliant designs.

I had lunch with Dale earlier this week… at the same outdoor park where a year earlier, Landor’s Cincinnati boss had broken the news to him that they were letting him go.

Many moons ago, Dale took some great photos of our now-teenage sons in this same park.

What a difference a year makes. Dale has teamed up with a couple other Landor refugees [a suit (OK, “strategist”) and a writer who was let go during the same purge that took out Dale… after a mere 17 years on the job]. They’ve formed a small (some would say “boutique”) strategy and design/branding studio called Holotype. And they’re crushing it! They’re so busy that they’re turning away business, and working on cooler stuff that means more to them because they’re more closely connected to their clients.

Dale’s “commute” now consists of walking 20 feet from his house to the 100-plus-year-old industrial garage out back that he’s converted into his studio.

And a few weeks ago, he married his girlfriend of a decade. Personally and professionally, all is well in Dale’s world. He couldn’t be happier… and I couldn’t be happier for him.

They got hitched in Taos, New Mexico.

The old adage is “leap and the net will appear”…

In this case, it was less like a leap and more like a shove, but it certainly let Dale spread his wings and soar.

Don’t sleep on these teams… or do.

Virginia beat Texas Tech in overtime to claim the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship last night. Or so I heard. The game tipped off at 9:26 PM EDT. I had to wake my kids at 6 AM this morning. by the time the clock struck zero, I was fast asleep.

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I’m sure it was “one for the ages” or some other nugget of hyperbole from Jim Nantz (who seems to think every word that comes from his mouth is pure gold). But at my age, my beauty rest is more important. (To be clear, I’m not gaining any ground in the beauty department, just trying to keep the ugly at bay.)

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But even if I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn today, why bother with live feed? It’s a Netflix/YouTube world now. This morning, on my bus ride to work, I was able to watch a 12-minute recap that showed all the field goals from the game. So what did I really miss by not staying up an extra two hours, other than a gazillion Spike-Samuel-Barkley commercials, a bunch of free throw attempts, the always-scintillating “refs going to the monitor for five minutes” and maybe a few Bill Raftery “with the kiss” lines? I’m good.

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There’s no need to watch what happens live anymore. I’ll wait for the recap movie.

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Beer for the people, by the people

Great Lakes Brewing Co. is one of the original craft beer breweries. Based in Cleveland, they’ve been around for more than 30 years.

They recently introduced a new year-round IPA.

Last year, they introduced something even better: an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), which means all of their employees are now employee-owners. It was a classy move on the part of the founders, brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway.

“This wasn’t designed to be a liquidity event for Pat and Dan. It wasn’t designed to bring capital into the company. This is 100 percent focused on putting an ESOP in place so that our employees can share in the upside of Great Lakes.”

Great Lakes CEO Bill Boor, in this article.

The people portrayed in the artwork on the new IPA bottle label and six-pack carrier are folks who work at Great Lakes. One is an acquaintance of mine. Lisa Farmer is the regional sales manager for Great Lakes in the Cincinnati area.

Lisa’s third from the left… writing up an order.

Lisa’s been working at Great Lakes for 16 years, calling on restaurants, bars and supermarkets, and working promo events that typically take place after normal working hours. Now, that loyalty is being rewarded.

Being on beer labels and coasters is pretty cool. Being an employee owner is even cooler.

Several other beer companies have also gone the ESOP route: Deschutes, Harpoon Brewery, Left Hand, New Glarus, Alaskan Brewing Co., Voodoo Brewery, Odell Brewing (partial ownership), and New Belgium and Switchback, which are wholly-owned ESOP companies. (Source.) Think about that the next time you’re buying some brewskies… all other things being equal, why not spend your dollars in a way that benefits the people doing the work to bring that beer your way?

Meet the artist

I had lunch with a world-famous artist yesterday. OK, he’s not world-famous yet, but he’s certainly nationally-famous. More importantly, he’s one of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet.

photo credit: Corrie Schaffeld, Cincinnati Business Courier

Keith Neltner and I worked together at a Cincinnati ad agency (ahem, “design studio”) for about five years, more than a decade ago. He was a brilliant graphic designer and I was a hack copywriter… your classic Odd Couple storyline. Keith’s skill level, his talent, his “eye”… is off the charts. Yet it’s matched by his work ethic, which came from spending his entire childhood (and beyond) working on his family’s small farm in Northern Kentucky.

Keith hung his own shingle several years ago – Neltner Small Batch is the name of his company. He’s still working his magic, but instead of doing it for the P&Gs of the world, he’s doing it for smaller, more craft-oriented companies like LIC.

Keith also does artwork for musicians, including the album layout for Shooter Jennings’ most recent release.

Which is great, but I still think his art is underappreciated because it’s typically intertwined with commerce. However, a recent project that Keith and his Neltner Small Batch collective worked on is pure heart and pure art. They (Keith, Tom Post, Chris Dye, Andi Bussard and Andy Sohoza) created a 63-foot wall mural in graphic novel style to share stories from holocaust survivors at Cincinnati’s Holocaust & Humanity Center.

Photo credit: Hailey Bollinger, CityBeat

You can read more about it in Cincinnati CityBeat , the Cincinnati Enquirer (and the Cincinnati Business Courier if you have an account).

I feel like this is just the start of the next phase of Keith’s career. Stay tuned…

Where art meets commerce

On Thursday, a bunch of dudes met up for breakfast at a Panera in Newport, KY. It was the visual arts equivalent of the Algonquin Round Table… designers and illustrators and photographers, oh my. (They let a few writer types hang out too… including a hack named dubbatrubba.)

I was fortunate enough to work with many of these fine fellows back in my ad agency days. They’re an amazingly talented bunch… and super-nice as well (sometimes those two qualities can seem mutually exclusive).

A lot of the folks who attended the breakfast are self-employed. Some by their own choice; others have had their hand forced by ad agency layoffs. Freelance is a tough row to hoe, especially in the Fiverr age where it can be a “who can do this cheapest?” race to the bottom. Not only do you have to be a standout in your chosen field, but you also have to be a salesperson, a client coordinator, a project manager and an accountant. You’re on your own for healthcare. And vacation? No work, no pay. As one of the gents there put it “I’m always on vacation until the phone rings.”

My friends do mostly commercial work, but you can’t commodify what they do. It’s art. Period.

L to R, top to bottom: Rob Warnick, Chris Dye, Brian Steege, Keith Neltner, Tom Post, Keith Neltner (again), Andy Sohoza, Doug Best, Todd Lipscomb.

Cutting the cord

We dumped cable. Dropped it like a two-foot putt. Because I’m tired of paying a ton of money for it each month when I rarely watch it and the kids almost never watch it. I’m also tired of cable companies that offer better deals to new customers than to loyal customers. 

I’ve considered cutting the cord before, but never really found a Sling/Hulu/Netflix combo that had all the channels we wanted… live sports were using the missing link.

But YouTube TV has most of the channels we watch (no HGTV… much to my wife’s dismay… and my delight) and costs $40 a month. We dumped the TV and phone part of our cable “triple play,” kept our internet and signed up for YouTube TV. Now we’re saving about $80 every month. Sure, the picture isn’t quite as crystal-clear, and sometimes there’s a second or two of buffering, but that’s a small price to pay for paying a much smaller price. 

Cable providers are going to have to come up with a more enticing package than “get it cheap for a year, then pay through both nostrils.” If not, they’ll go the way of Blockbuster Video stores. 

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