I learned about TKG purely by accident. I moved to the U.S. in 2003 to marry my husband who I met online back in the days before Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or even dating websites were a thing. I had never heard of Akron or Canton before I met him, and I certainly had no idea that there was a career waiting for me in the digital space. These were the early days where the internet was for making personal websites that had blinking cursors, mostly just text and clip art, played music and probably shared your favorite poem. (It was The Road Not Taken, in case you were wondering.) It definitely wasn’t how anyone was selling their products or services.
Honestly, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had a degree in Sociology and Psychology and absolutely zero aspirations to use it. I started temping at various office jobs and before long I fell into a small digital marketing agency. It was here that I first heard the name Geoff Karcher and TKG. My role at the time wasn’t in digital marketing at all. I was hired to answer the phones and do other odds and ends. Before long I was so bored that I taught myself how to do everything else.
We served lots of relatively small clients so, as my knowledge grew, I got to put my hand into all sorts of things. I wrote content, did keyword research and mapped out how websites should be structured. Sometimes our designer let me critique designs. I actually taught my boss what a blog was. I helped folks set up their email addresses, updated DNS records and directed our agency’s attention to now common practices like ranking retention or using 301 redirects or why social media might matter. I was basically a pioneer but, like, not the kind that churns butter or washes laundry down at the river because, let’s be honest, I am kind of an indoor person.
Throughout the years, I continued to hear Geoff’s name. It turns out that he and my then-boss used to work together. Just a few years before I fell into this role, Geoff was busy explaining to people what the internet was and why it mattered. When I was ready to move on, I knew exactly where I wanted to go. In fact, I was so confident in it that I didn’t apply anywhere else.
I’ve had a lot of different roles at TKG in the 10 years I’ve been here. I started as a marketing specialist and quickly moved into a strategist role. Most recently I became the director of traffic where it’s my responsibility to oversee the scheduling of all our work to ensure we’re meeting deadlines and helping our clients grow their businesses. Along the way, I have learned a lot about myself, digital marketing, the internet and what makes TKG special. If you’re considering a career here or hiring us to help your business, here are some things you should know.
- We care about our clients: Like really care. It’s not just our tagline or something we give lip service to. Of course, we want to know about your business but even more than that, we want to know about you. And, when we can make those connections, you can feel everything shift. You hear us say “we” and “our” because your wins and losses become our wins and losses. I can’t think of a single client who has stuck around long term where that transition from client to partner to friend wasn’t made. Now I’m not saying we don’t try to do good work all the time but if you’re looking for a job or a vendor where it’s always just business, we’re probably not the right fit.
- Even more than our clients, we care about each other: When I meet a new employee one of the first things I want to know is if you have kids or pets and then I want to see pictures. Those personal connections we make that literally have nothing to do with work are what drives the professional connections we have with each other. And, even where it’s my job to know what people are doing at any given time, if you ask me what I know about someone, my response is never just going to be about what they’re working on. Sure, that’s important. We have commitments to our clients and deadlines to meet but what really matters is what’s going on in each person’s life outside of work.
When we Slack chat during the day it might start with talking about a given task for a client but a lot of the time it turns to what you did over the weekend, what your summer plans are or what’s on your mind today. I hesitate to say we’re a big, happy family. There is so much toxicity out there about that these days when it comes to work but I will say that everyone who is successful at TKG makes some true friendships along the way with at least a handful of people who they feel close to. As someone who initially wanted to keep her professional and personal life very separate, I don’t know what I would do without my friends at TKG. We’ve laughed together and cried together and that was just last week.
- We make mistakes and it’s OK: This was a really hard one for me to learn. As an anxious over achiever, the thought of making a mistake literally gives me heart palpitations and when it happens, I just want to make it right, as soon as possible, whatever it takes, sometimes to my own personal detriment. While I still don’t totally believe Geoff when he says it’s OK to make mistakes, he really tries to instill that in all of us. That we’re human, that we’ll mess up, that some of what we do by nature is just a test (marketing doesn’t always hit the way you want it to) and that it will be OK. We’ll tell our clients; we’ll tell each other and we’ll work together to figure it out. And no one ever gets fired for making a mistake. Ever. Like in 10 years, I’ve never seen it. I doubt I ever will.
- If work isn’t fun, it’s not worth it: Agencies have this terrible reputation for long days, deadlines and constant stress and I’m not saying that never happens here, but we really try to adhere to the work hard but also play hard mentality. Sometimes “play” is in the form of outings with our clients (golf, lunch, etc.) but a lot of the time it’s in the things we do for each other throughout the day. We use Slack to share jokes, music and our Wordle scores. At 3 p.m. in nicer weather, anyone in the office who isn’t in a meeting and has on decent walking shoes takes a lap or two around the building and usually talks about some obscure weird thing that has nothing to do with work. We plan monthly happy hours and employee recognition events. We have a prom committee that plans things like ice cream socials or movie nights. And we support each other outside the office by going to concerts together or seeing someone’s band play or a theatrical performance they are in.
- We can all be outdoor people, at least once a year anyways: Every summer, whether business has been good or not-so-good, whether there are big deadlines or we’re in a lull, whether it rains or the sun is shining, we shut down the office for a couple of days and go “camping.” Whether you’re an indoor person like me or not, this is the must-do event of the year. Skip the Christmas party if you must, never go to a First Wednesday Happy Hour, there will always be other ice cream socials… but whatever you do, do not miss the camping trip.
I have to admit, when I first heard about this, I was not a fan. I dreaded the thought of going. But, that first summer as I laid down with my son for a nap in Geoff’s camper after playing with our new friends in the pool all morning and thought about how I was literally in the owner’s camper, laying in one of his kid’s beds with my kid, getting paid… to take a nap, I realized just how special this place really is. What other company does that? None that I know about.
It can be challenging to get to the camping trip every year – juggling everyone’s work schedules so that we can close the office and know our clients will be OK, finding care for pets, spouses getting time off work, etc., not to mention all the planning that goes into feeding and watering 100+ employees, spouses and children but it is literally the most important thing we do all year. Friendships are made on this trip that pay off for years to come.
In a challenging moment, you’ll always have that time someone tried to cook chicken for the entire team when he was clearly dehydrated and needed a break (or another beer) or those afternoons chatting in the pool while all the kids ran circles around you and occasionally hit you in the head with a ball or that time your son played with a “stranger” while you got to eat your first hot meal in a year or when your child caught their first fish ever with the help of a new co-worker. That’s the stuff that gets you through in those tough moments because agency life can be wonderful but it’s also not for the faint of heart. Taking the time to make those friendships each summer sets the tone for the rest of the year. And if you miss a year, you miss a lot.
Is TKG perfect? Absolutely not. We are human. We try to do our best and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. Would I take the job again in a heartbeat? 100%. The world is a better place because Geoff started this company and everyone who walks through its doors – employee or client – is a little better for having been there.
Congratulations on the first 25 years, Geoff! Thank you for letting me be a part of your story.
- Leanne Wicks, Director of Traffic at TKG
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