Formerly an entrepreneur, Artie Isaac currently holds titles as a professional coach, creative consultant, teacher, keynote speaker, writer, father, husband, and more. This article was intended to focus on his insights of owning a business, from launching it to selling it. However, I learned a plethora of lessons from the experiences and philosophies Artie exhibits in his life…
Here’s one he said to my creativity class on our last day:
“Next time you turn on the T.V. or take a sip of alcohol, ask yourself: Do I lack ambition or imagination?”
…Just some food for thought.
- Entrepreneur: Artie Isaac
- Company: Young Isaac
- Location: Columbus, OH
COLLEGE & THE EARLY YEARS…
Artie attended Yale for his undergraduate degree in English Literature. After graduation, he worked for a small-sized investors relations (PR) firm in New York. He helped companies get to Wall Street by raising funds and writing their business descriptions. After four years with the firm, he thought “I either have to go to another company and start all over, or I’d have to go get my MBA.” Between his own tuition and his father’s words of advice, Artie decided to leave the company and go to Columbia University to earn an MBA.
What’s the most useful skill you learned through obtaining your MBA?
Artie answered, “the Net Present Value Theory,” i.e., a dollar is worth more today than it is in the future. He said this theory is “true conceptually as well as financially” because spending time with people today is more valuable than scheduling to meet say in a few months or years.
After obtaining his MBA, he was recruited by Ogilvy & Mather (O&M), a prestigious marketing and advertising company. He lit up when he talked about the people that worked there, about how brilliant and attractive they all were. However, Artie only stayed for one year because he realized that “to get the same authority [as he had at the small-sized investor relations firm, he] would need to work there for 8 years.”
So, he went back to the PR firm and took a role as managing director. This lasted for only a year because his wife and he both realized that they wanted to move somewhere outside of the city to start a family of their own. Artie and his wife left New York City and moved to Columbus, Ohio.
In 1990, he bought an advertising agency known as Brooks Young Communication. Artie changed the name to Young Isaac Bedway, named after its founding partner, his last name, and the creative director Tom Bedway. For short, they called it “YIB,” and joked, “Why I be…in advertising?” After a short time, Tom Bedway left the company and it became known as “Young Isaac.”
Owning his own business: YOUNG ISAAC
- Founder & CEO
- October 1990– March 2008
Young Isaac was a marketing consultancy and advertising agency in central Ohio that helped clients “establish (or revise) [their] brand message strategy – and then creatively amplify that message through all media.”
For 18 years, Artie owned and operated Young Isaac. During this time, he received an award from Forty Under 40 Business First of Columbus in March 1995 for “outstanding career achievements and community service impact.” Artie said, when his company helps clients figure out their advertising, they also help them discover what they do for a living – working at the meta-level.
What was your most memorable and impactful client experience?
When I asked Artie about this, he wasn’t sure how to answer. It’s been many years since he sold Young Isaac, but he did remember one. Artie said he was rewriting his obituary one day (yes, writing his obituary) and Directions for Youth & Families, a not-for-profit in Columbus, was the only client he mentioned in it. Working with the former CEO of this client, Steve Votaw, Artie grew to love him as a person. After all of these years, this person was still in Artie’s thoughts, unlike any others, which subconsciously makes him the most memorable.
What was one of the biggest challenges you experienced while owning the company?
Artie said, “I never operated as an owner, I always operated as an employee.” What he means is that he never set financial goals and always operated the business at a flat line (the worst type of business, he said). People that worked for him thought that he was independently very wealthy and just working there for fun.
“I never told adults what to do.”
During a mentoring session with a recent college graduate at Young Isaac, Artie was asked by the employee “so when are you going to start managing?” This was something that still stands out to him today, that this young college graduate was absolutely right. He immediately made changes and hired a management consultant to teach him how to manage. Artie realized he didn’t like managing people, so he ended up hiring a manager instead.
At this point, Artie was intellectually bored of running the ad agency. He told the manager, “if I hire you, my request of you is that we go out of business in 2 years.” He knew that without a manager at the rate his company was headed that he would go out of business in 3 years, however paying the expensive salary for one would cause him to go out of business in 2 years.
Young Isaac ended up running for 3 years under the new manager. Then on a Wednesday in March 2008, he told everyone at the agency that he was going to find them all jobs, but he was closing the business. By the end of that week, he sold Young Isaac to someone he never met before – however, almost all of his employees got to keep their jobs. Young Isaac began operating under the name “People to My Site.” The name was licensed for three years, and is now retired.
“if you’re doing something you don’t love, you’re only going to be okay at it.”
What’s the biggest lesson you learned from owning your own business?
“Spend a day a week working on your business and not in it…my number one client should have been my company.”
Currently: VISTAGE WORLDWIDE
- Chief Executive Coach & Freelance Consultant, July 2011-Present, www.vistagecolumbus.com
Vistage international is the “world’s leading chief executive organization,” that hosts private peer groups for CEOs, executives and business owners to help them make changes and resolve their goals, both professionally and personally, through thoughtful conversations.
At Vistage, Artie leads corporate innovation programs, delivers keynote speeches, and organizes peer groups for CEOs “so they become better leaders, make better decisions, achieve better results — and get home earlier.”
- Executive Coach, August 2010- Present
Although he technically doesn’t own a business anymore, he operates as a sole practitioner through his own dba Birdhouse Industries and has been since 2010. Artie came up with the name one day because, he said, “my job is to attract birds, creative birds…at the right time.” What he does through BirdHouse Industries is very similar to his tasks at Vistage. He’s an execute coach for clients in business, healthcare, and the arts who need help with challenges, opportunities, and change. Artie sees himself as a convener of talented, diverse people. He said the winning formula is “attracting ambitious people.”
Would you ever consider retiring?
Unlike Young Isaac, Arties work as a professional coach convening peer groups is naturally growing at a successful rate. So to answer this question, he said: “why would I ever stop sitting in a room of really smart people arguing about their assumptions?” To him, heaven is doing just this in a nice room with a window; and “hell would be golf.”
“The people that want to retire, must not like what they’re doing.”
Artie works 3 out of the 4 weeks each month, saving the other week for his family and himself. He spends this week with his wife and restoring himself by writing a lot and walking in the woods.
Aside from this, he co-teaches Creativity and Innovation at Ohio State University (a class I’m currently taking). He holds certifications for coaching from the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland and other programs, and a certification for administering Myers-Briggs assessments. He previous; served on the board for Angie’s List, was a board member and communications chair for the Young Entrepreneurs Organizations – Columbus Chapter, class speaker for his graduating class at Columbia, and taught Promotional Strategy and Advertising Copywriting at OSU…to name a few.
Artie has a 6-page list of his current and previous experiences, but to sum it up; he does individual coaching, teaching, keynote speaking, serves on many boards, and participates in many organizations. He lives life wondrously and writes whenever he feels like it…
- His blog “Net Cotton Content” discusses creativity and ethics: http://www.artie.co
- His work is promoted at ArtieIsaac.com
- TEDxOSU (2013) speech on Questions: https://youtu.be/vB32loCXZ70
What’s the biggest piece of advice you could give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
“Start with the end in mind. Make sure it’s sellable in 3 years. Every year talk to someone else about buying you and someone else about buying them.” Basically, he means working on the investor level of a business, the bigger picture.
What would you say your greatest asset is in life (and was as an entrepreneur)?
“My willingness to be vulnerable, because in return people tell me their secrets,” he answered (but also mentioned how he always keep their secrets as well).
What were you doing when you were my age that possibly benefitted you now?
When Artie was a senior in college, he spent his time writing a lot (and not for class), going to many museums and sculpture parks. Also, it was healthier for him because he was in an important relationship. Although it didn’t last after college, he said an important skill for people to have at this age is figuring out how to find a significant other, someone that honestly makes you happy.
What are some of your favorite books that are most applicable to creatives and aspiring innovators?
- The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (also the textbook for his Creativity Class)
- Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 10 Powerful Tools for Life and Work by Marilee Adams
- Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
This is the exact same story, he said, told 3 different ways.
What do you want people to remember about you after you die?
“I want my loved ones to consider my reputation to be a positive inheritance. That’s all, I don’t care to be remembered by my name by anyone else.”