Your biggest challenge will be to believe in the right people and ignore the rest. Ignoring people will feel hard at first, but it’s the most important thing you can do. Figure out the right people to ignore and you’ll have the time to focus on what matters.
A marketer and copywriter with a background in action sports, apparel and footwear, Vince is one of three partners at Instrument and currently acts as the director of operations. In this role, Vince oversees the financial health and management of the business, all human resources, and business development and infrastructure. Over the years, Vince has helped sustainably grow Instrument, while maintaining a culture of “work smart, play hard,” making Instrument one of the most respected independent digital agencies around. Instrument has grown to more than 60 employees, expanding its services to deliver creative digital platforms, brand strategy and digital content for global leaders like Google, Nike, Obey, Microsoft and Intel. Vince is proud to be a part of building an insane team of designers, strategists, producers and developers who love where they work and let this love show through in every project they deliver.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m focused on focusing. I’m tired of jumping around from task to task, screen to screen, app to app, device to device. I need to get better at doing one thing at a time, again. The world needs to allow me the time to do things really well. And my mind needs to allow me to ignore other things and focus on focusing.
Where did the idea for Instrument come from?
Instrument began as an idea that came to me in the shower. I had quit a great job at Burton Snowboards as national team manager, and people thought I was crazy to have left. I had my fingers on the pulse of the fastest growing action sport with some of the world’s best athletes, but I wanted to work with my friends. So I made a list of everything I loved, and I narrowed down the list to include as much of what I loved as would fit into a business concept. The result was a creative agency built with the talents of my friends, with me at the center, acting as their agent/producer/account guy.
It worked well for a while. We did some good work, out of my apartment in Burlington, Vermont. But soon, websites and digital content became the focus of our efforts and I partnered with a couple guys to renovate our business around digital. Eventually, Instrument moved to Portland, Oregon, and blossomed from there.
Oh, wait, where did the name come from? A Fugazi song and documentary about the band, known for their dedication to simply being a great punk rock band and doing right by their fans, even if it meant they didn’t maximize their own profits.
What does your typical day look like?
I wake up to a fussing little baby boy, feed him, and absorb drool and any spit up onto my sleeves. I then put him back to sleep, at which time it’s about 6:00 a.m. Next I let the dogs out, feed them, and make sure they feel as great as they can possibly feel.
Then I check email, Twitter and Facebook, in that order. If I have time, I’ll check Instagram. Then I shower, and while showering, I consider what the issues of the day will be and make some decisions. I then get dressed and discuss the day’s plan with the wife. Next I head into work at Instrument and check in with the Howard Stern show. Once at work, I make sure to connect with as many people as I can, as well as with those I must connect with on important stuff. I always regret not seeing every single employee and interacting with them each day (a goal that might just be unrealistic).
I check in with my list of items from the day before, and check off what’s done or does not matter. I fire through email and make sure I’m prepared for my meetings, mentally or otherwise. So often, for me, it’s about being mentally prepared and focused on what’s important. We are Instrument’s decision-makers. We are Instrument’s drivers. We built the ship and we’re constantly improving it; we’re behind the wheel. We need to know what we know, and know what we think, before we’re asked to act on it.
Most likely, my day involves a mix of financial analysis, planning, signing checks, reviewing team reports, reviewing resumes, meeting with potential employees, making hiring decisions, and communicating with potential hires. New business opportunities pop into my inbox from all angles (old friends, new friends, existing clients, new RFPs, total surprises and total letdowns). New business is a roller coaster of hopes, dreams and realities.
I sprinkle in a heavy dusting of social media for myself and Instrument. I try to read and post the most interesting pieces of media I have time to consume. I stay connected to valuable, insightful sources of information. I try not to get sucked into the typical agency industry babble. I make sure Instrument looks good every day across the web. Then I shut down and head home to feed the baby, change his poopy diaper, feed the dogs, play with the dogs, put the boy the sleep, have dinner with my wife, and rest up to get back at it again tomorrow. Who would have thought I’d be here, today? Not me.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Instrument brings ideas to life. I bring life to Instrument.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The trend of worldwide ignorance being slowly erased by access to knowledge via the Internet and mobile devices. Also, the trend of optimism fueled by the potential of a networked group of humans working together to tackle big, global problems.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I was a mortgage broker for about a year, while I wrote the Instrument business plan and kicked off Instrument as a creative agency of freelancers. My worst day was the day someone at a bank (whom I was emailing and sending files to in order to complete a friend’s mortgage) asked me to print my email and fax it to him. That was the day I realized the mortgage system was so jacked that I had to get out of it for good.
I learned that when an industry is no longer willing to evolve and innovate, wasted energy is the byproduct and the end consumer ultimately pays the price of that inefficiency and lack of vision. The future of everyone gets worse when we all decide not to get better at what we do.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Not much. It’s all gone pretty well. I might have focused more on my own copy writing earlier as a way to generate income, rather than relying on credit cards that took a painfully long time to pay off.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
You will meet many people who will want to be part of your thing. They’ll want to help you, hurt you, join you, sell to you, buy from you, talk to you, steal from you, learn from you, teach you, waste your time, make your life better, etc. You get the idea. People will come in and out of your days. Your biggest challenge will be to believe in the right people and ignore the rest. Ignoring people will feel hard at first, but it’s the most important thing you can do. Figure out the right people to ignore and you’ll have the time to focus on what matters.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Every person with a smart phone has an HD camera in their hands. Encourage people to capture crime on their cameras and easily and anonymously post the crimes (complete with time-stamp and location data) to a website, with or without a description. Empower the public to call bullshit on bullshit by publicly posting criminal activity to a community-powered website. Organize the videos, make them searchable, and make them available to law enforcement.
How would it make money? The amount of entertaining content that would be generated would make for a compelling advertising model. Incentivize the best video producers by providing them with a channel and rewarding them for their efforts. I don’t know what else. I’m sure someone could kill it with this idea.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would make everything that’s bad for me, good for me. I’d start with time and gravity, the two most powerful negative forces in my life. I would find the world’s smartest scientists and ask them to find me more time and to reverse gravity’s effect on my life. Then I’d figure out a way to sell my new-found powers to people–and I’d give it away to all of the people I love.
Tell us a secret.
I am an ordained minister and am registered to perform weddings, baptisms and other functions in Vermont, Maine, California and soon, Oregon. I’ve married five couples, and I loved every minute of it.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
- Twitter. You can listen, speak, learn and share. It’s the quickest, most effective way to communicate with the world.
- LinkedIn is good for finding great people. It allows me to stay connected with the most important business friends we have.
- Email. Many of the most important things that have ever happened to Instrument have happened via email.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. This book became an underground hit in the hip hop world when 50 Cent took it to heart and lived by it. I read it before he did, and it helped me to stop being such a wuss and recognize when I was being manipulated or lied to. The book made me a better business person, and like it or not, the harsh realities described in the book still exist today in many forms. It’s super detailed, easy to skim, and easy to dive into. It’s a great reference and reminder of how to wield whatever level of power we have in the smartest way.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
No surprises here: @brainpicker (for insights and the smartest content), @vice (for Real World news and hilariousness), and @cowbird (for longer form stories shared via the Cowbird platform, where you should slow down and read).
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Last night, my wife and I watched about 30 minutes of Blades of Glory. The scene where Will Ferrell and Jon Heder first skate together in front of a crowd and Will is holding Jon in various positions via various body parts is just unbelievable. Will Ferrell could just stand in front of me and I’d fall down laughing. He’s a comic for our times.
Who is your hero?
My mom and dad. They had seven children who they put through private school, college, etc. They served us three meals a day, prepared with love at home (there was no takeout). They gave their full support and love, which still exists today. My parents started and maintained traditions–traditions that were hard to start and hard to keep. We all need more real traditions. We need the strength that they had to create them and keep them going.
What’s next for Instrument?
We have built a business around honest relationships, trust and hard work. This goes for both clients and Instrument people. And it works. So that can never change. What’s next is to continue to build capabilities around that core to complement our clients’ needs. These needs change along with technology, society, media, etc., but the core remains.
Evolve and build around the core. Never settle. Always remember that.
What would you do right now if you could do anything?
I would jump forward into the future, when Instrument will be safe in the hands of a new group of entrepreneurial partners, and when myself, Justin and JD will have retired after successfully building Instrument beyond our wildest dreams. All three of us will have relocated to Hawaii, sharing a neighborhood with our families, reminiscing about the early days, laughing about the stupid stuff, and planning our next motorcycle adventure around the island.
For now, we can only dream and work together.