Catch Gary Frey on the #PirateBroadcast
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Russ Johns 0:03
Welcome to the #piratebroadcast, where we interview #interestingpeople doing #interestingthings where you can expand your connections, your community. #Kindnessiscool and #smilesarefree. Let's get this party started.
I love this. I love the pirate community. I love the fact that we're here today, sharing #interestingpeople doing #interestingthings. Gary is no exception. I know that we're going to pull some nuggets of knowledge out of this fine gentleman, and we're going to share this on the #piratebroadcast. If you're listening live, you're listening to the replay. If you're seeing it, watch it, listen to the podcast, reading the transcription, whatever it happens to be. Thank you. I appreciate you all the gratitude in the world. Gary, thank you so much for being here and taking the time to share a little bit with the Pirate community Today, so how are you doing?
Gary Frey 1:01
Hey man It's good to be here. It's great to be with you live, that's for sure. The funny thing is I'm the one that gets to be with the interesting dude today.
Russ Johns 1:14
Well, we were talking before the show, and I think it's really ironic that we're both drummers. It's like, Okay, so what's the real answer? zildjian or pasty? We're both Zildjian people. If that means nothing to you, it's okay. It's just like one of those things that. It's really fascinating to to read your background and look at it. It's very similar. We've had advertising with multiple different experiences that we had not anticipated.
Gary Frey 1:51
Russ Johns 1:54
Let's go back a little bit for those that are not familiar with you. It's like A few years and you're originally a graphic designer that kind of evolved into this CEO position and having to take control of your life and your future and everything that goes along with that. Back us up a little bit and kind of tell us a little bit of the backstory and so people know who you are.
Gary Frey 2:20
So here's the theme. I have had to learn the art of the pivot. I just thought I would be a designer all my life and then art director, creative director and then own an ad agency was brought in at the ripe old age of 28 to turn one around, and I had no credentials to do it. But we did. As we were talking a little bit about in the beginning of the show is I was really good at being able to relate to CEOs Thought in a very left brain linear fashion, and always pushing the envelope to try to win awards, which as an ad agency starts building its name, but it couldn't be just client financed creative expression, it really had to be doing what was right for that particular client. I became very good at doing that. Well, long story short, that things outside of my control happened a couple times. I caught my partner with its hand in the cookie jar financially a couple times and then I was in this conundrum because my name was on the door and I either destroy him or I had to destroy my name. I was not going to do either within my ability because I really liked him. He just made some bad choices. Fast forward that brought me to Charlotte, North. Carolina in 1994 joined another guy brought a couple million dollar account. After we delivered it, he said, today's your last day I got what I need. I was like, WOW!
Russ Johns 4:16
Gary Frey 4:16
So in Charlotte, North Carolina, which is not necessarily LA, New York or Chicago or Minneapolis at the time, which were all pretty high ad agency places, and so got hired into a couple of the banks and got to do some interesting things there. got hired away to run a.com, which I thought I have no business doing this.
Russ Johns 4:44
Was that Before 2000 or after 2000.
Gary Frey 4:47
It was right at 1999 is when they recruited me.
Russ Johns 4:51
Gary Frey 4:51
Experienced the craziness of the.com bubble. I mean, and I have got some funny stories that will blow your mind but
Russ Johns 4:58
Gary Frey 5:00
Anyway, that blew up. Then a year later, we were still viable. We sold 20% to Microsoft. I could have stayed there for a long time. I had merged two companies while I was at Bank of America on the side, that was kind of a fun thing to do. These two guys came and said, we'll give you a third of the company to come and be president of this thing, because they really wanted it to be a merger. I don't know what you think about mergers, but I don't think that there is such a thing. I think there's somebody acquired somebody and somebody tried to make somebody feel good by calling the merger and but these guys really wanted, but and they had equal size shops, so they you come and be President of it. I thought that was kind of a cool thing. About a year later, one of those partners got sick and was and I had to go do something and that something was in Cleveland, Ohio. The Art of the pivot again. I'm still in the ad agency business. I'm thinking, Oh, this is great. It was with the largest privately held agency in the country. And I was running 100% office up there.
A year later, we shut down one of the other offices and the guy that was running Cleveland before I came, came back and said, basically, I'm in and Europe and so the art of the pivot again. That then I ended up I had a little bit of money at the time, and I invested in a private equity company, and we served ultra high net worth families all over the country and some very notable names. I don't come from huge money like that. I mean, these were really big ticket people. I was very concerned actually about what I become covetous, because I just did not want that and the thing that was interesting, so they bought my company I invested with them. Then a year later, they bought my company. Basically, I got to do all kinds of things. Then unfortunately got to shut down 11 offices after the CEO got ousted in 09, and that's where the mess got torched art of the pivot again,
Russ Johns 7:06
Gary Frey 7:24
Pretty much lost. Everything at that point didn't lose my house, but was brought into an insulating glass manufacturing company, one of our private equity Board of managers owned it. It was hemorrhaging money. I said, Edmin, I don't have any background in this business at all said it doesn't matter. We'll teach you
Russ Johns 7:48
see your a creative guy. You'll figure it out. I can hear that conversation Gary. No Worries
Gary Frey 7:58
Oh my goodness. I kept thinking, I don't know anything about this industry. At the end of the day.
Russ Johns 8:06
Gary Frey 8:06
I've learned along this really crazy journey is there are things that we're typically pretty good at.
Russ Johns 8:15
Gary Frey 8:15
Think about what those things are, and then apply them wherever you are.
Russ Johns 8:20
Gary Frey 8:20
Try to serve versus be served. I think that is super simple. Let's just keep it simple. Because I am from Kansas. I got to keep it simple, man.
Russ Johns 8:34
That's brilliant. Learn what you do well, and then create value from it every time.
Gary Frey 8:42
Yeah. What's interesting too Russ is that I complicate things, oh, well, I don't have the credentials for this or, well, unless you're a brain surgeon, or scientist. Maybe You can apply whatever you're good at, in other industries and that was the thing I actually got drugged into other industries that my mind was super closed off to I mean, bizjournals.com I should
Russ Johns 9:13
You never have ventured down that path to be in that industry.
Gary Frey 9:19
Russ Johns 9:20
Now you're saying about this journal. Did you create the bucket list?
Gary Frey 9:24
No, they did. And boy, that's a cash cow.
Russ Johns 9:28
That is the cash cow.
Gary Frey 9:30
Taht is the cash cash. Brilliant.
Russ Johns 9:33
More than once I tell you.
Gary Frey 9:35
Yeah. The guy who started that. His name is Ray Shaw, and he's passed away.I'm not in Kansas anymore. Actually, I'm really glad about that. I'm happy to be in Charlotte, North Carolina. Hills entries and we're close to the mountains and beaches, which is I mean, in half hour to the beach, but I feel like I live on the beach compared to Kansas.
Russ Johns 10:00
Yeah, no kidding.
Gary Frey 10:03
But anyway, um, Ray was the head of Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal and he stitched all these business trips together and he understood content was king. It was a really interesting thing and we ran everything very, very conservatively in the midst of the craziness of everything that was going on in .com. the more money you lost, the better your valuation is until the merry go round stop.
Russ Johns 10:31
Gary Frey 10:32
Of 2000 and crack. There's some really funny stories from that that time. But it was really neat to be part of a kind of an old guard. Really smart guy that had really smart businessman. I mean, you can't be wrong, Dr. Jones,
Russ Johns 10:52
Gary Frey 10:52
In our but also very principled and we ran things smartly. He saw the future he saw were bright, not broadcasting, but he saw where newspapers and publishing going. I got to learn under him and I don't know. I just think I wish I would have paid attention to that little earlier and faster when people would say no, because they could see it. I couldn't see it.
Russ Johns 11:28
Gary Frey 11:29
Sometimes that's true. I've got a friend who has, one of his coaches is a good friend of mine. He always said, it's hard to read the label when you're inside a jar.
Russ Johns 11:43
Yeah.I love that analogy. It's so true.
Gary Frey 11:47
Russ Johns 11:48
So true. It's funny and you know, especially being a graphic artist in the creative process, so you think about things in a slightly different perspective. You're a visual learner, at least for myself, that's why I've always it's like I need to see kind of the roadmap and kind of map it out and draw it on a whiteboard or something like that. Then it becomes visually, it implants in my mind. When you're going to so many industries, I think the the thread is is really common in the fact that you're adding value, you're probably I get the impression that you're very approachable, you're easy to be around in very, you're able to communicate accurately what you need to be completed what has to be completed in order to accomplish a goal. I just get that impression from our conversation here today. With that skill set, it's really easy to transfer that skill set into multiple industries. I just really think that if people will add value and they have a little bit of empathy and they can listen and understand what's going on around them. You can build a team quite easily. Then once you get that teamwork, and then it's just the vision is the part that you really need to pay attention to. And being an artist. The vision is the part that you already had down.
Gary Frey 13:14
Russ Johns 13:15
It's kind of, that's how I frame it anyway, it's kind of, am I wrong? Is that fairly accurate?
Gary Frey 13:23
Yeah, I think you're right on. Part of the the challenge for me in my evolution and growth was early on. You'll remember this. Remember Fallon Magilligan out of Minneapolis. Like they won all the award shows, right?
Russ Johns 13:41
Gary Frey 13:42
My mentor was one of the guys that started it up. That was my quest. I'm like, hey, that's what I want to be. I was very vision focused. The problem was, is I became a steamroller at time. Over my people, if they weren't aligned with that the vision was so clear. Quite frankly, looking back on it, the vision was flawed. I mean, who cares? Whether you're building a following Magilligan? The end of the day, at least for me is I boil it down to something really simple. I want to know that my wife and children and now my grandchildren who know me best that they would say you made a positive difference in my life.
Russ Johns 14:32
Gary Frey 14:32
Positive impact. If they say that, and then if my colleagues and the people that I work with and the people that I serve, that's a far more important vision than whether I want accolades and was recognize that con or whatever, who cares? who really cares. I wish again could I wind the tape back 30 years and go back And then redo some of this stuff. If I could that's what I would have done as I would have accelerated Oh, get clarity, but I don't know that you get it sometimes.
Russ Johns 15:13
Yeah. It's only 2020 that you have little hindsight.
Gary Frey 15:18
Russ Johns 15:19
The reality, you know, it's the same way with myself. It's like you think, and this is one of the things that I really have a little bit of reflection on it at times is that the the dream that you're pursuing, at times becomes the nightmare you're living. We fail to understand what it is you really want.
Gary Frey 15:44
Russ Johns 15:45
So I mean, your family, having peace of mind leaving a legacy that you made a difference in their lives, and their future, and spending time with family and friends and people that matter. Sometimes that's a bigger opportunity.
Gary Frey 16:04
Russ Johns 16:04
Then Any award you'll ever receive.
Gary Frey 16:07
Yeah. Yeah, it's so true. I think it's sometimes the things that we see in others that drive us crazy are really the things that drives us crazy about ourselves. Right?
Russ Johns 16:20
Gary Frey 16:23
I remember getting all nervous at award show. I would also see some of the people that were like, just slaying it prancing in there. Some of them would be very made up, right? Big garb. Did you think that they they were elton john or
Russ Johns 16:43
Gary Frey 16:44
Yes. At the end of the day, that's kind of what I was looking forward to like validation and the end of the day. Who cares? It really doesn't matter. Again, when going through some of the crucibles that we've been through, it just took me back down to bedrock of what was really some of the people that I got to serve along the way and work with people that were far more accomplished than I would have ever imagined. That I've even get to hang around. They were some of the most humble and others focus people. I was like, that's what I want to be.
Russ Johns 17:30
Gary Frey 17:31
It doesn't matter that they could never spend all their money, who cares? It was the way that they treated people, the people, they were genuinely thankful, and they were genuinely grateful. I think that's another thing that I would say, Man, the art of the pivot and some of those really deep and dark times that we've been through. I learned intentional gratitude. Which seems really strange when your world is blown apart and you don't really want to wake up in the morning, but to get intentionally grateful
Russ Johns 18:14
Gary Frey 18:14
To remember the blessings that have been in your life and that are in your life. I mean, you have to know exactly what I'm talking about, I mean, and fall three floors and you know, bust up your arm the way you did, and have that change your trajectory in some ways. You had to learn I mean, look at you smiling, yougot gratitude man.
Russ Johns 18:46
Every day I wake up with gratitude Gary and what you're speaking of is really resonating with me because I've accelerated to the top been taught Out the window fallen down, lost everything.
Gary Frey 19:05
Russ Johns 19:06
Gained it back, lost everything, you know, it's like, Okay. That's why I think it's so important for people to understand that it's not the prize. That is the real accomplishment. It's knowing that you have gratitude for the journey the know, you could get up and you have an opportunity to change your day, change your life, change people live the lives around people around you and know that you could add value every single day. It's not about me, it's about how can I serve and how can I add? How can I make an impact make it matter is what I say, you know?
Gary Frey 19:48
Russ Johns 19:49
It's really about for me is understanding that's the thought that I get into when I get up. That's why I do these shows every day. It's like, okay, I played for four years. every single night, for four years in a row, at one point in time, I was out to different locations. I played every single I loved it and I did fairly well at it. I was living living the life and then that evolved into something else. Then I toured on the road and did that routine and everything else. I was happy. I mean, I wasn't rich. I wasn't wealthy by my standards, but I was wealthy by my life having my life. The reality is that we can add value in many different ways. I think people pursue like that the Instagram persona or the social media and that's what's toxic is the life of comparison. is like looking at the agency and say, I want to win that award is not the same as Hey, let's go out to the movies. It's just a different feeling you get when you have have some things to offer to those around you.
Gary Frey 21:11
One of the things that hit me in the last year or so was this notion that comparison kills gratitude. Think about that.
Russ Johns 21:25
Gary Frey 21:27
Gratitude and sometimes like, well, at least I'm not at least I don't have that problem. Gain joy from somebody else's misery. It's like, oh, well, you should feel good because it's kind of like growing up as a kid. Hey, you eat that food because there are people starving. Well, ship it to them. Change things
Russ Johns 22:00
Gary Frey 22:02
There is something to be having empathy. I think empathy, at least for me, comes from gratitude.
Russ Johns 22:10
Gary Frey 22:11
Where you're like. Especially when you learn it when you feel like the world has just come crashing down and you cannot see tomorrow.
Russ Johns 22:24
Gary Frey 22:26
Those are the moments at least for me, that man. I wouldn't wish some of the things that I've been through on my worst enemy, and yet, some of those things have been the areas where there's been the sweet surrender and like, crushing sweetness. That's the only thing that I know how to say is almost like crushing grapes releases.
Russ Johns 22:55
Gary Frey 22:56
Beautiful juice, right. It's not fun. I don't want, I don't like it, I wouldn't sign the line or the wine press grapes in here. No, but But life is that way.
Russ Johns 23:14
Life is that way in the most beautiful moments have evolved from the worst circumstance in my life.
Gary Frey 23:22
Russ Johns 23:23
Growing back into, you know, evolving from the experience and knowing that I have survived bits and pieces of tragedy have allowed me to flourish in my thoughts and my ideas, and also my gratitude. It's really important for us to understand that, there's a lot of people going through some challenging times right now, and I'm not going to diminish anything that is going on around us. I think that now more than any other time in history, we have an opportunity to decide, is it the dream? Or is it the baggage you're carrying? Is it really worth what we're investing our time and effort into? What is it that we really want to truly do and it takes a lot of, I think self reflection and understanding of who we are and what we really are about in order for us to accomplish that goal. You're only allowed that opportunity when you're quiet enough. We do everything you have to talk to be quiet.
Gary Frey 24:34
That it's really true. The funny thing is, I have to force myself to be quiet right now because I don't have extra time. I'm working 14 and 15 hour days right now. It's crazy. That's what's demanded right now, just with the amount of kind of businesses that we serve. You are absolutely right. We still Don't have to force ourselves into quietness, to think and to And this is why I think Simon Sinek is so powerful and why he resonates with so many people. He starts with such a simple thing, the why
Russ Johns 25:12
Gary Frey 25:13
Why are you doing what you do? It applies against businesses and their brands and all that, but it applies to us if we don't answer our why we're gonna be chasing the stuff or the accolades or trying to feed our own insecurities and make them feel secure again. I think it's really important and especially in these times, man, where it seems like a lot of us are in this, but the thing that I find amazing is I work with some people. Some industries have just been crushed, just crushed. I mean it Who would have thought dental offices Who would have thought? I mean, that's about as recession proof as it comes. Yet one of our big clients is the largest dental practice in the state. Well, lots of overhead and no income for two months.
Russ Johns 26:15
Yeah, can make a difference.
Gary Frey 26:19
I'm grateful for some of the governmental programs and this and that, but I also know folks that have pivoted really hard when they saw this thing common whether it be gyms and they started doing online stuff.
Russ Johns 26:34
Gary Frey 26:35
People that have moved into online and I'm just amazed at some of my friends what they've done to shift and they're actually having banner years right now.
Russ Johns 26:47
Well and you. Here's the thing that I reflect on a little bit and we could talk for another hour Gary, and I know and I know you're busy and I'm you know, I want to make sure I'm considering Have your time. The pivot is also a huge opportunity for businesses to think about is like, how they were used to doing business may not necessarily how they need to be doing business in the future.
Gary Frey 27:14
Russ Johns 27:15
Remote workers are, you know, really common right now, a lot of organizations are thinking, do I really need to spend time on this real estate? Do I need to have this overhead in this landscape in this real estate? I don't know if the answer is yes or no, it's going to be different for everyone. However, it's really a shocking discovery that was forced upon them from a unique circumstance that requires a pivot, regardless where you are. I think a lot of people are starting to think about that and how you can actually create a new adventure. I think a lot of money's been made in the in the past on down cycles and crushed economies and things like that, because the creativity comes alive. Stay curious, stay creative. look for opportunities. When you're in that mindset, it's really easy to see how you can help people when you add value. It's the same story whenever we're in history look at history and reading, what's the opportunity in this circumstance?
Gary Frey 28:24
Yeah, and it's hard to do that when we're in fight or flight mode. That's where we have to get quiet and that's where I think gratitude and I'm not a big Kumbaya guy or anything like that, but I think gratitude it releases a lot of stuff at least in me It gets me grounded and gets me peaceful and I'm not thinking in a reactionary fear driven mode. I'm more in a what if that those were my two favorite words together as a creative What if huh?
Russ Johns 28:59
Gary Frey 29:01
What if we would do this and do that? Think about that.
Russ Johns 29:04
Think about that. What's in the future for Gary, I know we're wrapping up here today. I want to make sure that a few people get an idea about what you're thinking about what you're driving toward. What's keeping you working 14 18 hours days, it's like
Gary Frey 29:24
Yeah. It's not, it's not any different at this. My thrive is in helping Connect good people to solve problems. which happens to be in a CPA firm, which I would have never imagined. This is a least this firm. I was sending people coaching clients in mind to them because there are a number of us have actually started run our turnaround companies.I think the people that are running companies are the ripple makers,they're either making good ripples or bad ripples. I've worked for some crappy bosses. For some amazing bosses. For me, that is still a passion, which is, hey, let's help these businesses get healthy and help these owners who like they, that's sometimes sometimes the loneliest place in the entire organization to run a company. Let's get them healthy. That remains the same. I'm doing some podcasting, too, which is kind of fun. We're doing a thing called anything but typical, and we're featuring those business owners and entrepreneurs and I want to hear their story. I'm learning on that kind of stuff. I think the core remains the same. How do I serve somebody? How do I connect people to and solve problems creatively, and help them get there to where they're running their companies where it's more fun?
Russ Johns 30:54
Gary Frey 30:54
I think business should be fun. It can be it's hard, but it can be fun. Life is hard, but it should be fun too.
Russ Johns 31:03
Yeah. Well, it's hard as you make it to, I mean, it's like, okay, there's challenging times every day. We all have challenges and like you said, let's have fun with it, #makeitmatter. Well Gary, this has been phenomenal. I really appreciate the time and energy and love to have conversations again in the future. Whenever you're available and want to come back and give us an update let's make that happen as well.
Gary Frey 31:35
I'd love to do that. Let's do it offline again to there's a kindred spirit there that I really enjoy about you.
Russ Johns 31:44
I want to give a shout out to some of the people here Lonnie Ray was here, Gabriel, Angie Jimmy Khan. Some people Kathy Fred, Nick Dorsey, thanks for being here. A lot of people are Connect with the Pirate community. Now that you're a pirate you're part of the community. It's nice to be involved and engaged in some of the amazing people that come by and have a chat with me every morning. Thank you so much,
Gary Frey 32:15
Russ. I really appreciate it. It's a blessing that you're doing this.
Russ Johns 32:19
Well, thank you. I enjoy it. It's funny because at one point in my career, one of my many careers, it was a fun job. It was selling office supplies. The fascination that I had was a curiosity. You drive in these industrial parks, and you see company after company after company. They have a brand on the building and you think, I wonder what they do. With office supplies, I could go in and say, What do you do? And find out? It's kind of the same curiosity. It's like, what are you doing, Gary? Why are you doing it is what are you creating today? It's an analogy of the same kind of involvement and engagement. It's nice for others to see a new perspective. Because it's like, you're not inside the jar, reading the back of the label, right?
Gary Frey 33:16
It's hard to read the label when you're inside the jar, and that's why we need one another.
Russ Johns 33:20
Yeah. Exactly. In it together, man.
Gary Frey 33:25
Russ Johns 33:27
As you know, everyone, #kindnessiscool, and #smilesarefree. So you #enjoytheday.
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