This week's 'Day in the Life' is a fascinating story of three friends and engineers who founded an apparel brand, got good at marketing and so decided to found a marketing agency, too.

We caught up with FlowState Marketing co-founder Shamus McNutt to find out more.

(Remember to check out the Econsultancy jobs board if you're looking for a new role yourself.)

Econsultancy: Please describe your job: What do you do?

Shamus McNutt: FlowState Marketing is a digital marketing agency offering custom design and corporate identity products from athleisure wear apparel to promotional goods, websites, ads, banners and logos. FlowState has worked with over 300 brands including some of the biggest tech companies and breweries like SendGrid, HomeAdvisor, Blue Moon Brewing Company, Ibotta, Breckenridge Brewery, iHeart Radio, Kenny Chesney’s Blue Chair Bay Rum and many more.

At FlowState, we enable our clients to grow and thrive by giving them a voice to their customers and community, an identity others will recognize, and branded goods that stand out in the crowd. We do this by delivering high-value, results-driven goods and services that are custom built for each client for them to succeed in meeting their business goals.

E: Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?

SM: We are:

  • Shamus McNutt - President & Co-Founder
  • Ben Thomson - Chief Operating Officer & Co-Founder
  • Mark Grubbs - Creative Director & Co-Founder

We all live and work together so the reporting structure is pretty fluid.

flowstate team

E: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?

SM: A large part of being an effective leader, role model and entrepreneur is organization. Organization is the key to our success. At FlowState, we put an immense amount of effort into optimizing systems, increasing efficiencies, and the bottom line.

Positivity is also a MUST in our workplace and we hire accordingly. As founders, we have to display a positive outlook everyday since our employees look up to us.

E: Tell us about a typical working day…

SM: A typical work day starts at 6am or 7am and goes until about 8pm. We're always hustling, taking meetings, designing something original, breaking into new accounts, meeting other professionals who can help us level up, and creating a healthy work atmosphere for our employees.

It was easy to do when we had four employees. Now we're at 17 in just two years! You can imagine there are a lot of personalities but we put a heavy emphasis on hiring smart so there’s a great camaraderie amongst the team.  

E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?

SM: We truly love supporting the professional and personal development of our employees! We match individual skills to the most suitable positions and continually help our team identify their own career paths. As a result, our workplace thrives and we have an extremely low attrition rate.

We also love working with our clients to come up with a creative new idea or concept that will propel their brand even further. Whether it’s a custom embroidered hat for Breckenridge Brewery, an interactive e-commerce website for PRT Wheels or hand stitched, stamped leather koozies for CoreSite and Microsoft Azure.

Nothing sucks about our job to be honest... We wouldn't be working the hours we do if we didn't love it. There’s no such thing as a sucky Monday anymore.

E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?

SM: Our goal in 2018 is to grow our team of 17 to about 25, double our sales/revenue to $4.3M, and increase profitability to between 12-18%. In 2017, we moved out of our basement, hired 13 people, and increased our revenue from $500K to $2.2M but it wasn’t without its setbacks. We worked all day and then built up our office at night with hammers and nails (literally). We maxed out our lines of credit and didn’t have funds to hire a legal team so many of our first marketing contracts were handshake deals.

It was worth it because in the end, we’ve retained 95% of all the marketing clients we’ve serviced who repeatedly come back to us again and again. This is key for us, repeat business and referrals.

E: What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?

SM: FlowState Marketing is a company that thrives on automation to manage our workflows – it's how we have grown so quickly from $500 in revenue in our first year to over $2 million in our second year. Over 95% of our employees – including all three founders – are under the age of 30. We grew up with automation platforms, mobile devices and project management systems, so utilizing online resources is second nature.

We LOVE Adobe illustrator, Prosperworks CRM, Slack, Asana & Teamwork. These are the essential tech tools that help our team effectively organize and communicate.

E: How did you get into the agency world, and where might you go from here?

SM: All three of us – Mark, Shamus and Ben – studied mechanical engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. During our senior year, we saw countless people pursue a paycheck over doing what they love and began to feel trapped by our own preset path to engineering. We put our heads together and in 2013, launched Belong Designs, a lifestyle apparel brand inspiring people to follow their true passions and do what they love.

What began as a passion project quickly grew into a full business venture. As other companies (many our clients) saw our rapid growth through our own in-house marketing, they sought out our help to improve their own digital presence and corporate apparel. As more digital marketing inquiries flooded in, we realized what we needed to do – create a sister company with the sole purpose of offering these services. In January 2016, we launched FlowState Marketing.

FlowState and all of our employees live by the same mantra: "Follow your passion, do what you love, find where you belong.”

E: Which brand campaigns have you admired recently?

SM: We LOVED the Heineken "Open Your World" campaign. It was breathtaking – so well executed and impactful.

E: Do you have any advice for people considering starting an agency?

SM: Get ready for many sleepless nights, incredibly fun happy hours (both with clients and employees), the struggles of outgrowing your offices (we're on our third), and the fear of clearing payroll by the skin of your teeth on a bootstrapped budget. We had a $10,000 credit line through Wells Fargo for the first two years we were in business... It was wild.

fast track training for beginners

Ben Davis

Published 14 May, 2018 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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