Happy 15th Anniversary to us!
Reflections on FUSE’s 15th Anniversary
Above: Mike winning a Globes’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010
Exactly fifteen years ago, on a cold January day just like today, fifteen of us arrived at a temporary office to start a new marketing agency. It was January 16, 2003. I picked up a few bottles of affordable champagne (technically it was Prosecco) and ordered pizza for lunch. Having secured an office to start the business, Garo and Mike officially unlocked the doors and turned on the lights. The day before, we were all employed at Mosaic at a time in their evolution that had them under CCAA (“chapter 11” in CDN terms)… a state they’ve long since grown past and forgotten. But for many of us who worked at the marketing agency of Mosaic, it meant we were being shut down. So Garo secured the investment money (thanks Mike and Leo) and then secured me (I played hard to get… a little) and then we handpicked the fifteen of the brightest and best we thought we needed to open a new agency.
At the stroke of noon, we all just appeared. We sat in a circle, sipped cheap champagne and talked… and we had lots to talk about. We didn’t have a name, a logo, a website, a bank account… but we did have gumption and excitement for the concept of rolling some big dice. 46 minutes into our first day of operation, CIBC called us on my cell phone (we didn’t call them “mobile phones” back in 2003) with our first project: Docket 1000. By the end of the week, we had business from other previous clients: Tetley, Kraft and Bristol Myers Squibb. We were off.
Truthfully, I had no clue what we were getting ourselves into. I didn’t know back then what it would take to build an agency from the ground up. No understanding of what would be involved in being in a partnership with Mike and Garo. I didn’t have a single ounce of foresight into the level of digital and financial transformation our industry was soon to go through. Fortunately we read the tea leaves fairly well. While it hasn’t been easy and definitely not cheap, we have survived and even flourished over these past fifteen years. We invested in people and culture. We took digital very seriously. We learned from our many mistakes (we could have learned even more). We stayed as close to our clients as they would allow. We continued to pivot and adjust as the industry did. The proof is pretty clear – we’re still relevant and strong fifteen years on.
I don’t dwell on the past much; I’m not a very nostalgic person. Instead, I’d rather turn the emotion of these past fifteen years into one of gratitude. Getting here wasn’t simply the “Stephen, Mike and Garo” show. We relied on many people in the past and many people on our current team to get us here (including a new roster of amazing partners). Today we have some of the country’s best marketing leaders on our team, helping us make our name bigger in digital, social, XM and now in the USA. We have clients like CIBC, Kruger and Canadian Tire who have been trusting us for many years to help them grow and lead their brands. And new clients like Ricola, Cholula and Green P are asking us to help them succeed in today’s market. Of course, we also have an amazing FUSE alumni team who have contributed to our success over the course of these many years. I am truly grateful for all the people who have trusted FUSE with their business or careers over the years to make our company a success.
In this business, I barely know what the next fifteen days will entail, so I won’t try to imagine the next fifteen years. I will, however, take some time this week to celebrate and be thankful that I’ve had such an amazing, exciting and creative journey thus far.