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“People First”, With Douglas Brown and Trevor Hubbard of Butchershop Creative

People First — Focus on transparency with your team. We went through a period of time about 18 months ago where we had diminished employee trust. We asked for candid feedback from the Crew. One of the clearest requests was more insight into the finances of the company. Since then, I end every month sharing an open […]

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People First — Focus on transparency with your team. We went through a period of time about 18 months ago where we had diminished employee trust. We asked for candid feedback from the Crew. One of the clearest requests was more insight into the finances of the company. Since then, I end every month sharing an open financial update with the entire team via email. Everyone knows where we are with our expenses and revenue, and everyone knows where the opportunities to grow are and what we’re focusing on to make that growth happen.


As part of my series called “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Trevor Hubbard, CEO & Executive Creative Director of Butchershop Creative, a creative business and brand consultancy based in San Francisco with offices in Europe and Mexico. Butchershop was founded in 2008, during the midst of the Great Recession, with Trevor vowing to build an agency for the future of culture and commerce in defiance of old agency business models. Butchershop’s mission to help leaders turn big ideas into brands people love is grounded in the company ethos of “Help People.”

Trevor and the Butchershop crew operate from the belief that the possibility of failure always stems from lack of clarity. The Clarity Project™ — imagined by Butchershop — is equal parts consulting, tech tools, and facilitation services hell bent on helping individuals, teams and organizations beat failure by generating maximum clarity, priorities, next steps, accountability and action around initiatives.

Most recently, our ethos and practice was put to the test when we tackled uncertainty stemming from COVID-19 and racial injustice within the design community, resulting in initiatives like Feed the Line, WGI and World’s Greatest Internship Experience and Talent Network, and Equity for Equality.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

One of the unique things about my path to becoming an agency owner is that I never worked for another agency. I never learned how to “navigate agency life.” I got to cocreate the way an agency looked like for me and the Crew. I got to curate who my influences are. And I got really good at not only identifying, but listening to the voice inside that says “this is valuable.”

Back in 2008, I was in my late 20s, working on a few different things. At the time, I was the marketing director of the ski and snowboard big-air spectacular ICER Air. I was simultaneously teaching a course on innovative advertising and marketing at Academy Art University. What I valued most when I was there were the students. Valuing my students as individuals helped me manage their education and the classroom more effectively, and allowed me to even hire a few to become part of Butchershop 1.0. I was able to run my classroom like an agency, like the agency that Butchershop would become.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

Patience doesn’t mean sitting around and waiting, it means actively participating. The way that I grew Butchershop was by saying “yes” to everything in the first five years. Having that experience got us to a place where we learned what to say “no” to.

It wasn’t until we started to say no to new engagements that we realized what would bring the most value when we said yes. It underscored that even the smallest things you say yes to, you put the maximum amount of effort toward.

Over time you evolve so you can develop your philosophy and POV. You are paid in direct proportion to the problems you are able to solve. Ask yourself — of the problems you’re solving, how impactful are they? The bigger the problem you solve, the more you get paid to do so.

In order to do seven figures, you have to match your business acumen to your craft.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Everything changed at Butchershop when I stopped hiring for what we needed, and started hiring for where we wanted to go. You’re now trying to put yourself around people who make you better, make the company better. The introduction of Katherine Cambouris, our Head of Operations, changed the scope of what was possible dramatically. Katherine provided a much-needed counter that inspired me to make all the big moves. We created a tight feedback loop, with Katherine helping me to assess when things don’t make sense or don’t connect.

After Katherine, I would say Ben McNutt, our Head of Creative, came in and formalized the way that we interact with our clients to a degree that we were able to scale the work. With a keen sense for bullshit, Ben’s strategy and copywriting background diversified our experience as an agency and put us in a different league to attract more high-profile clients.

On the mentorship side, I look to our clients. VC folks and founders have shaped more of the trajectory of Butchershop and how I view the world than any other influences. What’s happening with venture and innovation has had a major impact on what we create and make.

I also commit to having 10 unique conversations a month with no specific outcome in mind. If you can have 120 conversations in a year that are based on a whim, you will attract a completely different POV.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Nobody owes you shit. Why is that important? It changes your mindset. While you might still whine or complain, you realize that doing those things doesn’t put you any closer to your goal.

It’s not meant to indicate that we’re isolated and here on this big rock alone. If you’re not expecting any particular outcome, you’re not going to be disappointed when it doesn’t go your way. You’ll keep working. You’ll stay sharp and you won’t rest. It’s optimistic, it’s liberating and freeing. No one else can make you feel that way.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?

Butchershop is a best of breed global brand experience agency. We know that Brand is Everything. It’s not a logo or tagline. It’s every interaction that your company has with both its external audience (customers, investors) and its internal audience (your employees, your board of directors). This is threaded through by our ethos to Help People. We bring value to our clients by using creativity to tackle business challenges. Yes, sometimes that includes a logo. But more often than not, it’s tackling how best to find clarity within your organization so that you can bring the most value to the most people with your product or service.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

It might sound simple, but it’s our adherence to clarity and transparency as a company. We practice PreMortems with our clients and our own team. At the beginning of 2020, we performed a PreMortem on “What Could Make Our Company Fail?” You might be surprised to hear that one of the responses was a “Natural Disaster or Pandemic.” By getting out in front of failure, by addressing our most grave concerns about the future of the company as a team, we were able to prepare for the worst and made a time of uncertainty a time of opportunity at Butchershop. In one of the worst economic years in a century, we had our largest year of revenue to date.

When you first started the business, what drove you, what was your primary motivation?

I’ve always had a massive fear of rejection. In looking for my first few jobs, there were a couple moments where I recognized that I never wanted to feel that way again. For me, the best way to beat failure in this case was to create something where that type of rejection was not possible.

There are other forms of rejection in the business world, but business is not personal. If we’re not selected for an opportunity with a new client, that’s fine. There’s fine tuning involved. There are adjustments and learnings that can be applied to the opportunity. But when the rejection is personal, it fuels you.

What drives you now? Is it the same? Did it change? Can you explain what you mean?

Honestly, it’s still the same. The edge of a good entrepreneur is the fear and the fight against rejection. Harnessing the power of rejection and failure, that fear will scare success into you. Fear, failure and rejection — you can transform that into clarity, transparency, experience, expertise.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We have worked on some of the most thoughtful client projects we’ve ever participated in over the past year, many of which we’ll be able to share in the coming months. We recently launched the new conversion-driven website for Snappy, the all-in-one enterprise gift-giving platform, which resulted in a 50% increase in conversions. We’re exceptionally proud of our work with Density, which launched their new Open Area Sensor to anonymously count people in spaces. In preparation Butchershop redesigned their entire web presence for conversion. As part of our partnership with W20 Group, a global health innovation company, Symplur debuted a new social listening and data product, along with a new website and brand identity. If you happen to be in the San Francisco/Bay Area, you might catch a glimpse of our latest campaign for NEMA, which promises that good things come to those who stay by offering “Design Your Life” packages for residents and potential residents. Pantera Capital, the world’s leading venture capital firm focused exclusively on tokens and investments related to blockchain technology, digital currency, and crypto assets, has also tapped Butchershop to reimagine their digital experience.

Regarding our own projects, The Clarity Project will launch its self-service app in Q1, following a great momentum-building run hosting education sessions with Swell Spaces, Moodley, SteadySense, Austrian Business Investment Bureau, Parkside Interactive, Plug and Play, Gründungsgarage, G’Scheiter Miteinander, and Bauer Media to change the mindset around beating failure.

The topic of this series is ‘Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue’. Congratulations! Seven figures is really a huge milestone. In your experience what was the most difficult part of being able to hit your first million-dollars in sales revenue?

The most difficult aspect was probably patience. For every one success or great hit, there were five that said “give up now.” Patience comes back to getting really good at listening to the RIGHT voice in your head. The quantity of negative moments and thoughts, especially in the beginning, is extremely high. We focus on the quality moments that signal progress to guide us forward.

Could you share the number one sales strategy that you found helpful to help you reach this milestone?

Don’t sell services, sell value. Sell what problems you’re able to solve, and focus on building trust as you create value.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you or your team made during a sales process? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It’s funny how things have come full circle, as we’re now a 100% remote agency, but in the early days, we had a client that was insistent that in order for them to work with us, we needed a permanent location. Within 48 hours, we found a space to make it look like we had an office. We brought in students to sit at desks, we put objects on milk crates, and overall convinced this client that we had the “cool and edgy” creative office that they thought was absolutely vital to our work with them.

Does your company have a sales team? If yes, do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?

We don’t have a sales team, and we also don’t believe in a retainer-model. We are a project-based agency, which means that we must treat every project like it is our last. Our New Business development falls primarily to myself and our account director. We both have creative backgrounds, which lends itself to the process. We listen to what the needs of prospective clients are, and often bring solutions forth that weren’t even in the realm of possibility or consideration previously. There is no substitute for building trust and delivering an experience far beyond what was expected for growing your revenue.

Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”. Please share a story or an example for each.

Build Trust — We are a project-based agency. Yet, we have clients that we’ve worked with on a continual basis for 5+ years. Trust is built by not only doing what you say you’re going to do, but delivering an experience and output that is above and beyond what is expected. It means taking the late calls and showing up for the early morning Zooms. We all have busy lives, so being able to adapt and connect with folks when they’re ready to go is important.

Create Value — Bring a POV to every conversation. You’re not just here to create a beautiful website. You’re a strategic advisor on brand, business, media, communications and much more. Don’t be so focused on the sell that you’re not listening to the client’s needs.

People First — Focus on transparency with your team. We went through a period of time about 18 months ago where we had diminished employee trust. We asked for candid feedback from the Crew. One of the clearest requests was more insight into the finances of the company. Since then, I end every month sharing an open financial update with the entire team via email. Everyone knows where we are with our expenses and revenue, and everyone knows where the opportunities to grow are and what we’re focusing on to make that growth happen.

Slow Down and Take Stock — I always say that the best deals get done not on the golf course, but on the ski slope. Finding ways to immerse yourself in your surroundings to clear your head is invaluable.

Clarity — 80% of failure stems from lack of clarity. When teams aren’t aligned on the “Who, What, Where, When and Why” of an initiative, chaos ensues. To get everyone tracking in the same direction, you need to speak plainly and precisely. Don’t mince words. And check in often. If something isn’t working, it’s worth it to take a beat and ask why before draining resources via various stopgap measures.

What would you advise to another business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?

Go back to the well. Get a win under your belt with someone you trust. If you’ve done the hard work of building trust and value with your collaborators and clients, you’ll find someone willing to find something to work with you on. Then go and kill it. Give them a 10x return on their investment, and you’ll no doubt see a return on YOUR investment.

In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?

I would say you have to get loud about your accomplishments and your work. There are hundreds of agencies in the United States, but a very, very small percentage ever make it into the eight-figure earnings tier. In order to get there, you have to get noticed beyond your circle of influence. There are a lot of channels to communicate your POV, philosophies and exceptional work. Find the ones where your audience lives, and explore a few where you think your future audience MIGHT be.

Based on your experience, can you share a few strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?

Organization and clarity are fundamental with clients. We employ a “stagger and gate” method with our clients and make it clear that timelines are subject to timely input. We don’t get ahead of ourselves and never get too far down the road with anything that hasn’t been stress-tested with our clients.

As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?

It’s creating multiple points of connection with your customers. CMOs come and go, and if you’ve made an enemy of the Marketing Director, you’ll be on the chopping block. From the key decision maker down to the brand coordinator, treat every person with respect and find ways to make their lives easier.

Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We’ve already started it with The Clarity Project. Clarity as a foundational aspect of all your relationships — in work, relationships with family and friends, with romantic partners — finding the courage to get clear will save you the heartache and the hardships down the line.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I’m open to speaking with leaders from varying industries — technology, healthcare, hospitality, finance, media, communications. I’m always looking to find my next conversation.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!

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