What “Scrappy, Honest + Kind” Really Means
And how I learned it from my greatest mentor
Mike Elliott was my larger-than-life mentor throughout the formative years of my career. Early in his career, he was a broadcaster for the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros, he spent 20 years as program director at Wisconsin’s biggest and most popular radio station, and he worked at a ton of radio stations in major markets.
He shared with me that he once bought EIGHT(!) different Buicks in one year because the money was rolling in and he had expensive taste.
The guy was a legend. A true legend. A literal Broadcasters Hall of Fame legend.
I started working with Mike when he was in his 60s. He still liked to stand out. Even though we were working in country radio in a tweener market, he would show up with big rings, patchwork jeans, a perpetually fresh pair of AND1 high-tops, and a signature pair of Harry Potter-style glasses (although I’m sure he was rockin’ those before Harry ever went to Hogwarts).
Mike always had what we affectionately called “Mike-isms.” They were little nuggets of advice. Some were deliberately crude (he grew up in Boston), but all were memorable.
Some of Mike’s “isms” included:
“Real is better than perfect.”
“You can’t force funny.”
And one that bailed me out of many subpar mornings behind the mic:
“If you’re having a bad show, say ‘f$%k’ and play the hits.”
Writing (and living) your mission statement
Right now, you’re saying, “Fuzz, this is all great, but what does this have to do with being Scrappy, Honest, and Kind?”
I’m glad you asked.
In EPIC’s 33+ years in business, we’ve helped a lot of different organizations write mission, vision, and values statements. These three statements set the direction for the organization: where you’re going to go, how you’re going to get there, and how you’re going to act along the way. They tell your clients and customers what to expect and lay out what your employees are working toward. It’s important work, and we love the challenge.
However, it can be a tedious process. Each member of the committee working on the mission, vision, and values has her/his own idea of what the company means (or should mean) to them. The differing viewpoints often lead to what we call, “creative by committee.” Creative by committee can produce satisfactory work, but it’s never great. It’s often boring, safe, “melba toast” (another Mike-ism) creative. These statements often end up being created in such a way that pacifies the loudest person in the room to just get it done.
And worst of all, they’re forgettable.
You don’t want forgettable creative to carry the weight of your organization’s direction. It’s too important. It’s a rallying cry and a roadmap for an entire organization. It needs to inspire!
This leads me to my all-time favorite Mike-ism (that I’m willing to share publicly):
“If everybody likes you, you’re vanilla. And while everybody likes vanilla, they don’t drive past Kopp’s Frozen Custard hoping to see a big ‘VANILLA’ posted on their flavor-of-the-day sign. Why? Because they know they can get it anywhere. It’s not special. You’re not going to be everybody’s favorite flavor, and you shouldn’t try to be.”
Out with the old, in with the inspiration
In January 2020, the EPIC partners (a small group of key leaders at EPIC) got together to do some 5-year planning. That’s pretty hilarious to think about now since 10 weeks later the world changed.
As part of the planning, we had a day-long session on our mission, vision, and values. There were only five of us in the room—which is a pretty good size for keeping discussions tight without fully going into “creative by committee” mode.
The values statement we were replacing, however, was written by a larger committee:
– Be Candid
– Be Collaborative
– Be Accountable
– Be Tenacious
– Be Grateful
It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great. It was vanilla custard. Nobody remembers vanilla. (Yes, I had to dig through old emails to remember the five values.)
We liked the sentiment of these words, but they were too safe.
So, we broke it down.
What do clients love about EPIC?
We’re honest. We’re not pretentious. We are willing to tell you what you don’t want to hear. We work well with others. We’re grateful for our employees and our clients alike. And we’re reliable to a fault. No matter the problem, we strive to determine what “yes” looks like.
So, we workshopped.
“Be Candid” and “Be Accountable” combined to form “Honest” in our new values statement.
“Be Collaborative” and “Be Grateful” were replaced with “Kind.”
But “Be Tenacious” was a big point of contention. We wanted to communicate that we will always find a way to get it done for our clients. “Tenacious” works, but it sounds a little LinkedIn-Life-Coach-ish. “Nimble” was another good one. However, the word, “Scrappy” kept coming up.
We don’t mean “Scrappy” in that we’re going to fight you in a dark alley. We really are a group of Midwest-nice folks who will always find a way to get things done for our clients. We’re “Scrappy” in that our first response to “we have an emergency,” isn’t “we need a deadline extension.” It’s, “let’s figure it out and get it done.” That’s what we mean by “Scrappy.” And you know what, it works pretty well—even if it wouldn’t get past a committee.
Scrappy, Honest + Kind
And now you know.
When you hear us say EPIC Creative is Scrappy, Honest and Kind, we mean we’re upfront with you, we’re the kind of people you’ll love to work with, and we’ll fight alongside you to achieve your goals and solve your marketing problems.
I realize this was a very long article, but as Mike used to say regarding his career successes, “If you hang out long enough, they run out of people. And here I am.”