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“I think the first thing to come along that I could say legitimized the business was our work with Jim Beam.”

A lifelong designer-turn-serial entrepreneur, Patrick King, founded Imagine on an approach to marketing known for being clean, simple and direct, having created such successful campaigns for Rolls Royce, Nestle and Jim Beam, and now focusing specifically A/E/C and law firms.

Headquartered in Northern Virginia, with offices in Chicago and San Diego, Imagine is a full-service integrated marketing communications and web design/development agency for commercial construction, real estate and law firms. Their claim to fame has been their ability to marry a clean, no-nonsense approach to marketing strategy and design with an office culture that encourages autonomy and creative freedom.


BusinessInterviews.com: Can you tell us how you managed to start and develop a company with a mere $14.00? What was an early milestone that made you feel that the business would be a success?

Patrick: Since I had no money, the best I could do was barter and shoestring everything – going to free networking events, advertising on Craigslist – anything that I could do for free. That practice has stuck with me today. I wouldn’t say that I’m a hardcore miser, but if I see a paper clip on the floor, I’m saving it.

I think the first thing to come along that I could say legitimized the business was our work with Jim Beam. Now that we had work with a client that everyone knew, we had some experience to leverage. It wasn’t much (one single client seldom is), but it did land us some larger accounts.

BusinessInterviews.com: Can you elaborate on the importance of having an integrated approach when it comes to marketing?

Patrick: In the past, companies could get by with multiple vendors to get their message out, because there weren’t so many outlets. Traditional media was straightforward 20 years ago in comparison to the online/offline world we live in today.
Today, we have social media, email marketing, video (not just television), search engine optimization, content strategy and development on top of our traditional tools. It’s critical to work with a team that knows how to develop a strategy with a greater level of complexity – a firm that knows which of the myriad of outlets will work, and to what degree.

One could use different vendors for each of these, but vendor management will soon end up being all that they do.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you talk about the process behind building an office culture that encourages autonomy and creative freedom?

Patrick: I started the firm with three objectives: to make a profit, have fun, and make a difference in our community. As long as we’ve stuck to those three, we’ve grown. When we stray, we suffer. So, I make sure that there’s a relaxing environment that’s conducive to creativity, and community outreach involvement that help them achieve a greater sense of purpose, to counter the quick pace of work that we have here.

In hiring, I make sure that there’s not only talent, but also a pursuit in line with those principles. I’ve learned that, once you create this type of environment, your staff will work the late nights, break out of their comfort zone and really be a driving force of the company. In fact, I often have to tell my staff to go home at the end of the day. The old maxim is still true, “if you take care of your team, they’ll take care of your business”.

BusinessInterviews.com: You’re currently in the process of developing the community service side of your company, calling it the “Imagine Better” project. Where does your strong sense of social responsibility come from?

Patrick: I didn’t grow up in the best of circumstances, whether my horror stories were self-inflicted or not. In a lot of situations, some quite extreme, I’ve been at the mercy of other people’s charity. I not only feel like it’s everyone’s obligation to help out his or her neighbor; I also feel like I have a lot of karma to pay back.

The “Imagine Better” Project is our way of solidifying this commitment. By creating this brand, we’re taking our passion for community support out from being a buried page on our web site, to give it the visibility we feel it deserves. The project will also have some rigid requirements t ensure that we’re not just giving away the shop.

BusinessInterviews.com: What are some trends in your industry that you’re excited about or think that our readers should be paying attention to?

Patrick: Keep an eye on where technology is taking us, and how much of it actually benefits our life. I’m not particularly old-fashioned, but I do notice the disconnect we’re experiencing in an “interconnected” world. I hope we can make it a point to put the cellphone down enough to stay in touch with the world in front of us, and to prefer physical immersion in our environments and experiences. It is still much more rewarding.

BusinessInterviews.com: How do you plan to keep the momentum going?

Patrick: Loving what I do. That’s never going to stop, so neither will I. I guess it’s that simple.

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