Why I have the children and pets of NYCAers on my wall.

September 17, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

I have been told to take the cute pictures of the children and pets down, it’s too emotional.  And emotion can blur the ability to see and execute with great accuracy.  I can see that.

I keep the pictures of family members up because they remind me that decisions we all make affect more than what is right in front of us. When we are so focused on one thing we lose the concept of inter-being and the truth that we are all, and everything we do is, deeply connected. We must consider that our actions and words have an effect, often lasting. We must hold ourselves accountable. This is a way of living, thinking and acting mindfully. And that will keep us all on task with accuracy and compassion.

So the cuties stay.

True blue, baby.

May 19, 2010

By Michael Mark, CEO/Creative Director @ NYCA

NYCA’s corporate color is baby blue.

We paint our walls with it, our PowerPoints show it off, so do our biz cards, our site, and our grow! studies. One of our beach cruisers was even dipped in it.

Baby blue is a mindset.

Our baby blue Electra cruiser.

We bravely fly the pirate flag of innocence. This is hard to do with a team as deeply experienced as ours.

With knowledge comes history. History brings memory. Memory can make you lazy, whispering, “Oh please, we’ve done this before; just go about it this way again.”

We firmly resist such a paint-by-numbers approach – politely, of course – as our culture is one of spirited collaboration.

We go at the daunting task of growing our clients’ businesses fortified by our daily dose of naiveté.

This beginner’s mindset is fearless, eternally optimistic and wide-eyed to better see the possible along the well-trodden road or ones forsaken just because there’s a sign that says, “Dead End.”

The world’s too young and abundant with great opportunities to be so cynical. You can’t be anything but productive and hopeful in baby blue.

Some great brands are affiliated with colors. Coke has trademarked Coca Cola red, a color suggestion from inventor John Pemberton. McDonald’s has golden arches reminiscent of its famous “golden” fries. Apple does gray to let its products star and bring the color.

Baby blue represents the vision to see and the ingenuity to create what’s next.

And it makes a great t-shirt.

You have something you believe in? What’s your color?

When Advertising Stings

April 15, 2010

By Michelle Edelman, President @ NYCA

Whether you TiVo them or skip over them, ads are an important part of our cultural experience.

I don’t know about you, but I still find it creepy when brands bring back people from the dead, cure disease, or otherwise mess with life and death. I didn’t like it when Christopher Reeve stood up and walked. Because he never would again, and it seemed somehow disrespectful to use his condition for commercial purposes. Most famously and most recently, we heard Tiger Woods’ deceased dad questioning his son’s morals. Will the much-debated TV spot sell shoes? We don’t know. But probably Nike is on your mind now. You are noticing that swoosh on people’s feet and heads more than you used to. It’s not that there is suddenly more Nike out there, it’s that Nike is more present for you. That’s what advertising can do, at its best. Because when it’s time to go shopping, the swoosh will jump out at you then, too.

But still, it feels like a dirty trick. And that’s where advertising stings. A sting has both pleasure and pain associated with it. Or so we said in our advertising campaign for the good/bad nightclub, Stingaree. There is a certain truth in it – our brains can mix up good and bad feelings and there is intensity in this.

I didn’t mean to write this post about Tiger Woods. Actually I wanted to address this piece of copy. It stopped me because I thought – wow that woman looks uncannily like Gilda Radner! Whom I loved and miss. On further inspection, I found that the ad was using her image to sell fake wood flooring. Point taken. Looks real. But would Gilda want to be brought back to life to shill laminate? Do we want her to? The ad represents her beautifully and yet – misrepresents her wholly. I am left feeling that Armstrong is inauthentic and not simply fake.

Sometimes advertising points out its own lines to be crossed and that in itself, is part of our cultural learning.

Hiring For The grow! Gene

January 14, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @NYCA

Hiring is more and more the key to our success. We are out of the way of others in our industry and we need to be a destination point – not geographically but for services provided.

The cultural and the technically-fit fit here. One without the other won’t work. I read that those whom people like will be better on a team than those who are disliked but are stronger at their discipline. If that makes the team better and the work better, then I see that as a win, win.

Our hiring process is long and slow and deep and expensive. There are interviews over the phone, in our offices, via email, on our social site; presentations, group discussions, test projects, reference checks.  We have many of our people meeting, weighing, and prodding the candidate. All to meet people who have the ‘grow gene,’ as we call it – curious, beginner-minded though experienced in their field, irrepressible (with lots of bounce-backability); mentally strong enough to be a loner yet community-minded enough to be able to collaborate with abandon. When people say our work is great we measure that by the growth in the marketplace that the work helped stimulate. Our key indicators that we can achieve such growth are in the right people for us and our clients.

Hire slow, fire less, grow more.

Creating Harmonious Chaos

April 16, 2009

From Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO at NYCA.


10 Tips for creating a culture that fosters the corporate spirit of harmonious chaos, inspires great work and a better world. Any successful business owner will tell you that staff will make or break a company. Turnover is not only expensive, but also can be devastating to morale and work quality, taking away from other resources to find, train and indoctrinate new employees.

nyca_flowers_1In order to succeed, business owners have to focus a large percentage of their time (at least 25 percent) to creating a culture with a goal: harmonious chaos.

Working at a growing and entrepreneurial company is demanding work. The hours are long and chaos is part of the deal. Keeping employees happy and energized to return the next day, helping your business grow, is critical.

Your team needs a guide on how to succeed and how to create a “culture club” of their own within the company. The guide should contain reminders of what employees already know on how to think and behave and grow the businesses and the community.

The guide can also include activities, events and symbols to foster this club of culture. Everything from golf outings to personalized watering cans for each employee to remind them that they are growers – Planting a grove of trees representing client growth and art classes- these are all ideas to foster a culture that will spur energy and ideas.

In a nutshell, 10 things any company can do to create a better culture to grow better work are:

1. State in writing what the organization is about – clarity is key and find only people who love the vision and repeat it all the time.

2. Take care of the basics – insurance, comfortable chairs, good lighting – sounds simple but it works! Allow employees to make their space personal, have food around – healthy and unhealthy.

3. Listen carefully – no, really carefully to the employees – have some feelers out and people who will tell you what you don’t want to hear because it is good for you – and respond.

4. Celebrate when it goes right. Give spot bonuses – Starbucks coffee cards, afternoon off, flowers, parking spaces, you name it.

5. Tell the truth – allow criticism, say you’re sorry – be a human place. Always celebrate the victories – and be honest about the errors.

6. Be who you are. Don’t be silly thinking it will get you what you want if you’re not silly – it won’t take you where you want to be unless it fits.

7. Work is personal – people spend a lot (sometimes almost all) their time there – when you hire someone, make sure you see the person as an individual and how they fit in the team.

8. Families – you don’t just hire the employee — you bring the family into your extended family.fruit-from-our-clients-tree

9. Have a mission, a cause that is bigger than your P/L that they can sign up for.

10. Create a culture club – put people in responsible positions.

11. Understand who your employees are – they are not like you. They may be younger, older, from another country, even planet (if you’re lucky) – be in touch. Give them the goals and the environment and they will do the rest.


OK, so being on the creative side, that’s 12 tips instead of 10. The end result of these tips is to increase the creativity quotient within company walls – the quotient must go up to solve serious problems and move to the next level. Creating a culture club can steer the work to fulfill promises for all involved.

Just because you’re old and a leader don’t make you Moses

March 5, 2009
From Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO at NYCA

I make more mistakes than anyone at NYCA. Probably why I wrote in the “Seeds” booklet that it’s not only okay but it’s mandatory to make Big mistakes. I figured that was a liberating sentiment, show I wasn’t a tyrant and it would double as my oft-needed loophole.

Well, that was another mistake.

“Seeds,” I should tell you, is a booklet I wrote, which each employee gets when they seedsbook_01become an official NYCAer. It’s 64 tidbits on how to excel, how to grow! Common sense like “spend the clients’ money as if it were your own” and ‘Do as you say, integrity is better than pie.” (We do like our pie at NYCA). Short, pithy – nothing heavy, based on the Ten Commandments but with a bit of contemporary sass. The mistake-oriented one went like this:

“Fail every day. Make mistakes. Big ones. Just learn from each one. If you didn’t make a mistake today, you either didn’t recognize it or you didn’t try something new. Better luck at failing tomorrow.”

Catchy, I thought.

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