Montana State University alumnus Jack Anderson is CEO and creative director of one of the world's leading communications design firms.
But he says one of the most important aspects of the job isn't even part of the job description - and that's designing an office culture that fosters teamwork, trust and creativity.
"My job is to run and manage the firm, but when I get up in the morning, I feel like my job is also to go in and inspire, to lead by example, for the purpose of leveraging the brain trust to produce better work," Anderson said.
Anderson, who grew up in Great Falls and now lives in Seattle, co-founded Hornall Anderson Design Works more than 26 years ago. (His co-founder, John Hornall, retired about four years ago). The international communications firm based in Seattle has grown to a little more than 120 employees and offers a range of services to meet clients' needs, from market research to brand strategy to naming and design.
Among the company's best-known clients are Starbucks, the Seattle SuperSonics, K2, Microsoft, Holland America Line, T-Mobile, Safeco and Tommy Bahama. Those clients are just several of a diverse group with whom the company works, ranging from service and manufacturing companies such as PayPal to retailers like Nordstrom and financial institutions such as Wells Fargo. "Our goal is to work with clients that believe smart, insightful design is a critical part of their business success," Anderson explained in an unofficial vision statement.
"We seek long-term partnerships that range from global enterprises to the small bakery on the corner." Nebulous talk about office environment and culture is hard to nail down as a job requirement, but Anderson's efforts to create such an atmosphere are among his proudest accomplishments.
"I'm happy with the culture we've created," he said. "I think (relationships with people) have been a big part of the success of the firm." Anderson said he has transformed himself over the last few years from a reluctant leader to someone who seeks to inspire others. "I went through the process of reinventing the office and myself," said Anderson, who has worked with an executive coach for about five years. "I had to rethink how I'd been managing myself. It's made an amazing difference. I'm quite proud of that." Anderson said he has fond memories of his time at MSU, from which he graduated in 1975.
"Those five years were a phenomenal experience for me. I felt like the school was mine," Anderson said. "It wasn't just a series of classes. It was like the whole school was available." And Anderson said dabbling in lots of different subjects at MSU -which he thought might be a handicap to his career before he began working -actually worked to his advantage. "It turns out it was part of the greatest gift," Anderson said. "It gave me this sense of experimentation, the courage to be entrepreneurial; it gave me a confidence about how to pull all these things together." Anderson's advice to recent college graduates is to simply keep learning. "It's a tricky blend of having enough confidence without arrogance," he said. "If you are curious, and deeply passionate, it will work out. "This is one of the coolest professions for learning all about the world," he added.