40 Things A Creative Director Must Be and Do.
I can honestly say that I have never, not once, cared about a title. I didn’t grow up wanting to be anything with a big fancy title. If you would have asked me in high school what I wanted to be, I would have told you I wanted to be a ski bum. That’s right. I wanted to live in Colorado in a tiny shack of an apartment and teach people to ski for a few hours a day so that I could then go ski by myself the rest of the time!
But that’s not how my life went and I am thankful for that! The thing that was always there for me and always paid the bills was graphic design. I liked to draw when I was little and that led me to going to school for visual communication. I have been a “professional creative” for almost twenty years. That is crazy to think about. I have done pretty much everything: logos, brochures, magazines, catalogues, advertising, websites, branding, apps and more — all of which has ultimately led me to my favorite and most difficult role which is that of a creative director.
Currently, my title is Senior Executive Creative Director at Ramsey Solutions. In this role, I lead Dave Ramsey’s in-house team of fifty-plus designers, associate creative directors and filmmakers who are all working to bring hope and change to the world through their creative work. This year Ramsey Solutions passed 125 million in annual revenue. We have almost 600 team members. Our books have sold over 10 million copies. Our radio show and podcasts have over 12 million listers. Thousands of people have been to our live events! 2 million people have downloaded our budgeting app, EveryDollar. Over 4 million families have gone through our Financial Peace University class and our school curriculum is in 1 out of every 4 schools in America. Plus, we are building up the brands of Rachel Cruze, Chris Hogan, Christy Wright, Anthony Oneal and Chris Brown and are just getting started!
We do 99% of the work in house. And by no stretch of the imagination is any of that me on my own. I have fantastic leaders and we have an amazing team of creatives. What an incredible honor it is to work on all this.
Through stubbing my toe and making a lot of mistakes over the last few years I have learned some of what it takes to do this job. I started out wanting to make a small list of 10 things that every creative director must be and do to make great leaders, a great team, a good creative culture, great results and a place where I want to go to work everyday. The list went from 10 things . . . to 20 . . . to 30…and then I eventually had to stop at 40! I still have a lot to learn, but this is a good start!
1. You can’t care about being a creative director. You cannot strive for a position or a title. Being a creative director is about influence and passion, not position.
2. You must be a great listener.
3. You must be a humble, experienced beginner at all times.
4. You must be able to see the best in people and put them in the right seats on the bus to let them grow.
5. You must have charisma and magnetism.
6. You must be amazing at presenting your ideas.
7. You must be able to bring people together to reach a common goal.
8. You must do your best not to take credit for much of anything anymore.
9. You must be the grease in the wheels for good ideas, not the person clogging the system.
10. You must be a great communicator.
11. You must walk people through the journey of how you came up with your solution.
12. You must be obsessed with how we present our brands to the world.
13. You must be a strategic thinker.
14. You must like getting your hands dirty.
15. You must be able to break through a person’s walls and get to the truth without breaking the person.
16. You must be able to think like a business owner.
17. You must be able to see the big picture and make sure everything works together well.
18. You must have your own perspective, an angle with you approach things.
19. You must be on a mission to change the world for the better, not to be the coolest creative in the world.
20. You must have a story, not a portfolio.
21. You must have a hunger to be better all the time. You must never be satisfied with where we are now.
22. You must be confident and comfortable in your own skin.
23. You must be able to get a group of people you are not in charge of as excited as you are about where you want to go.
24. You must be painfully self-aware.
25. You must know that it might not work, but you try anyway.
26. You must not play any games, and call out the elephants when you see them.
27. You must realize that there is no they. There is only us.
28. You must care what people think, and then do the opposite if that’s what it takes.
29. You must be able to read a room better than anyone.
30. You must learn and work in the system, but then figure out ways to buck it.
31. You must be able to bring the rock and roll and swagger to whatever you’re doing.
32. You must bring an element of surprise to everything you do.
33. You must be passionate and inspiring even when you don’t feel like it.
34. You must take everything to the next level even If you think you have reached it.
35. You must make anything seem possible.
36. You must never give up trying to find the best answer.
37. You must have a discipline, whether it is design or video or writing — something you can fall back on and make something out of when you need to deliver.
38. You must serve and bring clarity to your team and the businesses you are working for.
39. You must deliver amazing work every time and not give up until you find it.
40. Finally, you must come back tomorrow, even if you have had the worst day ever.
Honestly, this is just the start. There is so much more, but if you can do all of these things with a humble heart you will start to make great leaders, a great team, a good creative culture, great results and a place where you want to go to work everyday.
If you think you have what it takes to be on the Ramsey Creative team, we have some open positions on our team. It will be the hardest and best job you’ll ever have, so don’t apply if you can’t handle difficult days. We are on a mission to change the world and changing the world is not easy. But if you are reading this and feel like you might be the right person, take a look at our openings here.