If You Look Good In Khakis, This Job Is Not For You: An Interview with Chuck Longanecker
This is part of our Entrepreneur Interview series.
Sometimes, rolling into work with a freshly ironed pair of pleated pants, or khakis, is enough to make you realize this job is not for you. An environment lacking passion, inspiration and void of fulfilment, is – well – soul crushing. If this sounds like you (and you don’t do well with authority) you might relate to the talented Chuck Longanecker, the founder of Digital Telepathy. And about those khakis …. read on and be inspired by Chucks story.
Build a Culture Around Soul and Fulfilment
Why did you start Digital Telepathy?
When I graduated college, I did precisely what I thought I was supposed to do; I moved to the big city (Chicago) and got a job with a big ass corporation (Arthur Andersen). I was a complete fish out of water – I didn’t do well with authority, never wanted to follow process and looked terrible in khakis. It was soul crushing – I never felt passionate or fulfilled with the work I was doing.
When I turned 25, I felt that I should do something significant to celebrate turning a quarter century. So in 2001, I decided to start an internet company….great idea. It took a long time to find success, but I loved the struggle, the wins and more than anything, being unconventional and doing things our way. I was determined to take the opposite approach of my experiences in corporate America and build a culture around soul, meaning and fulfillment. To this day, our culture is still the #1 priority of our company and guides everything we do. The more we do what feels right, the more success we find.
Take Stress With a Grain of Salt
What is the hardest part about being an entrepreneur?
Dealing with stress. With any other job, you can go home at night and know that, in most cases, the company you work for is somebody else’s problem. In the case of the entrepreneur, you go home and think about your product, the bills, your employee’s prosperity…etc. It never leaves you, it just occasionally moves from the front to the back of your mind.
But here’s the deal – we are not victims of stress, we generate it. It’s because we always want to be better and are never ok with status quo. In this case, stress keeps us going, keeps us innovating and keeps us caring. You just have to learn how to wield it correctly and turn it into drive.
Preserve Authenticity Regardless of Success
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
I am always inspired by people who make it big by staying true to themselves. It’s one thing to hustle your way to the top. It’s a wholly different thing to authentically make it there.
I think of people like Richard Branson. He doesn’t hide who he is with backdoor business tactics; he uses his unique personality as fuel to do things differently.
Empower Excellence of Any Kind
You explain in a recent personal blog post: Organizational Arete, that there is excellence in everyone and it is up to a great leader to expel that greatness. Other than your companies Betterment Bonus, what do you do as a leader to encourage greatness?
Arete for us is not just living at your full potential, it’s seeing the potential of people around you and pulling it out of them.
I think my best opportunity as a leader is to empower others to be leaders. I used to want to be the guy on stage impressing the audience. I’ve learned that it’s more powerful to inspire others to be on that stage. Each person is different, so I spend time uncovering their potential and unique gifts. We encourage each other to use our gifts in their everyday life in and out of the office.
Instead of reviews, we have Betterment meetings where we discuss how each team member wants to grow. We also have lunch together as a team twice a week and take the time to recognize each other for their leadership.
Diversify Your Content Marketing Formula
In understanding what Onboardly does (PR and Content Marketing for Startups), how have you used either (or both) to grow Digital Telepathy?
We have an entire division of the company dedicated to publishing content. We have a very active blog that discusses how design impacts business. We also just launched DT.tv, a show about design trends. We also have a private email magazine called the Design Standard that offers a quarterly view on upcoming standards in design (think of topics like flat design or story-driven experiences).
All of these efforts help us grow our brand reach, raise awareness for our services and collect valuable feedback from our community.
Give Away All The Secrets
Any tips, tricks, or things you have never shared before (that you will for us) that have helped you launch or grow your company?
Be as karmic as possible. We always try to give away our greatest attributes. We blog about our entire design process, we invite people into our office to absorb our culture and we give advice and strategy to potential clients instead of a sales pitch.
Chuck is the founder of the UX design company, digital-telepathy. He has the ambitious goal of improving the design of the web by introducing new design standards that improve the way that people create and interact with digital content.