Jamie Butterworth is managing partner and CEO at Studio III Marketing, a creative marketing agency based in Los Angeles, California. Jamie’s background includes everything from crop farming and beekeeping to offset printing and typography, all learned through working in the trenches of these professions. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, where he currently resides with his wife, three children, and two dogs. He is an avid sports fan, and loves to play soccer and golf as much as his busy life will allow.
How did the concept for Studio III Marketing come about?
I was not the founder of Studio III. Two friends of mine, a cosmetic dentist and a marketing guru, teamed up back in 2011 and started the company. At the time, I had a consulting business so was always peripherally involved, but I didn’t start it. The concept of Studio III was primarily the brainchild of the marketing guy, Matt, who wanted to create a different type of marketing company (I guess everyone says that!), but with the Beverly Hills cosmetic dentist as his partner, there was always a drive toward something different, boutique for higher-end clientele, but at the same time, very results-driven and honest.
How was the first year in business?
It was very hand-to-mouth. We had to get results in order to create word of mouth for more clients. There wasn’t really an option for failure in the beginning (and still isn’t honestly), as there was no investment; the company was sustaining itself on its own, right away. Despite the obvious hypocrisy, we never spent money on marketing.
What was your marketing strategy?
In the beginning, it was all simply getting fantastic results to create word of mouth – this is the best, and always will be the best, form of marketing that is out there. And that is exactly what happened: we started in a small community where word travels fast, and that is how our initial success propelled us in the first year. Keep in mind, I was on the outside observing this for the most part, but closely followed all of this, and saw the group expanding as well as successful clients.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Within two years, there were around ten employees. That was when I started. When I came on board, three of the main executives were transitioning out, so there was a bit of a “Second Founding” described by Eric Reis in his The Lean Startup book, in which I had to re-establish the core of the company around 6-8 key executives and then build from there. This was the point when growth began to accelerate, adding more than 10 people per year as we grew. Keep in mind, there still was no investment at any point. Within 7 years, we were up to 56 full-time employees in our offices in Atwater Village, Los Angeles, and we plan to add another 12-15 employees in 2019.
How do you define success?
That’s a great question. I’m going into my fifth year, with 55+ employees, Inc. 5000 two years running, over 300 clients all over the US, and it still feels like we are a small, close-knit company that is very insignificant in the larger industry of marketing companies.
I believe success is defined by the amount of people you can affect positively, and the amount of real, tangible positive change you can make for them and their lives. This applies to my clients just as well as it applies to our employees and my partners. Money has something to do with it, but it isn’t the goal, and never has been.
What is the key to success?
Empowering others. More specifically, when you are given power or control, getting great people to work with you, and giving them as much power/control as you can so they have their own personal growth that only builds on yours. And make sure they are the right people first, of course – trust always comes into the equation, but you have to find those people if you want to grow.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Never stop learning, question everything, even yourself. Ideas that are fixed and unmovable, and an unwillingness to look/inspect, ultimately kill you.
What are some of your favorite books?
I was really moved by Richard Branson’s bio, Losing My Virginity. Studying some of the top entrepreneurs of our time (Jobs, Musk, Branson, Bezos), Richard Branson stood out to me. Maybe, because he actually wrote his own book, but I don’t think that was it. It was because he created massive companies in many different fields and believed in trusting people and letting go of power. Back to the point about empowering people – he did this very well and that impressed me.
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
A client once called me at 10:00 PM at night crying because he had been diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer, and he was worried about his business being able to carry on. He also just had his first child, and as a father of three, this was a tough night. Not to mention, I lost my father to cancer 10 years ago, but my company ultimately exists to help businesses grow, so the idea that we couldn’t help this client was devastating – at the bottom of all of this business talk, people are people and you have to remember that everything you do, every day, impacts someone.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
My friends, partners, and family, who are one and the same at this point. We have a core foundation of people who ultimately are best friends, ride or die, at the top of the company. When I’m faced with adversity, I rely on them to pick me up and set me straight. They have done it (and conversely, me for them) plenty of times over the years.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Never stop questioning, learning, but don’t forget doing is a part of learning, and perhaps the most important part.
This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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