Shannon: I met Shayne and Julie through my mentor Steve Whittington (and now president of Roadmap) and started freelancing for them and their agency, Graphic Intuitions in early 2019. Fast forward to a couple of years later and we’ve all joined forces with our united passion to drive meaningful change within small to medium-sized businesses. Shayne is the Director of Technology & Development and Julie is the Director of Operations for our new company, Roadmap Agency Inc. Now that the dust has died down after launching our new firm, I wanted to catch up with them and dive deeper into their backgrounds and how this married couple has been successfully working side-by-side for the past 15 years!
Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?
Julie: I was born in Winnipeg and raised in Morris, Manitoba. I attended a 4-year joint Communications program with Red River College and the University of Winnipeg. The Creative Communications program provided education and experience in a number of marketing and communication fields, but I set my focus on Public Relations, graduating with a diploma in PR and a Degree in Communications.
Shayne: I was born in Dauphin, where my family lived in Winnipegosis, before settling in Morris, Manitoba and I’ve been here since grade one. My dad was a teacher and taught both my sister and I, and Julie! After high school I attended the University of Manitoba for engineering, but my heart wasn’t in it. One of the best parts of that experience though was living in residence at the U of M where I met one of my life long best friends. I always had a passion for graphics and computer technology so after that I went to the Applied Multimedia Training Centre in Winnipeg and received a diploma in Multimedia Design and Communication.
How did you get started in agency life?
Julie: I didn’t think I would start my career in Morris, but after graduating in 2003 I came back home for the summer to figure out my next move, and there happened to be an opening at a local marketing agency, which was rare for a small town like ours to have. The opportunity allowed me to work back in my hometown which I loved, and it’s also where I met Shayne.
Shayne: Right after I got my diploma I started with a company in Morris called Agri Marketing and worked there for almost 10 years. I started in 1997, and that is where I learned and honed my graphic and web design skills. Steve, the President of Roadmap, joined the company a few years later. Steve and I worked on many projects over the years and we loved working together. This is also where I met the love of my life Julie. Steve left after a few years to pursue his careers out West, and I followed in 2006 to start Graphic Intuitions (GI). By this point, Julie and I were married. She also left Agri Marketing around the same time but took another full time job as an account manager with a company in Winnipeg before we had enough work at GI to bring her onboard.
Why did you get started with GI?
Julie: We felt like we could do more for our clients and to do that we needed a fresh start with our own company. Shayne’s skillset was focused on graphic and web design so he started by offering those services to a few clients and then once we had enough work coming in, I came on to project manage and do the daily operations for the business.
What is the best/worst part of running your own business?
Julie: The best part is creating an environment that we enjoy being in and that our team enjoys. Really, it is about having the freedom to create the type of atmosphere we want for staff and clients alike. Growing up in a small town where you know everyone – it forces you to have close relationships with your friends and neighbours. And that’s something we really value and strive to have with the people we work with. At the same time, I have found the hardest part for me is managing staff, and particularly having to make hard decisions when things aren’t working out, or losing them when other opportunities come along. We form such close bonds with our staff that they honestly feel like family, and so it’s always difficult to have someone move on from the company, but the majority of them we still keep in contact with and celebrate their successes. All of those past experiences, no matter how hard they were, have allowed me to grow and become a better manager, so I’m extremely grateful for them.
Shayne: The best parts are building relationships with clients, seeing their projects come to life and the impact that the projects have on their business. I’ve never had a problem pulling all-nighters when working on tight deadlines for a client if that is what is best for the project. I find that rewarding. But it isn’t only the clients I enjoy building relationships with, it is also our team. I see our team as family, and family is something Julie and I believe strongly in so this has become a big part of our culture. A lot of work goes into owning your own business, maybe that is because we want it to be the best possible experience for clients and employees. It comes down to the fact that we just want to see both succeed. Sometimes the best parts can be the worst parts – it’s really rewarding building a team and fostering relationships with people, but it can be hard to find that balance between friendship and managing employees.
What attracted you to communications, marketing and entrepreneurship?
Julie: I was always interested in marketing and communications and working with clients was something that was important to me. I never set out to be an entrepreneur – but growing up my family owned their own business and I always liked the idea of working for myself, so it makes sense that I found that path.
Shayne: I’ve always been drawn to telling a client’s story and portraying who they really are through branding and websites. I am rewarded by seeing them grow and truly love to see others succeed. Towards the end of our time with Agri Marketing, we saw an opportunity to create a company that would support a positive working environment for us, our staff and clients. So really, we just took that next step. It was a “good timing” thing and so entrepreneurship came fairly naturally.
What are your biggest challenges/benefits to working with your husband/wife?
Julie: Just keeping that home/work-life balance is a challenge. And also just remembering to continue to push and drive each other – it’s easy to get comfortable and let things slide when you work with your spouse, so it’s important we hold each other accountable while continuing to motivate each other. But honestly, it hasn’t been too difficult since I get to go to work with my best friend every day. That would be the biggest benefit – when I think that every day I get to spend it with my favourite person – I don’t quite know how I got so lucky.
Shayne: Keeping work and life separate is tough. We have an unwritten rule that we try not to talk about work at home. The benefit to me is that I find support and confidence working with Julie, we are great partners that way. We also know each other so well that we know exactly when something is off, so we just step in and talk about it. Having that ability is huge and provides so much support.
How do you find balance between work/life when you work together?
Shayne: It becomes a challenge at times. We have an eight-year-old daughter and there is not always someone around to look after her if we are pulling longer hours. So we end up taking turns spending time with our daughter and basically play tag on the weekends where one of us is in the office and the other is at home. We also know that time away from work is needed, so we try to get out to our cottage as much as possible for dedicated family time.
Julie: At the same time, I think we are very fortunate with our situation. We live only blocks away from our office and her school – so we get to take turns dropping her off and picking her up and she hangs out at the office after school quite often. We both get to enjoy that time with her, which isn’t always the case with working parents.
How long did you run Graphic Intuitions for and what made you want to launch a new agency with me and Steve?
Julie: 2006 is when we started Graphic Intuitions and Steve came on as our Managing Director in 2012. We knew we had limitations to growth, and we could only grow it so far with the two of us. Having Steve made a huge impact on our business but joining forces with you and Steve meant we could offer a more robust set of services to our clients.
Shayne: We could see the gaps in our service offerings, ones that could truly take our clients to the next level, and these are what both you and Steve bring. Moreover though, Julie and I both saw the same passion we had with clients in the both of you and so we knew we could do something pretty great together.
What were/are your biggest challenges when starting a new agency?
Julie: Merging processes and teams has been the biggest challenge.
Shayne: Yes, combining teams and understanding individual work styles. Each group that came together in our merger had its own processes and ways they worked. None of which were wrong, they were just different. So the challenge was (and we are still working on this) to create an agreed-upon set of processes and getting our new team aligned while also considering individual working styles.
We have a business coach, how has this helped when starting to work with four individual entrepreneurs?
Julie: I think it is great! I communicate easier and open myself up more to someone that is outside of our ownership group. For me, it is a great opportunity to discuss concerns, work on myself and improve. I think he has been great for me personally and our group’s communication.
Shayne: I’ve always been skeptical of coaches and had this negative connotation in my head about them. Now, I wish we had done it sooner! He has helped me grow and become a better leader. He uncovers a lot of things that we, ourselves could never see. I am learning so much more about myself, which is helping with not only business relationships but personal ones as well.
What types of projects are your favorites to work on?
Julie: I like projects that I can work on from start to finish and see the results. When I have a happy client and a team that is proud of what they accomplished, those are the most rewarding ones.
Shayne: The ones that feel the best to me are where clients are fully involved in the process but give us creative freedom. Having that level of engagement and complete trust in our abilities is so rewarding.
SK2 Custom Homes is a great example. Every team member played an important part in the project, the client was really engaged, and the finished product is something both the client and our team is extremely proud of.
What is your favourite campaign you’ve worked on?
Shayne: To be honest, and this may sound super cheesy, but it is pretty much all of them. I am the type of person who pours my heart and soul into my work and as a result I think I get something new out of every project. I absolutely love hearing the passion in our clients voices and to be given the opportunity to express that through design is pretty amazing.
What qualities do you value most in your clients/staff/partners?
Julie: Honesty, trust and integrity are important to me. I have to have trust in the people I work with.
Shayne: Drive, ambition, and thinking outside of the box is something I really value. So many times people get locked into doing things a certain way and don’t change. Having the ability to see an opportunity where no one has before is invigorating. That “always learning” mindset goes along way with me.
What are the most rewarding things you’ve done/learned in life so far?
Julie: Well, creating this company has been extremely rewarding and I’m constantly learning every day. But at the end of the day, it’s just work, and what really matters is the people you love and being present with them. Whenever I’m spending time with Shayne or Sawyer and my brain starts to drift to something work related, I remind myself to snap out of it and focus on what is happening right there and cherish it, since it goes by so fast. And life is very unpredictable – you can plan for all sorts of things, but life can change in an instant, so it’s important to focus on the things that really matter.
Shayne: Our daughter! I love seeing things through Sawyer’s eyes. It is so enlightening how she takes everything in for the first time and how inquisitive she is. Julie and I have always been very proud that the company we created was able to give our employees what they needed in life and provided a family-like atmosphere. That feels like a huge achievement for us and the fact that we get to carry that on and expand upon it with Roadmap is great. One of the most rewarding things that will carry on for a lifetime are the amazing friendships we have created with clients and more importantly our staff.
What are your favourite hobbies? What do you do on your off time?
Julie: We like to do things together as a family, hanging out with our daughter, Sawyer and going for walks, that simple stuff is fun for me. We love spending time at our cabin on Lake of the Woods, there is no stress when you are at the lake, my body and mind just feel better there.
Shayne: The lake, going to the cabin is our escape. We all love it there, as soon as you are on the road you can feel the weight lift from your shoulders. We also like to travel, and our daughter loves it too! We often go on holidays with my parents and it is so much fun.
What books are on your bookshelves? Any good shows you’re watching?
Julie: I like to get lost in a good fiction novel or drama series. Though the majority of books I’ve read lately are during our daughter’s bedtime routine (I keep thinking we must have read all the Geronimo Stilton books by now, but they just keep coming).
Shayne: I’m not a book reader. I do enjoy blog articles though, and Medium is one of my favourite sources. Lately I have been diving into design systems. My guilty pleasure though would have to be British crime series shows like Broadchurch or Shetland. I just finished a series called The Missing, that was absolutely amazing.
What are your favourite podcasts?
Julie: I enjoy comedy podcasts, something I can listen to that is fun.
1. Smartless with Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett
2. I Mom So Hard – this one is very entertaining if you are a mother!