Taking the High Road in Business

What difference can taking the high road make?


Glen Jackson, co-founder of marketing communications agency Jackson Spalding, shares a few leadership lessons he’s learned since he and his co-founder, Bo Jackson, started their business in 1995.

“When you start off with nothing… you really do appreciate every day and you never take it for granted,” says Glen. “You've been to that place, and you don't want to go back to it. You want to keep working hard.”

Watch the video to learn some of the business acumen Glen has garnered since starting his company nearly 25 years ago.

When we started our business in 1995, we literally started from scratch, and had some bad rented furniture and a couple of cheesy posters. And cash flow was not necessarily flowing. And I had played soccer in college, and was coaching a small girls soccer team, and one of the dads asked to see me after practice and come to our office. He had heard that we had started a business. And Armie Perry was his name, and he came to see me. And told me about a promotion his company was doing with Walmart. And we listened and he shared that they had hired a New York agency. But we continued to talk to Armie and listen about their needs, and gave him some ideas. And we put those ideas on paper and sent those to him.

And he loved the ideas, and called us back about a week later, when our cash flow was still almost at nothing, and offered to pay us for the ideas. He thought they were so good. And I took a deep breath, it was the first time I realized that I was "a business owner" and I had a decision to make. And I told him that we could not accept the money, that we wanted him to keep the plan and give it to the New York agency. And that we wanted the best for them.

And he asked again to reconsider the payment and I said no. And Bo Spalding, my terrific partner of 22 years, agreed with that decision. And a couple of weeks later, Armie called back and said, "We made a decision this morning to hire Jackson Spalding. We loved the plan. We were impressed with the commitment of sticking to your values and not accepting the money. And we just FedExed you a check to get started." So that propelled us forward.

We've had some interesting things happen at JS over the years. We had a piece of business that we came in second on, and I called our potential client and thanked him for the opportunity to be considered for that work, and left him a voicemail, very quickly after we got the news that we didn't get the work. And he forwarded that message to the CEO and said, "I want you to listen to this. This is why I wanted to pick Jackson Spalding." And they changed the decision the next day and hired us.

It's amazing. You never know what can happen when you take the high road. And when we were young, in 1999, we were fortunate to win the Delta Airlines business. And we were one of over 10 firms considered for that. And they took a risk for us, and every day I thank them for them taking a risk to put their trust in our hands.

Before that, when I was a young man, I lost my dad when I was 19. And Dad was a D-Day tank driver. He was a POW for a year in Germany. Escaped, recaptured. And Dad died when I was 19 and he was my hero. We lost him tragically. And he gave me so much in 19 years that deep down I've just tried to honor him every day.

So, when you start off with nothing, and just a few things, you really do appreciate every day and you never take it for granted because you've been to that place, and you don't want to go back to it. You want to keep working hard.
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Glen Jackson

Glen Jackson co-founded Jackson Spalding in 1995. He provides leadership for the agency, many of its clients and organizations looking for inspiration. He has special expertise in real estate, professional services, crisis communicat...

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