FIVE MINUTES WITH JUSTIN TOBIN
In an interview with Communicate magazine, Justin Tobin, former chief agent at American Express, speaks about his business venture Gather, an innovation guidance firm, what role social media plays in today’s business world and how freelance has changed over the years.
What led you to found Gather?
10 years ago, I was a chief change agent at American Express, but I was constantly struggling to find the right help to achieve my goals. Internal processes were often too restrictive and external vendors were too disconnected from the internal teams to be efficient, which is what ultimately led to me creating Gather. Our sole mission now at Gather is to make those trying to transform companies successful by being the partner clients wish for, but never knew existed. Even though we are a collective of many different people with different skills, there is nothing haphazard about how we build a Gather team. We work with our clients to understand their needs and assemble the right team of people - a mix of our deep pool of practitioners alongside a client’s internal resources – to build the plan and do the work. Together, we create the content, culture, strategy, products, messaging, business and communication plans that activate our clients’ vision in the world
What pushed you to rebrand DDG to Gather? What impact do you hope this rebrand will have?
In light of the new career paradigm, we felt it was important that our name better reflect our offering for both clients and our network of entrepreneurs. Gather is a literal and figurative reflection of what we do and the impact of our work. We gather people, ideas, momentum, and confidence. For those who know us, the new name makes sense. For those who don’t, it has greater recall and an appealing aesthetic. My hope is that when people see the new Gather name, logo, and website, they will immediately understand the relationship between the name and the ideas, people, and strategy we gather.
How has freelance in the industry changed since you’ve first started working at DDG/ Gather?
Although there are now others, we were the first collective of independent thinkers and practitioners in the marketing space. Demand for independent practitioners and executives has grown over the past 10 years, at the same time more and more practitioners are looking for a more flexible career. The idea of being independent but not alone is very appealing to freelancers and entrepreneurs. The gig economy isn’t going away any time soon, yet joining a collective like Gather is more attractive than going it alone.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to set up a startup?
To launch your own company, you have to be fully committed to it. The foundation and vision for your startup have to reflect the essence of who you are as a person and your beliefs about the world and the people in it. You can’t go into it thinking that if you fail, you’ll just go back to an old job. You have to be fully committed to making your dream a reality.
How can Gather help clients achieve a more sustainable business?
It comes down to us being able to provide a flexible, diversified portfolio of talent. We can bring experts across many disciplines in any field, all with unique perspective and motivation, which is so enticing for our clients. If you’re investing your money, you wouldn’t put it all into one stock. You have to do the same with talent. We provide our clients with sustainable talent solutions that enable them to grow without taking on excess expenses.
As VP of interactive strategy and transformation at Amex, you developed its first social media strategy and mobile offering. What role does social media and more generally technological innovation play in your business nowadays?
As an innovation guidance firm, it is critical that we are intimately familiar with the pros and cons of all the technology solutions available to our clients, so we can advise them on how to best integrate the best tech solutions into their businesses. Our clients are trusting us with the knowledge and experience to make technological recommendations to help them transform their businesses.