Entrepreneurial Spotlight

Church+State’s Ron Tite on Seizing Consumer Attention

Photo credit: Joel Nadel

In this series, we profile entrepreneurs approaching the top of their game, and ask them how they got there. This week, former professional comedian, speaker and CEO of creative agency Church+State speaks to capturing the public’s attention in his new book.

Ron Tite’s book Think. Do. Say. argues that these days consumers no longer vote with their dollars but their time and attention. In our over-saturated media world, having access to too much information is a bad thing, Tite says.

Rather than speak on positive corporate initiatives, he argues, consumers would much rather experience positive change—choosing to support brands in a similar fashion to how they used to choose political parties in the past.

Here, Tite speaks to Bay Street Bull about working in a creative industry, being a Jays fan and his favourite everyday tools for work.

Q & A

What do you enjoy most about the industry you’re in?

It’s not just that I’m in a creative field, it’s that I’m surrounded by creative people who strive to be unique in thought and action. There are too many “jargon-filled, template-driven, let-the-numbers-decide” approaches to business and it’s inspiring to constantly pursue originality. Besides, this is way more fun than finance.

Best advice you have ever been given?

1. Only rocket science is rocket science. You can do whatever the hell you want.
2. The best way to succeed in this business is simple: Take care of people.

What is one trait you have, that you find has attributed to your success?

My ability to articulate my ideas in compelling ways. With 20 years on stage as a stand-up comedian, I can read a room, work a room, and get people to pay attention. The ability to make people laugh doesn’t hurt, either.

What is the lesson you took the longest to learn?

That for some tasks, process and structure are your friends. They can help you spend more time on the stuff that really matters. Also, I wish I was comfortable with the idea of a work uniform early in my career.

Who are your some of your role models?

I’ve always loved Steve Martin’s career. Standup, acting, screenplays, novels, plays, art. He’s done it all.

What makes it all worth it?

Client success is fulfilling. Seeing our people grow is wonderful. The applause of a crowd is tingling. But absolutely nothing beats hanging out with my family at our cottage on a warm summer day. Cannonball!!!

What long term goals do you have?

There should only be one goal: Complete and total happiness. There are a million different ways that I can achieve that, and I haven’t even scratched the surface on exploring what some of those are. Some are in business. Some are not. Luckily, my curiosity is stronger than my apathy.

DAILY GLIMPSE

Mornings: Breakfast of Banana, yogurt, and toast with my son. Daycare drop-off. Listen to a podcast in the car. Latte at Louie. Usually in the office by 9-ish. Like most people on the planet, I don’t exercise nearly as much as I should. As a Queen’s Physical Health Education grad, that may depress people. If I did the Canada Fitness Test now, I’m afraid I’d get a participation pin. 

Workday: On a typical day, I read, think, and write alone, collaborate with our producers on content creation, discuss client opportunities and challenges with my partners, and meet with organizations for a deep dive on their company before prepping a speech. 

As an entrepreneur and a creative guy, I’m always thinking of the next idea. But once the idea is slightly past the MVP stage, I pass it off to our team who are much better at operationalizing (and monetizing) interesting ideas. 

I have lunch meetings at Caffino. I meet people for coffee at Louie Craft Coffee. I don’t get to see friends often because of my travel schedule. And our culinary practices at home are not exactly Julia Child worthy. 

I’m away a lot speaking so when I’m in town, I leave the office by 4PM. I try not to Slack our team after hours and they do the same. Otherwise, I won’t wear pajamas to work and I won’t wear a suit to bed. Everything else in between is negotiable. 

Evenings: I share season tickets to the Jays and love geeking out on all things baseball (including the minor leagues). I enjoy superficially catching up with friends’ perfectly curated lives on social media. I still regularly speak to my siblings on the phone. Readers can Google what that is. 

After much talking, I need to shut it down before booting it back up. At 10PM, I watch one hour of the latest episodic drama streamed from a variety of service providers. Crave, Netflix, iTunes, Prime… you name it, I watch it. How can one not be inspired by Black Mirror?

I'D RECOMMEND

TELEVISION

I don’t agree with all of his perspectives, but I love what Dave Chappelle did over his last 3 stand-up shows. My friend Mitch Joel pointed out that it’s not musicians who are questioning social issues anymore, it’s comedians. We need to have uncomfortable conversations before things get better and Chappelle’s one of the few who’s starting them. Great comedy gets people to see something from a different angle. Once they see they have the ability to do that, maybe we can get them to see it from a more progressive angle, too. That’s powerful. And hopeful. 

APPLICATIONS

I track my reading with Feedly. Curate and editorialize content with Buffer. Write my books and articles with Scrivener. And I use Evernote to track random thoughts. 

ADVICE

Todd Lohenry was huge in getting me to change how I consumed, curated, and created, content. I write insights in real time and create bits of content which could be used for a speech instead of sitting down and writing an entire presentation all at once. It’s daily research and writing. Some people run every day. I do this every day.