Not Remote, Just Liberated

Working RemoteNearly 35 years ago I founded Sweeney. Based on everything I had learned and experienced since graduating from college, I envisioned creating a great agency with exceptional talent that would develop highly strategic and creative plans, execute great campaigns and deliver impactful results. And we would do it all from our state-of-the-art, super awesome agency offices in major markets worldwide.

Then reality slapped me upside the head. Just three months after signing my first office, copier, computer and car lease (they were actually four separate leases), I became a single dad with a one-year-old son who was the apple of my eye and the center of my life. It was more than a game changer; it was a life changer.

Suddenly I was working remote – from home, in my car, at client offices, during the day, in the middle of the night, on weekends, and whenever possible (because it was 1986 and cell phones and the internet were not yet a thing), using the telephone, fax machine and overnight delivery (God bless FedEx).

And it worked. I recalibrated my thinking to accommodate my personal life, spending the vast majority of time with my son as he sprouted into a young boy, and never missing a client deadline. Whatever it took, we made happen, and the agency flourished.

A Short History of Humanity

From the start, we (our ancestors) were nomadic creatures, traveling far and wide to explore the world around us. We headed north and east and west. Some settled and populations grew, but we kept exploring and moving forever forward. Great floods and ice ages curbed some of our enthusiasm, but on we went. Until we stopped.

Because we are also creatures of habit. And once we get used to doing one thing or staying in one place, we tend to not change. I mean there are always a few explorers, wanderers and pirates. But for the most part, we get comfortable and we stay put. We build houses and cities and infrastructure, and we settle. And then we get overcrowded and have massive migrations, like the entire world converging on what became the United States of America.

For the past century, give or take another century, we all settled again into comfy (or not so comfy) jobs at factories and warehouses and outposts and farms and offices. And we did our best to stay there for as long as possible… sometimes until we died. But if we survived, we received commemorative watches to celebrate all that time. Yeah, you lasted 35 years at the same place! We are an odd lot.

For some businesses, like mine, circumstances intervened and made us realize that survival and growth depend on our ability to adapt and learn new behavior. And now, COVID-19 has stepped in and forced the entire world, without exception, to realize that change is needed.

So, I am here to tell you, working from home or lockdown or wherever you are and however you characterize it, is not something to be feared. In fact, you will find in time it is rather liberating to know that you can come and go, hither and yon and still get the job done. Because in the end, it is about you and your ability to adapt and the opportunity to explore new and better ways.

These are indeed scary times, but they are also exciting times.

Over the past three decades, we (Sweeney) have explored every conceivable working construct: opening offices in North Carolina and Colorado, working remote – out of collaborative spaces, from homes in multiple markets, from coffee shops – working partial days, working partial weeks, working with contracted partners. Whatever it takes. It’s all good, man. We vetted and secured the right technologies and the right software and got the right training. And sometimes it was a train wreck, but we always survived, learned and moved on.

So, yeah, we have worshipped at the altar of agility and speed for a long time now, and I am here to tell you it is a good place to be and you are going to really enjoy it once you realize all the advantages. And, of course, not everyone can take full advantage. Policemen and firemen still need to don their protective apparel and serve the public. Doctors and nurses still need to scrub and heal. Teachers still need to ring the bell and teach lessons.

But we all now know something that we didn’t know before and it is liberating, bordering on exhilarating. We know how to survive… which means anything is possible! And for that, we all deserve a commemorative watch.

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.