Guest Blogger: Brian Williams
Element 79’s President and CEO Brian Williams has dedicated his three-decade career to helping clients win. Prior to founding Element 79 eight years ago, he honed his skills in a variety of top management positions, including President & CEO of Foote Cone Chicago and EVP Managing Director of one of Leo Burnett’s seven operating agencies. He’s put his considerable talents to work for such world-class clients as Quaker Oats, Dean Witter, Hallmark, Kraft, S.C. Johnson, Pepsi, Smuckers, The Beef Council, Procter & Gamble, Nintendo, Gatorade, Sony, The National Dairy Association and Morgan Stanley. In his rare moments outside the office, he’s also a fiercely competitive golfer and tennis player. In other words, don’t play him for money.
In praise of Dennis.
Dennis asked for contributions to his collective thinking blog while he’s on shore leave. I raised my hand. But only with the understanding that I’d publish unedited and uncensored. After all, isn’t that one of the underlying, inherent appeals of blogs? But, there’s also a method to my mad insistences. I immediately realized that had Dennis pre-screened this submission, it would have been quickly pocket vetoed and go unpublished. And that wouldn’t do.
I first met Dennis at the Pretty Good Café in Winnetka for breakfast in the fall of 2001. Element 79 was just being launched, and the company needed creative leadership as blue chip, as inspirational and as honorable as the clients and brands who were the foundation of our fledging enterprise. There was only one candidate. It was Dennis Ryan. And to our great fortune, he accepted.
And so began a partnership that has benefited me personally and Element 79 professionally well beyond anything I initially imagined back in 2001. From the day he first stepped across the 33rd floor threshold, Dennis has contributed to Element 79 more than any two of the rest of us combined. And he does so in content and in context. The content benefits of Dennis are easy to discern. His intelligence, writing skills, eye for the unexpected, production expertise, salesmanship and his uncanny and unselfish ability to impart such wisdom to others are unparalleled. And for this, we are all most grateful.
But, the manner in which Dennis plies his skills is what really impresses me and genuinely sets him apart from other top industry creative leaders. At the core of his essence, Dennis really, really cares! He cares about the quality of our work. He cares about the people of Element 79. He cares about treating others with respect and inspiring them to reach higher than they believe they can. What’s more, Dennis is the hardest working person at E79. This is a fact! But he never wears it as a badge. He’s a humble, ever thoughtful, appropriately demanding, decisive, diplomatic, results oriented and driven. He leads by example and his integrity is unimpeachable. Let me repeat that last trait. Dennis’ integrity is unimpeachable. This is absolutely critical. Dennis may not always be right, but his motives for his actions and his decisions are always driven by his desire to do the right thing. And this, more than anything else in life, is what distinguishes great leaders from the posers.
Dennis has contributed mightily to Element 79’s success since we first opened our doors, and his contributions have never been more strongly felt than over the past six months. Thanks, Dennis, from me. From everyone at E79. I’m proud to be able to work alongside you. A pleasure it truly is. Enjoy your vacation. We’ll see you upon your sunburned return. Remember, summer hours start at 8:30 a.m.
By Brian Williams, President and CEO, Element 79