How do you sum up a four-decades-long communications career? We caught up with our recently retired founder Lyle E. Orwig, to capture learnings from a fruitful career that took him from the farm fields of Illinois to the most influential circles within food and agriculture.
Here are the top 12 takeaways from Lyle’s distinguished career:
- People matter. Job titles don’t. Lyle says: “It’s not the job title that matters, it’s how you work with people and help solve their problems. If you make the people around you look better, the title takes care of itself.” Another thing: “People like to work with people they like.”
- Never leave a question unanswered. One of his pet peeves. “During meetings when you have an opportunity to learn from an expert, often only one or two people ask most of the questions.” Afraid of the stupid question? Feel intimidated? “Get over it,” he says.
- Know what you stand for. It’s all about principles. “Don’t be afraid to tell a client or employer that you can’t do something because it goes against what you believe. Understand your principles and create boundaries that are important to you as a person.”
- Don’t rest on your laurels. He’s watched other agencies/companies come and go over the years – and arrogance was often the reason. Even when things look great, it’s dangerous to get too comfortable. Remember: “No one cares what you did yesterday, only today, tomorrow and the next day. Keep looking forward and work to do better.”
- You’ll never succeed unless you try. “You can’t get to first base without coming up to bat. People don’t focus on your failures, only your successes,” he notes. Often trying something new helps you find out what you don’t want to do – like Lyle’s short-lived factory job many years ago. “That’s why internships are so important.”
- The gut never lies. “Trust your gut” is not a cliché, according to Lyle. “In my 40-year career, I ignored my instincts twice and both times those decisions came back to haunt me,” he recalls. “If you get that sinking feeling in your gut, it’s telling you something.”
- Don’t fear feedback. Lyle always appreciated annual reviews with clients. “You may not like what you hear, but honest criticism makes you a better company, a better professional and a better human being.”
- Never stop learning. Seek to learn throughout your career – whether it’s from new products, new people, new markets or new technologies. “The older I get the harder it gets, but I know the world will pass me by if I don’t keep learning,” he says.
- Careers don’t come with instructions. Every path is different, Lyle notes. And there’s no guidebook. “If you regret a career move, it probably means you didn’t have the right information. Make the best decision you can based on the information you have at the time.”
- Dismiss trivia. Lyle’s advice: “While details may be important, keep the big picture goal in front of you. Don’t get caught up in minutiae that may prevent you from achieving bigger things.”
- Stay humble. “I’ve learned that all of us are smarter than one of us. Look for help from everyone around you and you and your company will be elevated.”
- Rely on faith. Lyle believes faith and trust are part of a solid agency-client relationship. “It all comes back to what you stand for,” he says.
We’ve all learned amazing lessons from Lyle both in business and in life. His experience, talent and judgement are secondary only to his uncanny ability to build and maintain long-term relationships. Even though Lyle won’t be in our halls every day, his impact continues on. Congratulations on your well-deserved retirement, Lyle!