Margie McCarthy, Founder of McCarthy messaging, previously sat down with online magazine Shoutout Colorado and had a fruitful conversation. Here is how it went down.
Hi Margie, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I’m a moderate-to-high risk taker. Not as gutsy as, say, a serial entrepreneur. But braver than the average person, based on the number of times I’ve been told: “I’d never have the guts to do that.” In my case, I think risk tolerance comes from being naturally optimistic and enthusiastic. I believe in possibilities! I do my homework but trust that, with the help of a great team, things will fall into place. We’re going on our 12th year in business, so I guess I’ve made enough good bets, and have gotten better at identifying red flags. That wasn’t always the case. I took a foolish risk years ago when starting a clothing line for little girls. It wasn’t the choice itself that was foolish, but my lack of patience and failure to pull others into the dream. So, the clothing line was a one-and-done venture. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about taking smart risks from small business guru Chuck Blakeman. He calls these “trapeze moments.” It’s not a blind jump off a cliff, but that semi-scary decision to take a calculated risk. You let go of total security and reach for the next stage of growth, knowing the odds are good that it will propel your business forward. For example, hiring that next employee so you can take on another client, or investing in that new piece of equipment or software so you can operate more efficiently. Trapeze moments push me out of my comfort zone and help grow the business. Probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned about risk is to avoid being a rugged individualist. Let other people help. These days, I pray for wisdom and guidance, and then make a leap surrounded by good people.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I founded McCarthy Messaging 12 years ago. We’re a strategic communications firm with a distinct niche in messaging for complex healthcare companies. Sprawling organizations are like octopuses, with arms moving in many different directions. We help our clients identify their highest-order truths – about their business, or their offerings, or an industry issue they want to speak out on. Highest-order truths are the ideas they want all key stakeholders to consistently hear, believe and internalize about their business. We have a saying around here: “Every company has many truths, but not all are of highest order.” We take clients through an analytical process that separates the wheat from the chaff. I’m proud of our niche in healthcare messaging because it’s the antidote to the never-ending project. Like initiatives that take three steps forward and two back. Marketing materials trapped in circular edits, like a dog chasing its tail. The root problem? No core messaging, no stake in the ground on what the company or initiative is about. It’s bigger than marketing or PR. Without core messaging, a company cannot stand out, unify its teams internally, generate momentum and, ultimately, bypass its competition.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My city itinerary isn’t vast but leads slightly off the beaten path. Here’s my version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Denver-style: Breakfast at Lucile’s near Wash Park. Eggs Jennifer and chickory coffee highly recommended. Stroll around the Denver Botanic Gardens, preferably in early June when all the old-fashioned peonies are in bloom. Look for the orange one named after Lucille Ball. Lunch at Govinda’s, the longtime vegan restaurant just off Colorado and Colfax. Don’t pass up the halva for dessert. If I could re-invent the Tattered Cover in Cherry Creek, we’d head there next to roam their 4 stories of green carpeted floors. Find a Victorian sofa to people-watch and decide which books to buy. From there we’d head downtown for an overnight stay at the Crawford Hotel. At this point I’d probably need a nap, LOL! With a second wind, we’d head over to my hidden gem: The Cooper Lounge, 3rd floor of Union Station. With its mod furniture, art deco lights, soaring windows – we’d toast our day with craft cocktails and those deliciously salty nuts.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Chuck Blakeman, Denver-based small business advisor and founder of 3to5 Clubs around the world. Simply put, Chuck is the reason I’m still in business. He’s taught me where to invest my time and energy as a business owner and, equally as important, where to quit wasting it. When many of us leave the corporate world to start our own businesses, we try to do it the big-company way, with bloated business plans and big expenditures on traditional marketing. It was good to have someone tell me, “Stop it!” Chuck has taught me that success in small business is much more iterative. Get moving, start with your existing network, gauge customers’ reactions to your offering, and then fine-tune the plan as you go. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress.
Shoutout Colorado originally published the article. Want to know more about Chuck Blakeman? Visit his website, check out his book Rehumanizing The Workplace By Giving Everybody Their Brain Back on Amazon.