I first met D.J. Allen, the founder of Imagine Marketing, back in 1997. We both served on the marketing and Heritage Days committees of the Henderson Chamber of Commerce. Committee members have a tendency to “talk a good game” but not produce anything tangible. D.J. was one of the few people who did what he said he was going to do. I remember commenting to my wife that I had met a “sharp young man” – yes, I really talk like that – and I had a feeling we might work together someday. I’m not exactly known for my psychic abilities, but that was a good call.
At the time, I owned a small Henderson-based firm called In-House Advertising (because it originally started in my house). D.J. worked for the now-defunct “Henderson Home News,” managing the display advertising department and, if memory serves (which it sometimes doesn’t), doing a weekly sports column. I had begun writing novels on the side and, in the back of my mind, started toying with the idea of selling my ad biz. D.J. seemed like a logical candidate. Over the next couple of years, we kicked this idea around over a series of lunches. We may not have accomplished much, but we always ate well.
Of course, things don’t always work out exactly the way you planned. Rather than buying me out, D.J. decided to open his own company and bring me in as an occasional consultant. My first advice involved what to name the new venture. I recommended going with marketing instead of advertising (“advertising” being too limiting), and not to name the business after himself (so it wouldn’t be too closely identified with one person). He cooked up “Imagine Marketing” on his own. I like the name; it accurately captures his vision of creating a different kind of firm. I know everyone says that, but we really mean it. (Honest.)
In 2000, D.J. ran Imagine part-time out of his house while still keeping his day job. In early 2001, he called me to say he was ready to jump in with both feet. We met for a really long lunch at Charlie Holder’s on Boulder Highway, where we scribbled our ideas down on napkins and placemats. I’m sorry I didn’t save those for the Imagine archives.
I won’t go into all the milestones (we’ve put together a timeline for that), other than to say that, slowly but surely, I got more and more involved with the Imagine team. In 2005, our companies officially merged and I became a partner. In 2008, D.J. – a huge sports fan and UNLV alum – got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to handle the marketing and PR for Coach Lon Kruger and the Runnin’ Rebel men’s basketball program. To make this happen, he asked me to manage the day-to-day operations at Imagine. So he went off to live the dream. And I took over the corner office.
It’s been a challenging couple of years for us (as it has for everyone). Almost immediately, the economy went south and Imagine had to reinvent itself to better serve our clients. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. In my three decades plus in this business, I’ve never worked with a smarter, more dedicated group of professionals. They’ve answered every challenge with a remarkable team spirit that is truly contagious. As we enter our second decade, we’re a stronger organization, with our team and our capabilities fully-intact, and with big ideas for the future.
As for me, this is my last hurrah in the marketing game. When I finally get to ride off into the sunset, it will be with a sense of knowing that I was part of something very special. And that makes me a lucky guy.
Brian Rouff is the managing partner at Imagine Marketing.
Contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org