We had the good fortune of connecting with Bob Ryan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Bob, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I have a pretty diverse creative background. I began my professional life as a performing musician. In my mid-twenties, I became a graphic designer working in agency and corporate and freelance settings. for many years, I worked for a mid-sized Phoenix-based company designing everything from stuffed animals and wall art to book covers, catalogs and direct mail packages.
During that same time, I took on the function of Copywriting alongside my design and art direction duties. I learned how to plan, cast and direct photo sessions as well.
Concurrent with that time in my career, I got involved in a community theater group, as an actor. The group did original material and over time I became a principal writer, director and actor—as well as doing all the publicity and taking part in set design.
I worked for 12 years for a local hospital network, handling print, online and outdoor advertising, radio and TV advertising, as well as foundation fundraising efforts, events, and training projects.
When I left that position, I did so with lots of professional contacts—many of whom needed someone with that sort of broad skill package. I found it easier to simply work for myself and use the complete range of my skills rather than try to narrow myself down to a specific job role.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’ve never been able to settle on one thing. Music, visual art, writing, theater… I can find great satisfaction in any of those areas. That has made it a bit difficult to market myself. People want you to say you are a “Designer” or “A Writer” or some single thing that they can focus in on. I can’t. It is all “Creative” to me.
I’ve done voice-over and background scoring for videos, narration for audio books, and live performance as a musician and actor. I’ve published short stories and novels, written blog posts, created web content and rebranded companies. I’ve acted in a consulting role for diverse types of companies—shed manufacturers, hospitals, churches, event planners, swimming pool repair businesses, and a coast-to-coast fertilizer company. I once wrote copy for aerospace giant Allied Signal, for a satellite guidance system.
I wouldn’t say it’s been easy. What I would say is that whenever an opportunity came to try my hand at some new creative area, I took it. That often meant long hours of teaching myself new software applications and familiarizing myself with disciplines and fields I had no previous experience in.
What I’ve learned is that if you try something new, you’ll produce something better than the person who didn’t try. And your client or customer will usually benefit. I’ve also learned that, when it comes to commercial creative, if it doesn’t benefit the client, it’s not a success. Commercial Creative—whether design, copywriting, branding or whatever—does not exist for its own sake. It exists to persuade someone, to cause a client’s target audience to take an action. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter that it is beautiful or clever—it fails.
If I have a brand or a story it’s that. I produce creative that works for the client. Yes, I try to satisfy my own creative sensibilities, but if it doesn’t meet the client’s goals, I have failed. Back to the drawing board.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Phoenix has a lot to offer. Thirty years ago, downtown Phoenix was not the most interesting city. Now, it’s a fun place full of life and energy. Phoenix is a food wonderland. I’ve been many places, but few that have as many interesting, unusual food venues as can be found in the Valley of the Sun. One of my favorites is Luci’s at the Orchard—off of 12th street, north of Glendale. It’s one of my favorite spots to meet with clients. I love taking friends to small mom-and-pop fooderies—The Middle Eastern Bakery on 16th street, Greektown on 7th street, south of Dulap and Cafe Sarajevo on Northern near 35th Avenue, to name a few.
Another great place to take an out of town visitor is the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale. Many, even here in the Valley, do not realize what a unique and world-class museum the MIM is. I once had a friend come into town from Europe and took him on a two-day trip north to see the Grand Canyon. He was thrilled. But later, after he’d been to the MIM, he said THAT was the highlight of his trip.
For those less familiar with the Southwest, the Valley is full of mountain preserve hiking opportunities as well. Beautiful spots—some right in the middle of the city that provide moments of complete “wilderness” feeling. The Wildlife World Zoo in Litchfield park is a great day out, and while you’re there, take in the White Tank Mountain trails.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’ve been blessed all along my creative journey by friends and mentors that saw my creative gift and provided me with opportunities to use my talents in as many ways as possible. One of the first was Bob Luedtke, who served as Marketing Director for SmartPractice in Phoenix, Arizona. Another was John Lynch, pastor at Open Door Fellowship Church, who invited me into Sharkey Productions, the theater group I was part of for 25 years. Finally, Polly Baughman, Director of Public Relations and Marketing at John C. Lincoln Health Network, who was, without a doubt, the most encouraging boss I ever worked under.