It Takes a Village: Building an Agency that puts People & Relationships First Greg Norton, President at R+M, Brand Experience Agency

Greg Norton is a former entrepreneur and marketing veteran with vast experience performing as a strategic advisor on issues ranging from corporate positioning to lifecycle management and relevant competitive differentiation for major national and international brands.

As President at R+M, a Certified B Corp Agency, Greg leads agency operations & business development. In addition, Greg is a recognized business leader and recipient of the 40 Under 40 Leadership Award. He has also served as faculty for the University of North Carolina at Wilmington teaching undergraduate and graduate marketing and consumer behavior courses.

What is your biggest inspiration for wanting to make a difference?

For me, it’s a combination of experiences:

My parents: They instilled in me the value of respecting and being kind to others. Not only did they talk the talk but they walked it. My father taught philosophy and religion at NC State for 36 years. So he was constantly helping me to listen and ask questions and to understand the thoughts, beliefs, and values of others. My mother worked her way through both an undergraduate and graduate education starting her own nationally recognized private practice as a psychotherapist committing her life to helping those with marriage and family crises. She remains an inspiration to me this day. She reminds me to walk gently on the earth and with the people with whom I cross paths as you never know what they are dealing with in the various aspects of their lives. While I don’t do this as well as she does… I’m still trying. You’re never too old to get better.

The places I’ve called home: I was born in Colorado which perhaps where my love for the great outdoors first took root. From there we moved to North Carolina where I was drawn to the beauty and culture of the Appalachian Mountains attending Appalachian State University for my undergraduate education. Environmental awareness and advocacy run thick up there and it’s where I solidified my love for nature. My first job out of college took me to the opposite end of the state, Wilmington. Living on Wrightsville Beach for 10 years gave me exposure and immersion in an entirely different environment. It was an amazing experience balanced by the beauty of the coast and seeing first-hand the impact of growth and development on our natural resources.

The places I’ve traveled: I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to travel and immerse myself in a variety of cultures.

I’ve learned the value of community and the true meaning of the saying “It takes a village”. Whether you are raising a child or bringing an idea to life or creating change, it takes an entire community of different people interacting to make it happen.

Tell me a bit about R&M Agency and how it’s making a difference

R+M is a brand experience agency focused on companies that positively impact the way we live. Our clients are improving lives from health and wellness to social causes, from consumer products to the environment.

About a decade ago we made a conscious decision to focus on positive impact companies. We did it for the fulfillment of our entire team and to build a business that actively supported and guided companies trying to make the world a better place. A couple of years into this model we discovered the B Corporation movement.

We had been seeking ways to not only serve positive impact companies but to be a positive impact company.

Thanks to B Lab we were able to formalize policies and procedures to: improve our community engagement; make us more thoughtful and efficient in our environmental impact; create a more fulfilling culture for our team.

In December 2018 we’ll celebrate the 5-year anniversary of our B Corp certification!

What are 1-2 of the most rewarding projects you’ve worked on at R&M?

I’ve parted ways with a couple of companies through my career. In both instances, there was a philosophical difference in how to run the business. They were a “get the money” philosophy and I’m a “build the relationship”. I say this because so many of our clients are doing good, it would be hard to isolate out a single project. When I think about what has been rewarding it falls into two categories and it just so happens the revolve around relationships:

  1. The growth of our people. As a nimble agency of less than 20 today, it gives me enormous pride to see our team members take on new challenges, push themselves to new heights, and build confidence sharing their unique perspectives with the world. Our average tenure here at R+M is 10 years. I’m super proud of our people.
  2. The loyalty of our clients. We currently serve 14 clients. Of those, four have been with us for over a decade and five others have been with us for five to 10 years. I believe there is a reason for that. We understand that first and foremost we are in a service industry and at the core of our success is understanding the importance of relationship management.

What are the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome in your career and what did you learn from them?

Me. Fear of failure has always haunted me. Still does to this day. I’ve always been amazed by Thomas Edison and his mentality of “I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

I’ll have whatever he was having, please.

What advice do you have for aspiring Arc Benders?

One of my favorite quotes is:

“A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”

– John Shedd

Have the guts to stand out and be ridiculed.

Nurture your first few followers as equals to demonstrate it is clearly about the movement, not you.

Have the courage to follow and show others how to follow.

After all. It takes a village.