It’s the mid-1970s. Craig Lawrence and Paul Schiller decided to quit their full-time advertising jobs to start their own agency.
They sat in their car and tossed a coin.
Whoever wins gets his name first in the business. Whoever loses becomes president.
“I don’t know if I won or lost,” joked Lawrence, reflecting on the moment decades later.
“We really didn’t have many plans,” added Schiller.
But they had the creative talent, the vision, and the ability to bring something new to the Sioux Falls market, which had already captured agency share.
Lawrence and Schiller may have been in the advertising business, but they approached it like reporters and storytellers.
“I think what really made us successful was that we were the first journalists and we needed to get information for our clients,” says Schiller.
They listened to business leaders articulate their vision of where the company was headed and then asked questions.
“What do you want people to think of you a year from now?” Lawrence said. “Well then, let’s get down to business.”
That meant collecting data on an ongoing basis, which led to the creation of “a very effective messaging tool,” Schiller continued.
It also led the entrepreneur to a whole new business that became L&S Teleservices and later Five Star Call Centers.
So I recently spoke with the founders who sold their call center business to management at the end of 2022. They migrated from a marketing company ten years before him.
Although the paths of journalism and marketing are decades apart, there are some similarities, so it was a delightful opportunity for me to think alongside two leaders I admire in my own industry.
I enjoy people who disrupt the industry a bit, think differently, and know how to show and tell great stories.
“It’s still crazy after all these years,” says Lawrence. But it’s a good kind of crazy. In her hour together, we bonded instantly about the media industry, innovative advertising campaigns, and entrepreneurship.
Some quick stories worth repeating:
When we worked together as photographers and reporters at USD, Schiller was making $2 per photo and Lawrence was making 35 cents per column inch.From there, Lawrence brookings register For a year before entering the television news, Schiller Yankton Press & Dakotan before serving in Germany during the Vietnam War.
They remained friends, and Lawrence even won an essay contest sponsored by Germany asking for ideas on “how Berlin builds its image in the United States.”
At one point, as you might imagine, Lawrence remembers racing Harold’s car with a news car using 16mm film from KSFY-TV at the time. The rule was that the news station that arrived first would process the film first.
“We passed a highway patrolman on the side of the road, but he didn’t stop us,” he said.
Both eventually transitioned to marketing jobs before deciding to start their own companies.
One of Lawrence & Schiller’s agency clients was Ben-Hur Ford, a major local car dealer.
They decided to fill a 1,000-gallon pool with red jelly and numbered ping-pong balls to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
“You’ll jump into the Jell-O pool and win prizes,” Lawrence said. “It’s crazy.”
Maybe, but the client sold 150 cars on it.
When assessing the state of the industry today, they sometimes ask: Where is the creative? Where is “there”? Schiller said. “Name one campaign in this town that stands out in our market.”
fair question. I struggled to find the answer, but it made me think. That’s why it’s so valuable to talk to leaders like these who understand what it takes to move the industry forward.
They are role models not just for me but for many people in this market who have evolved marketing and storytelling. proves that there is.
“If Five Star succeeds, it’s not because of Paul and I,” Lawrence said. “We didn’t know what we were doing. I met Ray.”
They sold the business to Troy Holt, Ray Peterson, and Joel Sylvester at the end of 2022.
“They just have a completely different point of view than we do,” said Sylvester. “They are advertisers and we are call center people. What we thought was easy was what they struggled with. We don’t always do a great job talking about our performance. It helped me understand what was being done.”
So what’s next? I thought it was impossible for Lawrence and Schiller to take the average path to retirement, and they did not disappoint.
Schiller continues to wow people with his iconic photos of the South Dakota landscape. This is rooted in our mission to show the world that South Dakota is much more than a “flying nation.” Look for the Coffee Table of the Prairie book – with writing from Lawrence, of course.
The two are also collaborating on a meaningful effort in honor of Lawrence’s son, Chris, a stage 4 bile duct cancer survivor. I help bring peace. There are shared stories of hope and content designed to bring peace and inspiration.
A book of many stories has been created using Schiller’s photographs.
Why have they worked together in so many ways for so long?
The front reads that they “learned how to live with each other’s habits and quirks and diligently avoided conflict.”
“This is not because we are great humanitarians. It is because we are pragmatic. .”
Even though they’ve told me what’s involved next time, I think more will come for their own stories.
Luckily, in Sioux Falls and South Dakota, these two storytellers have captured so much with words and images.
As I wrapped up this column, I glanced at my desk calendar (which I do many times each day) and saw the caption “New Beginnings” under a photo of Paul Schiller in January. As usual, they found the perfect word for the occasion.
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