I will always remember November 14, 2014, and it has nothing to do with my birthday.
That was the day that Mike Sottak called to say he was accepting our job offer to run our European operation.
Since we entered the European market in the late 1990s, the Agency’s experience had resembled a roller-coaster ride minus the adrenaline rush. There’s nothing thrilling about taking one step forward and the one step back for more than a decade. While we’d had talented leaders in Europe, no one could quite crack the code.
Yet, I was convinced that Mike would change the trajectory of our European operation.
Requiring more than communications expertise, the role at this point in time called for business chops. I viewed the fact that Mike had zero experience in a conventional consultancy as a plus. After leading corporate communications for Cadence, Mike and his wife Toni left Silicon Valley for Turks & Caicos — don’t have the exact numbers, but seems safe to say that little venture funding is earmarked for this archipelago — and set up Wired Island, a virtual PR agency. Mike also got involved in the travel industry and a bar before moving again, this time to the South of France.
I share this background as a way to illuminate Mike’s track record of scratching and clawing his way to success. Nothing was ever handed to him. That’s the type of business expertise we needed in Europe, someone who was comfortable with ambiguity and would apply a business savvy that only comes from being thrown in situations where you need to figure things out.
And figure things out in Europe is exactly what Mike did.
I know it hasn’t been easy.
But it’s never been dull.
Teaming with Mike has been an experience that transcends business. Heather and I spent 49 days in Aix en Provence in 2015 where I worked side-by-side with Mike — literally since the end of the dining room table I inhabited was right next to Mike’s desk in his home office — immersed in European operations. At the same time, we enjoyed the rhythm of life in this part of the world and more than one café gourmand..
Fast forwarding to today, our European operation is on a roll. Wins in the region in 2016 included NXP, Lifesize and one of the Agency’s more prestigious engagements supporting the French government (Business France) across multiple geographies.