We were lucky to catch up with Thom Gonyeau recently and have shared our conversation below.
Thom, appreciate you joining us today. Let’s kick things off with a hypothetical question – if it were up to you, what would you change about the school or education system to better prepare students for a more fulfilling life and career?
Over time, our educational system has clearly seen transformations. If I think back to my own experience as an elementary, middle, or high school student (many years ago), there was a focus on the basics – the “three R’s” and civics. We got to dabble in the arts. But the world was different then. What we were being prepared for was a future that likely sat closer to our community – geographically and socially. It was more of a rarity for someone to break out of that cycle – and I don’t mean that as a negative because that made terrific sense at that time.
But times have changed. The world has changed. Many constraints have been redefined. Everything and anything is accessible to young people. On the positive side, that breeds tremendous opportunity. Quite literally, the world is their oyster. Boundaries are broader, looser, or non-existent. The reality of “everything is accessible” comes with watch outs, too. First, there is still great inequity – just who is the world really accessible to? Though ubiquitous, high-speed Internet, as one example, is not available to all. Second, given all that easy-access for most, there is a whole of trouble out there as well.
Which comes around to what I would change about the educational system. What we hear from legitimate organizations (like the World Economic Forum) and from surveys of global business is how valuable and desirable the skills of creativity, innovation, critical and analytical thinking – all hallmarks of creative or complex problem solving – are to the current and future of work. Second, with a preponderance of nefarious activity or misinformation, the literacy skills to navigate those waters are all the more important.
Today’s education system is not absent in developing these crucial traits or skills, but I think the emphasis needs to be much greater still. Creative problem solving should be taught across the entire curriculum at every grade level. Creative problem solving opens up the world of “yes, and…” These skills work across borders, across socio-economic lines, in every career or calling. In my opinion, fostering a curious and innovative spirit helps create better citizens, better parents, better inventors, better employees, better defenders, better teachers, better protectors, better leaders, better learners, and the list is endless. With a foundation of creative problem solving, there are always possibilities and with that we give people the mindset, toolkit, and skillset to be their best – whatever form that may take.
Thom, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
I grew up in Schenectady, NY and am proud of my liberal arts education at the College of Saint Rose. I was ambitious and lucky to have landed a critical internship with the I Love New York program. This changed the course of my life and why I always preach about the value of internships and mentorships. Not only did I have the opportunity to work on national campaigns as a young person, I also was introduced to the founder of Mountain View Group, the company I now co-own with my business partner, Stephen Pruitt.
Mountain View is a creative agency. We specialize in media production, design, and communications. Predominantly, we work with large, multi-national companies, but we also are a partner to a range of businesses, government agencies, and not-for-profit organizations. We work across a broad range of industries from energy to healthcare to defense to CPG to hospitality and it is this diverse client base that gives us diverse perspectives and solutions to draw upon.
It’s fascinating and rewarding work to help solve business challenges – at all levels of an organization – and to help our customers connect with their stakeholders and meet their objectives. Those goals span increased awareness, greater revenue, a more engaging culture, recruitment and retention to education and information.
At the heart, we are creative problem solvers. We endeavor to understand our clients and what they are trying to do deeply and then to help them articulate it and, ultimately, affect change. Oh, and it’s fun, too.
Any advice for growing your clientele? What’s been most effective for you?
Our team has a relentless focus on customer service. It’s not exactly a selling point we can tout, but we have our clients back, we want them to look good, and we will not let them fail. So, this has served us incredibly well over four decades. We celebrated our 40th year in business in 2021. We are fortunate to have developed a loyal client following and that has helped us grow our business. Inevitably, our good clients move on to other opportunities. When we’ve done a good job for them, they bring us along and suddenly our client list is a “plus one”. Also, we rely heavily on referrals and have found when we do good work for clients, they are happy to help spread the word. And, since ours is a relationship business, this means a lot. For that, we are most grateful.
Let’s talk M&A – we’d love to hear your about your experience with buying businesses
When the founder of Mountain View Group decided it was time to get out of the business, he was ready to sell it to another entity. It made sense to have another similar agency acquire ours. The founder asked many times if I wanted to buy the business and many times I was not interested. But the thought of working for another boss at another agency wasn’t that appealing to me. At the time, one of my colleagues, Stephen Pruitt, was perhaps in a similar mindset AND he definitely has an entrepreneurial spirit, perhaps greater than my own. Suddenly, the notion of building this Mountain View Group 2.0 with Stephen as a co-principal made sense. The founder of the company was thrilled to be able to sell it to his employees. The negotiations were not always easy. It was a very intimate experience and sometimes thorny. In the end, we were able to strike a deal to buy the company outright (with a little help from the SBA) and we made it work. While being a company owner is not for the faint of heart, we have never looked back and we have enjoyed the success from working hard for our customers and building an amazing group of employees.
- Website: mountainviewgroup.com
- Facebook: Thom Gonyeau
- Linkedin: Thom Gonyeau
(NOTE: I uploaded or tried to upload 8 images, but I am only seeing 2 on the previous screen. Let me know if I need to email them or send them another way. Thank you.)