Interview with John Hall, Entrepreneur

John Hall has been involved in the advertising world since 1982. After successfully running Hall+Northway for 10 years, John Hall created The Hall Agency, in 1992. He continues to run this successful advertising business while also teaching Advertising at Southern Methodist University.

I remembered you saying in class that you started your own advertising company, can you tell me a little bit about your company?

I started Hall+Northway Advertising Inc, with a partner in 1982. We then brought in one more person right away and she was an art director. Six months later, we hired another person. We eventually had around 37 employees. Then in 1992 I went out on my own and created the Hall Agency Inc, and I hired people to help right away. We now have 7 employees.


Do you prefer a smaller work environment over a larger one?

I prefer a smaller work environment. I like being able to know all of my staff on a more intimate basis…go to lunches with them, know about their families, etc. When working with less people, there are less specific job restrictions because people wear multiple hats and must be multi- talented people.


Did you have a business plan when you started your business?

Not a formal plan


Do you think business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship?

Yes, in retrospect yes.


What sparked your interest in advertising? Did someone particularly inspire you?

I had a professor at Oklahoma University that taught an advertising class that was required for marketing majors.  After taking the class, I switched my major to Journalism/Advertising and never looked back.  He was my muse.


What jobs and experiences have led you to your present position? 

My first job after school was designing and selling ads for a Dallas newspaper.  From there I went to D Magazine as an Account Executive, and then went to work to another ad agency before I started my own some 32 years ago (yikes!).


How is the economy affecting the advertising industry? 

The old adage is that advertising is the first area companies cut when business is bad…and it the last place companies increase when business picks up again.  The events of 9/11, the horrible recession of 2008-2009, and the proliferation of digital and social media have all had a negative impact on the advertising business.  But I am seeing business coming back in a big way the past couple of years.


What do you find unique about your career field?

It is always evolving.  No two days seem to be alike…and I prefer it that way.  It is certainly never boring or mundane.


What skills or personal characteristics do you feel contribute most to success in the Advertising industry?

You need to have a creative mind and a strong work ethic to succeed.  And you need to have a strong enough constitution to take rejection, because clients do not always share our vision.


What sacrifices have you had to make to succeed in this field and do you feel the sacrifices were worth it?

I know that many of my friends who went into other businesses tended to make more money over the years, but I love what I do and that definitely makes it worthwhile.

What do you enjoys most about owning your own advertising company? 

It is nice being king!  Seriously, I like being my own boss and working with lots of clients and employees.  Being in advertising is like constantly taking class…you are always learning something new.

Are you happy with your company now? Anything you would like to change? 

Overall, I am happy.  One of my best people just left the agency and that is always tough, but otherwise I wouldn’t really change a thing.

What do you find unique about your career field? 

It is hard work, filled with pressure and deadlines, but it gives you the opportunity to meet all kinds of great people from all kinds of backgrounds.

What is the most important thing that someone planning to enter this career should know?  Don’t expect your first job to be your last job.  It is important to get your foot in the door and gain experience and networking opportunities.

What three pieces of advice can you offer developing arts entrepreneurs?

Have a passion for what ever you want to do. 2. Have realistic goals. 3. Stick with it, have the ability to stick through the good times and the bad because you are going to get the good times and bad. You must be willing to take risks, if don’t do that you shouldn’t do it. Don’t be scared to fail, or you will fail.

Allison Perry is a student in Developing an Arts Venture Plan, Arts Entrepreneurship at Meadows School of the Arts, SMU.














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