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Rooted east and jumping west

Derek Riedle

Derek riedle, co-owner of Revolution Strategy, speaks after winning the Entrepreneurial Achievement award along with his wife and co-owner, Terri, at the chamber’s business awards event. Photo: Kâté Braydon/telegraph-Journal

In New Brunswick there is significant chatter about the importance of exporting our world-class products and services. Our provincial economy is increasingly dependent on our entrepreneurs’ ability to be world-class exporters. With this in mind, I jumped at the opportunity to interview Derek Riedle the day before he jumped on a plane to California with the goal of exporting some of our province’s finest talent. This is the first of two interviews; the second interview with Derek (after four months promoting and selling in California) will be published in early January…


Derek Riedle is an entrepreneur and a visionary. He has a unique gift of launching companies around his various visions of the future. He used these strengths when, along with his wife, Terri, he launched Revolution Strategy (a marketing communications agency in Saint John), Talons of Venice (the content-creation arm in California) and Riedle Urban Spaces (a real estate company). With“never stand still”as his credo it’s not surprising that Derek is on the move again. In March 2013, Revolution Strategy unveiled a new approach and structure – the next chapter of the agency’s life.

To deepen their use of entertainment as a channel and with a promise to stay rooted in New Brunswick, they announced plans to grow beyond New Brunswick to identify opportunities in California and across Canada. In keeping with his credo, Derek and his family have recently made the move to California. I caught up with Derek just prior to his move and him taking the plunge into his latest adventure.

Q: How are you feeling right now about jumping head first into a new market like California?

A: My favourite quote is“My comfort zone is outside of my comfort zone.” This new journey is us jumping out of the nest again because we’ve been feeling a little too comfortable. Now we’re absolutely terrified, but we recognize that that’s a good thing. We do our best when we’re scared – that’s when our biggest achievements come.

[Tweet “My comfort zone is outside of my comfort zone. – Derek Riedle”]

Q: As I understand it you’re not moving the company’s operations?

A: No. Saint John is where the work happens. So this is a good story. If it all works, this is a good story for New Brunswick. We’ve been visiting Los Angeles for two years – attending conferences, building relationships, investing time in building sales in this new market that will lead to more jobs, more revenue, right here in Saint John, New Brunswick.

[Tweet “Saint John is where the work happens. – Derek Riedle”]

Q: So, what is pushing the move to California?

A: New Brunswick is a small place. It’s a great place and it’s got all kinds of advantages, but scale is not one of them. My whole family is from New Brunswick. I’m just about as New Brunswick as you get, but the market is small here for what we do. We’re going to California, a place that’s the biggest market for creative services in the world, with our new venture Talons of Venice. We’ll be looking to show content for TV, film and the web, and also promote Revolution, where great creative and digital strategy are in high demand.

Q: What is the business case for keeping your New Brunswick roots?

A: The talent we have here in New Brunswick can stand up to anything you see in California or anywhere in the world. First, because New Brunswick is such a small market, we’ve had to be a generalist shop. In L.A., you would find somebody just in advertising or somebody who’s in digital, somebody who’s in marketing. We have all of those things in our shop, and it allows us to have a more refreshing perspective. Secondly, we can outwork anybody anywhere. Here in Atlantic Canada, we’ve had to hustle. I’m telling you, when it comes to actually sitting down and chugging out work, we can work circles around people in Los Angeles, because we’ve had to work harder to be here.

Q: Tell me about the importance of risk. How would you describe it?

A: I admire people who take risks. Entrepreneurs were always, in my opinion, the top of the heap – I just had instant respect for them, and I don’t know if it’s because my father had respect for them or what, but anybody who owned their own business, they stood apart in my mind.

[Tweet “I admire people who take risks. – Derek Riedle”]

Q: What has been the impact of having a business and life partner like your wife, Terri?

A: I married an entrepreneurial woman who came from an entrepreneurial family. Her family, my in-laws, had a great influence on me. They had to take that leap at one point, too, and Terri grew up in this environment. The decision to make this move wasn’t hard for us – it just seemed natural. We started this stuff together. She makes me smarter. I make her smarter. We feed off of each other. She’s my external hard drive.

Q: What about your kids?

A: Our kids are nine and 11. We believe it is time for them to have a little adventure, too. We want them to grow up with that feeling like they can do anything and go anywhere and take a shot at things. So this is partly an adventure to help shape the men who we’re trying to raise.

Q: How important is reinvention to an entrepreneur?

A: I think you’ve got to be able to reinvent yourself to stay current, especially here on the East Coast. We had to do it out of necessity a few times, which has worked to our advantage.

Q: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who are looking at exporting products and/or services?

A: Get started. I mean, just get started. Get to the edge of the cliff – you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. Put your faith in the fact that it’s going to turn out. Our province has 750,000 people and as great as it is from a lifestyle perspective, there’s just not enough dollars and cents moving around within these borders. So you’ve got to explore opportunities beyond our borders, too, no matter where it is, whether it’s Toronto, Halifax, Los Angeles, Seattle or New York.

[Tweet “Get started. I mean, just get started. – Derek Riedle”]
Q: Do you think you could access the Californian market remotely?

A: We tried going back and forth for the last two years. I was on planes a lot. I don’t like spending that much time away from my family. We’re a unit – Terri and I are a team. The kids are in it with us. We’re going to continue commuting, but we’re just switching the home base for a little while.

Q: From your perspective,“A leader’s job is to..”

A: Challenge norms. Our credo here is to“never stand still”Our job is to make sure everybody is expanding their comfort zone. We’re very fortunate to have an unbelievable team of people who rise to the occasion every time a challenge comes up. So we keep trying to find new ones to throw at them.

[Tweet “A leader’s job is to challenge norms. – Derek Riedle”]

Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. Email Dave at Dave@VisionCoachingInc.com or follow him on twitter @dave_veale. Don’t miss any of Dave’s interviews with leaders…get blog updates in your inbox by signing up over here, at the top of the right column ==>

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