Grady Britton’s New MD Settles in and Charts a Course for 2021 and Beyond

Last month, Shane Wolfsmith was promoted to managing director of Grady Britton. The Portland indie, founded in 1974, elevated him to the role after a successful five-year tenure as the agency’s director of client services. As MD, Wolfsmith oversees all client experiences, including account and project management, while also working closely with the shop’s strategy teams.

“Shane has been an extraordinary leader and team member to many of us at Grady Britton over the last five years, and we are proud to announce his promotion,” said Paige Campell, president of values-based and B Corp-certified Grady Britton. “Shane leads with values and integrity, and gives of himself every day to our clients and the work.”

Before Grady Britton, Wolfsmith roamed some of the industry’s larger agencies, with stints at Leo Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi. He also spent around five years on the brand side at American Express in senior marketing roles, including destination travel, industry and merchant and, in his last role, as marketing director of

In addition to serving on the 4A’s national business leadership committee, Wolfsmith is on the board of trustees for Northwest Academy, an arts-focused independent school in downtown Portland.

ThinkNW connected with Wolfsmith to see how the new role is progressing and what he sees for 2021 and beyond.

ThinkNW: It’s been about a month in the new role. How have you been settling in? What is different about the new role?
Wolfsmith: The new managing director role I’ve taken on for Grady Britton is all about client experience. Gratefully we have lots of strong relationships with our clients, but we want those to become even stronger with more insightful, strategic, effective and efficient engagements. Before this role, I was director of client services at the agency, so I’m very familiar, and still actively involved, with our account management team and client partnerships.

What’s been added to my team is the opportunity to build a new strategy discipline at the agency. These three disciplines (account management, project management and strategy) are core to almost every aspect of client experience and creating great work. I’m excited about the opportunity to help lead, inspire and shape stronger capabilities and client outcomes from that collection of teams at Grady Britton.

In terms of settling in, it kind of feels like knocking down a wall in your house or apartment during a remodeling project. It’s super comfortable and still feels like home given my tenure here, but I’m also able to look at the space with a whole new perspective.

What are you expecting in terms of growth for the agency in 2021?
We’re really up front about our mission. We strive to leave today better than yesterday. That has so many dimensions to it, but the main one is we are focused on helping good companies win in the market. So that’s where our growth will come from this year—working with more clients who share this mission and the values that go with it. We’re honored to already have clients who fit this bill and are in conversations with others who we hope to partner with to bring more good brands and campaigns for good companies to the world.

What are you expecting in terms of growth in the Pacific Northwest in 2021?
I think the PNW marketing and agency community has lots of good intentions and is starting to take more actions around attracting and amplifying diverse voices via our employees and our client work. Grady Britton is working on this like other places, too. I’d expect to see that grow and become more intentional and tangible in 2021. The PNW is such a community of creatives and creators, so I believe our field can continue to make an impact to shape and diversify our broader community this year and beyond. It’s critical that we do so.

How do you plan on leaning into Grady Britton’s B Corp status in this new role?
I don’t think there is really much more to lean into, honestly. We are Portland’s original B Corp agency, and it continues to be at the core of who we are. We strongly believe business can be a force of good, and that’s why we’re a B Corp, as are several of our clients. Given that my new role and team are so focused on the client experience, it will be making sure the commitments we make as a B Corp are made even more tangible in our clients’ experiences every day. It will also impact the types of partners (production partners, etc.) we choose to engage moving forward to ensure our whole ecosystem is aligned in mission and values.

In your mind, what makes the Pacific Northwest marketing/creative community so unique?
At its best, the Pacific Northwest’s marketing and creative community is one of the most innovative and earnest around. Before Portland, I worked in the industry in Chicago and New York, and the vibe was different. It was all business: big budgets, big egos, big everything.
Most people in the creative community here want to do great work and be good human beings. That shouldn’t be rare, but it is. That’s what keeps me here in Portland and at Grady Britton. I really just want to do great work with good human beings. I think we have both of those things here in the PNW, especially Portland.

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