Sonia Greteman: Build Something That Lasts

By Sonia Greteman, founder, president and creative director of Greteman Group, a marketing communications agency in Wichita KS, the Air Capital.

Our agency hits a significant milestone on April 1. It turns 30. That has me thinking about our fast-and-furious journey. And why I’d do it all over again. With only a little adjustment here and there.

When you’re just starting out, it helps to be a workaholic. But don’t keep that pace forever. All work and no play does more than suck the life out of you. It drains your creative, too. You need that yoga class. That time with friends and family. That full night’s sleep. Travel, movies, books. Life is better with balance. So are you.

Be Strategic

Surround yourself with good. Good vibes, good people, good conversations. Stress can torpedo your business. And make you sick. You can’t avoid the downtimes – I’ve cried when losing a favorite client or being yelled at by an overly frazzled one – but pick yourself up and move on. I’ve only shed tears three times at work. So just once a decade. Not bad.

Learn to read the room, to understand someone’s body language, to decipher what’s not being said – but you better pick up on. I’ve figured out how to be part detective, psychologist and investigative reporter. If you’re a passionate person like me, I focus more intently. Say your piece, then zip it. And listen loudly.

Results rock the CEO. Designers love fonts, color, illustration and photography. The CEO loves results. The earlier you start thinking about ROI, the better. Measure. Track. Repeat. If you treasure it, measure it.

Words are the heart and soul, and not just design elements. Read the copy. Think about the points you’re trying to get across. Make your words and images work together. If they don’t, start over. No exceptions. Or excuses.

Stand out. Look the part of a creative professional. On trend or setting one. Dramatic or fun. Whatever your thing is. When you go to an event, introduce yourself. Shake hands. Make people notice and remember you.

Do What You Say

If you tell someone you’ll call for lunch, call. If you say you’ll send an article, do it. Be a person who follows through. This especially applies to board and committee work. These aren’t just resumé fillers. While you’re giving your time to a cause you care about, you’re also showing people what you would be like to work with or to work for. I’ve gained some great clients and staff this way.

Show up and speak up. Have an opinion. Be present. Shine. I know at least some clients have enjoyed my willingness to push the envelope (and them) when needed. I once had a CEO throw an annual report mockup across the room and say, “Next.” So I took the second concept and threw it, too. That made him laugh. When I pulled out the third concept, he bought it.

Show grit and gusto. That might mean flagging down a Learjet 45 taxiing down a runway when the jet you lined up for a photoshoot doesn’t show. (We got the shots.) Or seeing a 10-year project through to the end. One of ours, design for a new airport terminal exhibit, was on again off again due to budgets and the economy. We stuck in there and today the work we did for Eisenhower National Airport is among our most favorite.

Celebrate the Wins

They will come your way. Especially with a team that helps you be better, smarter and cooler than you could ever be on your own. I was lucky to have found that and hope you are, too.


About Sonia Greteman:  Art fuels Sonia’s work and life. She earned a bachelor’s in fine arts and after stints at Boeing Wichita, a tradeshow company and an advertising agency, in 1989 she founded Greteman Group. Her woman-owned agency leveraged its Air Capital base to develop an aviation specialty that puts the firm in strong demand, yet allows her time to serve on the boards of and in leadership positions for the Wichita Art Museum, WSU Ulrich Museum of Art and City of Wichita Design Council. Her numerous honors include American Marketing Association Wichita Marketer of the Year, American Advertising Federation 9th District Lifetime Achievement, Broadcast and Media Professionals of Wichita Hall of Fame, Donna Sweet Humanitarian of the Year, Wichita Business Journal 40 Under 40 Hall of Fame, GDUSA Person To Watch, and Junior Achievement of Kansas Hall of Fame Laureate.