We’re celebrating a big anniversary! Julie Thomas has been with L&P for 15 years. She started when our full-service marketing agency was no more than an idea. Since then, Julie has become an expert project manager, training many of our team members in how to understand placemaking and client communication. Julie has always been a solution-minded person, and over the years she has transitioned to creative services. She excels in crafting some of the most inviting welcome centers for our clients, and I have to say The Grove is one of her best projects!
On the occasion of her 15th anniversary as a team member here at L&P Branding and Marketing, we thought we’d ask her a few questions about her time with the company. She shared how she’s grown personally and professionally over the years and told us how she’s found true career happiness.
Why have you stayed at L&P for 15 years?
What I do here is more than work; it is my passion. Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I printed out this quotation and posted it on the bulletin board next to my desk on the first day I started working at L&P. These are words I live by. Now, don’t get me wrong. There have been tough days filled with mistakes, tears, and moments of total frustration, but the next day I’d wake up and be back at it. I learned how to do this very early on from my mentor, close friend, and co-worker, Renee Lewis, the owner of L&P. She’d say, “This isn’t heart surgery! Tomorrow’s a new day. Let’s just get through this one.” And that’s what I’ve done.
This company is exciting and ever-evolving. We don’t templatize what we do. Each real estate marketing project is unique, and we start from scratch for every project. That’s our secret sauce. It isn’t easy, but the results always yield these unbelievable brands.
When I first started at Lewis & Partners (as it was originally called), I was 23 years old and fresh out of the college of communications at UT Austin. To put it in perspective, a couple of Top 10 pop hits were “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean and “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley. The economy was booming, and housing prices were peaking. We were on cloud nine with a handful of local real estate marketing clients, a combination of builders and smaller-scale developers. Renee and I were officing out of her house in her makeshift guest room/office. Just us.
After about two years, we had successfully grown the company to the point where I needed an assistant and was promoted to Account Executive. We added a desk for more help and kept grinding. We were enjoying the success of our developer and builder clients selling homes in and around the Houston metro area.
As we saw the housing bubble having a direct impact not only on home valuations, but on mortgage markets, home builders, real estate, and home supply retail outlets, we knew we needed to pivot. 2008 was coming and the future was not looking good. We kept the company small and shifted to the international market: the timeshare industry to be specific. It was a huge account requiring international travel, long hours, countless meetings, even a second language, but we did some of our best work. With the help of our client, we realized that we could deliver the best strategy and creativity of any full-service marketing agency in the country. This client also kept us busy enough to ride through the recession.
In 2011, I got married, and in 2012, my husband and I welcomed our first little boy. By this point, the company had moved out of Renee’s guest bedroom and into a cottage. We now had five employees. As the market shifted back to multi-family and mixed-use developments, L&P followed the trend. We consulted for the best in the business in terms of luxury multi-family and mixed-use developers. I continued to have a busy work-life schedule. In 2014, my family welcomed our second little boy, and L&P moved into an even bigger cottage and hired even more employees.
As my personal responsibility load started to become more than I could handle, Renee helped me adapt to my new life. She held me up and supported me through my role as a working mom. She was right by my side as my cheerleader and supporter. Without Renee, I would not be who I am today.
As the company and my family grew, L&P took on another worldwide residential and retail developer. We casted our net even wider and expanded into the Active Adult real estate business. We learned as much as we could. We had experience from the timeshare world, but this developer wanted to revolutionize the way Active Adults lived and wanted us right there to help market this new product in Central Texas. We hit it out of the park, and this product set a higher standard for Active Adults living in Texas.
Somehow, 15 years have flown by. We have 18 full-time employees, Class A office space, and a rolodex of Tier 1 clients. Our real estate marketing work continues to blow my mind. It’s award-winning, in fact.
We haven’t looked back – only forward. As I learn and grow, I feel like the company does too.
What have you learned?
I’ve learned that to be in the creative marketing services business you need thick skin and an eye for originality. You need to have a clear vision and confidence behind that vision. I’ve learned that clients, co-workers, and others will question your ideas and make recommendations that may dilute your concept, but if you can back up why you believe in your vision, you’ll get your way 99% of the time. Confidence is just as critical as creativity.
I’ve learned that nice girls don’t finish last. When I decided to stay in Houston and set down my roots, I decided from the beginning that I would be me: happy and positive. I’ve truly done my best to cultivate professional relationships and lifelong friendships with everyone from clients to vendors to co-workers. I don’t see anyone as a cash cow or a temporary solution. I have invested in them, and in turn, they’ve invested in me. I have vendors that I’ve worked with for 15 years now and clients I’ve served for almost 10 years! Being nice and genuine is my superpower!
I’ve learned that true career happiness is not always found in titles or money or awards. For me, none of those things have ever mattered, although they are all appreciated. I’ve found the most joy in the journey, whether that’s the big journey I’ve undertaken from where I started to where I am today or in individual journeys with clients, from our first meetings to the time our job is done. I take great joy in the deep belly laughs over a glass of wine over dinner after a long day of client meetings or in the comradery felt by my co-workers when we’ve struggled through something and gotten through it together. All these experiences have made me who I am, and I am just appreciative of it all.
What has been your most memorable moment?
Oh, man. I wish I could list them all, but I’d say it was when I was producing a commercial in Mexico on the top floor of a brand-new luxury high-rise building in the middle of an earthquake feeling the building sway back and forth. That was terrifying and memorable to say the least!
All of us at L&P are grateful to have traveled on this 15-year journey with our friend and co-worker Julie Thomas. In addition to being an amazing team member at L&P, she is also a committed mother to two growing boys. Her understanding of the needs of growing, multi-gen families and their communities, schools, homes, meal planning, entertainment, and outdoor spaces helps her identify with the many families we are speaking to. She is a baseball mom with a keen eye for space planning and interior design. All of this helps inform her research and study of the art of placemaking. Congratulations, Julie! Thank you for all you’ve done for L&P clients over the years! We wouldn’t be here without your vision and commitment! – Renee Lewis