DKY partners Mike Dobies, Mark Yaeger, and Brian Dahl and Ron Jon's Surf Shop

Counting 25 Candles and Hundreds of Memories

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DKY has turned 25! We decided to ask partners, Mark Yaeger, Brian Dahl, and Mike Dobies, to reflect on their journey growing this agency.

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On February 16, DKY turned the big 2-5! Okay, not such an auspicious age compared with, say, Ogilvy, founded in 1850. But it sure feels like an important milestone to us. Figuring that agency pace makes us 175 in dog years, we decided to ask our partners, Mark Yaeger, Brian Dahl, and Mike Dobies, to reflect on their journey growing this agency.

First, to recap our origins, Mark and two friends formed the firm in 1994 with one audacious goal: winning Winnebago Industries’ business as a startup. The pitch worked and DKY (the owners’ initials) was off to the races. High school buddies Mike Dobies and Brian Dahl came on board in 1995 and 1996, respectively.

Since then, DKY has grown up with Winnebago in one of the longest engagements in the business. Adding more talent, services, and clients…branching out into ag, manufacturing, and consumer products…carving out a place in the Twin Cities’ agency landscape. It’s all been an epic ride with hundreds of blessings, even for those of us newer to the “squirrel nest.”

Now for those reflections. Let’s just let our lead guys speak for themselves:

Your proudest moment?

Brian: Winning a Best of Show for Cargill from the National Agriculture Marketing Association. The team really hit a campaign out of the park and it drove great results for the client. It felt like the best kind of David vs. Goliath moment for the agency.

Mark: Handing off the last printed item for an investor event just before registrants walked into the arena. The team pulled a rabbit out of a hat for our client that day.

Mike: Every time a client is downright giddy over the work we’ve done. And winning the NAMA award for Cargill.

Most gratifying thing about serving clients?

Mike: Building relationships out of a mutual commitment to respect, smart work, and fun.

Mark: Putting our clients in a position to succeed.

Brian: Coming together with diverse skills and talents to accomplish something. When you get on the same page with goals and values, and the work you do makes a difference—that’ll bring you to work each day.

Something no one told you about running an agency?

Mark: I don’t think I really knew anything about running an agency. Everything was a new experience.

Mike: This is a people business as much as it’s an idea business. (And you’re on the hook financially.)

Brian:  How much ownership you feel for the human side of the business. More than the numbers, it’s about the people on your team, the experiences you share, and the close relationships you forge with your clients.

A time you overcame the odds?

Brian: In 2008 we hit a rough patch with the recession. Instead of letting fear takeover, we decided to help others in need by donating services. That year was transformational. We came out of it with hope and optimism, and it shaped us in important ways.

Mark: 2008 was a tough year but, by the grace of God, we made it through and are still moving forward.

Mike: Beating Mark Yaeger in a staff golf tournament.

Your one guiding principle?

Mark: To honor God in whatever we do and not take any of His glory.

Mike: Serve God first. Everything else follows.

Brian: Our Christian faith. The agency belongs to God, so the way we do business matters—the way we treat people, the quality of our work, and the importance of keeping our word.

Future direction?

Brian: We’re planning for growth—both in size and effectiveness. Strategic brand marketing will always be our foundation, but the tactics are always evolving. We’ll continue to hone our approach and services to meet the needs of our clients.

Mike: Continue to learn and adapt in order to deliver fresh brand marketing, advertising and PR that gets results.

Mark: We have short-term and long-term plans, but we’re also trusting in God’s provision. We’re always looking for better ways to be a blessing to our clients, employees and partners.

Speaking for the partners and all of us at DKY, we’re grateful to the wonderful clients who’ve given us such rewarding work over the years. We’re thankful for your trust—and hope to be serving you at age 50!