The Passing of a Legend

By Jim Mathis

You’ve probably never heard of Tony Mikes, but he has made a tremendous impact on my life, helping to shape my career and my business. It’s a bit of a strange path from his home in Eastern Pennsylvania to my small agency in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but I’m a better person for taking it. Tony Mikes passed away on Thursday, June 25, 2015. I’m proud to call him a friend and he will be missed.

In 1988 Tony started a company called Second Wind. Second Wind is a network of smaller to mid-sized advertising agencies, design firms and marketing shops all over the country. What Tony did was give the owners and managers of these businesses a place to come together, learn from each other, share successes and failures. For more than 25 years, Tony sat at the helm of Second Wind, helping agency leadership find their way through this tumultuous business. Craig Lawrence and Paul Schiller (the founders of Lawrence & Schiller) were early members of the network and the agency still belongs today.

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Prior to starting Second Wind, Tony had a successful career as an advertising agency owner himself. He had already experienced many of the growing pains and tough decisions that the network members were experiencing. He was there to help guide and grow; the perfect mentor for small agency owners like me.

I met Tony over 20 years ago. I was a media director for Lawrence & Schiller. The agencytonymikes had planned a manager’s retreat in the Twin Cities and Tony was brought in to facilitate. At the time, I was a disgruntled employee; not happy with some of the direction I saw the company going and was seriously considering quitting. At the end of the meeting I was feeling better, but I still had reservations. Then I had the opportunity to drive Tony to the airport (which was more coincidental than intentional, I was picking up Kara so we could spend the weekend in Minneapolis), but the 45 minutes I got to spend one-on-one with Tony were invaluable. He was able to see my concerns and walk me through them. In that short ride he talked me off the ledge.

Years later when I started ADwërks, I decided to join Second Wind as soon as I could afford it. Since then I’ve made many dear friends in the Second Wind network. I’ve learned things that have helped make me successful and avoid many pitfalls that could have been quite costly. In mid-July I’ll be traveling back to Wyomissing, Pennsylvania to spend a few days with other small agency owners at the Second Wind headquarters. I will miss Tony, but I am grateful for the many lessons I’ve learned from him and the others in the Second Wind family.