Albert Raney is Chief Operations Officer at UviaUs, and a master of getting things done right, on time, and with a little extra greatness thrown in for good measure.
We caught up with him to talk about how visualization helps him with everything from exceeding client expectations to running marathons against the odds.
I am the COO, or Chief Operations Officer.
Honestly, I always kind of laugh when I hear it, because I’m just an Ops guy. It just means I have a passion for organization, process, and getting things done the way everyone expects them to get done.
I’ve always been an operations-oriented kind of person. I really enjoy it.
It’s all about, what did we promise the client? What do they want us to accomplish? What do they want to do, what do they expect their outcome to be? And then ensuring we deliver on those expectations.
I also manage issues as they arise, and proactively discern potential rocks in the stream we’re traveling down, before we become the Titanic.
I’ve never worked at another marketing company. In fact, when I was first offered the opportunity to join UviaUs, my response was, “Really?”
I have a financial printing background, so there’s a printing aspect that correlates, but that’s about it. So I thought there was nothing in my past that matched what UviaUs did. At least, it seemed that way on the surface.
I personally knew Jaycen, so that’s how I surfaced in his inbox. He’s got a knack for looking at someone and seeing their strengths, beyond their resume history.
My prior organization that I worked for was a larger organization. What I appreciate about UviaUs is that we are a small business. This might be common in small businesses, people are used to wearing many different hats, and rolling up their sleeves to get the job done.
I feel like the group here is very unique, though. We all really enjoy what we’re doing. It’s really fun to see the customer’s reactions when we bring a vision to life, especially when that’s done in a unique way.
We strive to always offer experiences or tell stories in a unique way, not something that you’ve seen 5,000 times. That stands out to me as very different.
I also appreciate how everyone at UviaUs has a voice. Jaycen has instilled that in us from the beginning. If you see something, say something. If you have a question, ask.
We’ve tried to eliminate that opposing atmosphere that exists in some organizations. “Why are you asking a question about that? You don’t know already?”
For me, having no marketing experience coming in, I felt like an idiot all the time. But everyone was always so patient and welcoming, and subsequently I’ve had a great time and I’ve learned a great deal.
From a fundamental standpoint, everything about what we do starts from, “Where do you want to be?” and then figuring out how to get there. There is a lot of visualization that goes into that.
What do you want that client or target recipient who is going to get that direct mail box, what do you want them to feel? What do you want them to do? There’s a lot of time spent thinking about that.
The next step is talking to my staff and instilling in them: We are creating an experience. So everything that goes out the door at the warehouse must look its absolute best, otherwise it’s not going to deliver the experience that everyone along the chain has worked so hard to produce, and that ultimately the client is expecting. That’s why they hired us.
So there’s a lot of focus on that end product, and helping my team appreciate the need to be as invested as the creative team and the business development team is. We are all in this together, because no matter how hard the job was sold, or how many hours Garret and Zach put into creating something, it delivers or it fails. That’s all that’s going to be remembered.
Helping to instill that is something that’s really important. Taking the time to think, okay, if I’m the client and I’m getting this, is this going to work for me personally?
Exactly. Stepping outside of our own task is so important, because whether you’re in a small business or not, it’s really damaging to grab onto “Well that’s not my job.” It’s a very damaging attitude to have.
Now, it may very well be true! There’s many things that “aren’t your job.” That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be the one to go do it.
But say something. Don’t just assume that everyone knows there’s a gap here. Call out the gap. Mind the gap! Like they say in London.
I am a long-distance runner. That’s not something I started early in life.
I’ve always been interested in running, and I ran pretty much my whole life, but I never pushed myself. I was a 5-miler. That’s what I did. I never went any farther than that.
I had a friend of mine who in 2016 or 2017, I can’t quite remember, they ran a marathon. They just woke up one day and decided to do that.
And I thought, “Wow. That’s really fascinating. How do you do that?”
I kept thinking about it. I could not put it out of my head. I just kept thinking, “I enjoy running. Why have I never pushed myself?”
But here’s the problem. By that point I was in my early forties, and I’m also a Type One diabetic. I don’t know how much you know about it, a lot of people just assume we got that way from eating too much sugar, which is not the case.
I got Type One diabetes as an adult. I was diagnosed with it at thirty-three years old. That is an element I had to take into consideration, too.
It impacts everything I do. I always have to think about every activity that I undertake with my diabetes as a backdrop, because I could literally die if I don’t plan properly. So when it comes to physical activity, especially endurance exercise like running, I always have to think ahead and know my plan.
So for me, personally, when I decided to do this and realized, well, I’m not getting any younger, I had to think, “Okay, how do I run a marathon?”
You can go on Google and you can look up thousands of plans and approaches for it, and I’m sure they’re all great, and I read many of them. There are things I incorporated and adopted into my own experience, but there’s a lot of it I haven’t. I approached this in an unconventional way.
The way I did it? One mile at a time.
I was pretty used to running five miles. That was a common thing that I did frequently, multiple times a week.
So I just started running six miles. After I did that several times, and it went fine, I ran seven miles.
Because mentally, for me, I don’t have to run seven miles. I just need to run one mile farther than I already know I can do, and have done, and this is how I managed it with my diabetes and nutrition, etc., etc.
That’s what I did until I got to 26.2 miles.
There were hard days. I love to run, but not all runs are created equal. Some days are hard. Some days you’re just not into it. Some days you’re bored.
That’s where visualization really came in. Thinking about how good it’s going to feel to cross that finish line the first time. I ran a half-marathon while building up to the full marathon, and that felt incredible.
I was going to run the Seattle marathon, and they have the finish line at the stadium. So at the end you run into the stadium, and everyone’s screaming for you, and the announcer says your name, and you cross that finish line… It’s great!
I wasn’t doing it for the accolades, more for self-satisfaction. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. But thinking about that helped me.
Negative visualization can help you reach your goal, too. For example, if I had a training run that was coming up that might be difficult, I would make myself accountable by telling someone I was going to do it.
Because then I risk having to tell them I didn’t do it if they asked me. And I don’t like that! It doesn’t make me feel good.
That would make me push myself. I’d be on that run, and I’d hit the wall, and I’d be like, “I just want to stop. Nobody’s holding a gun to my head! I don’t have to keep going. I can stop.”
But no, I don’t want to stop. Because then I’ll have to tell so-and-so I didn’t do it, and that’s embarrassing. So I keep going!
Yes, and personal accountability is such a major thing for this. There’s lots of different ways to achieve it. Social pressure is a great one.
I’m fifty years old, and I feel (no offense to the younger folks out there) like I’m one of the last of the generations that if you say you are going to do something, you do it. Period. Even to your own detriment, you do it.
I don’t think many people view things that way anymore. I’m not trying to say that makes me better than anyone, it’s just a different mindset from the world I was a kid in versus the world that kids grow up in now.
If I say I’m going to do something, I’ve got to do it. It’s hard for me to go back on it. So if I visualize having to do that, and how it makes me feel, letting that internal feeling resonate… I’d rather just complete the run than admit I didn’t do it!
There’s probably a “narcissistic” part of it too. If you accomplish that big goal, get that Instagram moment, you have the right to share it. Look! Look what I did! We all want that a little bit.
But you don’t get bragging rights if you don’t do the thing you want to brag about! There’s definitely a social aspect.
Two weekends ago I ran a half-marathon at Zion National Park. I signed up for that nine months ago. A lot of life has been happening lately, over the last four months, so I have not been able to train as rigorously for that run as I normally would have.
When I signed up for it, I thought, “This is going to be great!” It was my first “away” race, all the races I’ve done have been right here in Seattle or Washington. This was the first one I planned to travel to. It’s a big deal, Zion National Park, how cool is that!
With all of that in mind, I thought, “How nice would it be if I could set a PR, a personal record?” I want to beat my fastest time ever.
That was my goal when I signed up for the race, but like I said, a lot of life has been happening lately for me. Additionally, I’m a caregiver for my wife, who is a quadrapalegic. She’s been having some difficult times.
So I haven’t been able to train like I normally would. Going into, probably about six or seven weeks prior to when I would be leaving, I realized it’s not realistic to think I could make a PR.
That was very defeating. I was very slumped by that for a bit.
But I got over that hump and still pushed myself to go do this race. I said, “Okay. So it’s not going to be my personal best. But what can I make sure, at this point, that it will be? What can I do with the time I have left and the circumstances going on in my life? How can I salvage it?”
For me, that simply meant being happy with doing my best to make sure it wasn’t my worst time! I figured, I’ll get in the middle of my times. It’s still great, it’s still my first away race, it’s still Zion National Park, which is an amazing place.
Everything worked against me to do even that. I mean, everything.
I had four hours of sleep the night before I left. My plane got in late, and then I had a two and a half hour drive from Vegas. I failed to account for the fact that when I drove from Vegas to Utah, I lost an hour.
So I ended up getting there past midnight, into the hotel close to one AM. I have to be up at four AM to catch a shuttle to the park. And then I’m keyed up, it’s the night before the race…
I slept maybe an hour and twenty minutes. On top of only four hours the night before.
I’m not in a good place. Nutritionally, I wasn’t able to prepare the morning-of like I normally would have. They didn’t have the food they intended to have.
The only thing I went in really solid about was diabetes prep. I was set for my diabetes, prepared for anything that happened with that. But I had to do everything else differently.
On top of that, it was freezing cold. An unexpected snowstorm came in, the temperatures dropped. It was supposed to be in the fifties and mostly sunny, but all that changed. Now it’s in the twenties and snow and sleet and rain.
The entire course is uphill. Not dramatically uphill, but gradual.
I’m just like, “Oh my god, what am I going to do?”
But I got through it. And I’m really proud of myself! Because I did it, and it wasn’t my worst time. It was only three minutes away from being my worst time, but it wasn’t my worst time.
I’m happy with it. Happiness is a choice for the most part. We can’t always choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we react to them.
I try to rationalize that way about everything else in life, so why not running? “This is not going the way I planned, but I’m still here! It’s still great.”
My best friend came with me, and we went hiking for six days after that. It turned into one of my best vacations ever.
Exactly. That way you don’t just give up if your first plan falls through.
I think it’s good advice with goal setting in general. You have a big goal, but then there are incremental goals to get there: I wanted to run a marathon, but before that I had to run a half-marathon. And before that, I had to run seven miles.
Visualizing incremental goals is just as important as thinking about that end place you want to be. Because you’ll get there faster if you chunk it out.
Typically a client hires us, or anyone, because the person they are hiring to do the job is the subject matter expert.
I think we have a responsibility to our customers to hear their vision, hear what they want, but use our expertise to know what could be better.
Because sometimes clients will think they want something, but when you listen to their overall message of where they want to be, what they are saying they want isn’t going to be what’s good for them. Or sometimes, it isn’t even actually what they want.
It’s important to paint a picture for them. We say, “Yes, I hear you, and here’s what we think we could do with that.”
It’s exciting when they latch onto the new vision, and you lead them on a journey they may not have expected to go on in the first place.
You have to really listen to them, to ascertain their true goals and apply dimension to what they want, how they feel, what they think their story is.
Then you have to try and put words and pictures and elements to that story in a more three dimensional way and maybe help them see parts of it they lost focus on.
Running has been a big part of it, but I did it before running.
I said something earlier, that I think happiness is a choice. And happy people have bad days, and happy people get sad, and happy people can get depressed. I’m not trying to blow sunshine up anyone’s shorts.
But at the end of the day, I think it’s important to allow yourself to feel whatever it is you’re feeling, when you experience whatever it is you’re experiencing. That’s hugely important. Be sad, be angry. Do whatever you need to do to process what you’re going through.
But in the end, you can always choose to be happy. You can always choose to be grateful, and take account of what you do have.
For me, that involves a lot of visualization. Faith is a big part of my life, so visualizing what I believe is in my future helps me.
When it comes to my diabetes, do I want to manage it, or do I want it to manage me? It’s a difficult disease to have.
They say a Type One diabetic makes on average 180 extra decisions a day than the average person. You constantly have to think about it. You can never not think about you having a disease. The alternative is literally dying.
Anything that I want to do, I have to look ahead. I have to think about how my diabetes fits into it. How can I still do what I want to do? What do I need to bring with me?
That requires visualization. I’ve got an insulin pump attached to me, with twenty inches of tubing always hanging around me. I’ve got a continuous glucose monitor attached to my body. I’m part robot.
Even going to the airport, that’s a big deal. My monitor can’t go through the body scanner, so I have to plan ahead. How am I going to handle this situation? Some TSA agents are real jerks about it. They try to tell me, “You can go through. I’ve seen other people do it.” I say, “That’s great, I’m not them. My doctor and manufacturer say I can’t.”
I run scenarios like that through my head all the time. I figure out how to react to it in advance. That helps me. If I do get confronted with a fear or a road block, it enables me to be calmer. I can say, “Okay. I rehearsed this. I know what to do next.”
Visualization helps fuel that.
Slowing down is important.
We are constantly bombarded with a never-ending flow of information, notifications, and distractions. We end up rushing through everything we do, because we’re just trying to get it done. Sometimes there’s no choice but to do that.
But if we can step back for a moment and slow down, take a deep breath, read that message again… instead of initially reacting to the thing that excited you or angered you, read it again. Try to read between the lines. Focus on what is being said, instead of how it’s being said, those kinds of things.
Forcing yourself to slow down and really live in the moment and process some of these things will help you prioritize who gets your time, and how much of it they get.
That then allows me to figure out where to go next, instead of it being a knee-jerk decision.
It’s hard to slow down. You have to make a decision to do it. Because everything in the world we live in right now is the opposite of that. I need it yesterday, this is so important… and it’s not. Unless you’re an actual brain surgeon, it’s not brain surgery.
I feel that too often with things like, “I have to successfully upload my latest tiktok video, but it won’t go because my wifi keeps cutting out,” and we feel that is a tragic disaster, when it’s just not.
It takes patience. I’m working on it, too! It’s a big one, my wife could tell you, I’m working on it.
I love seeing these things be brought to life. I love going to concept meetings with clients where we’ve come away from initial discussions with them and then we come back with something to show them, the visuals, like, “This is what we got out of it,” and seeing their reaction to that is always exciting to me.
Then of course seeing it actually get built and be delivered. That’s super cool.
It’s funny, I’ve taken the Myers Briggs test, and I would describe myself as an introverted person. Ironically, I love working with the people here.
My role in Operations allows me to touch everything. So I get to be involved a little bit with AP and HR and Sales and Creative and Fulfillment, and I really enjoy that.
I also still have a role with the clients, too. I try to be with the clients not just when something has gone wrong or something needs to be escalated with me. I go to most of the kickoff meetings for new clients to introduce myself and be a part of it.
Not because I don’t trust my team, because they’re awesome. I don’t want clients to only see me when there’s a problem.
If I’m there from the beginning, I can help prevent problems.
That’s a great question! Like I mentioned earlier, I am a caregiver for my wife.
We’ve been married almost eighteen years. She’s been in a wheelchair for twelve of those years. She’s been fully quadrapalegic for the last five.
She was ill when we got married. She had a cane at the time. We always knew that where we’re at now was a possibility, but it’s happened more quickly than either one of us could have anticipated.
And I’m older now. I was in the mid-thirties when we got married, and now I’m in my early fifties. It’s not as easy anymore to do all of this.
I think one goal is to recognize that I can still have a great time. I can still go and have a great vacation like I just did at Zion National Park. I would love to be able to go do that with my wife, but that’s not possible with her current circumstances.
So I’m trying to create other ways to reach that same level of enjoyment, not just for her sake, but for our sake. I think it’s really important.
I’m a little challenged right now on how to do that, because her health has been so poor the last few months.
But I’m trying to find a way to make it feel better than it has felt of late. We’ve always approached her illness with laughter. We still do, but it’s been more difficult to do lately. There’s been more pain involved lately.
It’s not a clear cut answer, but I’m trying to find a way to ensure we both get as much out of our marriage as we can, and never lose that laughter. Even given the current state of affairs, which makes all that very difficult.
I feel confident that we can take our circumstances and find a way to be happier. But the recipe needs to be altered, and I’m still figuring that out and making adjustments.
I’m using visualization to sort that out.
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