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How did Vermilion keep its DNA during a leadership transition?

Bob Morehouse /

2 min read

If an organization's values only live in the company handbook, they're just concepts. When its leaders live and cultivate them daily, you create culture.

After 42 years at the helm of Vermilion, in 2022 I made the decision to transition the ownership to three longstanding leaders of the company, Susan Touchette Aust, Thaddeus Napp, and Sarah Halle. 

The transition to a new generation was in the works for some time. It was always my hope that Vermilion could continue as an independent creative agency, a strong community resource, and an organization whose DNA is making a difference for clients making a difference. A critical piece to making the transition work was to elevate three internal leaders who didn’t just believe in those same goals, but continued to embrace new and proven ways to achieve them.

As a result, the new owners, with Susan as Partner, Client Service, Thad as Partner, Strategy, and Sarah as Partner, Creative, had both my full support and the full support of our entire team. This outcome provides continuity for our staff, our clients, and our community.

I can’t deny it was an emotional change for me, given the privileged role I’ve had in leading the talented Vermilion team. It allowed me to immerse myself in so many of Boulder’s remarkable businesses and nonprofits. I knew I would miss the day-to-day challenges of solving client problems and encouraging the success of my colleagues. Luckily, at the request of the new team, I’ve continued on in the role of advisor and advocate.

We’ve often thought of Vermilion as an ‘experiment.’ Can a creative agency build an enduring business focusing on the positive, on supporting clients engaged in healthier products or socially responsible actions? What success we’ve had along those lines has been greatly aided by our hometown community, where new ideas and positive energy are appreciated and rewarded.

Most of all, I’ll always be grateful for the scores of colleagues, current and past, who’ve made Vermilion the company it is today. We respect our clients, we trust our instincts, we enjoy working together to make a difference. We have the spectacular team in place moving forward, and I have every confidence that Susan, Thad, and Sarah are the absolute perfect stewards for the Vermilion brand.

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