We had the good fortune of connecting with David Bates and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi David, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I’m a firm believer that risk is an essential value of both creative and business growth. Risk taking has been a huge part of my creative career, and has become an integral part of my leadership style. Whether it’s being willing to take a step back in order to redirect and take larger steps forward in the future, or being willing to break what’s “now” in order to realize what’s “next”, building for the future, moving forward, and taking risks all go hand-in-hand. It’s definitely a fine line to walk, and sometimes you may find yourself extended well over the tips of your proverbial skis. Managing that risk, then, means continuously studying whatever response or data is available to you, learning from it, and course-correcting accordingly. I believe managed risk is critical part of leading a creative business, or any business for that matter, and if you are not encountering some level of risk, then, you may be safe for now, but you are in essence stagnant even if you don’t realize it yet.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
What set me apart from others was my desire to truly understand the problems we were trying to solve as creatives. Digging into the data behind creative requests, understanding the business needs, and using it to create targeted and effective solutions became the key driver for me. While I consider myself a creative, finding the solutions became more important than the art, and that grew into a love of building teams, processes, and systems that were just as targeted and effective. What I’m most proud of are those teams I was allowed to build, and the people I’ve been fortunate enough to guide, mentor, and work alongside. The path to where I am was not easy, and the business knowledge, especially, was hard-earned. Since “business” isn’t really taught in design programs, I took what appeared to be backward steps more than once to gain the knowledge for what I wanted to do long term. Being good at what you do, and then taking a step into something that’s out of your wheelhouse can be brutal and disheartening. But, I look back on some of those periods that, at the time, I thought might crush me and have a deep appreciation for how they molded and refined me. Now, all of those things I learned…design thinking, strategic problem solving, understanding business needs, and team building are all a critical part of my job as Managing Director of a creative studio.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m especially fond of Deep Ellum, because of the many years I spent playing in bands there. While much of the fondness is probably nostalgic, I love that there are some time-honored, well-worn places woven into the current fabric. I love the unassuming places like Allgood Cafe, Angry Dog, St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin, and Uncle Ubers where you can walk in, be greeted by name and have a really great meal in a comfortable, casual, authentic environment. You’ll probably also run into an old friend while you’re there. Other places come and go, and some are really great, but I love those standards that are always there, always welcoming, and always good.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My early career at Fossil was a launch pad for everything that’s followed. In addition to “growing up” in an organization that believed in internal empowerment, key people like Tim Hale, who was Head of the Creative Studio, and John Talbot, who was the Director of Marketing, allowed me the room to grow and evolve in non-linear ways, while giving me guidance through it.

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