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Christopher Plant sits down with Peter Madden to discuss discomfort in performing, the clutch factor in leadership, and the relationship between business and art.
Peter is the CEO of AgileCat, and Philadelphia based full service creative agency. You can learn more about Peter and AgileCat at agilecat.com
Craving Momentum with Peter Madden
Christopher Plant: [00:00:00] Welcome to RADIOKISMET Live with Christopher Plant. RADIOKISMET Live is a partnership with KISMET Cowork and is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Here we are live at RADIOKISMET. This is Christopher Plant, and we are in the studio today with Peter Madden. Peter is the owner of a company called Agile Cat. And he’s going to tell us a little bit about that. How are you doing Peter?
Peter Madden: [00:00:24] Good. How you doing Chris? Thanks for having me.
Christopher Plant: [00:00:26] Yeah, my pleasure. And so just for the record, everybody, it is Groundhog day and Peter and I scaled mountains of snow to get in here and make sure that we kept our appointment, but it’s this is a full snow day.
Chitty chat that we’re going to have here. Peter, tell me a little bit about agile cat and how you started that company.
Peter Madden: [00:00:43] I’m shocked. You’re not telling everyone that you saw me outside with a team of Huskies.
Christopher Plant: [00:00:49] You came here on a large scale toboggan
Peter Madden: [00:00:52] Under Armour, branded snow shoes and a Partridge in a pear tree.
How I started agile.
Christopher Plant: [00:00:58] What is agile Kat? I think I have an idea. Yeah.
Peter Madden: [00:01:01] Creative agency, branding, design, advertising, all the fun stuff. And we also own the trademark to a cool discipline called branderior, which is branding meets interior design inspire cultures. And, really just,
Christopher Plant: [00:01:12] and I was just showing you one of my made up words.
Peter Madden: [00:01:14] I love it. I love it. It might
bring him up here. I just, I make them up and then I trademark it. Yeah. Yeah. That’s $1,100 I ever spent with an IP attorney. Yeah, it’s cool. And it’s really. It’s radical. It’s different. The team loves it. I love it. And I think with the whole COVID thing, I think now more than ever what are you, how are your walls talking to your employees when they’re hopefully all the way back?
What is it saying to them and how are they inspired? And, are you saying that you care for them? It’s actually, do you have their back beyond energizing them and everything else?
Christopher Plant: [00:01:43] That’s funny. So you’re already at work on kind of the future of work and how it’s going to happen.
Peter Madden: [00:01:48] I would think, I don’t think we’re there, I think it’s bigger than just a creative effort.
It’s really how it all aligns and how it just speaks to what a company stands for, what they’re about. And I think now more than ever, especially with millennials, you’re in an interview with them, they want to know. Or what are you about? Yeah, I get what you do, but a lot of times we’ll talk with someone out of college.
And what they’re most pumped about is our pro bono work. We’ve done over a million dollars in, I’ll just say, charitable creative efforts for organizations that deserve it in the region. And It’s really cool. It’s cool to see that.
Christopher Plant: [00:02:16] Yeah. And so that’s funny that you’ve done a lot of pro bono work and I I love kind of bringing people into our fold and I give a lot of way, and it’s so interesting to see how you ended up learning about yourself and your organization through others.
And so how many people do you have right now?
Peter Madden: [00:02:34] So there’s eight of us.
Christopher Plant: [00:02:35] Okay. And what year did you start.
Peter Madden: [00:02:38] 20 years ago this past January 20th, 3318 Carson street about a Stone’s throw from here in Manayunk. Yeah, it was interesting. You started hearing many. Yeah, absolutely.
It was crazy coming home. I’m going home baby to drive down that street. I was choked. It was like a witness protection program street. You can barely fit a normal car in this. It’s really more of an alley than the street. But it was great. I do miss my overhead from those days, it was like I think I had a roommate, thousand dollar rent every month that we split down the middle.
I had a little, I borrowed a computer actually to start the business. Lived on a gas credit card. That was my,
Christopher Plant: [00:03:11] I love it. That’s those are the technical are the classic startup stories. How you did it. And tell me a little bit more about how you even came to want to do this.
What were you where did you go to college?
Peter Madden: [00:03:22] I went to Loyola, Baltimore. . Marketing major. I found it the hard way. Loyola was more known for being a great school. If you’re going to be a CPA, like a great accounting program, therefore I got crushed in those classes. At one class I was carrying the teacher’s books back to her office, just to please don’t fail me.
I’ll take a D. Still gonna fail.
Christopher Plant: [00:03:40] D 1 had a buddy down there on a lacrosse,
Peter Madden: [00:03:44] great lacrosse team. I didn’t play, but you had to learn how to. Sling it around for sure. Anyone in balmar has they call it? They’re not interested in playing catch with a baseball. They want you to get out the sticks.
Christopher Plant: [00:03:54] That’s pretty crazy. And you, did you come immediately back to Philadelphia,
Peter Madden: [00:03:57] came back to Philly? Because my family, most of them are returnees it’s this runs even from my grandfather all the way through my grandfathers,
just before this you’re one of six and six. Yeah.
Christopher Plant: [00:04:08] That’s just, you don’t even hear that so much anymore. It’s forget
Peter Madden: [00:04:10] The Irish Catholic way, but I’m the only one that my mom actually sent out, like birth announcements. So I guess I’m pretty special you in the,
Christopher Plant: [00:04:17] In the order,
Peter Madden: [00:04:18] I’m 2 the second, somewhat forgotten. I don’t know what, yeah,
Christopher Plant: [00:04:22] that’s I just can’t even imagine six kids.
Peter Madden: [00:04:24] was ridiculous. It was like a bang of puppies, everyone about two years apart. Yeah. A lot of fun. The stories are just unbelievable.
Christopher Plant: [00:04:31] Where did you grow up?
Peter Madden: [00:04:32] Merchantville New Jersey. Okay. Little postage Stamp between camden and Cherry Hill. And my parents are still there.
It’s a great little kind of Norman Rockwell kind of town,
Christopher Plant: [00:04:41] and so you hadn’t actually lived in Philly. So you went down to Maryland from there and then you came to Philadelphia actually
Peter Madden: [00:04:47] to Collingswood New Jersey. That’d be my cousin and a couple of guys. And worked at my dad’s law firm, assuming I was gonna be yet another Madden that was gonna, go ahead and Madden pretty much.
So I worked as a paralegal. Synopsizing depositions, as exciting as it sounds. Pushing a lot of paper around in and realized I’d make a lousy attorney pretty quickly. So then it was like, okay, get me outta here. So I started my own little, one man PR shop there. Man-made communications. And I was around 22 at the time and started working for free for different companies just to get some kind of portfolio together.
So my very first client was yards brewing company. Nice free P crank out, press releases, go to a Monk’s cafe and take pictures of one of their ales they’re opening. And. Great guys. It’s when they had a little closet of a business. So things like that, just build it up that
Christopher Plant: [00:05:32] way. What is it like a 70,000 square foot building at six and spring garden?
Yeah. Yeah, they’ve done a great job. Unreal. That’s fun. And you from what I see on your website, and even just talking to you, you bring an innovative approach to your, to what you do. You’re not just in make the sausage and out, but it seems like you’ve got like a.
You have personality, character and flair. I can see that. And you can’t see that through the microphone, but he came, he’s a hip cat.
Peter Madden: [00:06:00] I’m wearing my suit.
So unfortunately this pandemic hit. Yeah.
Christopher Plant: [00:06:03] Yeah. And so how did you, it seems very artful.
Peter Madden: [00:06:07] well said.
It really is. I’ve always said I’m a freak in a suit. I can pull off the business thing, CEO, but I gravitate towards the artistic side of me. I’ve been a lifelong musician, I’m a drummer. When I first started in business, in fact, I used to play Chris’s jazz weekly with this amazing monsters, like baptism by fire.
And I played since I was six and been through drum Corps and hardcore study, wind ensembles. So I guess I was fairly accomplished. And then
Christopher Plant: [00:06:33] I heard you, I heard you last time you were here. When we first met, you were playing the drums.
Peter Madden: [00:06:37] Yeah. A little rusty but playing it, Chris has just taught me so much about myself in general, as a musician.
Presentation, my instructor walked in one time and saw me and you can tell when someone’s in their head because they really suck. And he just called me to, I just started to overthink, Oh my God, I’m playing with guys that they play for a living. And they’re like, there’s free Baron new tours, the world with Wynton Marsalis.
I shouldn’t be up here. And of course, when you do that, it’s over. You’re terrible. Yeah. Dan Monaghan is an amazing drummer teaches at temple. Pulled me aside. He’s what’s going on with you tonight? I’m like, I don’t know. I’m just thinking too much. He said by the book, effortless mastery, and I recommend this book to anyone, whether or not you’re a musician
really we’ll include that in the liner
notes, please do at home on just performance in general.
I don’t care if you’re presenting artwork or presenting to a board room. It’s the same thing to stay out of your head, be true to yourself and just
Christopher Plant: [00:07:27] yeah. And there is this Last decade or so, where it feels like arts appreciation is like squeezing into the business world.
I just finished from 16 to 18, I did a design thinking MBA. And that whole, actually the woman who put that MBA program together actually has a saying where she says the future of work is jazz. And she talks about this mastery that you’re talking about, where everybody’s got their thing and, at certain points in a corporation or on a project, somebody is going to step forward and have to take a role.
And then, recede in an out as a product gets done. And and it does seem like the universe is moving closer to this project style approach to things.
Peter Madden: [00:08:10] I hope, what I learned from it. I love that phrase by the way. But what I learned from it a little bit, which phrase I say they just shared for the future is.
Yeah. But being a driver in a genre like jazz and a live setting with an audience and there’s four or five guys playing around you, you are at the center of a hurricane. You’ve gotta be. Really cool. Yeah. With uncomfortability. And it’s all, you just got to look at each other because when do I know you’re soloing, it’s just weird.
Part mind-meld part mind reading that happens when really solid performances are, are happening. It’s just it’s so it’s, I learned a lot about that. Just as an entrepreneur, you gotta be cool with being. Uncomfortable a
Christopher Plant: [00:08:47] it’s a responsiveness. And it said it’s like filtering in all this information and then processing it in real time and then responding.
And you’re very clearly you’re, having to be the backbeat of the song, you are it’s it’s essential. So I think that’s very interesting to think about in terms of when drumming is good and that person is back there and they literally have.
Everything in their scope, they can see all the parts of it and have much broader understanding of maybe even how the dynamics play out than say like a lead singer who’s like up there controlling and has to gyrate around and Mick Jagger it up or whatever it is. But that’s really cool.
And how was it for you like emerging as a business person? What was it something that you really took naturally to, or was there some component of it that was more complex?
Peter Madden: [00:09:34] Interesting. I would like to think I’ve always been a leader in some respect and perhaps not your average leader.
I think I lead with a lot of heart and I’m more of that servant leader style. I answered to my employees as much as they would ever answer to me. I feel like. I need to answer to them because if I’m not on my game, we’re all out of a job or lose a project or what happened.
Christopher Plant: [00:09:59] You don’t exist anymore.
Peter Madden: [00:10:00] Exactly.
Christopher Plant: [00:10:01] But to be more specific, like when you were. Starting to get to this point, your 22 year old kid, doing stuff for free. And now you’ve got eight people and 20 years in the business. So what was w what was it like when you hired your first employee? Like, how did that feel?
Peter Madden: [00:10:16] And he’s still with me. Pretty incredible reel. Yeah. Amazing designer named Matt Hanaman and I had. One of my PR clients, all of a sudden had a need for something like a real dumb like organizational chart designed and through someone in Philly’s that you’ve got to meet this guy we met. And he was a freelancer for me for let’s say, six months or a year.
He’s so darn talented and just grew to really be in sync with each other in terms of the work. And then I said, look, I’m thinking about really taking the next step. I’m going to have an office on main streets. We went from Carson street to main street. He came in. And it’s, he’s still with me.
I haven’t seen him in awhile because of this thing. So talented,
I, I think
Christopher Plant: [00:10:55] about this a lot about I’ve had several businesses. I used to own a nightclub, where I had 35 employees. I’ve hired, I fired Like people that just, it just can’t be overstated. How important it is to maintain these relationships.
And it is incredibly complex to I have five people and. Everybody’s got something and there’s just so much that goes into evaluating the needs and desires of your people so that you can optimize them and keep them happy and keep them at play.
Peter Madden: [00:11:30] Yeah, I’m definitely not crack the whip.
Let’s go work hard. It’s a more of an older brother. I think that there’s not times when it’s okay, we want we’re on fire here. This is due, then let’s rock it. But I think I just, the whole person, right? I’ve. My gosh I’ve had, people come in and they’re like completely gray and what’s wrong.
Oh, I got a speeding ticket. I’m gonna lose my license. No, you’re not. I know guys in attorney, I’ll take care of it, but let’s get you. And some people might say you’re the boss. It doesn’t make any sense to be that way. Come on. It’s not your fault.
Christopher Plant: [00:11:58] And it’s also, I think that in terms of being an intuitive and empathetic leader, that is.
Cause I’m definitely not interested in having cogs in the machine and I want my people to have personality. I want them to have ambition. I want them to be creative. I want them to be able to think for me. And that requires a lot of freedom and requires a lot of trust and and.
It’s easy for that trust to be broken. And then, just even monitoring your own self cause I do have this sense of like that old school, like everybody be here at the same time and like let’s make sure that we get our money’s worth and it’s It’s very easy to get mixed up in terms of what is the return, and you’re from a legal family, right?
And so people go to lawyers all the time. They say, this took you 15 minutes. Why are you charging me $5,000? And they’re like it took me 15 years. To do that in 15 minutes. Yeah. And creating expertise around you and allowing it like capacity to blossom is a real thing.
Peter Madden: [00:12:57] Yeah. People are funny.
They’re very metric based, if I’m ever out when we used to have cocktail parties, two questions. How long have you been around? Yeah. How many people do you have? How many clients do you have?
Christopher Plant: [00:13:08] I’m glad I was able to fulfill at least two of those free cliche. It’s already here on this podcast.
Peter Madden: [00:13:13] Not at all, but it’s just interesting that like you’re, if someone not in the business, it just, they need size equals,
Christopher Plant: [00:13:19] but it’s also context. Because you do want to. When you asked those questions and I spent a lot of time in Europe and I constantly get this feedback, Oh, you Americans, it’s all about work.
And and I fight back on that a lot because it’s okay, I don’t know you and I’m at a party. And if I’m European, I’m just gonna ask you, like, how was your day? Or, but like understanding what people have chosen to do with their lives and what their, either a passionate about, or b willing to give their life to helps you understand a lot about a person.
Peter Madden: [00:13:51] I think so. It’s my fragile ego used to hate the, how many people do you have questions? Yeah. And you think, Oh God, I shouldn’t, I’ve been in business for 20 years. I should have 50 people or a hundred people. What does that mean? The
Beatles were 40, no longer agile. Exactly.
That’s the thing.
Every company wants to own agility and nimbleness go to any fortune 50 companies website. I guarantee you the word agility is somewhere on their homepage of their website and I’ve owned it for 20
Christopher Plant: [00:14:12] years. No I liked that. I was recounting to my wife just this morning, a conversation I had with a friend of mine two years ago.
And I was like talking about. What I wanted from business. And it went I was like, I want five people that I can keep a team, but still have some bandwidth and create expertise. And, cause my ambitions are like out there, I’m doing real estate, I’m doing co-working and we’re doing the radio.
And that’s an interesting universe try and articulate to all these different people and then have them come together as well. What are you, I know that you have some big real estate clients. We were talking last time you were here and you’re working on like some innovative ideas that were not necessarily cookie cutter exactly.
About getting people back in the office.
Peter Madden: [00:14:59] Yeah. That really, we have a few,
Brandywine Realty, Keystone and Equis are all great leaders at all of them. Bringing if
Christopher Plant: [00:15:05] anyone’s in the news a lot
Peter Madden: [00:15:06] lately. Yeah. Jerry Sweeney is an incredible leader. We put together for them, their first ever branding campaign.
The question and the conversation, we’re all having do you really need space? And so we, this very, it actually, it premieres on Valentine’s day and I hope everybody loves it. But it’s really
Christopher Plant: [00:15:21] cool ones in that campaign or
Peter Madden: [00:15:23] campaign it’ll be living all over. Yeah. The region. And I think it says the way it’s structured.
It says a lot about Brandywine is a, is an E Q. Based company, right? Like hardcore emotional intelligence. And instead of just let’s promote this square footage, bricks and mortar move in. It’s more about this. I’ll just say a more humble tone about, we know you’re having this conversation and what you do need office space.
And here’s why we think you do not about grow revenue. It’s more of those more subtleties that, celebrating Chris’s birthday or going out for someone’s, for first year work anniversary. The stuff that makes even bigger companies feel more familial. And that’s, that’s the stuff I miss, like crazy beyond being in the city and at my
Christopher Plant: [00:16:03] You’re like a people person and a people business in a world that hates people like me. That’s like I’m. I w I went sledding by myself last night. I was like, I gotta do something. I love it. Keep it there. It’s funny to think about it. And with your clients, like you what are some ways that you think that your business will be different after this pandemic?
From what you were doing before? You talked a lot about. You have an intense comradery in your company. When we were speaking last time you guys spend a lot of time together, you went out together after work and what what do you think is the new workplace going to be like
Peter Madden: [00:16:37] it’s certainly new level of respecting each individual’s take on the pandemic and where their head is with it, where their heart is with it.
And so it can’t be okay. Happy hour at five 30 going down the street. Yeah. It’s here. I’d like to do this. Who would like to join me? This is not an obligation wherever you are with this. And I’m not offended if just one of you, one wants to come, but this is what I’m doing. Yeah. And I already had it. I had it back in December.
So a slight
fever didn’t last. I had the COVID
at the Teflon and I got the antigen. Oh, I should wear a Cape
Christopher Plant: [00:17:10] or a Viking helmet. I don’t know. I have many people and this is where I’m knocking on things, but many people are stunned and surprised that, that I haven’t gotten it because I am so social and I have somehow managed to get around, but, try to be safe and I am very much looking forward to getting a vaccine.
But it doesn’t seem to be any time soon. Oh my God. What about that mess here in Philadelphia? That’s something
Peter Madden: [00:17:33] 22 year old kid from Drexel. And what was that? Who chose him? What?
Christopher Plant: [00:17:37] That, that deputy that’s already resigned, but it was well-known it was well-known. I remember reading about it and thinking, okay, maybe we’ve got like a junior Elon Musk or, somebody who’s like really gonna understand how to do this, but it was an even worse joke than it seems.
And I really the failure of local politics at times is just, it hurts your brain. And Kenny just seems like we’re here in Philadelphia. So this is where it gets very localized. Kenny just seems to be a mess and he just wants to get out of this party and he
Peter Madden: [00:18:13] doesn’t seem to get the PR or aspect of at all the job.
It just doesn’t seem that happy. Not that a big fake smile on your face equals great leadership, but. You miss Randell, right? Even Nutter got that PR part of it.
Christopher Plant: [00:18:25] Yeah. Even M another was certainly no ed Randell, but never got it. He knew how to shake hands with people and looked him in the eye and talked to them and give them some feedback.
There are so many things that have happened that that we’re just not hearing from our leaders.
Peter Madden: [00:18:38] Yeah. I’m excited about a guy named Jeff Brown. Who’s now doing. Some kind of exploratory work towards a campaign for mayor here in Philly and owns a bunch of ShopRites in the inner city. I met him over the summer.
Gregarious. Nice, super smart. He reminded me of Randell. I’ve heard this guy, he heard about this. He’s got deep pockets, very smart. Any it’s not rocket science, crime homelessness. Opiate addictions this horrible education system. We have here this giant tax base that apparently can’t. Feed the system.
So he does get, he’s got this great business acumen, apparently incredibly. Well-respected not just in business circles, but even more so in the inner city reemployed. So many of these families, when his stores were rated, he was personally himself getting in his car and driving to different row homes to drop food off to families, needed it.
He is, he’s a real
Christopher Plant: [00:19:21] guy. That’s cool. I would love a charismatic, super influential mayor. Again, somebody that really understood the spirit of Philadelphia and could act it out in a way. And it’s not the Jim Kenney doesn’t know who we are. He’s from here. South Philly gets it, but I’ve sat down at the end of a bar when he was eating on numerous occasions and you look at them and you’re like, dude is complicated.
There’s like a whole thing going on inside. And but it, and you try to think back to there was really nobody, the only person that was serious contender against him was Anthony Williams. And you think like in a city like Philadelphia, that’s what we deliver. I really wish there were.
Better techniques have, five incredibly talented candidates, even city council members. And I’m sorry that we’re devolving into this little political thing. It’s okay. Because you, you seem to know about it as well. Like two of our nine city council members ran unopposed. Exactly. I know. And one in particular, I just couldn’t even believe it. It was it was stunning, but let’s get out of politics. You you said you played music and that it’s had an influence on your business. You also, I think you’ve got some kids,
Peter Madden: [00:20:27] two kids, Gavin, almost 13, little surfer and a Bianca.
The horse rider 8 the
Christopher Plant: [00:20:34] the unicorn, they both got pretty serious hobbies then.
Peter Madden: [00:20:37] Yeah. Yeah. It’s great. Seeing him in the water. This past summer, he just went to a whole new level. Like I didn’t start surfing a lot. I was probably 15 or so. He’s beyond where I was when I was 18, 19.
Christopher Plant: [00:20:44] Just where are you going?
Peter Madden: [00:20:45] I just go down to avalon
Avalon, where I had every job you could ever imagine name. And that’s where I think I really, as much as I learned about music, in terms of EQ and business acumen, I learned more from, Giovanni Sierra, cheer, Bonnie’s deli and Seattle when I was slinging hoagies there cleaning the Princeton, which is this crazy giant bar and
Christopher Plant: [00:21:04] I’ve fallen out of a place a couple of times.
Peter Madden: [00:21:06] Imagine getting
up at five 30 in the morning to be there, to clean that place with a bunch of locals. First day there, they looked at me pumpkin head, one of the great kneeboarder down there. Awesome guy. Madden. What what do you drink? I’m like, I guess fucka, but at six in the morning, he said, line them up three.
He’s like egos, you need to get a little buzz to see what you’re about to see is disturbing. Yeah. But it’s just, I don’t know all these great things. Painting the golden Inn bartending at Jackson, the white Briar. It just it’s so
Christopher Plant: [00:21:35] Yeah I had, I think that’s probably one of the things that I really missed about you know the Philadelphia life that I have made for myself.
I got down to the shore all the time, but really my wife and I talked about trying to pick a town and make that town ours. And Avalon was very high on the list. We did rent a beautiful house there when summer. On the bay side that was so much fun. Just throw the kids in in life jackets, the minute they get out of bed.
And then you’re like, walking around and there’s your six year old, near seven year old are like out in a Bay on kayaks. And it’s really. Interesting.
Peter Madden: [00:22:09] a
different speed. And I was there for three months, as far as summer working from there. It just was a, and still being productive and everything else, but it was a little like LA la land
Christopher Plant: [00:22:18] Oh yeah, of course it was, and also, I think that one of the things that’s cool about the beach is that there’s of course you can go to the Princeton, but you’re probably not going to go every night and hopefully not. And and you just get into a just an interesting rhythm with with the weather and, just paying attention to nature.
Peter Madden: [00:22:33] Yeah.
Sunsetting at eight o’clock at night. Can’t wait for that again. We’re going in the right direction. Yeah. And we’re getting there.
Christopher Plant: [00:22:39] Yeah. And so in terms of surfing what kind of surfer like it’s a, you use short boards or
Peter Madden: [00:22:44] a bunch. I’ve won nine foot or I love cause it’s great for smaller waves and there’s unfortunately, a lot of times a small waist down there.
I have a six foot fish that was custom made for me. I have too many nicknames. My one nickname down there at least was monkey man. And so Brian Brown Created this for me. And I asked him, he said, what kind of color do you want? I’m like, I don’t like the color of a margarita I was out there. One time he’s got this monkey face on it, on this bright yellowish, greedy surfboard.
My younger brother, he’s a really accomplished surfer, looked at me and said, dude, you’re like a fishing lore out here. You can, if there’s any sharks within 20 miles, they’re going to come for you. I’m like,
Christopher Plant: [00:23:16] Oh God. You’re right. Yeah, you do look like a tropical drink floating in the water. That’s funny. And have you ever been to Hawaii or any of the where else have you served?
Peter Madden: [00:23:26] The only two places
I’ve surfed out of the U S served in Mexico on the West coast with some Mexican surfing champion and waves that were certainly bigger than I’ve experienced. It was actually a river mouth, like a 10, 12 foot break. And apparently there’s like an alligator preserve right.
Nearby. Yeah, but
where’s the, it’s very Mexican weirdly
because they weren’t. If they, if you bailed or whatever, you didn’t get crushed, it was just a little gentler, but still sizeable and then surfed in Barbados and a really famous break called soup bowls. As soon as the first time I started to reef break and thankfully not a big day there because I play some get giant and again, went with some major surfer from Beit.
This BeiGene surfery took me out in the flying squirrel. We’re walking out, we’re walking out on the reef, let’s get into the staff and he’s okay, if you step on a sea urchin, that’s not great. We just pick it out and just, just, get the blood out, whatever you’ll be fine. If you stepped on a lionfish.
We gotta get you to an ER within 45 minutes, you’d die. And I’m like, I’m already nervous enough about surfing this reef break. And now I’m thinking about urchins and sea lions or lionfish, but a cool experience, man.
Christopher Plant: [00:24:32] I had somehow never got into surfing. I know I would, I love the ocean, growing up on the East coast, we primarily would go down to Lewis, Delaware.
We were on the Bay. And then sometimes we go over to Henlopen and Rehobeth, but I just never really had the infrastructure to do it. And then I went into the direction of snowboarding.
Peter Madden: [00:24:51] I was going to say, yeah, I’ve got to get into that. Oh my gosh. What’s the same. I think as human beings, we crave momentum.
We want that feeling and. Surfing, snowboarding, skiing, bicycling, motorcycle. It’s all the same feeling. I think talking about not being in your head at all. You’re completely present in the now and just enjoying that
Christopher Plant: [00:25:10] and even like in, and I’m sure it’s the same with surfing when I’m snowboarding down a Hill and I’m making these like minute adjustments, like with my toes and, and just like moving your body and like when you get into the flow of something, when I skateboarded for a long time and ramp skating.
Yeah. Was one of the most complex things about it, and it was literally a sort of black and white issue is when you lean into open space that you shouldn’t be in. And like when you’re, like even just dropping in on, or have you ever dropped in on a ramp? Never. So it’s you’re looking down everything, everything in your body is reacting against what you’re doing.
Cause you’re jumping off this or just dropping off this edge where in the typical scenario of how you treat and handle your body you will hurt yourself, but then there’s something on your feet and you and that whole and especially like a backside turn, which is something that you do in surfing a lot, where you get up there and you’re turning back like this.
And Cut it off like that that, that fear and that fight or flight thing. It’s so interesting, but yes it is all the same and mountain biking and even road race, bicycles in general, just make me insane. I love them.
Peter Madden: [00:26:16] Yeah. You do. I saw the rack on your car.
Christopher Plant: [00:26:18] Yeah. Do you do ride cycle? Do you
Peter Madden: [00:26:20] No ever since
I moved from Manayunk, like I used to. Go back in the Wiss here and just, I know every trail is awesome. I’ve got to get back all these things I’ve got to get back
Christopher Plant: [00:26:27] into. Yeah. It’s funny that the whiskey is very complicated variety and
Peter Madden: [00:26:33] I had a couple over the handlebars.
Thank God of the hell. No one type of
Christopher Plant: [00:26:35] thing. It doesn’t. But then I like getting out to nock a mixon. There’s another place, a white sands, where you can get it a little flatter and there are some Hills, but the wiss is just like it’s all or nothing. It’s pretty. Pretty intense.
Peter Madden: [00:26:49] The summer summers, at least it’s 20 degrees cooler back there too.
Christopher Plant: [00:26:52] I called was a, the Wissahickon, like the Philadelphia’s lung. Cause it just generates a lot of oxygen. But I think that I knew this would be an easy conversation, but you will.
Peter Madden: [00:27:02] I’m very, high
Chris it’s so easy.
Christopher Plant: [00:27:07] But you you have this idea that, you. You want to start sharing more about what you’ve learned and you’ve been thinking about starting your own podcast to explore this idea and a lot of great people here in Philadelphia.
Peter Madden: [00:27:19] Yeah. And the world needs another podcast.
Most importantly, it does always several, I think that agile cat for me when I reflect on 20 years, which is in some ways gone by so quickly. That more than, okay, we’ve done this great creative work. I know there’s amazing town designers, et cetera. It’s been with anything, a vehicle for me to just meet and engage with really interesting
Christopher Plant: [00:27:41] So down with you.
Peter Madden: [00:27:42] And for them to, for me to succeed in what I do and what agile cat does, these people have to get figuratively naked for me. They’ve got to really bare their soul in terms of here’s. Here’s what I think we stand for, but what we’re just not getting, help me get to this special place.
So I’ve always said, if somebody comes to me, I don’t care what the budget is. If they don’t believe that they are extraordinary, I don’t care what the law firm kept. Whatever, if you don’t think you’re great. I can’t, I cannot help you. The, if the belief is there, I can take care of the rest, but I need people to be really honest and authentic with me and my team, when they’re saying, Hey, here’s who we think we are.
And you do so in an ego this way, too. And so it’s not chest pounding. It’s like trying to get to the root of what something’s about. And that’s what we do ultimately is when people get caught up in language of branding and brands, which is. Nonsensical. It’s more about like really creative storytelling that will have an emotional impact on the people you want to impact.
Christopher Plant: [00:28:32] And I think that the storytelling is this, It’s coming up all over the place now, like that’s really what it is and that doesn’t that could be for, a 22 year old poet Laureate who gets to speak at at the inauguration or it could be any one of the thousands of interesting stories that have come out of even the pandemic.
But I think that people are really putting a primacy on the story around. The product. And I think that people have chosen to like really get their brand ideals out there in very unique ways. Over the last decade,
Peter Madden: [00:29:07] you may
have just answered your previous question regarding how the workplace may change or evolve.
I think you’re going to see perhaps a premium put on creativity. I don’t care what kind of company you are in it’s. I perhaps believe that in the past nine months now, That you may have made your widgets every day nine to five. And because of what’s happened, you perhaps have gotten into something else to inspire.
I don’t care if it’s journaling, writing poetry working on a book,
Christopher Plant: [00:29:35] cello lessons,
Peter Madden: [00:29:35] cello cooking. You’re a huge cook. And if you do there, I just think that people and perhaps hopefully the C-suite or owners or leaders in business will. Engage their people. And on those fronts, I don’t care if you’re bringing in someone, a poet Laureate or who knows what, but everyone is creative.
I never get when I meet someone. . I do this for a living. I’m not creative. I’m not a creative guy. You are every like, is it Picasso’s quote every child. Is an artist. They just need to learn how to remain an artist when they grow up something, he’s got a ton of those plenty of quotes. But but it’s, it really is true.
You do. And I think the most successful people in business, they are creative people. A friend of mine, Bob Mongo, Lucy, arguably the most successful PI attorney in the nation, handled unfortunately a terrible Amtrak situation. I talked to him one time. I said, what’s your thought that the morning of his giant trial, it’s all on you, families have suffered.
He said, my thought is it’s Showtime. Yeah. Like he’s an actor in a way, he wants to go up there and present. Oh yeah.
Christopher Plant: [00:30:31] And he’s the the Tom Brady, like who I want the ball at the end, and this is the Sixers are doing great right now, but there is a lot of people.
With the harden trade, right? People were like, we need somebody who when it comes down to that last minute, like we need that Kobe. We needed that hardened somebody who was just like, give me the ball, I’m going to figure this out. And in a certain sense, even in the playoff run last year you just got this sense that like nobody wanted to be the leader.
Nobody wanted, like Embiid kind of leader, but doesn’t. Bring it all together. And in Ben Simmons there were times when he would just disappear, he’d be like, gone like seven minutes at a stretch and he’d be like, where the hell are you? And he’s like this force and, I I think it’s very interesting to think about, trial attorney.
It doesn’t surprise me that they would want to go out and really be that person. And then even just circle back, what about Brady? That it can’t believe it, Superman tenth, super bowl appearance
Peter Madden: [00:31:31] every minute, every day, the guy’s just working on himself, right? Yeah. Never eating night shades all the way through to his pliability methods.
And I think it’s going to change the way people look at. Formerly aging quarterbacks. Cause they’re probably looking at Brady okay, what is he doing? What’s the secret sauce? There’s only one Tom Brady, of course. But I think it’s
Christopher Plant: [00:31:47] no, but there was drew Brees, Brady and Aaron Rogers. Th that’s a pretty senior crew.
Unbelievable. And then you had that, there was nobody in the middle because you had Josh what’s his name in front? Josh Allen from the bills. Who in his third year. And Mahomes was in his third or fourth year chiefs. I’m like crazy. They’ve been at home in the championship three years in a row.
Peter Madden: [00:32:11] I know we that’s a good to PHILA centric again,
Christopher Plant: [00:32:14] but I think it’s good. I don’t mind it. I
Peter Madden: [00:32:16] mean, we’re just a hard town to, to perform it. And
ultimately I feel like we are so good at fucking people up, it’s,
It’s crazy. All of the things I love about Philly and all that kind of tough love thing, man.
Some people just have a really bad chemical reaction. I still think Ben to me seems just more LA than Philly and
Christopher Plant: [00:32:36] Ben is not a Philly guy. Yeah know.
Peter Madden: [00:32:37] Joel, I really Joel’s basketball intelligence is catching up to his incredible physical skill. Here’s what I’m seeing this
Christopher Plant: [00:32:43] openly. He just said it the other night that he wants to be here.
He’s I only want to play for one team. You never hear Ben. I’m sure Ben Simmons was watching that and he’s I can’t wait to get, Miami or or LA
Peter Madden: [00:32:53] wherever the
Kardashians might be. Yeah. Before I forget, I do have a raise the cat 76ers. T-shirt for you in my car. All right. It’s agile cat designs.
Christopher Plant: [00:33:01] Did you do
do some work with the Sixers?
Peter Madden: [00:33:03] No, we just did
it for ourselves. Yeah. There’s these things. We’re always doing these fun little projects to make ourselves laugh and that was one of them. I think
Christopher Plant: [00:33:08] those are great. Love doing stuff. Even what I’m doing with the podcasting is really me exploring a version of a reality that I want, and that is to be, in this thought leadership game, talking to really intelligent people, helping them get their information out there and Building, I’ve just been doing a lot of this reverse engineering.
Here’s what I want. How do I get there? And, I have a really interesting friend who Recently saw a story in the news that he thought was incredibly compelling. He’s an environmental, no, an immigration attorney. He saw a story that he thought would make a great documentary. He got in touch with them and confirmed that they would be willing to let him make a documentary of it.
And then he did all of this research. He brought this lawyerly mind. To create a project and he researched the 20 best companies for documentary production in the United States, primarily on the East coast. And he ended up going out. He picked 20 grand of his own money, made a sizzle trailer that was three minutes long, worked with professionals who could fill in the blanks where he didn’t know what to do.
And then he sent it out to 20 companies, five of them responded and. Dude just got like a major deal on his first project, Netflix several million dollars to produce a documentary about this. And so I think that, what you were talking about, there’s more art in in business these days.
I also think it’s interesting that I do think, and I talked to even my kids about this, that there should be more business in art as well. And this idea of just drawing to whatever. Is all fine and good, but I went to art school and I wish that they had put a much more intense focus on the whole life part of it.
Like they teach you critical skills to analyze how green sits on a blue. And I got a lot of information from my credits, but the reality is that Once you are off the path, like when you’re an artist you’re like off the path, nobody knows what to make of you. And to get back to that context thing.
Peter Madden: [00:35:15] Yeah,
I know. So I’m lucky to know so many musicians, jazz, different genres, DJs and it just, it breaks your heart when they, and everyone has the same story. Someone invites him to play at a party. They can’t pay them, but it’ll be really great for the promotion. Bring your CDs or bring your it’s just so pay that’s they’re in business.
Like they’re an artist, attorney, you make X amount an hour or what have you it’s and so anytime I engage with anyone like that for an event or whatever, I let them know upfront. Oh, by the way, this is, I’m going to treat you like a business person and this you deserve, what you make and.
This is an interesting conversation. The way people like don’t perhaps value art in the way.
Christopher Plant: [00:35:50] It’s also it’s you. Know why that question happens a lot. And I asked somebody recently too, I was doing a large scale event where most people were presenting for free. And I asked this one woman, I was like, listen, I, you’re a muralist and I’d love to have you come in and do my project was going to be 24 hours.
And and we had a pretty intense conversation. She’s if you want me. You pay me. And I was like this is a it was just, it was interesting. And I do agree that treating things like a business is really important even, to a 19 year old kid, I talked to my son who went to Tyler school of art and, I’m like, take this seriously.
What are you. And then I’m like shut up, but
Peter Madden: [00:36:33] They Don’t have classes, right? Whether U Arts
Christopher Plant: [00:36:37] he ended up leaving because of COVID, he’s a studio artist there wasn’t going to be a studio but it’s even just in, in trying to create a context around living, and how you incorporate art into that.
And, and it’s not impossible to support yourself as an artist anymore. And with the. Graphic design, social media, everything is so out there. You really just have to figure out how you’re going to, make your money and monetize your time. Absolutely.
Peter Madden: [00:37:04] That’s, what’s fascinating to me about, design and designers.
I always tell my design team, I’m just really fortunate how amazing they are. I’m like, I call it like dark magic. I can’t draw a stick figure. I’m a writer by trade. I love writing, but just to see what they do, I’ll get over their shoulder sometimes. So it just, it blows my mind the way they just putting things together and just.
In the zone. It’s such a special talent.
Christopher Plant: [00:37:23] I will say.
We, we just got my, my team and I’m sure you’ve felt this and maybe you can tell us the story, but like right now I have this team of people that has just come together like rockstars and we’re each magnifying, the other person’s skill.
There’s this one young woman who is just a master at Canva. So helped me put together those three presentations that I showed you. And and this is interesting because I was reading about technology and the difference between somebody who was a master and somebody who was just a general practitioner of it was 26 X.
And I would stand out here when we were building this place. And I would watch this one guy that we had, who we’d hired try to build a knee wall. And it took him an entire day, whereas my other guy could build it in an hour. And so you think about this giving people the right. How do you judge people’s character?
How do you fit these people together in a way over the years, especially as you probably undergone many transitions.
Peter Madden: [00:38:25] Yeah. You know, we’re really fortunate that the core team has been the core team for some time. I just think that we’re really lucky that we have this reputation on the street with art schools and business community where you Google agile cat and that things will come up, whether it’s like a best place to work award or the knowledge of what we’re doing for pro bono types of clients.
And so it’s the stage is already set. And we’re also lucky that if we put a call out for a new designer, we’ll get 200 resumes in 48 hours. That’s a great problem to have, but it’s finding that fit where I look for. Egoless all stars. And that’s what everyone there, they don’t like, they don’t want compliments.
They need just good people. Whether they’re like good parents or just you like being around them, even though all our personalities are really different. And we just have I get on, I don’t wanna start crying to see my team, but we really had a, we always had a fun time. Everyone’s got their own quirky little personality.
My personality is probably wackier than anyone there. And they just, again, back to being yourself, being comfortable in your own skin. Allow someone else, the freedom to be comfortable in their skin and therefore they do much better work in the end.
Christopher Plant: [00:39:27] And I think that you’ve said on numerous occasions, we’re very fortunate and and different things that are effectively.
Strategic decisions that you have made as the leader of that organization over time to create an environment where people would want to stay, create an environment where people feel like their contribution is being recognized or that they’re getting paid enough. And then also even, occupying somebody’s, everything for 20 years means that you have to be doing compelling work and you’re out there doing things so that people can learn.
And then also recognizing some people who, you can see it when somebody has like hardcore ambition, and this is where like Mike McCann, who I’m sure, would always say that he would never hire a realtor as his assistant, because that person is always going to be looking over his shoulder and figuring out how they can do.
What he has done. And, when the reality is that that, that mixture of genetic chemistry that produced Mike McCann is probably not, we haven’t seen anybody really emerged from his shadow that was. Close to what he was, but it’s very interesting having to size up people’s character and understand how to work with him.
Peter Madden: [00:40:38] Yeah.
That’s the key to life is I know how to get the representative out of the room really quickly. I know in 60 seconds and luckily like Aaron Dean is my vice president of creative. She’s amazing runs the business, incredible operator and manager. She’ll typically vet and then put the final three in front of me.
And I honestly got six 60 seconds. A couple of questions with the rep out of the room with the representative, won’t leave the room. I know I don’t want to work with them.
Christopher Plant: [00:40:59] Yeah. I always say that. I say, I, you don’t meet your employee until a month in, because they come in because there’s so many motivating factors, when somebody’s trying to get a job and they come in, they say a lot of things and I’ve been guilty of this myself. They say a lot of things and then, but like, When the it settles in and the job is the job and, not every job can be exciting and not every part of every job is exciting.
And I find myself frequently trying to overcompensate for the mundanity of some of the tasks that are involved with, running a business and apologizing for them. And in some cases like doing work that other people should be doing because. I don’t want to call them out. I R I don’t want it to be overly tedious, and so how do you deal with the, you seem you like to thrill, you like to be, pumped up and agitated. And how do you deal with the the lesser parts of the more businessy business, the accounting. And do you have somebody else? Are you thankful?
Peter Madden: [00:41:58] Yeah, I know. .
I’m not an intelligent person, but I’m smart enough to know where I’m good, where I thrive. And that’s where I’ve been creative. I thrive being the promoter being BizDev. I’m no manager, I’m no operator. I’ve got, I think, a strong business acting in, but I know people that are much stronger in those other areas, as far as like the financial part of it.
I just I’m no good there. I throw the wrenches are in the works. Many of them it’s and it just kills you. It’s just one of those. Ah, and then the other work suffers as a result.
Christopher Plant: [00:42:28] Yeah. This just goes to show this idea of knowing, what. Tools to apply to something. And my wife like would just, she wants me to be more financially studious.
She just always does, but, and I’m just like, I’m not there. It’s, it doesn’t come natural to me. And I’m literally like that person that in the personality test is if it’s not exciting, You suck at it, and and so figuring out a work around is always a unique thing.
Yeah. So you’ve been doing agile cat for 20 years. Like what’s next for you. What are you thinking about? Like what outside of the workplace and the surfing and the kids what are the big issues compelling your brain?
Peter Madden: [00:43:07] I think taking the artistic side. Or did the artistic part of me to a new level.
And I think through a podcast and through, I really want to write a book. I’ve written a screenplay. I write a lot of poetry. That’s what I’m happy is get my ego out of the way and just start doing something. I’ve a pretty incredible idea for Netflix series. I started to, I started the outline
W we’ll talk about that because I got net Netflix on the brain and as I told you, a friend of mine just sold a project to Netflix and I think it’s that’s very interesting. I’m glad to hear that because I think that Kind of doing the same, where I allow the art to, to poke its head back up.
But I feel like that I have to get, and I’m getting a lot from putting these decks together for some of these ideas, but really I’m starting to think about what’s a good ten-year plan. Yeah. And I have a friend of mine just started the project. He’s done many times before, but he’s just really talking about it now, but just turned 53, I think you’re turning 50 this past eight.
Yeah. So how do you want to plan out the, like the 10, 15 years, cause I, I do think of some landmarks in, and and I’m putting a lot on 60. A lot on 65 and I’m thinking a lot about what can what business can I create that I want to do that allows me to do the other things?
think first the brandterior or discipline I talked about earlier, I think we’re just at the nascent stage of that. I think that the potential for that could be really explosive and really fun. And I think unleashes a whole other level of creativity had a really interesting lunch. With the friendliest week getting some advice.
And he’s, he talked about, make it list, he learned this from some, some mentor of his make a list of 50 things are just really important. Yeah. Travel writing, like what makes you feel great? And every Tuesday to 20 and 10 and we just to five and that’s imagine getting, like I said, he goes, he had heavy lifting.
You guys, when you start to see that the four day thing you wrote and the 22nd thing you wrote are the same and you combined it, you said, it’s weird, this kind of magic happens. But other than that, you take it to the three things and you order them. Yeah. And that I’m excited to do this. And I think it would, that would help point me in a couple of different areas, as far as what’s really important to you.
And it’s not like my parents, it’s bigger than that. Like what gives you a thrill? What makes you want to jump out of bed? In the morning and I have no doubt that for me, it’ll be, being creative, but it’s okay let’s get more deeply inside
Christopher Plant: [00:45:31] Yeah. If you look back historically, who is a character who is a figure from history that most closely resembles who you would like to be or how they live. It’s not an easy question, but
Peter Madden: [00:45:44] Sinatra to me. I’m nice. And I’m no singer. I was an okay background singer and a lot of my bands, but he seemed to have just, he just, he was so carried away.
Yeah. But also so true to himself. I just learned that. And I shouldn’t, I’ve been through so many different Sinatra related articles, et cetera. And I should, I never heard this before, but he said he would tremble every time he stepped out on stage. Yeah, immense. It was, it meant so much to him, to do well.
And to, I heard another story where he was late to a performance or something, and someone was looking at a window, they saw him sprinting down this alley to the stage door. He got to the stage door and waited like a full minute and just got himself straightened to
Christopher Plant: [00:46:26] Yeah, I think that’s so interesting to think about.
Performance is is a big deal, like commanding, a bunch of people’s attention. And I, for someone like Frank Sinatra to go on stage for 90 minutes and, has to be completely on. I think it’s very fascinating to think about what that is like. I tend to think of I liked that one, but I’m always trying to create, even in the life around me, like who, who has a version of a life that, that I would like to live.
And and it is really this balance because I do want to work a lot, but I don’t want to work a lot. I do want to be intensely creative, but I want there to be some results from it. And, the book is a tough thing is that, does that studiousness come naturally to you like to sit down and.
I think I know the answer, but
Peter Madden: [00:47:14] writing, it’s so hard because you’ll just do the dishes first. Then I’ll start writing to really find that space and be okay with whatever you’re putting down is something else. But I feel like it’s there, like that’s when I feel happy to have that idea and then, okay.
It’s bringing it to life and that’s what I’ve been doing for 20 years at agile cat to I’m helping a business tell a story. Okay. Let’s. Take that, and we’re applying it somewhere else now. And to do it in a way where, you know, what if 10 copies are sold? Great. Yeah, 10 million copies. That’s pretty cool too, but it’s just to do it.
Christopher Plant: [00:47:45] I think it is that, that, that exercise and that reflection, I’ve been reflecting a lot lately in terms of because especially the way that both of us live there isn’t a lot of time for reflection there isn’t a lot of time to like really. Deeply analyze some of the successes.
It’s easy for the failures to come forward and punch you in the face and you process them. But I love this idea. I’ve been writing out timelines of my life, wow, what I was doing. And I’m actually working on a similar project where I am actually circling back and I’m writing down 100 memories.
And so using that as a. As the springboard for what I would put together in terms of a totally linear retelling of my story. And I’ve been thinking a lot about like how my own book would be. And and I think mine is actually going to be illustrated and is going to have an audio component.
And I’m going to build like a, kind of a multi-layered project because yeah. And. But to get back to your writing thing, a friend of mine decided she wanted to write a book. And so for two years she took every Friday and just, that was the book. Wow. And, she’s lucky enough in her work that she was able to do that.
Now she’s written two books and, that’s like establishing this sort of like landmark. Place and to talk about some of the most prolific writers in the history of time would get up at six o’clock and only work on their writing until 8:00 PM, 8:00 AM. And two hours a day was like, what did it?
But they were just like jamming and, doing whatever they did and then they come and they would just write at the right time. And I think regularity is a gigantic part of that. And have you read Stephen King’s on writing? No, you should check it out.
Peter Madden: [00:49:32] I’ve heard
a lot of his novels. So as a kid, I always love
to check it out.
Christopher Plant: [00:49:36] Somebody as prolific is that he’s got a lot of of interesting tricks and some of them are not necessarily completely intuitive, but he’s don’t put your desk in front of the window. He’s like stare at a wall. This is gonna make you invent your future. You want for your book.
Whereas if you’re looking out at a window, which would fit into this traditional idea of, the writer musing, with a chewing on a pencil tip and that sort of
Peter Madden: [00:50:00] totally, and I have a friend, Mike Freeman,
he’s an actor in LA and it’s had a lot of success out there and he does a lot of writing and he says, dictate, here’s your card just sorta on dragon or whatever app you have on your phone.
And. Diction. I shouldn’t do that yourself. Just roll and listen back to it. And then he goes that’s a him is the
Christopher Plant: [00:50:17] We’ll have to try that, but, okay. So we’re going to wrap this up. Peter, where can we find out information about agile cat?
Peter Madden: [00:50:22] Agilecat.com
Christopher Plant: [00:50:23] boom
Peter Madden: [00:50:24] it’s game agile
cat Social on Instagram, agile, my personal handling the gram.
And yeah, but this is my pleasure,
Christopher Plant: [00:50:33] Yeah, thank you very much. We Groundhog day snowstorm, we made it in here. I’m excited to talk about future products projects, and and what’s going to come out of that. But thanks for coming into the studio, we’re live here at RADIOKISMET signing off.
We are at 4230 main street,in manayunk please check us out at www.Radiokismet.com. Thank you very much. Have a great snow day.
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