In February 2020, just a few weeks before the pandemic hit, our SA family had the opportunity to gather together to celebrate our 40th anniversary . While our focus quickly shifted to meet the new challenges and changes facing our clients, it’s important to take the time to appreciate the growth and success we’ve had over the years.
We asked some of our longest-standing agency associates to reflect on their time at Strategic America.
Several of our longest-standing employees:
Carrie Thomson: Media director, 30 years
Michelle Thornton: Director, Client Strategy and Service, 28 years
Bette Soenke: Accounting Specialist II, 26 years
Bryce Thomson: VP, Client Strategy and Service, 25 years
Lisa Holtorf: VP, Operations & Integration, 25 years
Carol Ingram: Media Director, 22 years
Tammy McDowell: Senior Accounting Supervisor, 21 years
Chris Reed: Client Strategist, 20 years
Amanda Cheese: Media Account Manager, 19 years
Which word(s) would you use to describe SA?
Bette Soenke: Progressive, ambitious, caring.
Michelle Thornton: Passionate, Innovative, Caring, Giving, and FAMILY!
Amanda Cheese: Loyal, trustworthy.
Carol Ingram: Family, smart, fun, supportive, focused.
Chris Reed: Family-oriented, hard-working, results-driven
Lisa Holtorf: Family first, integrity.
Since you started, what have been some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?
Bryce Thomson: We didn’t have email or voicemail.
Michelle Thornton: The size. When I started, I think we were an agency of 12-13 people. And today… wow! And secondarily, the technology. The new associates will never know about the hours spent faxing orders out, personally delivering BETA tapes to radio and television stations or even having to talk to people on the phone because email didn’t exist. I remember getting email and being on the phone and calling the person to make sure the email actually went through.
Amanda Cheese: The staff is getting younger and younger!!! I started at SA when I was only 24 years old!
Carol Ingram: I’ve seen steady growth in the company. I’ve seen us go through hard times and still come out on top. I’ve watched the media team grow as well. The biggest growth has been in digital and paid social. I believe our first digital advertising placement was in 2001 and it has grown exponentially ever since.
Lisa Holtorf: Tremendous growth—from 25 people to more than 100; additions of disciplines—interactive, project management, information services, data & analytics, and account planning.
Tell us about one of your favorite memories (or projects) from working at SA.
Bette Soenke: One of our clients, GuideOne Insurance, invited our agency to lunch at The Machine Shed. It was scheduled on a snowy day in December. Because of the weather conditions, we debated whether we should go, but we all got in our cars and went. Well, the weather turned into a blizzard and most everyone got stranded there in their vehicles.
Bryce Thomson: Dating and marrying Carrie. Getting checked out by her overprotective coworkers when we were dating, being questioned by Mike about my “intentions” and warned to “be good to her”, the wedding the entire agency attended, the reception where Bruce was injured on the dance floor…SAers (Schreurs & Associates, back then) were part of it all.
Tammy McDowell: Being on the move committee from the Microware building to our current building.
Amanda Cheese: My favorite memory is traveling with Randy and Michelle for Wendy’s meetings and my favorite project is launching the Wendy’s Breakfast line earlier this year.
Chris Reed: Being part of the Lennox team when we were awarded all districts in the U.S.
Carrie Thomson: After 30 years, there are just too many too mention. I remember packing up my life in Cedar Falls and moving to Des Moines to help grow the Media department in the Des Moines office. I remember my little media team of me in the Des Moines office growing into my second family of 17. I remember way too many political races. I remember a lot of things, so many memories.
Lisa Holtorf: Rebranding of Schreurs & Associates to Strategic America, and the move to 6600 Westown Pkwy.
What does SA mean to you?
Bette Soenke: A comfortable place to work with great leadership from Mike and John.
Bryce Thomson: Everything. Carrie, our family and I owe everything to SA.
Michelle Thornton: FAMILY.
Tammy McDowell: Second family/home.
Carol Ingram: Home.
Chris Reed: SA embodies a culture of hardworking people who are committed to creating business impact for our clients!
Carrie Thomson: After 30 years, my team is my family, Mike and John are like father figures to me and have mentored me into the person I am today. I work hard and they have rewarded me for it. I have been given the flexibility to raise our family and I can’t imagine working anywhere else or for anyone else.