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The VSG story – How it all started.

VSG Head Coach, Doug Burton, calls in to Professor Jeff Rounce’s Marketing 308 class to relive the ol’ PLU football glory days and share hard-won lessons through his years as an entrepreneur.


Read a quick recap of the video below-

Where it All Started

I transferred to PLU and played football under the legendary coach, Frosty Westering. One summer, he asked me to stay in town to help build a game plan for the upcoming season. For the summer, I got a part-time job at a local Parkland car dealership. 

When I first got there, management started a campaign to get more people at the dealership by offering every car that came on the lot (for any reason) a free car wash. The funny thing was… they didn’t have a car wash on-site or the staff to wash the cars… 

Be hungry for opportunities and do the jobs no one else wants to do

One day during a management meeting, everyone was pointing the fingers at each other and trying to figure out how to hold up to the promises they made. Finally, I said,  “I’ll do it. Give me a bucket, a brush, and stop making me get lunch. I’ll take care of it.”

I was willing to do the dirty work that no one else wanted to do. Six years later, every single one of those managers in that meeting was a direct report to me. 

It wasn’t that I was smarter than they were, but I out-hustled them and was willing to do the jobs that no one else was willing to do and was willing to do it with a great attitude. 

The Failed Agency

Fast forward to my early 30s. As a leader, I was trying to figure out what to do with this organization. So, I hired an ad agency out of Seattle. During my regularly scheduled meeting with the guy from the agency, he opened a blank notebook and said: “What do you want to want to do the next year/next quarter?” 

While laughing nervously, I said, “Well, fire you because isn’t that what you are supposed to be telling me?” I walked out of that meeting and took out my notebook and sketched out what a business model would look like for my own marketing agency. That is how VSG was born. I created the business model and started selling direct mail campaigns to car dealerships.

Leaving Comfort for Passion

For about two years, the dealership I was running was the best customer for VSG. However, in 2005 I realized I didn’t want to stay in the automotive industry. From a worldly perspective, I had it all, but I wanted to go after being my own boss and be able to pursue the things I was passionate about pursuing.

Find and focus on your why

I left the dealership and took over VSG Marketing. I had to give up comfort and security, but the passion I had for what VSG was doing was far beyond my desire to stay where I was.

VSG Marketing Today

Running VSG for the last 15 years has been a wild journey but loved every minute of it. Today VSG marketing has 13 staff members and spans across the full spectrum of marketing. From print and mail marketing to digital and web dev, we have staff that can do it all, make it look good, and get it done fast.

Questions From Students

What should organizations do to survive in a COVID-19 type of world?

There is a reality that business is not normal right now. It is up to the leaders to help bring it full circle. The organizations that are thriving, have the same mindset of willing to pick up a bucket, and do jobs that no one is willing to do. That mindset has served me well. I’ve always had that servant leadership mentality.

Frosty helped teach me that mindset. It’s about coming in low and lifting others up. 

What are some steps students can take to better prepare themselves for the real world/What makes a person a good potential hire?

Find people that are willing to invest in you and seek them out. Reach out to a professional and seek them as a mentor or coaching advice. Have a mindset that you want to pursue learning and invest in people who will want to coach you. Ask them for help.

Seek out mentorship and take a student mindset. Everyone has something to teach you, you just have to be willing to learn

I still have this mindset today and seek out wisdom from all kinds of people. I don’t care who they are or what they know. It doesn’t matter if they are older and wiser or younger with a fresh perspective. You can learn something from everyone.

Advice for young entrepreneurs? 

People have different risk tolerances. I would say for any young entrepreneur, you have to hang it out there and go for it. Have a plan and a vision for what it is going to look for in the future. You have to get to the tipping point where this thing you are pursuing changes from a hobby to a passion and roll the dice and go for it. Every single successful thought leader or entrepreneur you see had that tipping point. If you arent willing to roll up your sleeves, you’re probably not passionate enough about it.

How do you define success? 

The “why” behind what you are doing is critical. However, that “why” is going to change. There was definitely a season during my career where money was my “why.” But it is no longer that. One of mine is my desire for me to not be the face of my company. I want to hand it off. In order to do that, I need to have the right people in place.

How are people and businesses weathering these challenging times?

You need to find out what your foundation is. For me its faith. Faith has been a huge part of my story and my why. And because of that, at the end of the day, everything is going to be okay. 

Another key thing I learned from Frosty was the 60-30-10 Rule 

60% of things we have somewhat of control over

  • Our attitude
  • Our reaction
  • How we prepare
  • Our work ethic
  • Etc

30% we cannot control at all

  • Stay at home order
  • Health of staff
  • What’s going on with clients 
  • Etc

10% momentum

  • How our attitude drives the way that we deal with the issue

Don’t get caught up on that 30%. Go full steam ahead on that 60% and have that carry you through hardships.

As a leader, if I don’t wake up and bring hope, optimism, a plan, and lead, to my staff, we are sunk. 

Thanks so much for tuning in. If you have any questions or would like to connect. Please reach out to me!