Mike Borell

Time for Reflection and Time for Self

Today, one of our most tenured employees Mike Borell reflects on his five-year journey at 5IVE and offers a glimpse into his exciting path forward. We’re sharing excerpts of Mike’s thoughts and mile markers that have carried him through to the present – working with creative intention and fierce passion on breakthrough campaigns as 5IVE’s lead copywriter and video producer.

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Before arriving at 5IVE, I worked at larger advertising agencies, primarily utilizing my creative skills in video production. When I joined 5IVE in 2013, I had a better sense of where I wanted to focus my creative talents and what type of agency I was looking for. Personally, I’ve always been a bit of a lone wolf, a rebel-type and 5IVE has some of that guided independence and intention as well. We’re not on the inside of the ‘cool kids’ group of Minneapolis agencies, and we don’t aspire to that. Our goal is creating good, impactful work for our clients independent of the traditional agency norms and it’s nice to work with people who embrace that.

A big advantage of working at a smaller firm like 5IVE is that it enables creatives to explore a variety of opportunities and gain a wider range of expertise. The big-agency setting was a good experience. It taught me what I do want, what I don’t, and what I define as rewarding work. 5IVE has allowed me to broaden my skill set, grow as a writer and add copywriting to my resume, and continue exploring my other passions.

Our workplace is inclusive and collaborative, which appeals to me. I appreciate how we have a culture that cultivates a natural crossover of teamwork and creative ideas in collaboration with our clients, which always sparks deeper meaning in the outcome.

We don’t work in silos here. I’m not just the video producer or the copywriter. At most agencies, the creative department is the only team allowed to come up with ideas, and I could never really get behind that limiting approach to teamwork. Everybody is creative, and a lot of people are just intimidated ‘out’ of it. At 5IVE, we never approach projects in this manner. Everybody has a say, and everybody is included. We’ve worked hard to establish a less hierarchical and more open environment, encouraging everybody to feel confident in contributing and, most importantly, questioning. I don’t think I could work comfortably in any other setting. For me, fewer boundaries often means ideas flow more freely. Here I’m part of more conversations, and I constantly learn new things. I’m not a designer, but that doesn’t mean the designers won’t ask for my opinion, or that I don’t get to influence the concepts they’re working on.

Looking back, I wanted to be a copywriter – but my career started in video, and I felt stuck. Some industry folks gave me the impression the transition couldn’t be done. Their attitude was my fuel and 5IVE was my sanctuary – they were willing to take a risk and provide me with a chance to explore and develop. I’m grateful for the team here and the opportunity they have given me to grow. Today, I’m an award-winning copywriter and produce content on a daily basis that I’m proud of and it feels very fulfilling.

Five years ago I wouldn’t have predicted 5IVE getting to this point – which is really cool. It’s special to be a part of the agency’s history, helping to build it, experiencing the growth and being an integral member of the team. At larger firms, people come and go, that’s just how it is. It’s not really a big deal if employees leave because they have so many people standing by eager to replace them. But here, you definitely recognize that your role and contributions matter.

Being part of such a tight knit team has affected me on a personal level as well. The lessons I’ve learned, the support I’ve had through different challenges in life: I’ve been able to get through them thanks to the people who are here. People are often one person at work and another person outside of that environment. But here I don’t have to put on a facade, or be someone else, or ignore my personal passions or pursuits like being a musician. I can be myself. That’s really valuable to me.

This spring, I’m really excited to explore a personal opportunity through the agency — a one-month sabbatical, which is part of our employee benefits. It’s amazing to work at a place that allows employees to sign-off and take a purposeful step away from their work.

5IVE’s founder, Boriana believes that time away enables people to turn their energy, focus and passions inward, as well as pause, reset and experience something they may not otherwise do.

“Supporting our employees to explore, create, nurture themselves, and pursue new adventures is not an area for compromise. By offering a sabbatical, I wanted to put life at the front of priorities. Working as a creative is not as easy as it seems and having rich life experiences is so vitally important for the mind and soul. Every day I go to the office knowing that everybody who comes here has a choice and they choose to work at 5IVE hopefully because we share similar values. For me, people’s personal journeys and experiences outside of the agency are equally important and I want them to know that we value them as a whole.”

Work-life balance is a big topic, and people look for that in an employer. That balance is another reason why I’m still at 5IVE, and it’s incredible that the agency offers a formal structure around that. I’m not the type of person who would typically take an entire month away from work to go do something for myself. So, I’m really excited to have that opportunity.

When I first thought about the sabbatical and how to best utilize it, I ran through my checklist of interests like music and motorcycles. But, at the end I wanted to use this opportunity to do something different – something I wouldn’t normally take the time to do. I’ve always had a great interest in the capabilities of the human body and how that relates to the power of the mind and the force of our spirit. Martial arts exist at the ultimate intersection of these components, but I’ve never experienced that directly so part of my plan is to spend two weeks in Phuket, Thailand. I’ve enrolled in an intensive martial arts training camp at Tiger Muay Thai. Get comfortable being uncomfortable is a mantra I try to practice in life. Go outside of your comfort zone. Experience new things. Push progress. Never stop growing. I’m incredibly excited to visit a new destination while studying an entirely new practice that will both challenge and strengthen my mind, body, and spirit. At 5IVE our ultimate job is to connect with people. Rich life experiences like these provide a well to draw inspiration from, a different perspective to understand others, and a chance to look inward. This is an adventure that I will be proud to put on my life resume and I am thankful for the opportunity to do so.

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A brief side note: In the world of creative agencies, hitting a five-year employee milestone is a bit of an anomaly. Burnout is common, where high demands in a fast-paced environment can leave team members feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and under compensated. We are in an industry known for its not-so-polished 30 percent turnover rate. Our goal is to create a new agency model by establishing an environment that gives back to employees like Mike, who are committed to our team, our clients, and their own personal development as creative professionals and human beings.