Though Gus Hattrich was born and raised in Webster Groves, it wasn’t until he went away to a large four-year college that he realized Webster University — which had been in his backyard all along — was an ideal fit for him.
Hattrich, who’s in his sixth year as president of Paradowski Creative, a St. Louis-based advertising agency, transferred to Webster after thoroughly enjoying a summer elective at the school. A combination of Webster’s small class sizes, the interplay between on-campus and commuter students, and the School of Communication’s strong array of adjunct faculty convinced Hattrich he made the right selection.
“The perspective of adjunct professors allowed me to have a more normalized or real-time view of what the creative industry was like in St. Louis at the time. I found that to be immensely helpful,” Hattrich said. “It wasn’t somebody who hadn’t been in the industry in 10 years. It was somebody who was teaching a night class and working at one of the larger creative agencies in St. Louis. That connection to the actual professional community — tied in with what I was studying — was a great difference-maker in preparing me for what I wanted to accomplish.”
Since graduating from Webster in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts in media communications, Hattrich, 42, has been a prominent player in the St. Louis marketing communications scene. After working as a copywriter at Thunderbolt Marketing for nearly two years, Hattrich spent six years as an account director at Zipatoni Company. He helped form Moosylvania Marketing in 2003 and worked as the company’s president and CEO for eight years. Moosylvania grew into a 100-person agency under Hattrich’s watch before he sold his shares to his business partner in 2011.
That’s when the founders of Paradowski — which is about to enter its 40th year of operation — gave the company’s reins to Hattrich. At the time, Paradowski was a 15-person agency generating less than $5 million in annual revenue that was attempting to reclaim its footing. Paradowski is now a 65-person agency that nearly tripled its revenue growth from 2012 to 2014. It was named “St. Louis Business Journal’s” fastest-growing company of any category in late 2015.
Hattrich said designing relationships — between brands and ideas, brands and customers, as well as between Paradowski and its clients — is the secret to the company's success. Developing ideas that solve business problems is at the core of everything Paradowski does. The agency seeks to create top-notch experiences that take place in the form of mobile applications, websites or fully integrated campaigns for Fortune 100 companies.
“We live in an incredibly fluid world where things change quite often. We face challenges we could never have predicted three days before or three months before, and that’s exciting,” Hattrich said. “I also love a business in which you can develop ideas. We’re not in a business that works with finite metrics that says we have this cog, and this cog needs to be made in this way. Then it’s turned over to that guy, who’s going to make another cog to work with it. We get to work in a really intellectually stimulating environment. It’s incredibly exciting when it works out and we develop something that makes a profound impact on our client’s business.”
In the coming years, Hattrich said he hopes to continue to build Paradowski and remain an integral member of the Webster University community. He has been a guest lecturer at Webster, is on the School of Communications advisory board and received the SOC Outstanding Alumni award in 2016.
Additionally, Hattrich will continue pursuing entrepreneurial ventures. He used his extensive background in marketing spirits companies to help launch a whisky brand of his own, 12 Foot Beard, in January 2017. Hattrich is also planning on unveiling a software-solutions tool for web development midway through 2017. He said one of the key attributes that’s bolstered his success in business and leadership is critical listening.
“Oftentimes, people in leadership get an idea in their head of what they want to accomplish, and any feedback that’s contrary to their vision is noise and a problem to them. That’s a sign of poor leadership,” Hattrich said. “You have to be constantly listening to the people you’re working with and making sure your visions align. And you’re not just railroading your way through it, but you’re really listening to those you work with every day. That really forms the identity of an organization.”