Michael and Jaci Russo can agree on the setting of the meeting. The co-owners of Lafayette branding agency brandRUSSO both recall it was a serious meeting with another employee to discuss a client and project that was shaping up to be a challenge when Michael thought Jaci rolled her eyes during the discussion.
His response? He threw a water bottle at her.
He’s quick to point out that the toss was underhanded. And the bottle was empty.
“Let me assure you,” Jaci pointed out. “Our recollections of that moment differ.”
It’s one tale of many in the couple’s book — titled “He Said, She Said” — that will be released next month. The book gives insight into their 20 years of operating their business and how they have helped businesses across the country while also being married with four kids, most of which were born when the business was in its early stages.
Jaci is the company CEO and strategist, and Michael is the CCO — chief creative officer.
“Everybody that’s told us in the past 20 years of our company, ‘I can’t believe you’re married and you run a business together. How do you do it?” Jaci said. “This book answers that question.
“We’re committed. As frustrated as I will be some days and as frustrating as he can be some days, at the end of the day we’re still committed. We’re committed to the marriage. We’re committed to run the business together. We’re committed to raising four kids together.”
The book is often a often a humorous take on situations they have handled over the years and gives insight to the dynamic between the two. Jaci notes how their business skews many traditional gender roles — that of the wife serving as the marketing person or doing the books while the husband serves as the head of the company.
Both had advertising backgrounds when they first met at a Christmas party before they later married in 1998 and started the business in 2001 while she was nine months pregnant with their child.
Now with 23 employees, brandRUSSO will celebrate a 20-year anniversary next month.
“There’s never an out clause for us,” Michael said. “There’s no parachute or escape route, and I think we’re both of that same mindset — We’re in this and we’re going to do this. We’ve made so many mistakes over the years and learned how to run the business. We approach the marriage the same way we do the business: There is no greener grass, and we’re going to keep working on the grass to make sure it stays green.”
The book is a quick read at only 154 pages but also includes practical applications of branding principles, particularly their specialty Razor Branding, a process the Russos developed. The process, as their website indicates, develops brands from the inside out and a series of branded touchpoints to emotionally connect with the consumer.
The challenge was to squeeze all that into the book while also being entertaining for the reader.
“I give our editor a ton of credit because it started with them asking us questions,” Jaci said. “That allowed us to get a lot of clarity on how to structure the story we wanted to tell. And Michael really took it from there. I will acknowledge every time he did 98% of the work.”
The book is available for preorder now and will be available at Beausoleil Books in downtown Lafayette. The Russos are working to do a book launch, but already the book has gotten positive reviews from others in the industry.
“The book, I think, lets us both have a voice,” Michael said. “While I did most of the writing, it was a lot of her work. It really is two sides of the coin. You’re actually being able to have a conversation with both of us, and I think that’s my favorite part about it.”
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