Opinion: It’s hard to say goodbye, Vancouver

Nov 7 2018, 11:21 pm

Written for Daily Hive by Chris Breikss, Founding Partner of Major Tom, the agency formerly known as 6S Marketing and Drive Digital, with offices in New York, Toronto, and Vancouver. Chris founded the agency in Yaletown in the year 2000 with his elementary school friend John Blown.


I know what you’re thinking, “Oh God, not another self-important monologue about why somebody has had enough of Vancouver and is leaving the city!”

I get it — I’m as sick of those things as you are. But I promise this isn’t that. True, today I left Vancouver and made the move across the country to Toronto. But as the outgoing President of the largest digital agency in Vancouver, I’d like to think that my perspective is somewhat different.

So why am I doing it?

First things first, it was not an easy decision. Vancouver is my home. It’s where my wife had a job she loved, where my young family grew up, and where I set up Major Tom — a digital agency that employs 65 people out of our studio in Gastown.

For more than a decade, the city has been the base from which I have worked to build this business from the ground up. Even though we have clients and offices across Canada and the United States, it’s always been our headquarters. And that will continue to be the case, but in order to take the business to the next level I’ve realized that I need to make the move.

Toronto is the logical place to do that. It may not have the mountains or the greenery that I’m used to, but when it comes to business it really is the centre of the world (for Canada anyway).

It’s a land of opportunity because so many head offices are located there. There is also a huge population, an equally massive talent pool, a rapidly growing tech hub, and the cost of living is even somewhat reasonable compared to Vancouver.

I first set up an office remotely in Toronto in 2011 and had to scale it back after a year. It was too difficult to replicate our Vancouver culture and motivate people from afar. I tried again in 2014 with varying degrees of success. The business was doing well, but still consisted of only a handful of clients and staff. In 2016, a few key leaders relocated to Toronto and the team became stronger. Now with 18 people on the ground in Toronto, we are ready to grow and scale the business, and that’s why I am going. There is so much opportunity and after a recent rebrand, the sky is truly the limit for us.

But even though I’m going to Toronto, I’m going to take a bit of this city with me. You see, while it may not have the offices, the infrastructure, or the connections that our friends in ‘The Six’ have, Vancouver still has a lot to teach the East Coast.

In fact, despite what fans of other hockey franchises might have you believe, Vancouver is scrappy. Whether it’s culture, sports, or even business the city is a constant underdog — but that doesn’t stop us from taking on the rest of the world, and often beating it.

Running a business here is a unique experience. There aren’t many mega corporations with big budgets that are located in the Pacific Northwest — so as a result I’ve found you’ve got to be hungrier, leaner, and more creative in order to compete with competitors on the East Coast. It’s that mentality that makes Vancouver a hotbed of entrepreneurialism, and why so many fantastic companies have started life here before taking on the rest of the world.

It’s a mindset that I’m determined to bring with me to Toronto as I set out on a mission to grow our agency with the same values that made our Vancouver headquarters such a success. And even though our growth will happen elsewhere, our headquarters isn’t changing. Vancouver is still Major Tom’s home, and we will continue to create jobs and inject revenue into the city through it.

But in order to do that, the time has come to go where the traffic is worse, the hockey team has actually won a Stanley Cup, and where there’s a bucketload of business to dip into. Hopefully one day, people will be moving to Vancouver for exactly the same reasons, but until they do it’s time for me to say goodbye to this wonderful city… for now.

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