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Why a Lincoln marketing agency bought back its business

Clint! Runge and Charlie Hull never considered selling Archrival, their Lincoln-based youth marketing agency.

But in 2010, they sold their business to the Austin-based Dachis Group. A few years later, they bought their company back.

This is the story of the time in-between – the growing, selling and re-buying of Archrival as told by Runge.

It’s a story of growth and change, of being stretched and rebuilt. It’s a tale that doesn’t have an ending, just chapters to hold it together and a mission to keep it moving forward.

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Runge and Hull were friends who started a company after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with degrees in architecture and advertising, respectively. Striving to find a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to marketing, they developed the initial concept for Archrival in 2000.

“Archrival was never really a business. It felt more like a band,” Runge said.

Like any good band, they needed supporting band members. That meant hiring more employees and finding like-minded clients, like Red Bull.

“It felt like a marriage — we looked at them and they looked at us and we were in love,” said Runge, describing Archrival’s first meeting with Red Bull. “Their mentality and the way we think about creative and they think about creative is really similar.”

Goosebumps and all, Archrival had found a major client. That set the stage for the growth and direction of the company as it built a portfolio filled with work for both local and national brands.

Then, in 2010 the Dachis Group came knocking. Runge and Hull quickly realized their mission aligned with what Jeff Dachis was working toward — building a social environment by connecting people on every platform and in every way possible.

“They had a really interesting philosophy,” Runge said. “(It was) really heavy into social media and we were in tune with it.”

While selling had never come up in the past, Runge said it made sense when the time came to make the decision.

Dachis had acquired a handful of companies to drive its philosophy deeper, and Archrival was a piece of the puzzle.

“This became the next evolution chapter of Archrival,” Runge said. “For the first time I saw, intimately, how other companies were being run…it really opened my eyes on a lot of levels.”

During that time, Runge said he was constantly defining Archrival. He was assessing its strengths and pointing out its weaknesses.

It was a mentorship of sorts with peers who were experienced and divergent, he said.

“It was an amazing journey for me, personally and professionally,” he said. “All of a sudden I had to define our culture, I had to defend it and (also) realize that there were some things that weren’t important.”

After two years, the Dachis Group and Archrival realized their end goals were growing apart. The Dachis Group needed to pursue the growth of a specific software element it had developed, and Runge and Hull knew that was their cue to exit.

“I respected what they were into, but it wasn’t our passion,” Runge said. “Jeff (Dachis) and I both came to the conclusion that we needed to go in different directions because if not we’d hold each other back.”

It was a mutual parting of ways. So, on June 1, 2013, the deal was finalized.

Runge used two words to describe the year since he bought back Archrival: Momentum and freedom.

There’s excitement, energy and a definite push forward into the unknown. Runge said being part of the Dachis Group opened his eyes to what was possible and the past year has been about exploring those options.

“I feel like we’re in the next chapter of Archrival,” he said. “It’s like we’re at where we started except with more knowledge…it’s like we’re in 2000 again…there’s a lot of unknowns but the confidence that we’re going to make it.”

Confidence has been a theme throughout Runge’s life, starting in first grade when his mom placed an exclamation point after the “t” in his name to help him step out of his shell and be confident.

It’s something he tries to instill in his employees and students when he teaches an advertising class at UNL.

It’s a mark that he hopes will continue to push Archrival into its next chapter, whatever that may be.

“An exclamation point is about making a statement,” Runge said. “That’s what I’ve wanted to do and in a sense what’s what Archrival does…it’s been a continual element.”