The smell of the ice. Loving what you do. There’s a movie from the ’90s—The Cutting Edge—which my adolescent self watched more times than I can count from behind the counter of my parents’ video store in Portland. I watched everything standing behind that counter because I essentially grew up in that shop, even spending my Thanksgivings and Christmas Eves there. What made this family-run-video-store life work was that we learned early on to have fun with it. And while I won’t go into the moments that got freeze-framed on the store television when the shop was empty, I will say my mom and her staff enjoyed nurturing an amusing Mel Gibson obsession.
The coolest thing about this life for me as a teenager was the early access to new releases in the form of “screeners” given to us long before they were released to the public, and our home was stacked with them. That’s how I came across this forgettable, ice-skating rom-com, The Cutting Edge, which the 14-year-old version of me could quote line for line. Now, who would remember that The Cutting Edgewas actually written by Tony Gilroy (writer of the Bourne trilogy and Michael Clayton)? There was talent here, and while the most memorable lines have to be, “Toe pick!” and “There’s only two things I do really well, sweetheart, and skating’s the other one,” what has really stayed with me from time to time is a brief exchange between D.B. Sweeney and Moira Kelly about a photograph of Sweeney in his hockey gear, smelling the ice.
Kate (Moira Kelly):
Doug (D.B. Sweeney):
That’s me, smelling the ice. I told this guy once I loved how ice smelled. It became this thing. Somebody got a camera.
Huh, I never thought about it.
Yeah, well, I’m not surprised.
What’s that supposed to mean? What did you mean by that?
I think you’d skate even better if you let yourself enjoy it a little.
Wait, what’s this? I come up to say, “have a nice weekend,” and you’re giving me pointers?
You brought it up.
No, I didn’t.
Yes, you did.
No, I didn’t.
Yes, you did!
Just typing that out was fun—how often do we let ourselves be pulled into a “no, I didn’t/yes, you did” exchange? Used sparingly, it’s still funny. But the movie hinged on this brief argument: Why do we do what we do? If we’re in it for the wrong reasons, can we succeed? If we forget to love it, why are we doing it?
Anyone who has stepped into the Firewood office recently is talking about change. Big change. Our cozy-yet-fierce agency has more than doubled in size in 12 months and our brand-new office is already feeling short on space. I’m new to Firewood myself and feeling a part of this incredible moment of growth and traction. I’ve been ramping up on our digital business, and something profound is happening here. A message is resonating. A service is connecting. A need is being met. But there’s more to it than that. I’ve been on a tour of several of our paid media teams now; we have optimizers, analysts, and project managers embedded on some of the most high-profile products and teams in Silicon Valley. The magic is the people.
What we’ve done is hire people who love the “smell of the ice.” I saw it clearly today when I witnessed one of our teams step up to the plate and meet a key client moment with grace, good humor, and deep expertise. The details don’t really matter. What does matter is that I know we are staffed not just with optimizers and analysts, but with people who love being excellent at what they do. And it’s this love that makes the difference. Yes, our performance metrics are phenomenal. Yes, our analysis is sophisticated. But our teams—our teams want to win. And they want to win, because they love the game. When you put people in place who love the game, you’ll find you’re playing another game entirely. That’s where this work gets really fun.
Change is in the air at Firewood, and the way our digital business is growing is turning heads. Turns out, we “let ourselves enjoy it a little.” We love the smell of the ice. It may be that there’s only two things we do really well—and this is the first one.
P.S. We do more than two things really well, I promise. Give us a call and we’ll tell you about them.