James Gardner

Executive Creative Director, Chief Operating Officer, Senior Vice President

Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods-Northwest

Springdale


James Gardner

The small pond of northwest Arkansas was lucky to land a big fish like James Gardner, who has experience directing global creative work with huge brands such as Microsoft, the Olympic Games and Mercedes-Benz.

Born and raised in Seattle, Gardner quickly jumped into that city's high-tech creative work force after graduating from The Art Institute of Seattle. He subsequently worked as creative director for three other hometown companies.

Gardner was in search of a smaller town and was making an effort to be closer to family when Mark Blackwood, former chief of Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods-Northwest, made Gardner an offer: join CJRW-Northwest and take it over after Blackwood's impending retirement.

"[Blackwood] made an incredibly generous offer," Gardner said. "It was the first time I had ever put a family decision ahead of a career decision, and it has paid off tenfold."

Since Gardner took over the firm, which happened only 10 months after he joined, the integration of his high-tech background has helped multiply the company's profits by 10 in 2004 and again by 25 times in 2005; profits are expected to increase again this year.

"We're not an advertising agency. We're a communications business," said Gardner, 39. "We help people communicate whatever it is they need to get across."