Under 40: David Mills, Touchstone
David Mills, 36
Touchstone, Mason, Ohio
If David Mills could offer one piece of advice to his colleagues and the incoming workforce it would be: Never stop growing. It’s something that he himself lives by and it has worked well. After spending five years in the print magazine business and five years as an art director for the global events division of a large B2B company, Mills scored a senior designer position with Touchstone. “I became infatuated with Touchstone’s culture and unique point of difference in the industry very early on, and, within six months, I was promoted to creative director, where I manage a team of designers that service our external clients,” he said. “Internally, I serve on the executive leadership team as our brand evangelist and culture ambassador.” His ongoing journey in growth and development also have taught him the value of reading and gaining insights, wisdom and perspectives from a variety of sources, including John Maxwell, Stephen Covey, Jim Collins, Gary Vaynerchuk, Simon Sinek and more.
Why he loves the industry: I love the variety to my day that this industry gives me—no day is exactly the same. Not only the range of clients that we work with, but the range of projects is so wide, as well. As a distributor in the industry, a lot of that variety is up to us. We can choose to offer our clients the same cookie-cutter experience day in and day out (as many do), but we choose to approach every single project differently with completely different, custom solutions.
Age roadblocks and advantages: I used to experience a lot more challenges in my 20s. Most people dread turning 30, but I looked forward to it. I wanted to be taken more seriously, and I didn’t want to be generalized and lumped into any stereotypes one might have of that 20s age group. That being said, in my 30s, I have not really run into many challenges because of my age. ... So there’s not really a box here that your age restricts you to, and I love that about Touchstone.
His biggest career influence: My boss, Derek Block, is also the founder and president here at Touchstone. Derek has been not only influential, but instrumental in my growth and development. He has invested a lot into me as a person and as a colleague. When I was first promoted to creative director, he sent me to a six-month leadership course in Indianapolis offered by one of our partners, trueU. ... Derek also has pushed me to always be better today than I was yesterday, to never cap my own potential or settle for less than I can be. Additionally, Derek has never held back on saying what I need to hear even if it may be uncomfortable, and I appreciate that honesty from him.
His most meaningful business accomplishment: Being recognized as a top leader under 40 in my industry is definitely up there, but I’d probably have to say that graduating from that six-month leadership course with the top capstone presentation group, and being recognized and awarded as the top emerging leader in that course was a tremendous honor.
His differentiating factor: We don’t focus on product; everybody has product, and most people have access to the same product. Instead, we focus on two very important entities: our client’s brand and their targeted audience. Before we touch any project and start discussing budgets, quantities, deliverables, etc., we seek to learn a lot about these two areas. With every client, from global giant to mom-and-pop shop, we go through brand archetyping workshops to take apart the DNA of a brand.
What he does for fun: My faith is very important to me, and I am heavily involved in my church. I love spending time serving in that capacity with my family—my wife, Jill and my two boys, Caedmon (18) and Cameron (11). Our third “child,” Tugger, is our 3-year-old English Bulldog, but he does not know he’s not human. We love giving back in the community, as well, and teaching our kids the importance of a servant heart.
(The following profile appeared in Print+Promo’s “Rise Up” cover story in the February 2017 issue.)