On one particular wall of the Sells Agency in downtown Little Rock hangs a substantial, framed print of a pencil maze, the sort the place just one draws a line from the perimeter to the centre finish, averting useless ends and box canyons as you go. The illustration could be a previous advertising piece or perhaps it really is just another creativity bring about for a artistic staff on deadline. But whichever its actual purpose, the artwork serves as an apt illustration of Mike Sells’ lifetime journey, normally trying to get a way ahead, studying as he goes.

“If I had been carrying out the same detail now that I was accomplishing yesterday — if I hadn’t figured out new items from when I started off — I might be bored to tears,” he suggests. “One of the positive aspects of this marketplace is you will find normally a thing new.”

Sells has been in the advertising video game for decades with a consumer roster laden with significant-hitters — and people aspiring to be — to display for it. Meeting Sells for the first time, what you see is what you get, but there’s a good deal to appear at, every single underlying tranche acquired by design and style, by accident and pretty frequently, the really hard way. Just about every lesson provides him a very little closer to who he is, what he does and how he does it, so he seeks out new topic issue at each and every option.

“In this business enterprise you have to have a stick-to-itiveness and a desire to usually be finding out,” he suggests. “Until eventually a year and a 50 % back, I had hardly ever listened to of cyclocross as a sport, and I have been a biking lover my complete lifetime. That was a great deal of pleasurable to master and now, we’ve done advertising and marketing and advertising and marketing for two world-caliber cyclocross events, and we are functioning on a third.”

Sells’ approach has built him and his business (which incorporates a next office environment in Fayetteville) exceptionally adaptable, which is not to say unfocused. Sells Agency’s inventive perform is distinguished by its intentionality and clarity of concept, the virtues of which are relentlessly hammered household by its president.

“I drive a ton of persons about right here insane about words acquiring meanings and to be definitely specific,” he explained. “Some of my favourite thoughts are, ‘What are you truly indicating?’ and ‘Can you say that in a distinctive way?’

“I will be in a assembly and persons will say a little something, and I believe to myself later on, 80% of the persons in there didn’t understand what they were being making an attempt to say, but no one requested. We have to request to fully grasp, and we can not seek out to fully grasp if we are not inquiring issues and listening tough to people words and phrases.”


There is certainly a good deal about Sells that doesn’t fulfill assumptions. For occasion, even with making his dwelling communicating messages, he would not suit the mildew of lifelong wordsmith. In actuality, math and science came much more the natural way to him, a simple fact that unfolds into one more seeming contradiction: He was a science and math whiz who did not aspiration of likely into still left-brained engineering or IT, but theater.

“Initial yr at Hall Significant Faculty, I was hanging out with some people, and they tried using out for the enjoy,” he suggests. “I’m like, ‘OK, I’ll give it a shot.’ I obtained a little part, but I was like, ‘this is cool.'”

That practical experience led to larger productions, notably the Arkansas Children’s Theater production of “Grease” the subsequent year, which proved a turning stage.

“Somehow or a further, beside the point that I are not able to dance and I cannot sing, I obtained a function as just one of the T-Birds. I was Sonny Latierri, the only T-Chook who would not have a solo,” he claims. “[The show] acquired rave assessments from the Gazette and the Democrat. It ran for, I think, four performances and then it was above. Then some months later on, we did a revival of it due to the fact of public demand. I was smitten.”

Sells’ performing do the job landed him multiple theater scholarship presents, one of them to Hendrix College or university in Conway. He wasn’t there extensive when he achieved a coed who would appear to engage in the biggest supporting part in his daily life. From the begin, the two displayed a set of competencies and qualities that, although drastically unique, completed the other.

“I drove her mad freshman yr, because we took the similar algebra course. I confirmed up for the initially working day of course and failed to present up once again until finally it was time to choose a examination,” he states. “I was by no means there, and I made an A although she was laboring on all the math things.

“Effectively, she sat down the night ahead of our Shakespeare paper was because of and wrote, devoid of any mistakes, a 12-site paper and bought an A+. I labored on that thing, rewrote it, went to go pay a visit to the professor a few of situations, got corrections and still bought a B-.'”

As senior calendar year wore down, the now-significant pair confronted their to start with huge check as Sells pondered his following transfer as an actor.

“At one time the approach was, I was going to transfer to New York Town, wait around tables, live in a van down by the river if I had to in buy to give acting a shot,” he claims. “Part of that was influenced by the actuality two men and women I had been in theater with experienced both of those carried out it successfully. Both of those of them went to New York and ended up on Broadway in just two several years.

“Then, I begun relationship my very best close friend, and I determined I truly loved this person and I required to devote the rest of my life with her. I didn’t feel it was responsible to say, ‘I want to get married, but you’re going to have to hold out ’til I see if I can make it in theater or arrive with me.’ It dawned on me this is not actually sensible. [Acting] was dropping its luster, if you will.”


Sells wasn’t totally out of the woods with Bari’s father just yet. He no more time experienced to conquer remaining a wanna-be actor, but he wasn’t flush with backup prospective customers possibly.

“I grew up going to Trinity Methodist Church in the George Wayne Martin Sanctuary. Bari’s dad is George Wayne Martin. Communicate about force,” he stated. “I’m two weeks out from graduation. I really don’t have a nickel. I acquired nothing.”

Destiny intervened as a result of a pal with connections at a Little Rock marketing organization, Brooks Pollard. In quick order, Sells landed a occupation, bought the girl and acquired his degree, a fairy tale trifecta that hid the reality a actual-globe education and learning was just starting. About the future number of a long time, his job volleyed him back and forth on each sides of the promoting desk — as marketing director for a significant lender and an insurance policy property place of work and two tours at what is now CJRW. And that would not even depend his brush with turning out to be a G-Person.

“1 day I’m sitting down in bed with my spouse, consuming coffee, looking through the newspaper and you can find an advertisement from the FBI about a selecting honest for unique agents at the Holiday Inn West,” he explained. “That sounds great, I thought, I will attempt that. What the heck?”

Sells state-of-the-art to the ultimate round — producing the list for a 14-week proving system at Quantico — just in time for the bureau to freeze employing, ending his crime-combating vocation ahead of it even commenced. A few decades afterwards, his father Bob launched Sells Company and, burned out on companies and bored with the shuffling pace of corporate daily life, Mike offered to build up the promotion reserve to match Bob’s in depth PR accounts. The marriage clicked, and Mike’s been there at any time because, getting in excess of as president in 1997.

“He genuinely makes sure that he understands the shopper,” claims Jim Cargill, president and CEO of Arvest Bank’s Central and Southwest Arkansas region. “He is discovered how we work. He is figured out our language. He’s figured out what our goals are and how we get there.

“He is pretty comprehensive and he is normally incredibly genuinely inquisitive. Simply because of that, I close up experience that I am speaking with any person who actually has not just an comprehending, but a honest fascination in what we are carrying out and how we’re acquiring it carried out.”

The decades have taught Sells significantly, particularly as technologies and social media have mushroomed, one thing he’s dealt with with a deft touch.

“We have been previously adopters than a ton of companies on all issues digital simply because to me, it was just an additional medium,” he suggests. “We make messages to connect with people on behalf of a shopper. Building that transpire on a programmatic, contextually targeted screen advertisement on the internet is no distinct than making an powerful newspaper ad 30 many years in the past.

“The bigger obstacle is the hoopla all around some of the technologies. It receives in advance of alone. QR codes ended up all the rage 10 several years ago, and every single customer thought they required a person. But have you noticed the QR code adoption price and how a lot of persons are actually downloading that specialty QR code reader so they can go to your internet site that does not say just about anything? I necessarily mean, let’s all just sluggish down.”

If Sells’ tactic of hurrying to the entrance only to wait for the sector to catch up seems a dichotomous collision of old and new pondering, that’s precisely what it is, reheating basic procedures until finally malleable sufficient to suit into contemporary context. It is not everyone’s strategy, but like everything else which is stored the company applicable for this extended, the numbers back again up his method.

“Advertising and marketing is component art and portion science. At the finish of the working day, it can be a company price, so it has to have a company purpose,” he states. “The last examine I go through claimed the typical tenure of an company-client partnership was less than two decades. Our normal tenure with clients is a large amount longer than that, and I assume it is really for the reason that we have some basic services benchmarks that I demand from customers of everyone and hopefully model for every person.

“At the similar time, the worst matter we can do is just sit all over in this article and lament that we cannot do what we could do 3 decades ago. There’s normally heading to be development. There was a time when television was a radical new point when compared to printed newspapers. At any point, in this small business at least and in all probability in any organization, if you quit remaining a lifelong learner you happen to be in hassle.”

Youthful Lifetime

Alongside the way, Sells has also invested his time, knowledge and methods into Youthful Daily life, encouraging convey that same message of steady mastering to younger persons in the context of their spirituality. In excess of the years, he is seen the plan do the job in the lives of hundreds of youngsters, starting up with himself.

“The trajectory of my life was heading in the improper way in the 10th quality,” he suggests. “It’s a miracle I’m alive. I do not really like to chat about it, but the initially two-thirds of my 10th-grade calendar year I was drinking, I was smoking. I experienced a Camaro and I was driving like a bat out of you-know-in which. I was likely off the rails.

“I sort of got a wake-up contact in which it was like, Alright, I don’t know what to do, but I know I are not able to maintain doing this. I uncovered myself in this nowhere land for the reason that I experienced alienated all my former buddies, and it was much too perilous for me to cling out with my present-day pals. I landed someplace in the center.”

Providence crossed his route with some upperclassmen who took an desire in the shed teenager, inviting him to engage in some disc golf and basketball and lastly inviting him to a Younger Lifetime purpose. What he seasoned there aided set his lifetime back in purchase.

“I experienced developed up in church, and I might listened to a good deal of church communicate,” he suggests. “I you should not want to say I did not hear it, but it was mentioned to me in a way at Young Existence that got by. It truly is not about me there’s a God out there that loves me regardless of what a moron I am. I became a Christian at Younger Lifetime camp. My religion meant a little something to me in that it was mine, I owned it, I wasn’t borrowing it from my loved ones or from my heritage.”

Now following pretty much 20 yrs at different degrees of the business, Sells’ fingerprints are all in excess of the ministry and its development according to Jud Jones, Youthful Life regional director in excess of Arkansas and Louisiana.

“He’s a starter, he’s an initiator, he is a developer, but the most significant point about my good friend Mike Sells is that he won’t give up,” Jones states. “When we achieved, I was in the very first couple several years of attempting to rebuild Youthful Life in Arkansas, and it was pretty tough. He fundamentally said, ‘Hey, I am likely to aid you,’ and he did. He’s persistent due to the fact he thinks in the mission and he believes in people. He is walked with me by thick and thin and, as a friend, I would do nearly anything for him.

Sells at the moment serves on the organizing committee for the River Common (theriverclassic.com), a September bike ride to raise funds specially to achieve inner town little ones.

“When you get into the interior city, the means aren’t there, but they have the same requires,” Sells states. “We have this fundraiser bike journey to enable increase dollars to permit the young ones from the poorer parts of city to have the camp working experience I had. I really like doing work on that.”

It really is specially gratifying, he claims, to be arranging an athletic function, not only as a longtime cyclist and triathlete, but due to the fact he is aware how fleeting great well being can be, acquiring watched the men and women he enjoys most struggle to maintain theirs. That commences with Bari, who’s battled MS most of her existence and who endured some intestine-wrenching stretches all through the pandemic. With each and every turn, as the two faculty sweethearts acquire on the journey by the disorder, Sells learns new classes on faith, fidelity and how to find God when situations are darkest.

“Our lifetime has created me realize the relevance of a proper theological framework for how to watch lifestyle when it will come to overall health and when it will come to going by way of complicated instances,” he says. “We’ve acquired to assume all those and recognize it is not that we’re not currently being blessed, but we have to glance for the blessing within that.

“What’s the blessing inside of MS? Well, we are closer than we have been in advance of this began. We now know we can get by actually hard factors and nevertheless be cleaved alongside one another in relationship. We know we’re committed. And probably other men and women who are going by means of a tough time can listen to about us or witness us and go, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’ That’s just human mother nature. I do that with my bicycle all the time. If that guy can climb that mountain, I can climb that mountain.”

    Mike Sells at the Sells Agency on 07/13/2022 for a Substantial Profile include tale. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins) Do not use right up until after publication in Higher Profile
  photo  Mike Sells at the Sells Company on 07/13/2022 for a Substantial Profile cover tale. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins) Do not use until finally immediately after publication in Large Profile