An Unforced Error: Brian Williams

  • Season 4, Episode 7
  • February 13, 2024
  • 36-minute listen

An Unforced Error: Brian Williams

What do business leaders fail to understand about how to “keep the phones ringing” as they maintain and grow their businesses?

What are the keys to forecasting where a firm is headed and holding itself accountable? And how can they build an environment where ownership in the business’ success is spread throughout the organization?

Episode description

Since 1999, the digital agency that Brian Williams and his brother cofounded has weathered—often just barely—some tough blows to the economy. There was the bursting of the dot-com bubble. Then there was 9/11. Then, the global financial crisis of 2008.

In fact, that last shock compelled Williams to create a formal business development function at Viget—a team that would market the firm, demonstrate its expertise, drive in-bound business leads and keep the phones ringing. Viget hummed into its 15-year anniversary in 2015 with an energizing employee retreat near Boulder, Colorado, where the firm opened a new branch office.

But when the year drew to a close with dismal results, Williams was worried. Yes, Viget had built a business development function. But it hadn’t created a way to forecast and project revenue, anticipate when existing projects would end, maintain a pipeline of “back-up” projects for slow times and rigorously manage existing projects.

There was no external economic shock, yet business had collapsed.

This was a crisis of our own making. My mistakes led to us being in this precarious position.  

—Brian Williams

With potential layoffs looming ahead, Williams issued an off-the-cuff rallying cry that came to be known as “Best 6 Ever”—an audacious goal to exceed Viget’s previous best six-month period. And the team rallied. Extra hours. Aggressive marketing. Sharing the #Best6Ever hashtag internally. Meanwhile, Williams and his team worked to create version 2.0 of Viget’s business development team—complete with all the accountability measures that hadn’t existed before.

Today, Viget’s biz dev function is more sophisticated. The business is more profitable. The firm’s leadership is better equipped to accurately forecast revenue trends. And Williams sleeps better at night.

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This podcast is a production of Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. Contributors include:

  • Katie Wools, Cathy Myrick, Judy Milanovits and Lesley Liesman, creative assistance
  • Jill Young Miller, fact-checking and creative assistance
  • Austin Alred and Olin’s Center for Digital Education, sound engineering
  • Hayden Molinarolo, original music and sound design
  • Mike Martin Media, editing
  • Sophia Passantino, social media
  • Lexie O'Brien and Erik Buschardt, website support
  • Paula Crews, creative vision and strategic support


Kurt Greenbaum, Communications Director

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