Adam and Marty Butler have run an advertising business together for more than 10 years. But if you ask them, they’ll tell you they’ve been negotiating over resources since 1974—the year Marty was born, and Adam started sharing a crib with him. Just 14 months apart, the Butler brothers now seem as close as twins. They share the same bright brown eyes, the same sense of humor, the same ability to charm and disarm anyone in the room.
By ages eight and ten, they were helping their father run his prominent Austin painting company. “We didn’t go to business school,” Marty says. “We learned how to do business from him.” Not that they realized it back then. Their father would task them with painting the top of a cabinet, even though no one was going to see it. Now, looking back, the lessons are clear. “We learned about how to treat people, what to expect from clients, how to draw boundaries,” Marty says. “It’s all come to roost in our business, which is really cool.”
One of the business boundaries Marty and Adam have drawn is rather unusual: Though they didn’t start this way, the Butler Bros. company today only works with brands in whose mission they actually believe. Period. That means no selling big tobacco or sugar-laden sodas, but it has also meant getting out on the offensive: One recent PSA campaign for the Legacy Foundation exposed cigarette butts as toxic waste.
Some of this change came about after the brothers lost their mother to pulmonary fibrosis. Then they both started having kids. For Adam, the philosophy is simple: “We will not sell anything that hurts someone else’s family. That’s our thing. Why would we treat someone else’s family worse than we treat our own?”
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