25 Years


Mid way through my last year of art school, I started a design business on the side. I called the company McAlpine Graphic Communications and I was officially in business January 2, 1990. I was 20 at the time, I had zero qualifications to be a business owner and I had only had one real job (if you don't count paperboy at 12 and the fry guy at McDonald's at 14). That one real job was a part-time sign painter in high school and college. And I do mean "painter" since computerization was just coming into the sign industry at the time!

About five years into working for myself, I stumbled into providing design services to First Heritage Savings Credit Union—one of British Columbia's largest credit unions at the time—on a referral from a local printing company. One referral lead to more referrals which lead to total specialization. Today, Currency Marketing (after a name change or two) works exclusively in the credit union industry and has worked with credit union clients all over Canada and the United States.

It's really hard to fathom that it's 25 years later and more than half my life has been invested in this business. After 20 years in business I wrote a post about the 20 lessons learned. Since those lessons still apply, here's that list plus five more:

  1. Do what you love
  2. Work with people and companies you respect
  3. Tell the truth
  4. Get really good at something
  5. Never stop learning
  6. Abandon what's not working
  7. Learn to say no
  8. Don't take it too personal
  9. Strive to achieve a work-life balance
  10. Give your people freedom to excel and to fail
  11. Have a vision and stand for something
  12. Differentiate your offering
  13. Don't underestimate the power of luck
  14. Learn from your mistakes
  15. Don't be afraid to ask for help
  16. Treat people well
  17. Not everyone will believe in what you are trying to do
  18. Don't steal ideas
  19. Never screen back red, it just turns pink
  20. Laugh often
  21. Constantly protect and exercise your curiosity
  22. Fall in love with a problem, not your solution to that problem
  23. Sign up for every points and mileage club possible
  24. Don't take anything or anyone for granted
  25. There's much more to life than work

Thanks to everyone who has enabled me to do what I love for 25 years. I truly hope that I never have to look for a real job!


Tim McAlpine is the President and Creative Director of Currency Marketing. He is best known for developing the Young & Free Marketing Program and the It's a Money Thing Financial Education Program that credit unions from around North America are using to connect with new young adult members. He is also the driving force behind CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec competition and a co-founder of the CU Water Cooler.