You’ve never met Ryan Alford before, but it doesn’t mean you’re not already friends on social media (aren’t we all?). Alford, with nearly two decades in advertising, has had his share of start-ups, start-overs, and stardom behind the scenes. Perhaps you’re even one of the 500 million people around the world who has seen Dr. Rich Constantine, the Dancing Dentist, who took on the dance challenge that flooded the Internet last fall. “Dr. C” (trademarked now, thanks to Alford) is a client of Radical Company, Ryan Alford’s brainchild, which promises “marketing at the speed of now”—if not sooner, like the dance video that went viral quicker than you can say “toothpaste,” and which gave wings to Radical, then only two months old.

A marketing vet who did his time in New York City, Alford isn’t just a dreamer or a doer—he’s a clutch team player, who, from his early days as an ad guy at Erwin Penland, worked on accounts like Verizon and the launch of the iPhone and landed Radical’s own marquee brands such as Maserati. He’s not afraid to give away his secrets in the sauce of success—usually through his enlightening podcasts and his collaboration with GVL Hustle, a series of networking events for the modern era. If you’re a small business who might need a boost, we just have one question: Can you hear him now?

Erwin Penland was a big part of your career, yes? >> Yes, I was there 12 years. I was in New York for five years, and I’ve been back since 2014. I started at Erwin Penland working on Verizon Wireless business, a very small Southeastern part of the business, and over my 12 years, we, as a team, grew that from a small piece of $3 million to about $45 million. I worked on other accounts, but my bread and butter was Verizon, taking them into the smartphone world.

A source of pride I heard you talk about in a podcast is that you’re not pigeonholed on one side of being either the creative or the executive. >> I’m a hybrid. I’ll attribute this to one of my first bosses, Allen Bosworth, who founded EP with Joe Erwin. In the agency side, you get put into two boxes: you’re the Type A account person who checks the boxes and keeps the schedules, and does the strategy, or you’re the creative type, who is crazy and comes up with all the ideas. I definitely have always been in both sides.

And then after EP what went on? >> I got back from New York and planned out my next move. I’ve always been a car guy—cars, wine, and watches are my three vices. I had a friend I’d been buying cars from, and he had an exclusive on-demand service where he bought wholesale cars to order. I bought a franchise from him called iDrive on Demand and opened a store on Laurens Road on the Motor Mile, right in the middle of the big guys. We were doing good revenue and paying the bills. I did that for just over two and a half years, and we sold a lot of cars. I loved doing the marketing, but I thought, ‘Do I want to be a car dealer the rest of my life?’ No. So, I shut the doors. I closed it all down. I probably lost a quarter of a million dollars. I call it a successful failure.

Photo by Paul Mehaffey

That’s the best kind. And then how did Radical happen? >> I worked for another agency called Dom360, an automotive agency, as its chief marketing officer. It was kind of a pit stop. I knew in the back of my head I was going to start my own agency, but I needed to get my feet back under me. I left there in April 2018 and started Radical in May.

And then the dentist coup happened just two months later? Wow, the timing! What was your role in that? >> When I started working with Rich, and we sat down to talk about goals, I said, look, this is a stale industry. I gave him a professional tripod and said, get on camera. I knew about the dance challenge on social media. The girls in his office knew that he could dance and told him to do it. So he set up his tripod and did the dance and posted it. Within two hours, he had 20,000 likes and 1,000 shares, which, now, knowing the total numbers sounds small. But for an average dentist in Greenville to have that much engagement, I knew what was happening. I called him and said, we need to get a game plan of PR because this is going viral. He didn’t even know what that meant. By that time, it had 400,000 likes. The video has been played 500,000 million times across the world.

So much of what you promote is positive and about going after what you want. >> I want to feel like I have an impact, and I believe that if you have a positive mind, it solves 95 percent of your problems. We are all susceptible to life, but if you live with positivity and gratitude and appreciation, life will be better. Does it mean I’m positive every ounce of the day? No, but I believe in those core principles, and it keeps me going through.