The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership and Hodges Digital Strategies.
May 23, 2013 | by Jon Newman
We just had a baby. Three of them in fact.
Before we start debating the biological impossibilities, THP is coming off three maternity leaves that overlapped involving three valuable account leads. How bad is that scenario at least on paper? It was so bad, the third mom delayed telling us that she was pregnant because she was afraid of our reaction.
But after seven months of adjusting, juggling and stretching the truth is it wasn’t bad after all.
In fact it was an extremely good thing, not only for the moms, but for all of us at Hodges.
Here are some of the things we learned:
- It’s good to stretch: Sometimes we don’t know what our limits are until we reach them. Our team really pitched in, worked longer hours, and helped each other as we were a few women down during this time.
- It’s time to grow: Since these folks were account leads it was time for others who were waiting for their opportunities to seize the day. And they did in a big way. In some cases not only maintaining the successful relationships but growing them in exciting ways.
- A lot can happen during 3-4 months: It’s amazing how much things change in agency life during the time of an average maternity leave. People and clients grow, the usual client churn occurs, and because people step up and succeed the spirit of the agency changes in surprising ways.
- Flexibility increases: As the moms came back to work we found the jobs they came back to changed as well. They had more “capacity” to work on different accounts. We had more opportunities to experiment with their assignments especially as they realized that those who stepped up were doing a solid job.
Sometimes agencies don’t change until change is forced upon them. As leaders we are content not rocking the boat when things are going well because, well….why should we?
But change is good. We are a better place because of these new members of the THP family. Better because there are three new members of our extended family.
But also better because of what we’ve learned and accomplished as a result of them coming into our world.0 commentsPosted in: Agency Management | The Hodges Partnership
April 10, 2013 | by Jon Newman
It should come as no surprise to anyone that we throw around a lot of baseball terms and phrases at The Hodges Partnership. What you may not know is that a couple of us are closet Trekkies, so on occasion the random Star Trek reference is tossed about. When that happens in a meeting about three or four of us get the meaning. Sort of like our inside version of The Big Bang Theory.
The title of this post is a reference to taking the next step into uncharted territory (or The Undiscovered Country, sorry…I’ll stop).
So it is with great personal excitement that I introduce Mike Broggie as the COO of Hodges Digital Strategies and VP, Business Development of The Hodges Partnership. This is uncharted territory since this is the first time in the history of both companies that we are dedicating a person primarily to business development.
Mike has a long history of “biz dev” success, working for a number of technology and marketing companies on the west coast. In each case, Mike’s new business approach translated to substantial growth for those companies. Some of you in Richmond may already know Mike as he’s spent the last year or so networking in town as he plans to move his family from California to Richmond later in the year.
I’m never shy about bragging on our folks. They are world class. They get results for clients. On the THP side, we stand toe-to-toe with the national media relations shops. Ditto in our writing skills and without question on content creation and social media management. We owe it to them to take THP to the next step. Mike will help us expand our network and connections, not only in Virginia, but around the country and the world.
For HDS, our partner and CEO Sonali Shetty is a brilliant technology mind. She and Mike have already refocused Hodges Digital. Our new website reflects our focus on larger and more complex Web projects for institutional and corporate clients as well as mobile apps and mobilization projects. Again, we will rely on Mike and his network to expand HDS’s geographic reach while Sonali and her team perform their digital magic.
This doesn’t mean we will forsake our hometown. In fact, as we look at our history we’ve done our best work taking entrepreneurial clients like Snagajob, Ledbury, Reginald’s Homemade, Collared Greens and countless others and help put them on the national map. We will continue to look for the “next Snagajob” to help it craft its message and shoot for the stars. In coming weeks, we’ll be promoting a Work It, Richmond special section of entrepreneurs and we’ll begin working with 804RVA and Lighthouse Labs to help new companies take their first steps.
As with any new voyage, whether it’s to new worlds in space or into a new world of business, there is that “pit in the bottom of your stomach” feeling that I’m sure Kirk or Picard felt often.
But as we have done on many occasions in 11 years and the creation of two companies, we look forward with great excitement and great anticipation.
With a final nod to Star Trek (TNG to be specific), there’s only one word that seems appropriate as we shift into warp speed.
(OK, I’m done now).1 commentPosted in: Agency Management | Hodges Digital Strategies | The Hodges Partnership
February 24, 2013 | by Jon Newman
Because if a couple of slices of pepperoni leads to what happened on Saturday, I’ll be the one paying for the pizza from now on.
That lunch with John and Aaron Dotson from Elevation Advertising turned into exactly what I hoped it would—a frank, honest, open and sometimes emotional learning experience for dozens of local and regional small business owners.
Like Aaron, our partner in crime, I’m not a big fan of conferences where people talk at you. I have also tired of conferences or events where talk has replaced action. My sense and expectation coming out of TILTED is that action won’t be a problem.
The unconference setting in which the participants doubled as teachers and experts worked as many hoped. It allowed for a frank discussion. It allowed for teaching and learning. It allowed for fun. Most importantly it allowed for participation. By everyone.
From the people who are thinking of starting a business, to those who are going through each of the seven stages of small business that were the focus of my talk (another blog post on that coming), to the small business “experts” who were in the room. No one was shy and that’s why it worked so well.
Some of my highlights:
- Just seeing the 150 or so people in the room just eight weeks after the idea for TILTED was hatched. A credit to the Floricane team and the sponsors (Create Digital, Elevation Advertising, Floricane, Fraser Design, One South Realty, The Hodges Partnership, TMI Consulting, Work It Richmond and Zuula Consulting) for just being able to pull this thing off.
- Listening to RVA restaurateur Kendra Feather whose talk I sought out. Her words have inspired me to not worry as much about what other people think and just do what I think is right.
- Talking to Keya Wingfield of Candy Valley Cake Company (who doesn’t love her cake pops) whose dream of expansion is simultaneously so close yet so far. This is my public promise to try to help her.
- Sharing some of my mistakes and advice with prospective small business owners. (Yes, I like the name “Honey Badger” and you should stick with it and not listen to others.)
- Being humbled by the crowd who came to listen to the “Hodges” story and hoping it was worth the 25 minutes of your time.
- The involvement of Andy Thornton of La Diff fame whose passion and perseverance as not only a small businessman but community leader is an example for all of us.
There are so many images that continue to flash through my brain; the truth is I’m still trying to process all of them.
Ultimately what made the day work was the thing that people starting and running small businesses know more than others that things don’t have to be perfect. The beauty of the unconference and of small business itself is that everyone has a role. If one person is too busy, someone else will pick up the slack. If something doesn’t work, try something else. Messy is good. It’s creative. Things don’t have to be perfect. Each word, while important, doesn’t have to be killed to death. Feedback, even bad feedback, needs to be heard and absorbed and stay out there so others can see it instead of being deleted immediately.
If this feels like a bit of a rant. Well, it is. We spend too much time trying to make things perfect in this town. It was refreshing to be in an imperfect space for a while where people called people out when they felt it was needed. The epiphany quotient was very high. I know I had a few of them.
So now that we’ve been TILTED, what next?
John and his team are doing their usual great job of getting instant feedback on the day, its format and what to do next. For those who received it, please provide that important feedback.
I have a couple of thoughts:
- Do one tangible thing to help someone in small business: Whether you were in the room yesterday or not, this is a noble and easy to achieve goal. Shop there, tell them what you like or don’t like, offer them some advice. They’ll be happy to take it. Spread the word to others if you like it. I’ve already decided what my “thing” is and you’ll be hearing more about it.
- Pass on your knowledge: That was extremely rewarding to me as one of the small business veterans in the group. Every small business owner, no matter what stage they are in, has learning they can pass on.
- While it is human nature of all of us to begin planning “TILTLED 2: The sequel that ate Pittsburgh,” I’m fine with letting this one sit a bit and marinate for a while. I’d rather all of us act on what we learned Saturday. If we all do one thing for someone else, the local small business universe will be changed.
The buzz will be hard to avoid. People will talk about TILTED and others whose business it is to foster the creation and growth of small business will quickly try to replicate it. Please don’t.
Richmond has become a town of replication. If something works for someone else the tendency is for another group to try it. It’s why we’re “over-creating” right now. The replication, while well intended, doesn’t allow the energy for the actual work that should come out of days like TILTED.
Give those who were in the room the other day the “room” to do the actual work that needs to come out of it.
And while you’re at it, can you pass me another slice of pepperoni?2 commentsPosted in: Agency Management | Richmond
January 31, 2013 | by Jon Newman
And I mean that in a truly good way.
The by-product of one recent lunch is TILTED: An RVA Small Business Unconference on Saturday, February 23 at the Times-Dispatch. Here’s the story about the lunch…
Recently the fearless leader of Floricane invited me and Aaron Dotson to his new digs at the Times-Dispatch for pizza and conversation about life, liberty and the current status of our businesses.
To borrow again from Forrest Gump, sometimes you can sum up my experience in running a small business in one phrase: “Stupid is as stupid does.” There are plenty of things that, given the chance, Josh and I would have done differently.
While John’s business is a few years old now, Elevation Advertising, which Aaron started with Frank Gilliam, and THP virtually mirrored each other. Elevation is slightly older than THP (both now older than a decade), but from conversations over the years we recognize that the two businesses have hit similar milestones at similar times. We have also talked about some of the same challenges we’ve had related to things like growth, space, culture, etc.
Our lunch with John quickly focused on those growth issues for small businesses. We’re not talking about incubators or bootstrapping, although we’ve all been through that stage. We’re talking about how to continue climbing the growth ladder, how to deal with things like insurance, how to build a true culture, how to reach outside of Richmond for business growth, how to plan for succession.
While Richmond had done a great job focusing on incubating in recent years, those of us who are past that stage are now focusing on how to make the next big leap.
As the three of us listened and talked, John suggested creating some sort of informal conference of diverse small business owners, managers and experts where the group can share information and all help each other.
The lunch then led to a couple of meetings with a larger group including folks from Create Digital, Elevation Advertising, Floricane, Fraser Design, One South Realty, The Hodges Partnership, TMI Consulting, Work It Richmond and Zuula Consulting. These organizations are now the sponsors of TILTED.
If you run or manage a small business, or if you provide services to small businesses, please come out and participate. There will be lots of conversation and storytelling and only one PowerPoint presentation, promise.
We want to slightly TILT things with breakout sessions, small-group conversations, and workshops identified on the fly.
We’ll supply some of the food, you’ll buy your own lunch but we’ll have some yummy choices from RVA food truck folks.
So if you’re a small business owner, employee or servicers this is your invitation to get TILTED.
See you there.0 commentsPosted in: Agency Management | Richmond
March 28, 2012 | by Jon Newman
Jon's 1.5 is dead. It was time. It's not like I was running out of things to say but the original reason for the blog and the number of voices needed to tell that continuing story has evolved.
A lot has happened in the world of PR, social and digital in the three years of Jon's 1.5 and a lot has happened at Hodges during that time. The initial journal that the blog was started to chronicle is over. Think of the difference as the original Star Trek and TNG. You might debate Kirk over Picard but the voyage continues and the characters change but the Federation's prime directive is the same. Okay, I've really pushed the geek envelope here.
So Jon's 1.5 (the next generation, okay I promise to stop now) is now the Hodges Blog. You likely noticed the changes in recent posts.
We not only have a new look and feel, also soon be seen in a slight tweak to our agency identity and a major redo of our website, but also in the number of post authors. Don't worry (for those who were really losing sleep over this), you'll still be hearing from me on a regular basis. But you will also be hearing from all the Hodgers. The subjects of the posts will range from our culture (Tony's recent post on our coffee issues) to our work (Elisabeth's post on our growing luxury practice) and share our expertise (like Sonali and Casey's collaboration, a social media cheat sheet for ). Timeline for Brands
We will continue to feature our work like today's media relations successes for CarLotz in Fast Company and Snagajob in Time, or social media campaigns or mobile app development. But we will also feature the people behind the work and what they do (and how they do it) to be successful for our clients.
A mentor of mine taught me a long time ago a simple lesson about our business that I try to practice and repeat: The key to business success is to hire people who are a lot smarter than you and let them do what they do best. The Hodges Blog will showcase them and by extension show how smart Josh and I were to bring them on board in the first place.
It is now their time to shine.
So please enjoy the Hodges Blog and try to keep your emotions in check about Jon 1.5. I hope it served you well. I know it did me.0 commentsPosted in: Agency Management | Hodges Digital Strategies | Social Media | The Hodges Partnership
March 12, 2012 | by Tony Scida
I’m not exaggerating when I say the most horrible thing that happens around the office is when there’s no coffee left in the coffee pot. Actually, scratch that, I’m definitely exaggerating. But still, none of the coffee drinkers like it very much.
One morning recently the topic came up, and Emily had a suggestion: if you take the last cup, brew another pot—a policy I thought could truly get behind. It was also suggested that perhaps a sign should be created enunciating this policy, so I took a few minutes the other day to throw something together.
And, you know what they say; making a sign makes it true. So, this morning Emily announced the new policy at our weekly staff meeting.
Of course, I believe the world will be a better place if everyone follows Emily’s advice, so we’re making the Brew it Forward sign available to anyone who wants it under a Creative Commons license (you can do what you want with it, as long as you don’t sell it and as long as you share any changes you make under an equally permissible license). Grab the PDF here.0 commentsPosted in: Agency Management | The Hodges Partnership
October 11, 2011 | by Jon Newman
Where do you look for inspiration?
For example, I've been trying to inspire myself to get into a more regular blogging rhythm. I've also tried to be a source of inspiration for others as we've had lots of "churn" recently at THP with clients coming and going and assignments and roles changing with that churn.
It's not always easy and I sometimes I find myself in sort of an inspiration rut. Let's face it, even those he's The Boss and all there's only so many times you can listen to Badlands to recharge your batteries.
Some people turn to their faith, some to their families, some to music, some to relaxation.
Some people like me, try to mix things up a bit and get their energy from new projects or assignments as a way to light that fire.
So in this time where the economy has sucked for a while, where we're still banging our heads against the wall on the same local issues we've been dealing with for years, and we (at least we are) moving us and our kids around at the speed of light, where do we turn?
Where do you turn? I'd love to know.4 commentsPosted in: Agency Management
April 13, 2011 | by Jon Newman
WARNING: This is one of a recurring series of posts on the topic of change. If this topic bothers you and/or makes you unconfortable, please stay right where you are. Literally.
Lots of change in my life recently. Turned fifty, check. Moved into new office space, check. Started a new company that's doing well, check.
We've been spending a great deal with friends and clients talking about change as well. Our bud, John Sarvay is doing some great things at his business, Floricane, and we spent some time over coffee and diet coke comparing notes. While we discussed his future plans, I've since spent time reflecting on our future. Not sure where I've landed yet but I'll likely burn some brain cells on spring break mulling it over.
Right now we seem to be in a good place. We've made some great hires. They and our long-time Hodgers have bonded amazingly and afford Josh and I the time to actually spend some planning, thinking, etc.
We're noticing that Shockoe Bottom and Richmond are changing as well, for the better. For those who haven't been to our neighborhood, the number of apartments being built here is staggering. It's not Ballpark development mind you but still the area is changing for the better.
We've also been fortunate to be included in some "fly-on-the-wall" discussions on the future of our community and I think I might want to spend a little time on that coming up. I've been having some conversations and I'd like to have some more. My goal will be to try to connect many of the smart people I know with each other. I've already started a little. I'm having fun. I'd like to do more.
As is usual with change, you never know exactly where you're going until your there. When you get there it's time to find somewhere else to go.
We've never really had a road map. We like it that way. It hasn't hurt us so far.
Are you changing?0 commentsPosted in: Agency Management | Hodges Digital Strategies | Richmond | The Hodges Partnership
October 27, 2010 | by Jon Newman
It's not that I'm complaining. Life is pretty good. Did you see the opening segment on "60 Minutes" this week? Scott Pelley did a story on the "99ers," the group of folks who have exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. The bone-chilling part was him hosting a large group of them in Silicon Valley and the frightening number of them who identified themselves those who have received PHD's or master's degrees. If things are going well for us, we should count ourselves among the fortunate.
But as we grow there are reminders about how things change. My wife last night reminded me that I once said I never wanted the company to be larger than 12 people (we will soon be 16). An old boss and mentor of mine saw our construction and recently asked how many people we had working for us and said "oh, you're at THAT size now?"
THAT size has me re-asking myself and the folks here about things like:
- Our structure, which has been relatively flat.
- Our informality, which I think has served us well.
- Our ability to communicate with each other effectively, which is always a struggle.
- Our ability to help each other and work together, while we work on different projects and accounts.
- Our respect for one another, which has and might continue to suffer. This includes respecting each others' work, space, etc.
- Our roles and responsibilities, which will likely continue to change.
- The services we offer, or don't.
Our culture (for lack of a better word) has served us well I think. In eight years you can count the number of people who have left us on one hand. Most of those have left due to family reasons, including an epidemic of sorts where people were leaving in droves because their husbands were getting jobs in Seattle.
So how do you hold on to the best of that culture by acknowledging that things will change and that change is good? How do you get the "old-timers" to understand that things will never be like it was in the good old days, while incorporating the new folks into an ever-changing world?
Part of it I guess is trusting your instincts and your people. Part of it is setting some boundaries. Part of it is admitting publicly that you don't have all the answers even though the folks who work for you expect you to.
As I told one of them the other day, " when I was in your shoes I expected the boss to be aware of everything and was mystified when he or she didn't, now that I am boss I think I have a good handle on most things but obviously can't know everything. I need everyone's help to make sure I'm not missing anything."
I'd love to have some help from the class on this one. Any thoughts or tips to help me with any of the issues I've raised?
They would be greatly appreciated.1 commentPosted in: Agency Management
August 26, 2010 | by Jon Newman
Please indulge me on more time.
Some of you in Richmond might be familiar with Steve Isaac, who himself has built a number of businesses and is currently doing the same in New Jersey. I got to know Steve briefly when he was in a leadership position at the Martin Agency and then became good friends as he helped in the growth of SnagAJob.com and in his current role at Education Dynamics.
We were discussing business over breakfast and he share this pearl of business wisdom that I will never forget.
He said, "Jon if you stop growing, you die."
Words to live by.
So in that spirit, I'd like to share some (not all...at least not yet) of our growth plans.
In the next few weeks, we are demolishing our back deck in preparation of the construction of an addition to our building that will allow us to also renovate our second floor. This will give us enough space for all THP to once again live under one roof. Some of our current clan of 15 (including Josh) have been living in a condo across the parking lot and even though they like the fact that they don't have to listen to me, they will then rejoin the group. This will also give us a good amount of expansion area for the future.
Also, in September (if we can finalize all the details) we will officially launch a second company under the Hodges banner. Accuse me of being a tease but I promise to share all the ins and outs at that time. Suffice it to say, we are very excited about this new venture and are already working with a number of folks in this new capacity. They and others have been sworn to secrecy upon penalty of being taken off our holiday gift list. Once we can, we will shout about it from the rooftops to the point that you'll all be sick about it in five minutes so be glad you have a few more weeks to wait.
Thanks to all the friends and clients who are helping to make all this growth happen, and a public thanks to all the "Hodgers" cause without them we wouldn't have been able to fool everyone like we've been able to do over the last eight years.
More to come....3 commentsPosted in: Agency Management | The Hodges Partnership