As the host of The Jason Hennessey Podcast, I have the honor of sitting down every week with incredible people doing amazing things in their respective fields.
And at our Hennessey Digital leadership retreat in December, I had the distinct privilege of hosting our talented team of department leaders. We sat down in small groups together at Hennessey Studios and recorded this special podcast episode together, where we talked business, personal goals, and what we’re looking forward to.
A full transcript of the podcast episode is below. Here’s the episode in its entirety, and I hope you have fun listening and learning more about our team. They’re the most gifted, dedicated leaders in the business, and after listening to them talk, you’ll begin to understand why.
All right, right now I’m excited because I’ve got two guests that I spend a lot of my time with. Well, first of all, why don’t you kind of both introduce yourself and tell everybody who you are and what you do for the company?
Yeah. So I’m Scott Shrum, President and COO of Hennessey Digital. I’ve been with the team for a little over two and a half years now.
Making me blush here. See? All right, I’m going to start with Scott. What do you think is the most rewarding part of your position?
I would say the most rewarding part that I’ve seen that I’ve experienced is when it all comes together. We’ll make a plan, whether it’s doing a particular client project or hatching an internal project or deciding we need to hire somebody new. Let’s start recruiting. We hatch a plan and then it all comes together. What is it? It was Hannibal and the A Team. He says, I love it when a plan comes together. That is the feeling. We’ll imagine something; it might be something small. It might be something huge. Like the studio we’re sitting in right now was a biggie, right? But that was like a plan, an idea you had. Then it became a plan. Then it started to become some work that we did. And then it actually comes to fruition. That is my favorite thing, seeing that happen.
Got it. And so how do you think your role has grown and developed over the couple years that you’ve been at Hennessey?
Other people have heard me say this before. When I started, we were a really interesting company. We were like a revenue stream that didn’t quite yet have a whole company built up, or we just had a revenue stream and we had clients, but we didn’t necessarily have some of that corporate machinery, if you want to call it that. So, especially in my first year, I think we spent a lot of time developing that, just getting infrastructure in place. A couple months after I started, we hired Michele Patrick, our CFO, getting a lot of that in place, things like culture and kind of how we set the tone. It wasn’t at all that it didn’t matter, but it was like, we were just kind of more figuring out tactical stuff. Right? It’s like we were laying the foundation and putting up the two-by-fours to build the house.
Then in the second year, I was able to get more deliberate about, okay, well who’s here doing what jobs and what kind of people do we want to have here? And that’s more of, like, we put up the drywall and we’re like, okay, how do we want to paint the drywall? And now in year three, it’s like, how are we decorating the interior of the house? What kind of culture do we want to have and who do we want to beat, not just what work do we want to do. That’s how it’s evolved for me.
Yeah. Completely agree. We grow. We evolve. We fail. We fail forward.
I know we have a big international aspect of our company. Maybe explain how we kind of hire globally?
You know, when I describe to somebody who doesn’t know our company, I say, you know, a lot of our developers and our SEO people are in eastern Europe. I think for some people that invokes a thought like, oh, you have some people in other countries that you sub work out to. And I say, no, no, no. They are full-blown members of our team. They’re in our Slack. They’re on our biweekly Zoom huddles. For us, being able to hire international people and work with international people and do it well, that’s a competitive advantage.
For us to be able to seamlessly hand something off from somebody in California to somebody in Florida who then hands it off to somebody in Romania who then hands it off to somebody in Ukraine, back to California, that’s a competitive advantage for us. We’re able to find really good people all over the world. A lot of people assume that there’s a massive tradeoff that comes with that, whether it’s a language barrier or just being in different time zones. And other than the time zone thing, we work with them as if they are “regular American members” of our team.
Sure, sure. So are there any milestones that come to mind over the last year that you are excited about?
Oh, man. That’s a good question. You know, the first milestones that come to mind are actually not number milestones. They’re not necessarily revenue or client wins, winning new clients, new business. It’s actually around getting certain teams in place. You know, at least when I started, we didn’t really market ourselves. We barely made any effort to sell ourselves. And then we hired our first business development director. And then we hired a sales director. Early in 2021, we hired a new Senior Director of Marketing. Our marketing department, 12 months ago, I wouldn’t say we did no marketing, but it wasn’t—
There was no strategy. Yeah.
Yeah. And I wouldn’t call it a strength of ours. Now I’m like, ho, ho, other agencies are screwed. Because we are going after it now with live events and what we do online. Those are the milestones that I’m probably proudest of.
And one last question. So we are here together, as a group of leaders of the company. Why is it so important to do this?
Coming together in person, it’s funny because we work together on Zoom every day. And when we got together in person, for me, it’s like it’s seamless, right? We pick up right where we left off in Zoom, but I still remember, so we did this one other time. In November of 2019, we did our first leadership retreat. Obviously everybody knows what happened in 2020, so we didn’t do one in person. We still have inside jokes and just cultural norms that started from those three days of us being together in November of 2019. And so all of everything we’re doing now, yeah: we could have done it on Slack and Zoom and this and that, but I think there’s going to be little sidebar conversations, big group conversations, one-on-one conversations over dinner that we’re still going to be referencing a year from now by doing it in person.
Sure. No; I completely agree. I’m going to shift over here to Kathryn. So Kathryn and I have been working together over a year, but we too don’t really see each other in person. It’s the same thing, right?
And, you know, we get a lot of face time together. Tell us: what is the most fulfilling part of your job?
The most fulfilling part of my job is the diversity. I absolutely love just the various projects that I work on, the immediate things that need attention, and then the long-term projects of just starting and might take some time, like developing the website or getting things up and running with articles and then to see it come together. And of course the best was [Jason’s book] Law Firm SEO and watching the entire process from start to finish, and just the excitement of the future projects like Honest SEO, your next book that’s coming out. So I just love that. It’s very fulfilling. Your successes are my successes. Your wins are my wins. I love it.
And I say the opposite. She’s the one that keeps me successful, I guess, if we’re going to define it as success, for sure. Tell everybody: what does your day-to-day look like?
That is a great question. It’s full, action-packed, and in general it is… I feel like a lot of my job is sort of like a firefighter, going from triaging, you know, deciding…
I’m making the fires and she’s going and putting them out. [laughs]
No. No. [laughing] I mean, yeah, exactly. Sometimes I make them. No, it’s just people have different needs throughout the day. And then, of course, I’m helping to manage your schedule and your priorities. So it’s kind of like I’m the buffer person that goes through and says, okay, these are the things that he needs to know and people who are waiting for these particular things. Generally, that starts with Slack messages that come through, emails, and really determining what’s most important for your day and who needs your attention. And then it’s the ongoing projects, so the articles that we’re writing, preparing for the retreat… just a number of different, longer-term things. And then, of course, it’s our calls. So when we chat and you say, okay, these are the things I need help with. So those quickly get inserted or moved around to be able to meet all of our objectives.
And I’m so grateful for everything that you do. I’m going to talk about one highlight of the year that I am most proud of that you accomplished. So when Kathryn first started, I must have had 60,000 unread emails. It’s almost impossible for me to keep up with email. Like, I’m sitting here right now and I probably have 200 emails coming in right at this moment, right?
Because you’re going to go and see them. And so Kathryn came up with an amazing system. She organized it. Now, I just check a couple folders each day and it makes me that much more efficient and effective.
And it’s awesome. So thank you for that. Do you have a moment or memory from this year that kind of stands out? I know you talked about the book.
Yeah. I would say… okay, there are two answers, actually. One is the day-to-day. The greatest and most fulfilling part, the most satisfying thing is when I anticipate something that you later ask and I’ve already done it. That is, like, the pinnacle of my happy moment. And then just day in and day out with whatever objectives we’ve set. And then when we meet goals and I get to check boxes, I just think that’s the greatest.
That’s awesome. What makes Hennessey Digital unique from other companies based on your perspective?
Without a doubt, it’s the integrity of leadership. I mean, you guys right here and Michele, as CFO, are at the top of the list. And so just having the privilege of working with you all and seeing just the consistent integrity… I’ve worked in a number of different industries, a number of different companies, and it’s just unequalled. The integrity, the transparency, the communication… it’s awesome. And then, of course, just the remote work. I feel really privileged to be able to work with all of you.
I want to talk about that for a second.
Because this really touches home with you being remote. Tell everybody kind of how your life is.
Well, so my life took a major turn last year when Mark and I decided that we were going to downsize as we launched 18-year-olds. And so we bought a catamaran sailboat in California and for the past year, that’s been my office, my home, and my vacation place. So for the first part of the year, as long as I have a robust cellular wifi signal and data, I have been able to travel and you’ve been very gracious about just sort of letting my office float and move. And presently my office is located in Puerto Vallarta at Paradise Village Resort.
And it’s absolutely beautiful. So my day starts with walks on the beach and then I do my work and then take a little lunch break outside in the sun. And then at the end of the day, head back out to the beach and do some paddle boarding. So it’s awesome.
That’s awesome. Well, I want to thank you both. Appreciate you coming in and talking about your experiences working here and looking forward to an amazing 2022 together.
Yes. Thank you.
All right, I’ve got Marketing and Communications here with me today. Thank you so much for making the trip all the way out here to Los Angeles, California. Why don’t you guys introduce yourselves? Cindy, I’ll start with you.
I’m Cindy Kerber Spellman and I’m the Senior Director of Marketing at Hennessey Digital.
And I’m Liz Feezor and I’m the Director of Communications at Hennessey Digital.
Thank you so much. So I know you guys collaborate a lot on projects because you’re in charge of kind of how Hennessey presents ourselves to the world. Right? How do you guys go about working together? How do you collaborate together?
Do you want to start?
Constantly? Is that an answer?
I mean, that’s my answer. I feel like we work so closely together because most of the things that we do are so dependent on one or the other, or we’re doing something so that the next person can do their thing. And I feel like we’ve established a really great rhythm of working together and working so closely and frequently with each other, it’s like, we kind of learn the rhythm and what the other person’s probably thinking.
And so it’s helpful being in such close communication.
I think chemistry is playing a big role in our success. But I also think at the beginning we identified a clear ownership because there’s a lot of overlap.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t support one another, but at the end of the day, someone has to be accountable for the results and seeing something to the finish line. So we really work together to identify what makes the right balance, what are our strengths to be able to do this. And we’re always there supporting each other.
We start our day with Liz always pings me with where she’s focusing, what we’re doing. We provide some feedback and then we normally touch base later in the day. So we’re just, we’re always in touch, but we’re playing off each other’s strengths and it’s really working well.
Yeah. It’s really working well.
Tell me. What does a day look like for you?
Oh gosh. I think a day in life for me probably starts the night before, actually.
Because before I go to bed, I think about how I spend my first hour and a half in the office the next day, in my home office. I get up and I check emails right away. I think that’s the life of someone in PR and Comms.
Are there any fires? Are there any opportunities I missed while I was sleeping? But I normally tackle Hennessey Digital for about my first hour and then I’m on Slack for maybe the next 45 minutes while getting my family up and out the door to school. And then I sit back down at my desk and one of the things I found that’s beneficial in a role like this is I time chunk my day. So I start my day with an hour and a half of office hours. And that’s really addressing deadlines for that day, things that may have come up or what do other people need to get their job done that day.
That frees me up for like the next six to seven hours to be able to be accessible to anyone no matter where they are at our company around the world, have meetings, et cetera. And I close my day also with that other time chunk, another hour and a half of uninterrupted time. And that’s really to make sure we’re meeting the deadlines for that day. Any new work that came on the plate that day, getting that into our project management system. And that’s really allowed me to have that focused productivity time. It also opens up the day to be available to people. And as the Senior Director of Marketing, I work across new business, Engineering, Analytics, Client Services, and People Success so it’s really keeping in focus what we need as an organization to grow. But then also what role we’re playing for those other departments and meeting their needs so that they can be successful.
Good. Yep. Totally agree. And I know, Liz, you also work with many people from the company. Maybe explain to those listening, what are some of the projects and endeavors that you oversee at Hennessey?
Yeah. So for us and, of course, different orgs and different sizes and industries, the MarComms function will look different. And for us right now, I’m owning our blog and most of our content marketing pieces, which has been a ton of fun getting to know the different SMEs and directors in our org and pulling out and sharing a lot of the stories that we have to tell. And not just things like awards that we’re winning, and where we are and events recaps and things like that, but really tangible changes and innovations that we’re making, things like Blin’s team building our own tools so that we can really help clients’ page speed, and other deliverables with what we’re doing for clients. So it’s really fun and interesting for me to learn what we’re doing, keep up with it, and then translate it into words that are going to make an impact for our clients so that they’re paying attention to what we’re doing and that the industry’s paying attention too.
Yeah. One of my favorite posts that we created was where we got really vulnerable, where we were trying to recruit an executive. And for whatever reason, even though we offered them everything that they wanted, they ended up going somewhere else. Because they were interviewing us just as much as we’re interviewing them. And so when I was talking to our executive coach Cameron Herold, he’s like, don’t take it personally. Their talent magnet was just stronger than your talent magnet. So I got on a call with you because we get our little huddles, and you’re like, why don’t we make it a blog post? Let’s just be vulnerable, right? And so then we created that post and that’s still one of my favorite posts. It’s just vulnerability. You know, we say on this podcast make your mess your message. And so I thought that was a great post.
Yeah. It’s funny because I remember Scott saying that’s one of the ones that got the most engagement on his LinkedIn account in maybe ever.
Mm-hmm (affirmative) Mine too.
Because those are the stories that especially, you know, you were talking about talent magnet from an employer branding perspective, I feel like in the last year we’ve really done a great job of making that one of our core initiatives. And so I can only imagine as we fulfill our Vivid Vision in three years, our talent magnet is going to be so strong that we’re not going to have those stories anymore. That’s our goal. So it’s been really cool to see we take action quickly when we identify a gap or a need. And that’s, I think, a great example of that is improving benefits and making all those changes that we highlighted in that post. You know, we’re putting it out there. We make mistakes, but this is what we do, and we share it.
That’s right. We’re human. We’re going to fail. We learn from our failures and we get better from it.
And I don’t think it’s quite different from other marketing. You know, when you think about connecting with human stories, and being human, you connect with other people. And I think that’s what our company has done very well, and that post did it very well. And it’s not very different from what you do in other parts of the business of making sure your product connects with people. And I feel that an incredible part of our product is our people.
And the more we’re able to relate to that and empower and share our stories with others, they might be able to take that information and be successful in their own careers and their own businesses. Then we’re really strengthening and sharing what we’re learning from our products.
Totally agree; yep. I’ll start with you, Cindy, what would you say is the most exciting part of your job at Hennessey Digital?
Oh gosh. I’m an adrenaline junkie. So I think knowing that every day is going to be a little different, you know, we have our goals, so there’s that compass, but there’s always something in a day that’s different. And that’s either working with someone in another country I haven’t worked with yet, or it’s solving a challenge, or it’s saying, hey, I’ve got this idea. And then Liz and I are like, okay, now we do this? And just prioritizing. So I think the most exciting part of our day is there’s always something different which keeps it fresh and new.
Great. What do you think, Liz?
Much the same. I mean, I can go into a day with my short list of things that I need to get accomplished. And I’ll give you an example. Yesterday, I woke up at the hotel and I was like, all right, I’ve got this chunk of time in the morning to focus on my Vivid Vision homework for this retreat. And people see you’re online and it’s like, oh, she’s on. We’re going to start Slacking and talking about something else. And so it’s just you have to be able to roll with whatever your day throws at you and go with the flow and adjust and pivot and learn and keep going.
So we are here in Los Angeles. We’re talking through our Vivid Vision and our goals for the year. What excites you for the next year here?
We’re seeing transformation. And I think it’s a privileged position to be in to see a company growing the way we are and work with the leaders we have. But I think we’re in front-row seats right now of seeing transformation in terms of a business growing and a growth stage company really expanding, but also transforming how people typically think about digital marketing and what comprises an agency. I feel like with your leadership and Michele and Scott’s, we’re really pushing that envelope, as are the directors within our company. And looking at the next year and knowing where we’re expanding to and how we’re breaking the mold of what some of that traditional digital marketing agency looks like and feels like and what we’re able to do excites me the most. So I’m really excited to come back to you in December and say what our “wow” moment was from the last year.
Good. What do you think, Liz?
Totally. I mean, just the possibility of what might come because the Vivid Vision is there. It’s concrete plans for the future, but we don’t know what might materially affect our business, the industry… I mean, not just in terms of bad things that could happen, but leaving room for opportunity and possibility for amazing things to happen too. That’s what gets me excited. So even just the year and a half ago that I was hired, I was brought on in a different position. There were different people in different places. And so just seeing the evolution of what’s happened in just the 18 months that I’ve been on board, bringing on Cindy, bringing on all these people in key leadership positions, and seeing some shifting around. What’s it going to be like in a year? Two years? Three years? So I don’t know.
I don’t think when Liz and I met back in March we could have ever anticipated sitting down with you for a podcast.
Yeah. I know. See? I didn’t envision myself having this studio. Right?
I mean it’s just kind of… things come together.
So much is in store, but if you stay focused and pursue it versus just letting an idea rest, then it’s possible. And I think we’re doing a lot with ideas, so it’ll be a good year.
All right. We’re going to shift the focus here a little bit. So I hear you’re a soccer mom.
[laughs] Yeah. That’s funny you say that because the other day I joked about it. I was like, I’m the modern soccer mom. I probably fit the soccer mom stereotype in that it’s on my brain constantly. And I spend a lot of time in the car.
It’s not a van with the sticker?
It’s not a van, no; it’s not a van with the sticker. It’s interesting. I went from just having kids involved in sport to actually being involved in the sport with coaching and managing teams, and I’m again coaching. I think the reason I keep doing it is I realize that at some point in our lives, someone did those things for us and the more I feel like, even though I’ve been parenting for 12 years, I feel like I’m a new parent. Every week or every day I learn something new. And just when I feel like my plate is full, I realize some kids wouldn’t have these opportunities if some of us didn’t step up to do it and something just keeps drawing me to do it, but I will. I think the one thing that keeps me going, I am a soccer mom on the sidelines that gets behind their kids and where they’re going.
Good. I love it.
But it’s just such a blessing to see them doing something they love and excel at for this window of time that they’re doing it.
And I feel very fortunate that they have this interest and whether their interest changes or it goes into something else we’ll support it, but I just try to be there and be present and wear the green. Unfortunately right now they’re both on teams that wear green. So my wardrobe is easy.
There you go.
In case I get the schedules wrong. I did get the schedules wrong one day, by the way. I brought the wrong kid to the wrong team picture.
We sometimes leave some of our leaders at the hotel too. I mean, mistakes happen.
Did that today.
I’ll own that. I’m the coordinator. I’ll take the hit.
For those listening: we left Michele, our CFO, at the hotel. She went upstairs real quick to get changed. And we totally forgot… it was the “Home Alone” story of Michele.
She was there at one point.Yeah. She came down and wondered where everybody went.
Yeah. We left Kevin at home. It was unfortunate.
So Liz is our resident wordsmith. So I’d love to know what is your favorite word in the English language?
Oh my gosh. Okay; this might be cheating. But some of my favorite words to use are words that we’ve taken from other languages, like “schadenfreude.” That word is a great one. It’s a German word, but it means, and in English too, like, taking joy in the downfall of others. I love how in German they’ll just cram words together until it’s one big, long word. Yeah. So just these concepts, like, oh, I got total schadenfreude looking at this thing unfold on the street. And it basically means like, you took pleasure in that person’s downfall. Like with that one word, it’s kind of messed up.
I know it’s a messed up concept, but it’s a cool word.
And then you’re also a musician. Tell everybody, what do you play?
Yeah. Well, I’m in a, I think “band” is a strong word, a duo right now in Austin with my bandmate. I play synths and keys and do backup vocals. Bobby is our guitarist and sound engineer and lead vocalist.
And you play the drums, right? Didn’t you?
Yeah. I started drums and percussion in the sixth grade and did marching band all through college. So yeah, it’s been a fun side activity.
I like to tell the story of when I joined the band in school. It was elementary school. I was absent and I really wanted to play the drums because I thought that was like the coolest thing, right?
But I was absent and all the cool instruments got assigned or got picked. And I ended up with the tuba and the problem with that is I was a walker. And so I had to walk to school with my tuba. And so that was not a fun year of school. For those that don’t know, it’s a big instrument.
You know, we’re walkers too. And I haven’t factored that when we’re getting to the point.
Now did you ever pick up the drums?
I did. Later on.
I got a drum set and I played, but yeah, the tuba was bringing back some bad memories for me. So last question for you. In one sentence, how do you sum up the internet?
The internet is a place to find something about anything.
Okay; very simple. One sentence. Liz, what do you think?
This is my cynicism showing, but I saw this on a meme somewhere and I thought it was so funny. It’s having all the information to make you smarter, but somehow it still makes us all dumber.
I like that one.
[laughs] That is classic. Well again, thank you so much for coming all the way down here to Hollywood. We appreciate it. And I’m looking forward to an amazing year together.
Yes. Thank you.
So why don’t you both introduce yourself and tell everybody that’s listening what you do for the company.
Sure; I’ll go first. I’m Michele Patrick and I’m the CFO. I’ve been with Hennessey since July of 2019, so two and a half years now. And I oversee all finance, tax, and People Success issues.
And my name is Jill Wenk and I’m the Director of People Success, which at other companies is called Human Resources, but we do it better here. And so I oversee recruiting, training, employee development, benefits, comp, all of those types of things.
Thank you both for coming down all the way to Los Angeles to be here at Hennessey Studios. Michele pays for this place and you guys didn’t meet at Hennessey Digital, right? You guys have a little history. Tell everybody about your history.
We go way back. It’s funny; I actually reminded Jill of this. I can’t remember if it was when I was trying to recruit her or after you came on board, but we’re the same age. We went to college together. She was actually my RA our sophomore year of college.
So I remember her as very organized and very nice and very political. Yeah. Very diplomatic. When we were looking for somebody in HR, she came up in my LinkedIn feed and we were both in St. Louis at the time and it just kind of magically worked out.
Throwback! I’m like, Michele Patrick; what is she up to? So I’m like, oh my gosh, this is amazing.
Yeah. Just totally wrote her a LinkedIn message one day and talked on the phone.
See? The power of social media.
It was funny because last night, we’re having dinner. You weren’t there. You had come in a little bit later, but we’re sitting there having dinner and I’m talking about like, yeah, man, I threw some clothes together. I’m like there’s two types of people in the world, right? There’s those that, like me, that just kind of two hours before I got to go throw some things in a suitcase and forget your socks like I did. I didn’t pack socks. And then there’s those that take…
[laughs] Oh. You weren’t kidding.
… weeks to plan for a trip. Right? And, Jill, would you say you’re on the latter side of that?
Oh yeah. I started shopping like three weeks ago for my outfits in LA. You’ve got to look good out here.
So awesome. So, Michele, I know you just went on a pretty big international trip. Where’d you go?
I did. That was a big deal. I went to Dubai.
And that was your first time doing that, ever, huh?
It was, yeah. It was an experience. It’s just striking. Everything about it: the culture, just aesthetically. You feel very safe there, that really struck me too.
Yeah, you wouldn’t think so. That’s interesting. Is it modern, a very modern city?
Yeah, it’s very modern. Very modern, but everybody just seems happy and easygoing. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s not… You don’t see rowdy people or loud people. You don’t feel nervous. Nobody’s approaching you for anything. Everything just feels seamless, like you’re floating at Disneyland or something.
I love it. Yeah, the keyword is “happy”, right? That’s a good transition word, because I would think that the Director or Senior Director of People Success’ job is to keep people happy. So how do we keep people happy here at Hennessey Digital, and what are some of the secrets?
I think that we invest in our people. And we make meaningful efforts to really ensure that they’re successful, both in their careers and also in their personal lives. We really encourage things like one-on-ones with their managers so that people feel supported. We do extensive analysis on things, like benefits and pay, to make sure that people are satisfied in that way.
And then we’re always questioning them, surveying them, trying to understand, where do we miss? Where do we still need to improve? What are we doing great, and how can we continue to improve in that? And so, just that constant communication with them, I think they feel heard. And I think they feel pretty happy.
Sure. I mean, some of the keys to the success of any company is making sure your people are happy. Keeping your people happy can keep your clients happy, right? So that’s why we are putting so much time, energy, and resources into those departments. I know we’ve applied for and have even won a couple awards this year. Maybe talk a little bit about some of those.
Quite a few marketing awards. You can talk about some of the People Success-related awards, but also we made the Inc. 5000 list for the third year in a row, which is a huge feat.
We won Best Places to Work for Remote Workers. Yeah, it was an amazing type of award, because nowadays remote is so much more common that I feel like the competition and even the questions that they ask are so in-depth. And we could very confidently go through and say, yes, we offer this and yes, we offer this and yes, they’re allowed to do whatever.
And so, it was more in-depth than the surveys that I’ve completed in the past. And so to win that award and then to have our employees feel… they have to respond to all of those questions. They have to also agree that we’re a Best Place to Work. And so to have both of those things lined up was really awesome.
Yeah. So, it’s interesting: the whole remote thing, a lot of people are remote now because they were forced to be remote, right? For us, we were remote before Zoom was cool. It was a strategy for us. So, I guess Jill, let me ask you. Being that we are remote, what are some unique ways that we as a company can stay connected, being a remote company? What are your thoughts there?
It leads back to communication; all roads lead back to communication. We have biweekly meetings, the all-hands meetings where we’re talking about each department and company updates. We do town halls and we really encourage questions and require everyone to attend those to make sure that they get the important pieces of information that they need for their job, and just to be a part of us. So we do that.
The one-on-one meetings are really important and we use a system as well to support those meetings where we can document, what do we talk about? Do we need to go back to it? And make sure that we’re really managing them well. But we do tons of fun things on our Culture Crew. So, our Culture Crew is a group of individuals, international and domestic, that all meet once a month and plan fun events. So the ugly sweater contest and the Halloween dress-up contest is the more standard, but then we do a little more creative-type events, like pet competitions and…
March Madness. That was fun, March Madness, which is March Meowness or March Moo-ness.
The cow won. [laughs]
The thing I love is, Apple has now recognized the word “Henniversary.”
What is a Henniversary, for those that don’t know? It sounds pretty self explanatory, right?
Yeah. It’s a work anniversary, a one-year, two-year, three-year, etc. at Hennessey Digital.
That’s awesome. So CFO Michele, tell me a little bit more about your team and what does a day look like being the CEO of Hennessey Digital?
Sure. So, right now I oversee both Finance and People Success. And on the Finance team, we have an Accountant and a Junior Accountant. And then on People Success, we have Jill, she’s the Senior Director now, with the recent promotion. Congratulations to Jill.
See, that’s what I said…
So, it’s varied a lot. As we’ve brought new people on, it’s been amazing because I feel like I have more tentacles to get things done. Jill has just taken complete ownership of everything HR. It’s amazing what she’s been able to implement and see through that we started, before she came on board. But mostly I’m in the numbers.
So now that I’ve passed off HR for the most part, I’m in the books and doing a lot of training with our accounting team right now. And we’re constantly building out new customer reports so we get more transparent with different departments, whatever their needs are, so that they can look into client data, where we need improvement and they can see real-time financials.
Sure. What Michele’s not saying is that our finances were a mess. She came here and she had to do a lot of cleaning up, for sure.
Organization and budgeting and tax planning and we have several entities.
All the classes that I failed in college. So, part of what we do, right, is we measure how well we’re doing with employees. So Jill, talk a little bit about what we do to measure success. What do we learn from it? And maybe some of the things that we’re going to be rolling out next year for our employees.
We run, twice a year, an employee engagement survey, which is an employee NPS survey. It’s very open-ended, so employees are free to complete it however they want. They can add in any comments they want; unrestricted, anonymous, completely anonymous. And then we tally up that information and we summarize it and we look at it as a group. I look at it with the executives to say, hey, these are the things that people are bringing up. How can we address these issues?
So, that’s probably our number one measure that we use, but we have a lot of other measures that are sort of smaller measures, for example, our performance review process and our OKR system. Each year, we set goals for our team members. We measure their performance, and we also measure them based on upholding our company values. Not just are they working and achieving their goals, but are they being inclusive and are they being honest and transparent? Are they doing the right thing by the client, by other employees? And so, we actually have a measurement system in our review process that will help us understand as a company. People like me, who don’t work with everyone every day, how everyone’s doing on the whole.
And so, we can watch that progress as we check in throughout the year, where we can watch to see goals being accomplished in live time to say, okay, oh, look at that, so and so just checked off a couple of their objectives for the quarter. And then they close them out and they also get to see that, check a hundred percent, this task has been completed. So, I would think those are the main ways that we…
And I think we talk a lot about our values, too. When we created that system, we wanted people to know this isn’t just on our website. We’re not checking a box. We want to be a company that values our values to the point that it’s now on our reviews, it’s part of our annual review process. So, every recognition or being, or giving recognition, also comes through on your review each year.
I think employees really appreciate that because they do want to know that they work for a company that is very mission-driven and that you have a real commitment to building community and collaborating. And I think that’s really important, in terms of building a healthy and psychologically safe—that’s a big, hot word, hot term now—workplace, because you don’t always feel totally at ease, to the point where you can truly pull out your own greatest potential.
Yeah, that whole recognition channel that we put into Slack. When I was in the military for four years, I did the Air Force. And a big part of being in the military is public recognition, where they give awards and then you wear the awards on your… right here. And then people salute people. That was something that I learned from the military and we incorporated as a bunch of leaders into our company. And so now people are recognizing each other and they have to tie it to our core values. And then when somebody gets recognized, they get a spin on our wheel and we give away prizes. And so it’s really awesome to see everybody recognizing each other, in a public setting like that.
And I think we’ve done a good job of constantly adding on to that. We’re constantly thinking of new prizes to give away, new incentives. This year we’re giving away an award for the person who gave the most shout-outs. So, not just who’s receiving them, but the person who’s committed to recognizing everyone.
So I talked about my history of being in the military. You have a pretty fascinating history too.
[laughs] I’ve lived a lot of lives.
You were a former NFL cheerleader. Tell me a little bit about that.
That is true. Lifelong dancer, cheered and danced in college, actually. And my senior year I tried out for the NFL because one of my friends on my college dance team had tried out. And I thought, “Oh, I should try out. That would be fun.”
And which team were you trying out for?
For the Rams when they were in St. Louis. And got the call, made the team, it was so exciting. It’s just a whole different level when you’re in a stadium of that size and fans of that caliber. And it’s just amazing being on a team like that too. I always loved being on a team where you were competing together. So in the NFL, we’re mostly cheering and performing, but in dance, you’re always winning together and you’re celebrating together, and everything that everybody does matters. That’s what I loved about being on a team like that.
And so you celebrate, you win together, you learn from the setbacks together. We had so many cool traditions that I feel translate into the workforce and into the business world. We practice gratitude before every performance, we would say what we were grateful for. How much we put into everything, preparing for this moment. And everything was always just catered to being together and growing together and cheering for everyone, not just us, but other teams, right? So, even in college, you’re cheering for the basketball team, the soccer team, women’s, men’s, you’re just always rooting for everybody and bringing everybody together. And I feel like that does wonders in the business world too.
You answered my next question so I don’t even have to ask it. I was going to ask what are some of the traits that you learned from cheerleading as your role as a CFO? But you just answered it.
Oh, how funny. Yeah.
You’re reading my mind. So, I’m going to ask a final question. I’m going to ask both of you. I’m going to start with you, Jill. What is a holiday that doesn’t exist yet? If you were to create a holiday, what would that holiday be?
Oh, a holiday. I’m not really the creative person on the team.
I can give one. So, a special holiday is, “Team Hennessey goes to Hawaii Day.” It’s in the Vivid Vision.
It is. We’re going to get a house in Maui, overlooking the ocean. See? Okay.
Hawaii Day. I’m sure there’s a Pizza Day, right? I like pizza.
Yeah, there’s a National Pizza Day.
See, I think Hallmark is responsible for making a lot of these holidays, right? Because we sell cards.
Oh, Hallmark Day.
Oh, I would say “National Outdoors Day.”
There you go. We have to force everybody to go sleep outside.
Everybody outside, yep. No screen day, something like that.
That’s a good one.
That’s probably what needs to happen.
“No Screen Day.” I like that.
That’s where our love for camping comes in, and really I’m not a camper, I’m a glamper but…
We can do “No Screen Day in Hawaii.” Ultimate holiday.
There you go, let’s make those official.
Right, can we get that approved? I’m kidding, that’s awesome.
Well, thank you both for coming in and flying out here and being part of this retreat, and I’m really excited to grow with the both of you next year.
It’s so good to see you.
Yes. Thank you so much.
All right: Brian Mossman and Rob Coleman. Two guys that I spent a lot of time with on Zoom and on the road, right; because we do a lot of conferences together. Rob, do you remember how we met? How did we first meet?
It was a long time ago, over 10 years ago. And at the time, I was working for a nonprofit organization, the AJGA. And as I recall, it was somebody on my team who had read an article of yours in the Washington Post. And at that time, none of us really knew much about SEO, but you’d written about SEO. And we said, “This is something we should know about. Let’s see if we can’t meet Jason Hennessey. He lives here in Atlanta.” We were in Atlanta, and so that’s where we brought you into our office. And you came in and graciously shared a lot of information about SEO with us, and then I think maybe after that we went and hit the golf course.
That’s right. We did, yes. And then later on you would then transition and become a client of my old agency. And then later on, an opportunity came up and I had the privilege of bringing you over to Hennessey Digital. So yeah.
That was awesome. Having known you for that long, knowing the kind of person you are and having that opportunity then to come and work for you. Very cool. I jumped at it.
And now, tell everybody listening, what do you do for Hennessey Digital?
So I’m the Director of Business Development. And what that means is really looking at the holistic growth of Hennessey Digital. How can I help this company grow? Not just through sales, which we have Brian Mossman who’s Director of Sales; the master of sales. But even beyond sales, really looking at what are some other things we can do? Building the infrastructure. How are we going to improve our processes that we go through to meet new clients or meet new prospective clients? And then, how are we then going to go about introducing them to us? Let them see the benefits of working with us and get them right into the sales process with Brian.
Yeah. So Brian, I think you found me through a Craigslist ad or something. Tell the story.
Yeah. I think it was; it was Craigslist. I just transitioned to Las Vegas from Hawaii and I was looking to rent a house and saw an ad from Craigslist on a rental property. And it was a brand-new, gorgeous home. I think it was 3,500 square feet and had all the bells and whistles that I wanted in a house. And I met you and you leased me the house. And it started with just myself there at the house and then grew to me and a little puppy. And that was in Las Vegas up on the hill. I think the address was 1465 Big Bar.
Yeah, it was definitely Big Bar. I don’t know if that was the number.
Yeah. It was definitely a Big Bar and we had a lot of mutual friends that we uncovered through that process. And so our friendship grew over the years and we stayed in touch, through your early stages, in some of your other ventures that you did and just continued to foster a friendship.
Oh, for sure, yeah. And then what Brian’s not telling you is, he was like the king of Las Vegas. Anybody that needed anything back then, and even now, Brian is your guy.
For sure. Yeah, Vegas definitely has my charisma and matching the lights. They both seem to shine bright. So, it’s definitely a town where I can thrive, that’s for sure.
It’s so funny because, just candidly speaking, right. Because I know we joke about this internally, but Rob and Brian, couldn’t be more polar opposites, right?
Isn’t that the truth?
And I like to say, so we travel a lot together and do a lot of conferences together. And there comes a point in the night, right? Around 11, 11:30, where you have two choices. There’s going to be two Ubers that pull up. And it’s going to be either the Rob Uber, that’s taking you back to the hotel, where you’re going to get some sleep and wake up at like 7:00 AM and be downstairs at the booth, right? Or there’s the Brian Uber, that’s going somewhere else, where it’s going to be a party and networking. And both are working, right? But just different times of the night and during the day. So having said that, being so polar opposite, how are you guys somewhat of the same, too?
Well, I think first and foremost, I mean, both of us have the best interest of you and our agency and of our clients at heart. And honestly doing what I do, if I didn’t have full confidence that our team at Hennessey Digital can back up everything that I tell somebody in the sales process, I’d feel really bad about ever bringing in somebody new. But instead I feel totally confident because I know that we’re going to do everything we can ethically to serve every new client. So that’s why I love helping all of us grow this agency. I think that’s probably where Brian and I really share that in common.
Yeah. I definitely agree with that. We definitely both have the same passion and integrity and disciplined work ethic. You know, I can send Rob an email at 12 at night and it’s 3:00 AM in Atlanta and he’s responding to me and that really weighs heavy in my role. Then I think I’ve earned some of Rob’s respect, with my work ethic and my sales techniques and tactics.
And also at the same time, I have a lot of respect for Rob, who he is as a person, as a family person, some of the community outreach he’s done and things to that nature, that are just up and above what most human beings would expect to be, a quality role model and human being. And Rob exemplifies that with his family and so on. So I have a lot of courtesy and respect for that. So, I think that allows us to interact seamlessly together, even knowing the fact that we’re on two different spectrums. Rob works the morning shift and I work the evening shift. Okay, it’s a little different deal.
And Brian’s an awesome family guy too, the way he takes care of his son and what you do to sacrifice for him.
Yeah, we’ll talk a little bit about that for sure. What do you think is one of the most enjoyable parts of your job?
Most enjoyable parts? So, I would have to say that… well, there’s two things. One, I love analyzing websites’ SEO, just the process that goes in because I’ve always been a very analytical person. And so, really digging in and trying to figure out what’s going on with websites SEO. How can it be improved and building a strategy, love doing that. And then, probably the thing that maybe surprises me that I really enjoy, because if you go back to when I was eight years old, 12 years old, 14, I was painfully shy. I did not want to talk to anybody.
And now, I do that all day. I’m going to conferences and you’re having to really go out and just talk to anybody and everybody you can. And the fact that I actually do that and enjoy it. My 12-year-old self, never would’ve thought.
Would be so proud of who you are now, right?
Very cool. What do you think, Brian, what do you enjoy about your job?
I just enjoy… It’s been a challenge and I want to learn. I’m a perfectionist and a student of studying to master things. And so, following your guidance and all the framework that you set up when I first started has allowed me to just have this new passion for something that is exciting. I was in a rhythm in what I was doing previous to this, but I’ve had a lot of marketing and advertising experience and so it correlates to that. But I love that. And I love meeting the people within the industry.
We, of course, work with a lot of law firms, but at the conferences, I’ve really had an opportunity to enjoy some of the passion that these trial lawyers have. And some of the knowledge they have and really, it all comes down to high-level closing techniques that they utilize in the courtroom. It intrigues me, it’s exciting to me, it makes me want to get involved and be a part of that. And then to watch us, to be able to deliver and have fun with the results that we do for our clients, it’s rewarding.
So now, most people that are listening might not know this about you, but you are a black belt. Not just a black belt, but a… what degree?
Yes. Fifth degree.
Fifth degree. When did you get started with that?
I started martial arts when I was 5, did karate till I was 12, American Karate with Red Dragon Karate Schools here in California. Then I left and I went into Taekwondo, so I could go to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. And that year, I made it as far as the Olympic training camp in Colorado Springs and I got a pulled muscle. But the guy who won the gold that year is Herb Perez in ’92. And he and I would go back and forth, competing all year where I would win, he would win.
So, I was really seeded to win the Olympics and it was a dream of mine. After that, I ended up opening one of my own martial arts schools and was a partner with Jason David Frank, who’s the Green Power Ranger. I was with his brother on the show, Eric Frank, I mean in my studio, him and I. Played off the whole Power Rangers monopoly and the growth, and did a lot of stunt choreography and in a lot of different movies.
I worked on Renegades with Lorenzo Lamas. I worked on Power Rangers of course, worked on Baywatch in a fight scene one time, which was really cool. And all I cared about was the good food they had on the set. I thought it was great, it was really healthy. And then I ended up moving. I wanted a change of scenery. So I moved to Hawaii, sold my karate school, felt like I let down my students and my kids had been with me and I said, “I’ll never teach again until I have my own kid.” Well, my son ended up doing karate with me until he was about nine or 10 and he was really good.
He’s got some really cool YouTube videos on it and so on, but he wouldn’t do the moves the way I’d tell him, “Frankie, do the move this way.” He says, “Sensei Carlos told me to do it that way.” I’m like, “Carlos is my student, Frank. I think we need to identify who sensei is.” And so he didn’t want to do karate and I didn’t want to force it on him, or martial arts, I should say. And I didn’t want to force it on him. So, we transitioned from that to where he is at now. Hopefully, an aspiring professional race car driver.
That’s so awesome. So now, everything that you just said, takes a lot of discipline, right? How do you think the lessons that you learn in martial arts apply to business?
It’s all core values, like how we have our core values within the agency. It’s the integrity, abdominal spirit, perseverance, discipline, mindset, control, but ultimately it comes back down to the self-discipline of just… Nobody really needed to motivate me as what I had in my life with the martial arts, I was self motivated and I continued to be that way. And so, it’s any type of business, I apply all those same principles into what I do daily, because I hold myself accountable. And so, it seems to make me successful.
That’s awesome. So Rob, if I was Rob growing up and becoming a man and getting married and having four daughters…
What is life like, having four daughters?
Yeah. It’s every bit as amazing as you can possibly think it is. I mean, being a dad to girls and, you know, because you’ve got a daughter, right? It’s just, I don’t know what it’s like to have a boy, but I know having girls and having four of them, is really an amazing blessing and the excitement in my house and what’s happening, and finding things to do with your daughters. I couldn’t imagine anything different, or how it could possibly be better.
It’s so awesome because when he starts talking about his daughters, he glows.
Lights up, doesn’t he?
Yeah. Did you notice that?
Oh yeah, his energy changes.Eyes, body posture, everything.
It really does.
Yeah. I wasn’t sure you’re going to, or I didn’t expect you to ask me about my daughters. Once you get me thinking about my family, yeah, that’s everything we do, right? I think for all three of us, being dads, that’s everything that we do in our lives, that you really do with that eye towards your kids and how can I help my kids be the best they can be?
Yeah. And what would you say is, I know that we’re a remote company, right. But on the same side, we’re also a family at Hennessey. Talk a little bit about what it’s like to work for Hennessey, and other people that you work with?
Well, I think it starts for me, just with how dedicated and how intelligent and just how willing everybody is, to take all of their expertise to benefit the clients, but at the same time, I just feel like we all work really well together.
I’ve never met anybody here that you’re thinking, “Oh, this person…” No, it’s a really cool team of people that we work with and everybody helps everybody out. And so it’s very much the kind of family that you want to be a part of.
What do you think, Brian?
Yeah, I agree with that. But my biggest appreciation is, they’re all smarter than me. So, I wouldn’t say I’m the brightest person in the world when it comes to what I’ve seen with MIT grads and some of the MBAs that our employees have. But they’re so helpful to be resourceful, where I can utilize my skill set and combined with theirs. It’s masterful, it’s really successful and it’s fun. And it helps us thrive, which makes me happy. And they’re so… They’re just a neat group of people, once you meet them personally.
This week, being our first and to meet some of our employees personally, it’s special, because they’re all, what we see and what we know. But when you’re in front of them, I think… I was just given a small presentation. They’re like, “Wow, that was pretty dynamic.” And I was like, ” Well, that’s where I can thrive. And you don’t really see all that come out when- Well, that’s where I can thrive and you don’t really see all that come out when I’m talking on Zoom.
Yeah, I agree.
And so, I appreciate their confidence in me and it goes a long way with my respect for them, with how hard they all work. Like Rob said, their dedication to our company.
I’m going to end with one question and just make it a short answer. But what is one bucket list item that you still want to complete in life?
Oh, it’s got to be something to do with travel. So, I would say traveling to the other side of the world. Australia, Japan, China, anywhere.
Okay, cool. What do you think, Brian?
I want to get married.
Yeah. Never been married, had a lot of fun.
All right. So, if you’re listening out there, got this good looking guy waving to the camera right now. You guys are awesome. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I know it wasn’t a long drive for you, Brian, but you flew the furthest to be here, Rob. So, thank you. Appreciate you both and look forward to an exciting year together.
All right. Well, I am excited to have my next two guests here with me at Hennessey Studios, both local, huh!
Both local. Well, let’s start with you, Jason. Tell us who you are and what you do for the company.
Jason C (00:59:30):
Yeah. My Name is Jason Covert. I’m the Creative Director of Hennessey Digital and my job entails making clients very excited about their new website, and things for the Hennessey company, Hennessey Studios, graphic-related things. And anything graphic-related or media-related you can count on me to help out with.
Yeah, I think you designed the logo that’s on this building.
Jason C (00:59:53):
I think so.
See, you should love it. And speaking of this building, we’ve got somebody here that’s usually in front of the microphone and not behind the microphone.
That’s right. That’s right.
Right. So, tell everybody who you are and what you do.
Sure. I’m Steve Sanborn and I’m the General Manager for Hennessey Studios. And I look after making sure the building and the facilities operate correctly and attracting clients and making sure that we’re profitable to Hennessey Group.
Awesome. So, let’s start with the studio here for a second, Steve. So, most people are only seeing the actual room, this podcast room, which is just a small piece of what happens here at Hennessey Studios. So tell everybody listening what really happens behind the walls back there.
Right. So, the studio is comprised of several different types of facilities. So we have the podcast studio here that’s well equipped and then separate from this, we have a video stage that we shoot both a full-sized, pre-lit, 16×9 green screen, as well as a video stage with a black floor that’s polished concrete. And then that’s combined with a video control room that we’re able to do live shoots or we can record the shoots, et cetera. And then we have the server room where we have all the network and have all of the storage on premise as well as remote access for editing.
So, tell the listeners where we’re located and why it’s so special.
Sure. So, we’re in the Arts District of North Hollywood, or NoHo as it’s abbreviated to. And we’re on the campus of the Television Academy which is responsible for all of the governance and the Emmy Awards that happen around the various guilds. So, whether it’s directors or producers or shows or art directors or it’s wardrobe or hair and makeup, the Emmys look after all of those awards both locally as well as nationally.
And we also share a neighbor that is special to you, too.
Sure. So, we’re next door to the professional Stoma Association. And when I took the job, I didn’t know they were here, but they’re our next-door neighbors. And it’s my stepfather that’s the founder of the Stoma Association.
So, back 55, 60 years ago, something like that.
What are the chances of that? That’s amazing.
Yeah. Very random, yeah.
And so, Hollywood is not new to you, Jason.
Jason C (01:02:21):
Not at all.
Right. So tell me a little bit about… Because I think you were here, you left.
Jason C (01:02:26):
And then roads also brought you back here. Tell that story.
Jason C (01:02:28):
That’s right. I came out here when I was 17 to be a rock star, like a lot of people and loved Los Angeles. Some of the funnest times I had in my life were in LA. But life happens. Got into some other businesses and got into computers really heavily. And me and my wife actually moved to the Midwest to start a family and that’s where I had my son Miles, and he grew up. But then as he graduated from high school, we wanted to have fun again. So, we decided to move back out here to Hollywood. And we went right to the center of Hollywood. That’s our spot. We really liked that energy and it’s not for everybody for sure. But we like it. We like it. We like that enthusiasm and we like people that are trying to follow their dreams.
And you and your son have a very special bond. Right?
Jason C (01:03:12):
You guys have a music group together. Tell me more about that.
Jason C (01:03:16):
We make old-school hip hop like Cypress Hill and those kinds of groups. But we do that all at our house and we have a huge record collection and we have fun going through records and finding bits and putting them together. And that’s our father-son project called Funkratz. That’s the name of our group.
Jason C (01:03:33):
So yeah, we do. We do that for fun and we love hanging out with each other. He’s my best friend and we have a good time.
And I could tell. Great kid, by the way.
Jason C (01:03:42):
So, tell me a little bit more about, what does a day look like as being the Creative Director of Hennessey Digital?
Jason C (01:03:48):
Yeah. We are responsible for problem-solving; using imagery and graphics to solve problems. And we go well beyond just regular graphic design, I’d say not just putting elements on a page. We want to understand what the strategy is. We want to help the clients or whoever that is. We don’t just take what we’re given and spit something out. We really want to research what’s the overall goal of the project and how can we make it come to life in an exciting way. Because we really believe in entertainment and there’s so much media and graphics and content in front of everybody these days that we really feel it’s imperative to stand out in some way. And I always talk about courage within my group because I do think there is an element of courage, just being able to walk out and maybe have a crazy idea. Maybe you’re going to get laughed at. Maybe it’s going to get nagged. I don’t know. But it’s more important to us to get people thinking than it is to stay safe.
Yeah, and what does your team look like?
Jason C (01:04:50):
Team? I’ve got a great designer, Jasper, another great designer, Landon. I’ve got a girl named Roma who is in the Philippines, who’s awesome; one of our best designers we’ve had. So, yeah. Our team is coming along good and I’m the old guy on the team but they’re learning a lot and they’re great people. I’d help any of them move. I always say that.
Yeah. They say that’s the key question there, right?
Jason C (01:05:14):
Would you pull up your truck to help them unlift some furniture and bring it downstairs? And if those are three team members that you would do that for, that says a lot.
Jason C (01:05:22):
Yeah. That’s right.
How does a creative director get inspired? What inspires you?
Jason C (01:05:30):
I look at companies that are a lot bigger than us, to be honest.
Jason C (01:05:34):
I look at AT&T and Pepsi and companies that have huge budgets and I try to piggyback on the knowledge that they’ve learned.
Jason C (01:05:44):
I assume that they’ve done market research and I look at what angles they’re trying to use. And I try to steal some of that for us, maybe a little bit, or borrow some of it.
Jason C (01:05:55):
It’s the strangest thing. I started off graphic design, like a lot of people just want to make cool stuff, but as I get older, I’m accidentally learning some stuff about graphics and messaging. So, for instance we have a little project that we went through in our group where I went like, “This is what a first-year designer looks like.” And it’s got some words on a page. And then a third-year designer, oh, he’s getting fancier, he’s got some background graphics. Then a fifth-year, oh, he’s even fancier, now he’s got multiple panels and things in the background and drop shadows and all that. But then interestingly, you go to the 10- year designer, that stuff starts coming away, right? And then 20-year designer, you get what I call the McDonald’s two-for-one special sign, which is a picture of the product, limited time, $1.99 and you’re out of there. You know what I mean? Not a lot of fluff, just really focusing on the message. And it becomes not as much about graphics as it is about just saying the right thing in the right sequence.
Yeah. I’ve heard and I don’t know if this is true or not but there’s something that Apple does, Right? Where the designers will create a concept of how they want to sell the iPhone, Right? The new iPhone that comes out, right? And so the graphic designers will work on the page and they’ll make it amazing, right? And then somebody will come in and say, “This is amazing. Take 30% away and make it say the same thing.”
Jason C (01:07:19):
Jason C (01:07:20):
And then they’ll do it again.
Jason C (01:07:22):
Right? And that’s why when you go to look at Apple’s website, it’s so clean, there’s a lot of good use of white space. It’s one of the best examples of how you should do graphic design in my opinion.
Jason C (01:07:33):
Do you believe in that?
Jason C (01:07:34):
I do. And I would say that what’s causing that is it… I don’t think any of us understood from a user perspective how negative it is when they see too much information. It’s not like they read a little bit and then go away. They just decide not to engage in any of it and so it’s really important that you give them only what they need. In fact, we’ll look at a paragraph at a headline for instance and we’ll sit there and think, how can we make this paragraph more enticing? Like, “Now, I want to read it.” Versus if you scrunch it together, “Oh, I don’t want to read that. That’s complicated.”
Jason C (01:08:09):
Yeah, we look for ways to make it seem easier to the user. It may not be easy but we make it seem that way.
Got It. So Steve, I want to ask you, so what does a normal day look like for Steve?
Sure. So, I’m on the phone with potential clients and with clients I’m on the phone with staff to ensure that we’ve got technical operations lined up and the specs are being met on site, making sure that we’ve got our production personnel where they need to be; when they need to be, looking after; making sure the equipment’s running, that sort of thing and files and that sort of thing. And just making sure that the client experience is driving the product that they want to create.
Sure. Yeah, it’s interesting. So, when I had this vision because when I met you, this was just a vision, right?
Right. Yes it was.
I mean, yes it was. I think we had already committed to being in this place here but we didn’t know what equipment we were going to get. We didn’t know how much things were going to cost. And walk me through how you were able to listen to me and Scott with the vision and execute it. Walk me through what that all entailed.
Sure. So, it was really listening to you and what you wanted to achieve and then to articulate that vision in a way that you and Scott could digest it and absorb it in the various pieces. Because it’s not just one thing like here’s vision and that, it’s just that, right?
You have to take into account the facility. You have to take into account where you are in the marketplace, what the property itself can and cannot deliver. You don’t want to put in let’s just say a dollar’s worth of gear in here when really the facility is only worth putting 50 cents worth of gear in.
The next step was okay, that’s the vision we’ve defined for the market. We’ve defined our position in the market. And then from there it was defining what kind of specifications on a technical basis, what are the workflows? What are the services we want to deliver and what are the services we’re not going to deliver? And then the suppliers that could help us get us there. And then of course, getting that gear in and getting it installed and getting it operated.
And so, there’s three different types of audiences, right? So, there’s those that do it for themselves at home with just an iPhone.
And then the complete opposite spectrum. There’s the professional studios that are just a couple miles away from here.
That’s like Hollywood.
Talk a little bit about who are we trying to cater to.
Right. So we defined our market as being what I would call a mid-range solution at a premium location. And so, we are targeting those that are really wanting to take their YouTube, their TikTok; those social media stars; their Instagrams, the Tumblers, et cetera. They want to take their game to the next level. They don’t really know how to do all their marketing. They want to up their production values. They want to really get serious about that and not just be sitting in their apartment all the time and really try and make a career out of it rather than just trying things out. And that’s really our first principal market. Our second principal market of course, are businesses that are looking to promote themselves in a social media environment. So, our focus here is to deliver content online in a social media environment as a deliverable for them.
Yeah. So, you two just came together recently to develop a website. What website was that?
Jason C (01:11:52):
Hennesseystudios.com, right? We have a live website!
And Jason’s team and Jason did a great job getting it across the line and really envisioning what was going to work best for us.
But I love most about that though and I agree. But what I love most about that is, so when Steve was presenting the website to me, right?
Jason C (01:12:12):
I was like, “Oh, this is awesome.” Right? And like, “Okay, I had a couple things of feedback.” Right? And then we were done. And then Steve, you were like, “Oh, that was pretty easy.” Jason said to be prepared…
… when you’re presenting this website to Jason Hennessey. Why do you say that? Yeah.
No, because you’re always very honest. I love that.
No reason to pull punches. Say what you think, if he didn’t like it—
Jason C (01:12:38):
You’re the one who told me to wear my flak jacket.
Yeah. Yeah. But that’s okay. That’s okay. Sometimes, I’ve been working on something so long that I don’t necessarily… I may not feel a thousand percent about it but I was glad that you liked it and you didn’t pick it apart too bad. So, I thought it was successful. But we’re trying to hit the moon every time, honestly. And so…
Yeah. And I think you’re doing a great job. Yeah. For sure. Well listen, this has been really awesome. I appreciate both. One final question that I have for both of you is what are you looking forward to in the next year? What are you looking forward to?
Jason C (01:13:16):
Being out of the pandemic in California.
Jason C (01:13:19):
And having more successful, happy clients. We really like making clients happy. We like blowing people away and we love it when our boss gets emails from our clients saying what a great job we’ve done on their website build and stuff like that. So, we’re really into it for the enthusiasm, I’d say.
Awesome. What do you think Steve?
I’d really like to see Hennessey Studios become a hit factory. So many recording studios in Los Angeles that I’ve worked in the past got really great reputations for becoming the den of music for hit makers.
And I’d like for Hennessey Studios to become that.
That’s great. Okay, and thank you both for traveling not so far to be here today but it’s been a pleasure.
Jason C (01:14:03):
All right. Well my next two guests, thank you so much for coming all the way here. We’ll start with you, Jessica. Tell those listening who you are and what you do.
Great. Well, I am Jessica Rowe. I am the Director of Client Services at Hennessey Digital. So, I started at Hennessey about two years ago. Started as an Account Manager, worked my way up to Director. So now I oversee our client services team which interfaces directly with our clients, providing them all of the updates, guidance, everything we’re doing on their account. And also talk to clients about what their priorities are and making sure that the internal team also has all of the information they need to craft the best and strongest strategy custom for our clients.
Yeah. How you summarize that in just a quick little synopsis when you do so much more.
That was impressive.
That was impressive. And Matt, why don’t you tell everybody what you do and who you are.
I’m Matt McLean, Vice President of Operations. I oversee the operational functions of client accounts and campaigns as it relates to efficiencies and results for clients. I work with a lot of our department heads on implementing different ideas and helping them with projects so that we can get those results for our clients.
So you and I have a little history.
Yeah. So, Jason actually hired me about 10 years ago at his agency in Atlanta that he founded and started. I don’t even know if I’ve ever told you this but you were the reason, because I interviewed with about 10 people there, but you were the reason why I decided to leave my agency to join the new agency.
What!? Meant to be.
And so yeah, I was excited to work with Jason. Just personality-wise and vision-wise and yeah. So, we’ve been working together in some capacity for almost 10 years now.
We sure have, yeah. It’s one of those things both of you in the room, right. There’s those that are complete rock stars and you want to try and handcuff them to the company. So, Jessica, I want to know a little bit more about what does an average day look like for you?
Zoom meetings. [laughs] How many in a given day? So, last week I was actually on 45 Zoom meetings.
Oh my God!
Last week. But it was not a normal week/ We were also onboarding a lot of clients; a big push before the holidays and also this leadership retreat, which is exciting. I love discovery calls. Those are actually my favorite calls; getting to meet a new client, get all the information from them. It’s just endless possibilities that come out from it.
It’s always really exciting and then getting to pass it onto the team, announce good news that we’ve got another client that we’re going to be working with. But yeah, an average day is working with the Account Managers; what meetings they’re going to be on, what interactions we’re going to be having with the clients. And when I’m not on Zoom calls, just in my inbox, in Slack, talking to people, coordinating, answering client inquiries, following up on tasks. So, there’s a lot of movement and a lot of moving parts but it keeps it interesting.
Yeah. And you have lived through a lot of our growing pains.
It’s okay to be vulnerable, right? I mean, we’ve made mistakes; we’ve failed.
Failed forward every time.
We sure have. Yeah, tell me a little bit more about living through some of those and where we are now.
Yeah. The growing pains were pretty natural with any agency when you scale or when you grow so quickly. The first issue is scalability and that’s a big thing for me because I’m all about efficiency and processes and spreadsheets. That’s my thing. When I first started, it was just the previous Director of Client Services and me, and it was… I think we had at that time maybe 45, 50 clients. And the two of us were managing all of it. At the end of 2019, which was the first conference season that I was at the tail end, we onboarded a ton of not just a lot of clients, but also some big priority accounts that are still big priority accounts. We’re the front lines of the clients.
You sure are.
So, when frustrations come up or deadlines are missed, we’re the first ones to hear about it. So I said for the first about six months I called myself a professional nag because my job was just to follow up, follow up, follow up and figure out like, “Hey, where’s this deadline.” I felt so bad. And I’m still learning on the job. And because there was a lot of growth and a lot of roles were shifting. So, I would go to one person for, like, “Hey, I needed this article. Where is this?”` And one week it would be into one person and the next week it would be another person who was in charge of it. So, it was that kind of stuff. And I think that’s something we’ve worked really hard over the course of really, the past two years.
The past two years.
Is to shore up and provide a really strong structure.
So Matt, we’ve been working together like we said, a long time. Part of what my mission is is to give our clients radical transparency, right? Because it’s so easy for an agency that does something so nebulous and confusing as SEO to hide behind data and put together an agenda that talks about positive news. Right?
We want to basically have radical transparency and part of that radical transparency is holding ourselves accountable with what we’re referring to as our Platform.
Yeah. I mean, that was one of our big pushes this year and it’s something we’ve all had in the back of our mind to build. I know you have as well. And there’s some other agencies who have platforms like this but we wanted to make it a little bit different. So that was our big initiative and we’ve developed and built and launched our new Hennessey Digital Platform this year. And just the first week of launch, just rolled it out to some of our beta clients and talking to some of our clients. The feedback that we got was exactly what we were looking for.
Just like, they couldn’t believe how transparent we were, how we hold ourselves accountable for the deliverables that they pay for. We show all that in the Platform. And it’s really only in version one right now. We wanted to get it off the ground to solve a few pain points in terms of our content pipeline and just easier reporting to understand. From my perspective, I know a lot of questions that clients are going to ask and some of the pain points that they normally have when it comes to visibility and reporting back what we do. So the goal was to build all that into the Platform so that we don’t have to answer those questions on phone calls or get on a Zoom call or via email. It’s basically already built in there. So a client can just access it and get that information in real time.
Yeah. So, we’ve niched down into the legal industry, right?
And it wasn’t really a strategy per se, I guess. We just found ourselves in that industry and we started to cater to that industry, built a couple case studies, word got out and next thing you know, we’re getting more clients, more referrals. That’s how we’ve grown naturally to the point where I wrote a book, right? About Law Firm SEO. What would you say is an advantage of somebody that is an attorney, right? That’s looking for a digital marketing partner with someone like us that specializes in that niche versus a big agency that’s on Madison Avenue in New York City.
Yeah. I mean, just the pure experience. Most law firm campaigns are localized, right?
We have a few national campaigns, but for the most part, everything’s local. So we’ve done a lot of testing. We’ve failed in some markets but we learned a lot of lessons that what we know is going to work in Dallas, Texas will, for the most part, work in San Francisco, California. So if you’re in Charlotte, North Carolina, we know how to ramp things up and build things and create the right strategy from the start versus having to have that learning curve of this new industry that’s something we don’t know about.
Sure. What do you think, Jessica?
Yeah, I would definitely echo that. You’re getting the benefit of all of that cumulative experience of every single client we’ve ever worked with. Because there is, whenever you deal with a new industry, I’ve worked at agencies where there’s no specialization and there is a ramp-up time of having to learn the industry, the space, the competitive landscape, the organic landscape, what keywords, are the actual priority keywords; not just based on volume, but based on real user data and what is driving traffic.
That you all have to learn and then you have to learn the client on top of that. What are their products, what are their services, what do they offer? So you’re doing double the work. Whereas, with having someone who already specializes in your industry, you don’t have that startup time. I mean, even specializing within, we mostly specialize in legal, personal injury. So, even further in that space, there are a lot of commonalities between our clients and so we can just really drill down onto the uniqueness of each firm, what they offer their competitive angle. And that’s what we’re learning. We’re learning them. We’re not learning their space. That’s what makes it easier for us to really partner with our clients not just to be an agency that provides SEO services. We’re their marketing partner.
Sure. Great answers. What is a milestone that we hit maybe this year or last year that you are particularly proud of?
Honestly, I mean, I worked very closely with our Paid Media department this year. I’m very proud of that team. We’ve had a few quarters of a 100% retention rate with our clients, which we never had any year prior.
So that just goes to show that we are producing results. They’re starting to trust us and they’re seeing that sort of white-glove service that they expect. Very proud of that but, at the same time, that’s helped us grow that department probably over 100% in monthly recurring revenue since the beginning of the year. So those are a couple good lessons.
Paid had a good year; I love it.
Yeah. Gosh, I’m going to say, going back to my origins at Hennessey and just the growth that we’ve had with the Client Services team and what a strong team we’ve built, that’s certainly… Starting from just one Account Manager, Director of Client Services tag-teaming, and now we have a full team of Account Managers and Associate Account Managers who are all really dedicated to client success and really driving innovation because we’re able to identify gaps and efficiencies to oversee the whole picture for our clients. I’m really proud of that and proud of the growth of that team. If I had to consider a business milestone, I’m actually going to say probably one of the things… I can’t claim credit for it because you did it and drove it. But another benefit of being in a space is we did the law firm responsiveness survey.
The study. Yes.
And that was such a fantastic… because that was a value add that doesn’t actually really have to do with the legal market, if you think it’s intake.
Explain what that was.
So we did a… Or actually Matt, do you want to explain? Because you were the driver of that.
Yeah. I’ll give you a little background on it. It was one of our clients who was concerned about signed cases. We were driving a ton of leads, but they were concerned—
Which they should be, yeah.
And I was talking to Jason… this was when we were using Skype instead of Slack.
That’s another growing pain right there.
And I was like, “Jason, just FYI just to know you are a secret caller to a client on the form. And of course Jason’s like, “We should do that. We should survey like 1,000 law firms. He took it to another level. He ran with that and just executed. And that’s why we have the response time survey. But yeah, it started with just a simple idea and then…
And it was great because a lot of times, intake people don’t get credit, right? For that. And we’ve sent awards to everybody and they’re putting it on social media, right? Because that’s such a critical part of the law firm. If we do our jobs right, we create an intake problem, that’s what we do.
Exactly. And there’s one thing we also say to every single client who starts with us, even long-term clients, is there’s three steps, and then a natural organic campaign. You have to get the keywords ranking, and then once you have the keywords ranking, you have to get traffic to the site, and then once they’re on the site, they have to convert. A lot of agencies stop with leads. They are driving leads and they gave it to you.
But we really care about signed cases and those conversions and delivering quality leads. So the responsiveness survey was one thing that allowed us to address that issue for clients who were getting leads, but not necessarily signed cases, in a unique way that showed just our competency in the legal space and the value that we are dedicated to giving to our clients. And I thought that was really amazing. I’m excited to see more of what we can do with stuff like that.
We are taking it to the next level and now we’re doing that same sort of model with our current existing clients. So last year we tested 701 law firms across the country. A few of those were our clients, but this year we’re focusing on our clients so that we can benchmark.
You don’t want to tip them off, in case many clients are listening.
Yeah. No, we want to. Yeah, we want to hold them accountable, I think that’s important.
So, we’ll have that hopefully done pretty soon.
So Matt, I’m going to go to you first. Last question. What are you most excited about for 2022?
Honestly, just being at this leadership retreat, and just connecting with all the department heads and leaders and all the things we’ve been talking about, which we’ve probably heard on this podcast, which I’m excited to listen to whenever it launches. That’s what I’m excited about, but specifically just continuing to work on our Platform and building all these different ideas. I put a pause to all these new ideas as we’re building version one because it was just too much. People were like, “Hey, we should do this. We should do that.” Clients and…
And there’s a reason why I’m not on those calls. [laughs] Can’t catch enough of these calls until we get v1 live, right? Yeah.
So, we have so many cool things that we’re going to be adding to it this year and it’s just going to be awesome.
And Jessica, you’re an award-winning writer.
And this now allows me to allow you to talk about your transition to maybe a new role at Hennessey. What is that about?
Yeah, what I’m most excited about. So, starting in 2022, I’m going to be transitioning from Client Services over to Director of Content. Yes, I’m very excited about this. And I think it’s a natural transition, personally, for me. I come from a content marketing background, and you mentioned I write in my free time, but professionally I came up in digital marketing through content marketing. And at Hennessey, I feel like that is one area where there’s such opportunity for growth and improving. Our core competencies from the beginning have been more on the technical SEO side. But I think as we grow, providing even higher quality content and diversifying that content, and really focusing on user experiences.
Google is really putting that emphasis on user experience and developing all of these technologies. It is so much easier for them to identify real, natural-language conversations, like BERT and all of those algorithmic updates that they’re introducing. So I’m really excited to step over and then bridge the gap also between the client-facing side and having talked to the clients and being so entrenched with their world and bringing that over to speak about what really drives leads. What did they talk about with their clients that’s important? And bring that to the content side and the content that we’re producing. And then also help scale, and lots of stuff I’m really excited to be working on in 2022.
I don’t think there’s one person at this company who’s not excited about you becoming the Director of Content.
There’s nobody more suited.
My calendar is extremely excited. No one is more excited than…
But you don’t have a lot of time to be creative, right?
Not so much. I mean, I’m excited to work even more with the internal team, I should say. The Zoom meetings aren’t going anywhere. I’m just going to be grabbing people. Then they might not be so excited that I’m pulling them onto all calls.
Well, this is awesome. Well, thank you both. I’m excited to have an amazing 2022 together, and then beyond. I appreciate your time.
Thank you, Mr. SEO.
All right. Well, I am super excited to bring in my next group of guests. And why don’t we take a moment to introduce each other to each other as though we don’t know each other. We’ll start with you, Brandon.
Okay, good. Tina?
I’m Tina Elghazi. I am the Director of SEO and I’m from, born and raised, Los Angeles, California.
And I am Blin Kazazi. I’m the VP of Engineering and I’m from Chicago, Illinois.
But you’re not really from Chicago.
No. I was born and raised in Kosovo and then moved around three, four U.S. states, and now I live in Chicago.
And you had some exciting news recently. Well, a couple things happened in your life in the past 18 months-ish, right? So you became a U.S. citizen.
I did. Yep.
What was that process like?
It was interesting. I thought it would be a lot more complicated. It honestly wasn’t. I had initially hired the lawyer whom I fired because I thought they were just dragging the process and slowing it down and I didn’t really need one. But otherwise, it was easy. Just filled out a bunch of forms that were simpler than taxes, and I got called in to the interview, and it all worked out. And it was good. It was a very proud moment to become a U.S. citizen and go to the swear-in ceremony.
And you remember the date?
Oh gosh, I should.
That wasn’t part of our script. It’s okay.
I do not remember the date, but I know it was a cold winter day and I was dressed in a suit with U.S. flag socks.
Probably the same suit you’ll be wearing tonight.
Exactly the same suit. That’s correct.
We’re going to The Magic Castle as a group. We’re going to have a little fun tonight. Well here, do you know the date of which a little miracle came into your life?
That I do know. October 8th, 2020 was when Aiden was born. Aiden Mateo Kazazi. He’s the joy of our lives. Sarah and I are very proud to be parents now.
Aiden is turning 14 months old this week. We’re not celebrating any month birthdays anymore after he turned one. But yeah, he’s 14 months now. He’s barely starting to walk and he can say Dada and Mama.
Tina, what was it like growing up in LA?
Okay, I’ll be honest. I grew up about an hour east of LA, in Claremont. “City of trees and PhDs” is the nickname, so it was incredibly boring, honestly, but it was a great place to grow up, of course. It was beautiful and nice. Are you familiar with Claremont?
I’m not, no.
And where the colleges are.
Oh yeah, yeah, okay.
So yeah, at the time it was very easy to have teen angst, be like, “I hate it, it’s so boring here.”
And when and how did you discover this SEO thing?
So, I went to school, actually, at Tulane in New Orleans.
And while I was there, I made the best and worst decision of my life to stay there for the summer. Worst only because the heat is awful. Disgusting. But I did stay for an online marketing internship for a local solar energy company. And it was very much like a “dive in, figure it out” environment. These were solar energy guys, they didn’t know much about digital marketing. So, I think my first day there was Google AdWords for Dummies on my desk. It was just starting from scratch and I just fell in love, honestly; I turned into the biggest nerd as soon as I dove into Google Analytics. I’m sure Brandon has a similar story. Also, my first experience realizing that the rest of the world’s not necessarily super into Google Analytics.
Geeky like that, right? Yeah. So, Brandon, we were walking last night to dinner and one of the things that you said was, “Oh yeah, I’ve been to LA. I’ve been to a lot of big cities because track brought me there. I do track meets.”
So, was that your life growing up, or what?
Yeah, pretty much all of our family vacations were to see the Olympics or the Olympic Trials, things like that. So, we’d go watch the meets and then we’d spend maybe one or two days just doing things in the city outside of the track meet, but that’s what brought us to all of the big cities.
And were you a sprinter or a long distance runner?
Kind of both.
Yeah. They kind of push you into long distance, which I wasn’t very good at. If you run things like the 800, you end up running long distance, and then the 800 is pretty much a sprint. So, we ran from the 200 to the… I forget what they run these days, but all the way through the cross-country meets.
So were you always the fastest kid in the neighborhood?
No, not the fastest.
Our neighborhood didn’t have a lot of kids.
We had one down the street.
Just one. But you were faster than that person?
Yeah, I was faster than that guy.
So, you were the fastest.
I love it. So, you went to school, you ran track in college. Where’d you go to college?
A&M, okay. Go…
So, when did you know that you had a very analytical brain and background? When did you discover that?
I don’t know. I think it was an accident.
My first job was a Marketing Coordinator.
And then we started using analytics a lot, but I had used it previously, when it first came out, I think in 2005, on just personal websites and stuff like that. And then once I started the Market Coordinator position, we had an e-commerce store that sold magazines because I worked for Beckett, the ones that priced the baseball cards…
Oh yeah, uh-huh.
So there were just lots of numbers everywhere.
Okay. So now, being the Director of Analytics at Hennessey Digital, tell me a little bit about your team and what you guys do as a team on a daily or weekly basis.
Or our team is comprised of a Data Scientist, a GIS Analyst, which is a Geographic Information Systems Specialist.
We have conversion rate optimization, and then we have two other analysts that kind of do the same thing that I do. And, for the most part, we do a lot of implementation of the analytics. We do a lot of auditing, reporting, and tracking of the conversions. Stan, our Data Scientist, covers the Data Scientist things. And then we have Leeann and Kait who do the CRO and the GIS stuff.
Got It. And so you work a lot with Blin and his team, right? With Engineering. So Blin, tell me a little bit more about your role. What does a day look like for you and what does your team look like?
It’s definitely a very interesting team. There are about 20 engineers in my team split across three smaller teams. So, the Engineering department is split into the Systems team, which is the team that builds tools and processes for our clients and for our internal staff for other departments. They, for example, have built a platform recently, the Hennessey Platform, which we’re super proud of. And it’s a way to give visibility to our clients about everything that’s going on with their website. It makes reporting analytics a lot easier to digest, and a lot more focused on the data points that we care about. It allows them to review the content plans. It allows them to create tickets with us, and review the tickets that they have open, and so on and so forth.
Then we’ve got the Onboarding, Rebuild, Revamp Team, as well. As new clients come in, they’re the team that onboards them completely. So, they recreate their website, or create brand new websites for them if they don’t already have one. And then we have the Client Success team. This is the team that handles client requests as they’re coming in, and also requests from other departments like Account Services or the SEO department as well.
Good. Love it. So, Tina, question for you. We do a lot of geeky stuff here at Hennessey from an SEO perspective, and I know you have other experience working at other agencies and stuff. On a scale of 0 to 10, how geeky are we at Hennessey Digital?
Okay. So, this is a really funny question because my family and friends all joke that I only hang out with nerds, because I’m a nerd. But, I’ve been telling them recently, actually, Hennessey is extremely smart but a really cool crowd. I’m a nerd, so I can’t hate, but yeah, I’m really impressed with the people that I’ve met here. Not even just saying that. I mean, we’re very relaxed, very open and helpful. And it’s been a really, really wonderful experience so far. And I’m lucky enough to get to work with both of these two gentlemen…
I think we’re lucky to work with you.
… At least once. See? That’s what I’m talking about.
So, we’re here at our leadership retreat, right? And we’re talking about things that we’re going to be doing within the next three years, right? What is something that stands out that excites you? I’ll start with you, Brandon.
Probably Hennessey Studios. It doesn’t really have a lot to do with my Analytics job, but I’ve loved anything that has to do with movies, or TV, or film. So, just seeing you start this is pretty cool.
So, I want to talk a little bit about that because there’s Netflix and then there’s Brandonflix?
Yeah, I have a rather large collection of movies, so I don’t have to rely on Netflix if the internet goes out.
If there’s ever a doomsday, right? Brandon can watch his It’s a Wonderful Life, or whichever movies you watch. It’s so funny because my wife was in a soap opera once and Brandon was like, “Oh my God.” You and your Mom or Grandma would watch that show?
Me, my mom, and my sister.
What was the name of the show?
I think it was The Young and the Restless.
Yeah, The Young and the Restless.
Yeah. And I actually paid for my wife to be… I didn’t really pay for her to be on it, but it was one of those silent auctions, and L.A. has the most interesting silent auctions. Like, be a guest star on this TV show, right? I’m like, “How cool would that be?” It was one of her favorite shows, and her parents watch it religiously. So, I don’t know, I bid a hundred bucks and didn’t think anything of it, and I ended up winning, right? And so, “Hey Bridget can come down.” And they gave her the whole VIP experience, put her in a room, gave her makeup treatment. It was cool. She got to meet some of the stars. And so, Brandon was just as excited as my wife, which was pretty awesome.
That is cool.
Took you a while to track it down.
Yeah. And before, Blin, I asked you that same question about what you’re excited about. One thing that’s interesting about you that most people might not know is that you’re a Guinness World Record holder.
Tell me a little bit more.
So, the previous job I had was an education company, and they had the largest attended online class. Live online class. It’s not a prerecorded class. This was a live class that got 65,000 students to attend it.
Oh my God.
That you taught?
I did not teach it. I was one of the people who implemented the technology that handled that many students.
I grew up in a town of 50,000, and I live in a town that has 10,000 people.
Bigger than both.
I don’t actually live in Chicago. I’m in the suburbs of Chicago.
Yeah, there were quite a few hiccups, a few things crashed, but there was no way we could have stress-tested it for 65,000 people. And we weren’t expecting that many people, to be honest, but it was a fun process.
It would be crazy if nothing went wrong with 65,000 people attending.
Yeah. Well, that’s pretty impressive. So, again, within the next year, or two years, or three years, what are you excited about?
You know, we’ve been talking about plans a lot, especially today, and it’s amazing how many of those plans involve my department.
And I absolutely love that, of course. It just seems like no matter what a department presents, and they tell us about our plan, how to scale up the business to 10X, they all, in one way or another, involve my department.
Yep. We need to build for them or, I told the people who already built, that we need to improve on. That’s pretty exciting.
Obviously, I’m a huge advocate of the Platform and want to see it adopted by, not only our clients, but maybe even allowing external people to use our Platform to monitor their websites that are maybe created using our theme called WP Attorney.
That would be pretty exciting. Hennessey Studios… excited about all of them.
Yeah. I mean, in our Vivid Vision, which we display publicly right on our website right now, we’re about 120 full-time employees. In the next three years, we’ll be at, I think, 350, right?
And a large part of that will be continuing to grow out the Engineering team. And talk a little bit about how our team is just not in the domestic United States. We’re an international team. Talk a little bit about that.
So, we’ve got team members from Europe, from South America, and from the U.S.. It’s pretty challenging to manage all the time zones, but I think we’re getting used to it.
And it’s always fun to see the people I work with in person, but we’ve really gotten used to this “working remotely” type of environment and have become really good friends. Some of them I haven’t met yet, although I’ve been working with them for a year and a half now.
But yeah. We’ve become friends, we play games with each other, we do trivia. We hang out, basically, on Zoom.
Yeah, I mean even this trip, right? Brandon and I have met each other before, right? You and I have not met, right? But we’ve been working together for over a year…
And I was lucky to meet you week one.
Yeah, right? Which is because you’re in L.A., right? But that’s it. We see each other in these squares, but behind the squares, there’s people with families, and children, and lives and it’s so cool to get together like this.
Yeah. Something to be said about that face time.
Yep. I didn’t even ask you: what are you excited about?
Now this podcast is going to last half an hour. There’s so much that we’ve gotten over today that I’m really, really excited about. I think, from an SEO perspective, the idea of working closely with Jessica on content and making sure that there’s that alignment, and that cohesive, or seamless team that we’re working together with. Side note, by the way. When we had our interview, you mentioned that we have an in-house Dev team and I remember that was a selling point for me.
I forgot to tell you that, Blin. I think it’s the coolest thing. Seeing how articulate your vision is, I think is really impressive. I think seeing those specific numbers that you’re tying to the future, and us having that really clear understanding of where we’re heading, is refreshing. And I’ve had the opportunity to work at a lot of really cool agencies, but I’ve never experienced this level of transparency, and this invitation to join in on building that future, or defining that future. So I’m not even sure that I could pinpoint one or two things.
I think everything that we’ve covered in that Vivid Vision is very exciting. Okay, I’ll pinpoint one. Digital PR.
Oh, yeah. That’s a whole new area that we’re going to move into, for sure. So, in closing. Personally, professionally… more personally, I think, what’s a bucket-list item that you want to still complete in life? Who wants to go first?
I can go first. I’ve been working on my pilot’s license for 13 months now.
No, actually. Sorry, 15 months. Right before Aiden was born, I realized that if I ever wanted to get my pilot’s license, I’d have to start before he was born because then I wouldn’t have a choice but to continue with it.
So my dream is I will become a pilot and maybe even own my…
Own your own plane?
… A small Cessna, or something.
That I can take my family shorts flights on.
Awesome. Love it. What do you think, Brandon?
Name in movie credits. Doesn’t matter what it’s for.
Name in movie credits.
Guy who emptied trash, or somebody who helped clean the set afterwards. Just at the very end, that’s it.
You’re in Hollywood, baby. We can make this happen, right? Let’s make that happen. You want an IMDB link.
Awesome. Love it. What do you think, Tina?
What’s my bucket list? My initial thought went to SEO-related stuff. I was like, “Okay, no.”
Rank number one for…
I would say maybe get up on stage and rap with one of my favorite rappers.
That’s cool. Okay. And who would that rapper be?
I was going to say, “Not that that hasn’t happened before.”
Yeah. Who would that rapper be?
I mean, I’m thinking Tupac so, that doesn’t really count as a bucket list item because it can never happen, right?
I don’t think that’s going to happen, no.
Let’s go with, honestly, my bucket list item would be any of my favorite rappers. So, I’d love to get up there with Kendrick.
I’d love to get up there with Kanye, if he was only performing College Dropout.
There you go.
See? Love it. Love it, love it. I’d say my bucket list is I’m going to take my family on an African safari. I think that would be kind of cool. Yeah. So, let’s see if we can make some of these bucket list items happen in the next three years, guys.
You can renew your vows. That’s all the rage for honeymoons right now.
Yep. Well again, thank you so much. I know that some of us have traveled short distances to be here. Others have traveled a little bit longer, but we appreciate it. And I’m looking forward to an amazing year together.
Likewise. Thanks for having us here.
Thank you guys. Yes.
Thanks so much, Jason.
This has been the Jason Hennessey Podcast. This show is produced by Whitney Welch and Jenna Kirshon, engineered and edited by Josh Fisher, and recorded at Hennessey Studios. Please be sure to rate and review us on Apple Podcasts and subscribe to the show on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcast. Thanks for listening.