BrightWave @ 48in48

What brought 17 rockstar BrightWave employees to donate their weekend (48 hours) in-order to build over 57 email templates for 48 local Atlanta non-profits?

Several weeks ago I rebooted a program at BrightWave called “Day of Awesomeness”, which was originally created by Simms Jenkins (Founder of BrightWave) to encourage employees to spend time on non-billable projects that would help us internally, push ideas for clients, and most importantly, do some good for our community.

In resurrecting the program, we defined some categories folks could focus on, provided some examples, extended the number of days folks could use (and the investment into the program), enabled folks to work in teams as opposed to individually, and introduced the concept of “Shared Values”. Continue reading

BrightWave, A New Journey Begins

Last week I started a new and exciting chapter in my career by joining BrightWave as President. I’ve known Simms Jenkins (Founder) for many years and have watched his agency grow over the years. BrightWave has one of the best reputations in the industry, specifically known for ground breaking work within Email and CRM marketing, which is no small feat in the ever-evolving agency environment and the marketing technology ecosystem. I’ve been lucky enough to consult with the agency over the last 5 months, providing advice where I could, but more importantly getting to know the DNA of the agency and the wonderful people that make BrightWave a special place.

The foundation, culture and reputation that BrightWave has been able to create provides an exceptional springboard for the agency to scale and become a dominating powerhouse in the space; the future potential is one of the key reasons that attracted me to join the agency as I can clearly see a path forward. It’s common for someone in my position to enter an organization that has a weak culture or a horrible reputation and have to spend a considerable amount of time and effort defining/executing in order to build a foundation to scale. In the case of BrightWave, we know exactly who we are, we have a strong culture, we have passionate and talented people (the most important element in any agency), we have pride in the work, and we are recognized as leaders in the space.

So, why did Simms and the BrightWave team want to bring in a President like me you ask? Its really quite simple:-

  1. Divide and Conquer – Simms and I have complimentary skills and we see this relationship as a partnership. This feels much like my first business, Spunlogic, where I had fantastic partners who all focused on different things and we shared the burden and adventure of growing a company. Running any company, small or large, is no easy job; you learn quickly that you can’t do everything, at least to the level of depth the business needs when growing. Therefore, having someone in the trenches with you, especially someone who’s gone through growth (good and bad) can help validate and keep the organization focused. In the case of Simms and me, I’ve got a heavy operational, creative and technology background, while Simms has a heavy sales & marketing background. We can easily carve out areas of focus that don’t conflict, while sharing a common vision and mission for the agency. This allows us to focus our attention on the front of the house (Simms) and the back of the house (me) in an effective way that can activate growth and scale while maintaining and building upon the culture, people, and reputation of the agency.
  2. Playing to win – You could say that I’ve been around the block a few times when it comes to agencies, having founded one and merged/operated two larger agencies. I don’t have a secret recipe for success; however, I “get agency people”, the work we do, what it takes to operate an agency at different sizes and at different maturity levels, different types of work and clients, etc. This experience has exposed me to different challenges in scaling a business, mentoring and coaching our people, identifying new talent needs during growth, maintaining a strong culture, activating tools/process in order to deliver quality and ground breaking work, and finally, pitching creative ideas to clients utilizing complex technology products. In short, I hope to provide value to BrightWave and our clients, helping build an unmatched agency that’s sought after by the best brands and the best agency talent.

I look forward to a successful partnership with Simms and the team, and I’m thankful for the people at BrightWave I’ve already had the pleasure of working with. I’m truly excited to grow with them over the coming years.

Here is a link to the official PR: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2016/04/prweb13360213.htm

 

Goodbye Promenade Building

Yesterday was my last day as CEO of BLiNQ as we moved forward with the merger of PointRoll, Shoplocal, and BLiNQ Media. I fully support this move as I believe it will make all three companies much stronger in the market place as a combined company and properly leveraging the strong content and data assets owned by Gannett. At the same time, it was hard to make the decision to part ways with the people at BLiNQ and G/O Digital; I’ve had the privilege of getting to know a number of them, and I’ll miss working with them and wish them all the very best as the units come together in the coming months.

I was originally hired into BLiNQ to access the business, re-stabilize the unit, and determine a new vision for the company in a post acquisition era. I’ll leave it to my peers in the industry and to Gannett to determine if I accomplished my objectives.  From my stand-point, I’m extremely proud of what my team was able to accomplish in less than a year; what’s most gratifying to me is that the product strategies and vertical focused pivot I put in place at BLiNQ will be used as the blueprint of the new combined company.

Reflecting back, what’s amazing is that I’ve been at the Promenade building in Midtown, Atlanta since 2004.  First we moved Spunlogic into the 17th floor (from Zonolite Road), then sold Spunlogic (2008) which become Engauge and moved up to the 22nd floor (2010), then sold Engauge to become Moxie (2013) still on the 22nd floor (2015 Razorfish moved into the 22nd floor, space looks great Patricia Camden-Peterson), and lastly, I moved down to the 12th floor as the new CEO of BLiNQ Media (2014). That’s 11 years of great memories and experiences I just said goodbye to.

So what’s next for me? No idea yet, but what I do know is that I’d like to take a little time off. The last 19 months has been pretty crazy for me. Selling Engauge, helping integrate Engauge into Moxie, undertaking an Executive MBA and finishing it a few months ago with an awesome international residency in Vietnam and Thailand, moving from Publicis and taking on the BLiNQ role as CEO, having our second child (who is awesome), and generally traveling a lot and missing out on family time. Wow, pretty crazy when I think back.

Before I jump into the next work adventure, Tovah and I will be heading to the beach for a few weeks and then we are planning an RV trip across the US, Pacific NW, through British Columbia, Yukon, and Alberta. Yes, you read it right, an RV, and no, I’ve never been in an RV before. As we plan more I’ll write about it, but that’s the plan for now.

Bittersweet goodbye – Spunlogic – Engauge – Moxie

Today (May 9th 2014) was my last day at the agency I co-founded nearly 16 years ago (November 1998); it was bittersweet and difficult to leave my work-home.

After 15 years and 6 months with the “same” agency (Spunlogic, Engauge, Moxie), it’s time for me to explore a new chapter in my life/career.  I’ve loved the agency from the day I co-founded Spunlogic (from a backpackers hostel in Toronto, Canada) with my college roommate, Jeff Hilimire. It’s part of who I am, in my DNA, and it will always be in my heart.

On May 12th 2014 (this coming Monday), I embark upon my new adventure as CEO of BLiNQ Media in Atlanta. I’m truly excited for this next chapter and will continue to write of my experiences. Nonetheless, for tonight, nostalgia compels me to formally bid farewell and share some of my favorite memories from a wonderful career in an agency I created.

In no particular order, I’d like to say goodbye to the following.

  • Goodbye “Beer cart Fridays,”-  probably my biggest contribution to the agency :-). I may need to implement this in my new space.
  • RIP Netsuite, OpenAir, and Central Desktop – The almost perfect agency systems I put in place with the hard work of some amazing folks at the agency (Dave Burke, Mark Unrein, Jenn Leahy, Jenni McDonough, Victor Wise, John McElroy) and our vendors (especially Mark Fordham from Central Desktop, Carolyn Turley and David Sussa from Netsuite Openair).
  • Adios Suite 2200 at Promenade, the crown of my career, and a space I hope inspired our people to thrive and enjoy the work space. Special thanks to Gensler (Erin Greer ), HITT (Erik Kandler), and JLL (Mike Dolan) and Collier (Brenden Welch) for making the space speak for itself.
  • My red chair and desk that I’ve had for 10 years, I know Kelly Ruggles (best Office Manager ever) will find a good home for them (and not throw them away!).
  • Fun crazy trips like the Spun Cruises (the entire agency on a ship together, you can only imagine…), Tennessee leadership trip (moon bow experience and everyone getting drunk on the bus), and some of the more interesting executive retreats (I’ll say no more).
  • I think I was good at was throwing parties and the more control I had of the budget the bigger the party:-) Halloween parties, Casio/Speak easy holiday parties, Paris on Ponce, etc.

Above all, the hardest goodbye was to the people I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years. I wish all my friends success in their careers and personal lives and hope we cross professional paths again. Thank you for teaching me, evolving with me, laughing with me, and forgiving my bad spelling and grammar. By being the best you can be, you’ve brought out the best in me.

CES 2014 – Raj’s picks from the show

I just spent last week at CES in Las Vegas and had an absolutely amazing time. This years trip to CES was a little different as I had access to Publicis Groupe events and private parties. Needless to say, I’m just now recovering from the parties!

Here are some of the highlights from CES for me.

  • Qualcomm’s Gimbal Platform – This is a context awareness platform using beacon technology as well as mobile app to create pretty much any awareness situation you can think of.
  • Cisco Retail Solutions – Cisco had some amazing concepts showing how they could connect the entire retail experience with beacon’s, tracking camera’s, and some pretty amazing store level and executive analytic’s (user foot track patterns, inventory, transactions, etc.). They had partnered with Aero Scout for the beacon technology.
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  • Street Line – Pretty cool stuff when it comes to parking and other data for urban areas. Saw I nice demo with them and Cisco.
  • Google Fiber – I was lucky enough to attend a private meeting with Google to learn more about new products in the market. Outside of getting a nice pair of Google glasses, one of the best road maps I saw was for Google Fiber. Alot of us are familiar with Google Fiber, so I won’t bore you with the details, checkout the site. What’s amazing is the approach Google is taking to dominate the Fiber network not only in the US, but in other countries that have poor infrastructure or countries that have a monopoly (higher prices as a result). If you don’t own Google stock, you should, this one division will dominate the world in 5 years and give Google a diversified portfolio outside of just search. Some interesting terminologies I learned from Google; they call neighborhoods “Fiber Hoods”, their retail stores are called “Fiber Space”. The Google VP in-charge (Milo Medin) of the division was telling me that he has seen credit ratings for cities increase because of Google Fiber (installed city), he also told me that if a house in a Fiber Hood signs up for Google Fiber (free internet), that account stays with the house, so if you sell the house the new owner gets Google Fiber as well, this helps home values and rental values. Not to mention, a city that helps bring in Google Fiber (make it easy for Google in install) gets free fiber to schools, libraries, etc. Milo was clear to point out that he only goes to cities that make it easy for him, it doesn’t matter about the size of the city. Amazing stuff from Google, including how they roll out and install a Fiber Hood. Continue reading

My Second Agency Exit – Engauge is part of the Publicis family

Five years and four months after selling my first agency, Spunlogic, to Halyard Capital, Jeff Hilimire, Raghu Kakarala, and I just helped sell Engauge to Publicis Groupe (Press Release). The past five years have been a learning journey for me and I’m a better entrepreneur and executive because of my experience with Engauge. It’s an exciting time for both Engauge and Moxie Interactive; this combination creates a powerhouse in the Southeast that we’ve not seen since the .com days of the early 2000’s. I look forward to the journey ahead.

When I think back to my first agency, Spunlogic, (co-founded with Jeff Hilimire), it’s amazing how much I didn’t know about agencies in general, M&A, holding companies, operations, etc. Thinking back I’m amazed we grew Spunlogic to 75 people and sold it in 2008. I’ve always said we were successful then because of what we didn’t know as opposed to what we did know. Back then we knew how to build value for clients, but I’m not sure we knew how to build value for the agency or investors, at least not purposefully or strategically. Halyard and Engauge have taught me about the latter (creating value for the agency and shareholders) and I’m grateful for the exposure.

Here are some quick highlights of the last 5 years with Engauge:

  • I got to take a 4 month sabbatical and travel around the world. Not many companies would let you do that.
  • I managed and grew our digital division as Managing Director, built out a bad-ass office and doubled the revenues and head count (140 people) of the Atlanta office.
  • I merged the three legacy agencies (4 offices) and built new operational systems and processes.
  • Most importantly, I had the privilege to work with amazing people that I’ve learned so much from. Thank you all for the support and friendship.

As my journey continues, I’m thankful for all I’ve learned and I’m excited for what the future has in store for me.

“Snooze Alarm” Email Tactic

Amy Griswold and I just attended the sixth annual SilverPOP conference at Stone Mountain last week (05/13/2008). Like most vendor-customer conferences, I’m often somewhat skeptical about what I’m going to learn about email marketing in general. Most of the time, I attend these conferences to better understand new features that are being released, and to gauge their product road map so we can align the agency to take advantage of the tool in the future.

As we listened to the Keynote speaker, Terry Jones (Founder of Travelocity.com and chairman of Kayak.com), I was pleased to hear his insights on his management style and trends he see’s in marketing in general. What I wasn’t expecting was a very simple tactic he mentioned that I’d never really considered, but made a lot of sense.

Terry termed this “Snooze Alarm” for your email campaigns. Essentially, we all use some level of frequency control on campaigns, as well as behavioral triggers to determine when we market to customers via email. Continue reading