Working in-person during this pandemic isn’t ideal, and working remotely (from home) is usually the only option.
They also talk about Mr. Delmercado’s company’s origins, the evolution of the company, the ever-expanding list of services they provide to customers, and structuring company processes and work members working remotely.
0:26 – John Corcoran shares the best solution that makes documenting standard operating procedures drop-dead easy, highlighting a 14-day free trial. No credit card required.
1:30 – Mr. Corcoran introduces today’s guest, Tony Delmercado, COO at Hawke Media.
1:44 – Mr. Delmercado introduces himself and shares more about Hawke Media, their mission, and how they go about it, as well as his role at the company.
2:48 – Mr. Delmercado talks about the origins of the company, how he and his friend and colleague Erik Huberman started the company.
5:10 – Mr. Delmercado sheds some light on whether or not Erik was involved in the production of the original Dollar Shave Club video.
5:59 – Mr. Delmercado talks about how Hawke Media’s mode of function is different and where the work idea came from.
8:48 – The guest explains the company’s process, and how it’s evolved over time to be able to maintain 500 clients and 165 employees.
10:45 – Mr. Delmercado shares how the company applies processes and documents the steps it takes.
12:48 – The guest explains the challenges faced in having so many different kinds of services for clients, and how they know when it’s the right time to add or drop a service.
14:26 – The guest shares how they maintain order at Hawke Media.
17:15 – The guest describes the different processes involved in assigning projects at meetings.
18:56 – Mr. Delmercado gives more advice on management, explaining how making peace with and understanding the process is key.
19:51 – Mr. Delmercado gives his social media and website links.
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Process Breakdown podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks, and giving your employees all the information they need to be successful at their jobs. Now, let’s get started with the show.
John Corcoran: Hey, everyone. John Corcoran here, host of the Process Breakdown podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks, and giving your staff everything they need to be successful at their job. Few of our past guests include David Allen of Getting Things Done, and Michael Gerber of the E Myth, and many more.
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John Corcoran: All right. I have with me, Tony Delmercado. Tony is the COO at Hawke Media. Tony, such a pleasure to have you here with us. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about Hawke Media and some of the things that you guys work on right now?
Tony Delmercado: Yeah. Will do. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to share some stuff. Hopefully the listeners get some education and a little bit of commiseration as well along the way.
Tony Delmercado: Hawke Media is positioned as an outsourced CMO and marketing team. Our mission is to make great marketing accessible to everyone. We provide marketing services. We do that on an a la carte, month to month basis for about 500 clients right now. That’s content production, video, websites, social ads, paid search, content creation, blogs, listicles, lifecycle marketing. Virtually anything that you can think of in the marketing stack is what we do.
Tony Delmercado: My role there as the COO is just to try and keep a lid on most of it pretty much on a day-to-day basis.
John Corcoran: Okay, great. You and your business partner had worked together previously, and then you ended up starting this business together. Talk a little bit about the origins, how you ended up founding this business together.
Tony Delmercado: Yeah. The short version, the simple version rather is that he and I had worked together on a startup that he had founded and was invested in by fellow who I ran the nonprofit for. That guy invested in his company, and he had also founded a nonprofit in the ’80s, and I ran that nonprofit.
Tony Delmercado: I decided that life wasn’t necessarily for me. I wasn’t finding it very rewarding. Prior to that, I had a bunch of other experiences. But then when I had met Erik through that business and through that mutual connection, over a period of time, it made sense for me to go over to the for-profit business that he had invested in that Erik was running.
Tony Delmercado: Over time, I ended up taking over that business and running that as the COO, and turning it around, and making some money. As that business was coming to a close, Erik and I had both consulted on some projects for Science, which is an incubator in Santa Monica. He worked much more closely with that team, and launched a company called Ellie that ended up selling and growing really quickly, and doing a great job. At the same time, Dollar Shave Club, most famously, was at that incubator, as well as a number of other interesting startups.
Tony Delmercado: So he was working in the marketing space and really developing his chops there. I was continuing down an operational path. But we had also launched a t-shirt subscription company. This is a decade ago, so prior to subscription commerce being all the rage, and had a modicum of success there. So we had just developed a pretty good working rapport and a relationship, and admired the perspective that the other one came from.
Tony Delmercado: He was consulting on marketing projects after his time at Science, and was continuing to find a big demand for great marketing on a fractional basis. So he was consulting, developing great marketing strategy, working with a variety of teams, and then started operating under the banner Hawke Media, instead of just being Erik Huberman.
Tony Delmercado: We talked, at the end of 2013, about potentially working together. I was wrapping up the other company that I was running. In January of 2014, we just decided to see how far we could take this thing. Since then, it’s been pretty cool.
John Corcoran: I’m curious, since you mentioned Dollar Shave Club, I believe it’s the Harmon Brothers that are famous for having produced that original video, which went viral. Was Erik involved at all in that, in the early stages?
Tony Delmercado: I don’t know that he was part of that original video that got obviously so much fanfare and virality, but he was behind the scenes, just because of the previous experience with the subscription commerce model. I don’t know exactly how deep his tentacles were in that particular business, but I do know that working at Science, he had a fair amount of influence over some of those companies.
John Corcoran: Yeah. I think it was a billion dollar exit for the Dollar Shave Club. So not too shabby,
Tony Delmercado: Not too shabby. Yeah. [crosstalk 00:05:39] They did just fine.
John Corcoran: They did. Now you said that we deliberately decided to be a little bit different with Hawke Media. Month to month, rather than long-term contracts. Doing different projects as needed. Talk little bit about that. Where did that idea come from?
Tony Delmercado: Yeah. The genesis was really pretty simple in terms of most entrepreneurial endeavors. You recognize a failure or an opportunity in the marketplace. The way that you can go about marketing your company is there’s essentially three options.
Tony Delmercado: You can build an in-house team. Expensive. Takes your eye off the prize. Generally become myopic. You can work with an agency. Historically, agencies have been more expensive, longer-term contracts. A lot of bloat built into that business model. Or you can cobble together some contractors on a project basis.
Tony Delmercado: There’s pros and cons to each of those, but nobody was really providing killer marketing resources at a high level on a month to month ala cart basis, so you could pick and choose what you needed.
Tony Delmercado: Again, our mission statement being to make great marketing accessible to everyone, unless you were a sexy venture backed startup, or a Fortune 5000, or somebody like that, getting access to the best agencies and the best marketers was historically pretty difficult. So there was just a really big opportunity. It was really apparent really quickly, in our first year, how much of an appetite for that there was in the market.
Tony Delmercado: You can also look at the typical marketing agency. I’m doing air quotes, if anybody’s listening instead of watching this. The agency environment isn’t very well-regarded. Marketers are actually more poorly regarded than used car salesman or Congress. It’s not a very highly respected field.
John Corcoran: That’s a relief to me, as a recovering lawyer, to hear that.
Tony Delmercado: Is that … You’re way up the list compared to us.
John Corcoran: Oh, yeah, probably. Never mind. Never mind.
Tony Delmercado: There’s no regulatory agency. In the same way, if you’re going to go get your taxes done, you got to talk to a CPA, or if you want legal representation, somebody needs to be certified in their state and pass a bar and those kinds of things. As a marketer, any jackass with a website can take your money.
Tony Delmercado: As a consequence of that, there’s, depending on who you ask or how you do the math, between 20 and 60,000 independent agencies across the country, and there’s really no assurances that you’re going to get anything of quality. We saw that as a pretty amazing opportunity to consolidate a fractured market and become the H&R block, if you will, of marketing resources. Obviously, that’s a more transactional relationship with tax prep, but 25 years ago, there was a tax prep office on every corner. Now it’s H&R Block. Hawke Media’s aim is to be that for marketing.
John Corcoran: Got it. Okay. Now, man, 165 employees, 500 clients. That just is insane, especially over a seven year period to grow like that. Explain to me what your process is like, and how it’s evolved over the years in order to manage so many projects.
Tony Delmercado: Yeah. In the beginning, it was pretty simple in so far as that we had someone that was good at Facebook, someone that was good at email, someone that was good at paid search, someone that had some history of influencer marketing. Me, I was the first strategist for the company, sitting as the outsource CMO, or second, I guess, behind Erik, working with all these clients from a marketing perspective.
Tony Delmercado: So depending on what people wanted to use us for, if it was all of it, great, if it was one or two things, great. The Cheesecake Factory menu of services is what it’s turned into now.
Tony Delmercado: But it was really easy. We got money from the client. We built out a business model that afforded us the ability to pay those people, pay for some marketing, pay for some sales, pay for a little bit of overhead, and pocket a little bit. When I say a little bit, I mean, a very small amount at the beginning. That way, our people were excited about getting more work, and it wasn’t a whole lot more challenging than that.
Tony Delmercado: When it was a couple people in each of those departments, as they evolved, and then it became a half a dozen people or a dozen people, and then there’s pod leaders and managers, and now that’s obviously evolved. We have an executive team and a management layer, and HR department, and finance, and all kinds of different stuff. It’s definitely taken on a life of its own.
Tony Delmercado: But in the beginning, it was fairly simple. Sign a client, kick them off, get up and running. Which again, the appetite for that was so high in the early days, because there was so much crap built into how you get engaged with an agency. So we found a lot of willing clients early on because of that.
John Corcoran: Did you find it challenging to create a consistent product at any point, or were you documenting everything to a T from the beginning, so that everything was consistent, and different people were doing things the same way?
Tony Delmercado: Yeah. Another one of those things that we did to ourselves, which I wouldn’t recommend this to anybody, we started off in e-commerce, and predominantly in active wear, beauty, fashion, things like that, because that’s where we had had some previous success. Then there’s a virtuous cycle behind that. There were some case studies and documented strategies, if you will, for how to make those brands grow.
Tony Delmercado: But over time, we started working with B2B, and brick and mortar, and app installs, and everything under the sun that you can think of. So to this day, we don’t necessarily declare ourselves to have a specific industry niche or vertical.
Tony Delmercado: So rather than say, “Here is our blueprint for how you grow,” we have a blueprint for how we analyze what the business needs are, where there’s holes in the bucket, and then what are the tools and tactics that we have to go fill in each of those holes.
Tony Delmercado: Erik and I describe them in slightly different ways, but it’s the same thing. I talk about this hierarchy, much like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. At the base, you’ve got to have a website, and a brand, and a good product or service. Then you need a good mouse trap. Then you need the ability to attract new eyeballs, and then create third-party validation. The way he describes it as in three pillars, where it’s awareness, nurturing and trust.
Tony Delmercado: We have processes that we apply to every business that, as soon as they come through the front door, we look and see where are we missing. Regardless of the channel that they’re engaged in, they’re probably missing one or all of those areas. Then depending on the industry vertical and so on, we’ve got a pretty good idea about how to do that.
Tony Delmercado: But the system, if you will, isn’t, “Here’s how we grow your business.” It’s, “Here’s how we analyze where there’s holes in your business,” and then we rely on really smart people to go back, fill those holes.
John Corcoran: Has it been challenging to have so many different types of services for the clients?
Tony Delmercado: Yeah, very.
John Corcoran: Has it always been that way? I imagine there has to have been a point along the way where you said, “Okay. We feel comfortable adding an additional service, because there’s enough demand. People want us to do it.” How do you know when is the right time?
Tony Delmercado: Yeah, that’s a great question. We’ve always been reactive. When we started, we didn’t really build websites for people, but so many people asked, “Hey, can you build us a website?” We’d have to send them down the road. That was fine. There was a referral arrangement with a few folks in town. That was okay for a while.
Tony Delmercado: But eventually it’s like, “Man, we’re leaving a fair amount of money on the table.” We could obviously integrate better with … If we’re doing brand identity and building out Facebook ads, if we’re building a website as well, we can just really own that whole ecosystem in a way that’s probably going to drive a better result, make it easier on the client.
Tony Delmercado: When we’ve added on new services, historically, it’s been because of demand, or because, more recently, just in the last few years, it’s been opportunistic. If there’s a great affiliate agency … We’ve acquired a couple different agencies, actually three over the last couple years, and rolled them into our org because we saw a competency that we didn’t have, and we wanted to layer that on. But there was already a client base as well to support that to some degree.
Tony Delmercado: Where we’ve made mistakes in the past is when we’ve gotten over our [inaudible 00:13:56], or when we’ve gotten more proactive about chasing down new markets or new service offerings. When we’ve been reactive, generally speaking, that’s worked out pretty well.
John Corcoran: Now there’s the process for how you deliver the service, but there’s also the process for determining how to structure such a large entity, and keep everyone rowing in the same direction. You mentioned pods, and a management layer, and an executive team. How have you determined the process for structuring the entire company, the entity itself?
Tony Delmercado: Yeah. The good news is we didn’t have 165 bodies one day that we had to figure out where to plot in. A lot of that growth and a lot of that organization has been fairly organic just in so far as it’s like, “Wow, there’s these five people that are on this team now that I can’t really oversee. One of them has distinguished themself from their peers. We should really give that person an opportunity, if they want, if they have an appetite for leadership or management.”
Tony Delmercado: Then we started building out ratios about how many people in each department, depending on the function of that department or the work output, how many of those people warrant having somebody sit atop them, and then building that into the economics of the business model so that you can account for a management layer.
Tony Delmercado: Then once those teams get so big, of course, someone has to oversee all those managers, because then I get bandwidth constrained. There was a point not too long ago, it feels like ancient history now, where I was our head of finance, and head HR, and head of services, and head of all these things, which at some point, it’s just untenable if you want to continue to scale and grow.
Tony Delmercado: So it’s been pretty organic in that way. We’ve tweaked over the years. Just recently, we’ve also restructured where certain departments are housed in terms of the hierarchy, if you will. Pretty flat organization in general, but certainly have had to reconfigure a few times over the years.
John Corcoran: Interesting for you to say that it’s a flat organization with that many bodies.
Tony Delmercado: Yeah. Well, I guess I should say culturally flat more so than hierarchically flat, because there is, of course, the org chart. But flat in the sense that anybody can talk to me or Erik, or a department head, or a VP from another group. There’s really, no, I guess militaristic autocratic kind of top-down leadership. It’s very much a nodal network of ideas and pass back.
Tony Delmercado: I think the area that we’ve done really well in, but I also think, of course, I’m our own worst critic, I think we could continue to do better, for an organization our size that is as complex as it is, we’ve done a pretty good job of actually keeping individual contributors from different departments on the same page as other ones.
Tony Delmercado: Somebody from lifecycle, who actually knows somebody from paid search, that hangs out with somebody from our partnerships team, that knows somebody on the client success side, they’re all in a decent enough rapport that they can get on the horn at the same time and be, for the most part, aligned.
Tony Delmercado: Again, I still think we could do better there, but because we’ve fostered that level of transparent communication and trying to break down silos, that’s helped a lot.
John Corcoran: Do you use … Different companies have different meeting cadences. For your company, is it just like as the work comes in, we come and we delegate it, we assign it out? Or do you have a regular rhythm, a meeting rhythm, a process for just doing the work and meeting with everyone?
Tony Delmercado: We have lots and lots of processes for each of the individual services. As far as when we sign on new clients, we’ve now … Actually, I would say we did this pretty much from jump street, where the idea was to be able to build infrastructure so that we could onboard clients pretty much 24/7, 365.
Tony Delmercado: There’s, again, pros and cons to that. There’s not necessarily cohorts of, “Okay. We’re going to go sign 20 clients on Monday the 20,” or whatever that is, the first or second. February’s a weird month. But rather than we’re signing clients every single day.
Tony Delmercado: So we’ve had to build a lot of process around, when a client is sold and signed and paid, where does our client success team jump in? How are the service experts assigned by the department managers? How do they coordinate an orientation call? How do they get on the horn with the client? Where is the information transfer, whether that’s a brief or basic objectives about what the marketing goals are?
Tony Delmercado: Definitely have discreet processes for all of those things that has helped us to manage that, because it’s constant. We’re constantly adding new business. I think we’ve signed three or four clients today.
John Corcoran: Wow, wow. Little ping notifications or something, a bell that goes off.
Tony Delmercado: Slack channel.
John Corcoran: Yeah, the modern day equivalent, I guess.
Tony Delmercado: Yeah. We have a virtual gong, because we used to have a gong in the office, and now we’re not there, so we have a virtual gong in the Slack.
John Corcoran: Oh. That’s cool. Well, Tony, this has been great. Anything else that anyone listening to this should know in terms of managing an entity of your size, and keeping the process smoothly working?
Tony Delmercado: Yeah. I think making peace with the fact that you’re going to mess up a lot of stuff, and it will almost never seem like it’s working well until you take a step back or you look at where it was a year ago.
Tony Delmercado: For anybody that’s fortunate enough to be in the position where your organization has grown to 25, 50, 100 plus people, that, number one, is fantastic. Good on you. But also the, I don’t want to call it imposter syndrome, because I don’t suffer from that, but I do constantly nitpick at ways that things could get better.
Tony Delmercado: I think that’s why they’re getting better, but it’s also worthwhile to take a step back and go, “Yeah. This is objectively better than it was a year ago or 18 months ago,” or something like that. Just never stop improving, but also give yourself a pat on the back every once in a while.
John Corcoran: Tony, tell everyone where they can learn more about you or connect with you.
Tony Delmercado: Yeah. I’m a hard fellow to connect with in the social media world, but I’m on LinkedIn, Tony Delmercado. The website is HawkeMedia.com. I think I’m TonyD on Clubhouse, which I’m not on very often, but when I am, you can look me up.
John Corcoran: People are putting out their Clubhouse handles now, so that’s the thing.
Tony Delmercado: That’s the thing.
John Corcoran: That’s the thing now. All right, Tony, thanks so much.
Tony Delmercado: You bet. Take care.
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