Ep. 94 – Hawke Media COO, Tony Delmercado

A great business knows what it stands for, including having people who know who they are and the role they play. COO of Hawke Media, Tony Delmercado, is someone who can attest to that, clearly defining who they want in their team and what type of client they want to work with. In this episode, he sits down with host Cameron Herold to talk about his important role at Hawke Media and how they are shifting the agency paradigm by putting client success ahead of their own. Tony talks about the process of attracting, detaining, and developing talent and how it elevates the growth potential when roles and the culture are properly defined. He discusses how they get the people within the company into an uncomfortable zone and how they find commonalities with their core clients and turn away others. Plus, Tony also takes us into the stages of Hawke Media’s growth while also sharing his history as an “old school” Cutco veteran.


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Tony Delmercado is the Cofounder and COO at Hawke Media. As a passionately curious entrepreneur, accomplished communicator and proven leader, Tony has earned recognition and praise in publications like Entrepreneur, Forbes, Business Insider, Inc. and more. He’s helped generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for multiple companies through leadership roles in business development, marketing and operations. In addition to speaking in front of audiences large and small, Tony has sat across the desk from over 40,000 people, personally mentoring over 2,000 of those. He loves playing golf, tinkering with new ideas and working to develop people and organizations around him. I found out Tony is an old-school Cutco guy, which has got a bit of a unique breed to it. Tony, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me, Cam. I’m a huge fan of everything that you do in the COO space and the leadership from a thought perspective that you provide. I am indeed a Cutco veteran, an old-school steel slinger and I’ve got some good company in that regard.

You’ve got some amazing company. One of my close friends, John Ruhlin, who wrote the book Giftology, was a Cutco guy and Brad Weimert, a great friend of mine in Austin. I also co-authored a book, The Miracle Morning for Entrepreneurs, with Hal Elrod. He’s old-school Cutco. What is it about Cutco that turned out many amazing people?

First and foremost, their reach is incredible. For younger folks that are entrepreneurial that have a desire to go out and dictate their own income or ceiling, it’s attractive. It’s definitely one of those businesses and opportunities where you get out what you put into it. For folks with an innate drive and ambition, gravitate towards the opportunity. For me, I can’t speak to how Brad and John, but I would guess they would echo the sentiment. There’s such an emphasis on personal and professional development and being the best version of yourself. It’s intoxicating, especially as a young person that’s never been exposed to that stuff. They do a great job top to bottom, including leadership, executives in the business all the way down through the field level of promoting growth, personal and professional growth and facilitating that. That’s why It was attractive to a lot of people. The folks that stick and do well turn out good outside of the business.

It’s amazing because I was involved in an organization called College Pro Painters and we had a similar pedigree. If I think of College Pro, we’ve got Kimbal Musk, Elon’s brother was a franchisee. Peter Rive who built SolarCity was a franchisee and the list goes on and on of successful entrepreneurs who started with College Pro Painters. It speaks to two things. One, it speaks to the recruiting, interviewing and selection of great people and it also speaks to the culture and systems that these organizations put in place. Do you think you pulled some of those systems from Cutco into what your guys are doing at Hawke?

One thousand percent. I consciously ate a whole bunch of stuff that was in the DNA of Cutco and brought it over to Hawke Media. It’s amazing to be in the position that I am where I have such an opportunity to craft a culture and process and what it feels like to go to work. Our greatest asset as a business walks in and out of that front door every day. I’m highly conscious of what it feels like to be at work. I stole tons of stuff from Cutco.

I say that our R&D should stand for Rip-off and Duplicate. Give us a system that you use on the people side because Hawke Media is known for its people. Give us a system that you guys use, afterwards tell us what Hawke Media is or flip it and do that first.

I’ll start with the people. The easiest way to describe our process is it relates to attracting, developing and retaining talent is to be mindful of where people’s skillsets are, where they want to be. Making sure that there’s what some older folks would consider a short-term feedback cadence about where somebody sits in their growth trajectory and development pipeline. Quarterly reviews have been one of the cornerstones of our people management since the early days. I think it’s critical especially with a twenty-something workforce. People want to know where they are. Millennials get a bad rap about entitlement. Stereotypes exist for a reason in some cases. What I find is that Millennials want to know that they’re working for something. They want to be about something and they want to know where they sit on a trajectory or on a cadence.

If you’re negligent of that, then people are going to fill their head with their own wild ideas and the grass gets greener and all that other stuff. A big thing is making sure people know that we’re going to talk a lot about where you are. I used to tell people money is the 4th or 5th best thing about working at this place. It’s not that we pay poorly, we pay in alignment with the market. The opportunity, riding a rocket ship, the people you work with, the clients you work with, those are the things that are compelling, the growth opportunity that you have as a person. If somebody is looking for a paycheck, that’s probably not a fit for us.

If you’re looking to get better, you’re looking to test your mettle, get in the arena and see what you can do, it’s a heck of a place to work. On one of our walls in here, we have a big sign that says, “This is the most comfortable place you’ll ever be uncomfortable.” Challenging people is important. That’s a bit about the people. Hawke Media as a business is a marketing company. We try not to call ourselves an agency. We positioned ourselves as an outsourced CMO and digital marketing team. In the beginning, we were essentially designed to solve a problem that every growing brand has, which is marketing. There are a few options. You can either build an in-house team. There’s a lot of reasons why that’s challenging. You can work with an agency or you can cobble together a group of contractors and that kind of thing.

There are pros and cons to all those, but we thought, “What if we do a month to month, à-la-carte, super high-level service but without the price barrier?” You mentioned Elon Musk. Much like building a rocket, if you take the constituent parts of building a rocket and how much it costs on the market prior to SpaceX, it’s egregious. We say that about marketing and advertising. If you take the constituent parts of what it takes and what human resources are necessary to do great advertising, there’s so much bloat in the agency model. It’s bloated, it’s an antiquated system. We wanted to make month to month ala carte solutions so that marketing is available to everyone.

Our mission is around making amazing marketing available to everyone. There’s still a minimum cost threshold, so not everybody can afford it, but the truth is we want to make great marketing a check box that people don’t have to think about if they’ve got a great idea, product or service. That’s how we started, got 160 full-time employees. We’re in LA, in New York, and we acquired an agency in Boston. We’re boots on the ground which is exciting. We’re continuing to expand our geographic footprint. We think of the marketing ecosystem as highly fractured, much like VCA if anybody knows about Veterinary Care of America, that’s a business that took an incredibly fractured market and standardized it. We think that should happen in marketing. We’re going to lobby Congress for a professional certification for marketers. We want to be the gold standard in marketing and make sure that we have an office in every city. That’s what we’re up to.

Those are huge expansion plans. I love the model. Where do you get your clients now? Do you guys do marketing advertising as a company?

We do a fair amount. We have a few main drivers. We have traditional paid search and Facebook advertising and we re-engage with our email list. We’ve made a couple of TV commercials and we’ve done those things. That’s been helpful especially for awareness building. We’ve put an emphasis on press. In advertising and marketing, social proof is critical. We have tons of social proof. Myself and my business partner had been written up and every publication that matters from a social validation standpoint. We have a great amount of press. We focus on that. We have a robust partnership program. There’s great technology providers and other parallel businesses throughout the country that are non-competitive but work with the same client typology and refer us a ton of business. You’ve met my business partner, Erik. His full-time job is beating the streets, shaking hands, kissing babies. That helps us.

You have moved into your zone of unique ability as the two cofounders as the CEO and the COO as well where you are now surrounding yourself with people to do a lot of the work. You guys are in unique space, aren’t you?

We were lucky, don’t get me wrong. The Vince Lombardi thing, “When preparation meets opportunity, that’s the definition of luck.” Erik and I have both been working our entire professional lives for this thing, which we happen to agree on. I’ve heard many times, if you and your cofounder, you and your second-in-command or you and your boss. If you argue about who should do what, you’re probably in a bad situation. Erik and I know exactly who we are. I could do his job, he could do mine, but we don’t want to. We both fit snugly into our roles. We’ve been able to leverage each other. The only reason that I get to think about culture and people, I got to design a bitching 26,000-square-foot office here in LA. The only reason that I get to focus on that stuff is because he’s focused on growth and getting new people into the biz. The only reason that he can be gone 200 of the 365 days a year is because I’m focused on minding the nest as it were. We have developed a nice yin and yang relationship.

SIC 94 | Hawke Media

Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention

I love the branding of the Hawke’s Nest as well as what you call your head office. One of the things that I’ve said for years is that business or culture can be codified, that there are systems that create a great company culture. You’ve recognized that it’s not the free perks, it’s not the offices and nice to have, the spaces are good to have, the free perks are a good to have, but it starts with alignment, vision, values and that core purpose. Can you go back and speak to that because you talked about gen Y and the twenty-somethings and aligning them with something greater than themselves. Can you walk us through how you do that?

It’s evolved like everything in our business and everything has matured as we have, and as the business has. In the beginning, I had an interview with a woman in 2014 that ended up being one of our employees for over four years and was awesome and is now doing great things at another company. In her interview, I said, “Listen, if you can get shit done, you can learn quickly and you’re cool, we’re going to be fine.” That became our core values for the first 4.5 years. We had a big neon sign that said, “Get shit done. Learn quickly. Be cool.” Everybody that came into the old building knew this is what we’re about.

I value execution over ideas all day. Lawrence Bossidy and Ram Charan, these old-school corporate guys, phenomenal book, it’s called Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done. The idea of execution, the idea of learning quickly, understanding that we’re in a dynamic industry and that personal and professional growth are mandatory. Those are table stakes, those aren’t goal conditions. Those are what we are about. Be cool doesn’t mean you need to be a snappy dresser or a tell a funny story, it’s to be nice to each other. Have an understanding of the fact that your peer is as busy as you are.

That person that snapped at you in a meeting has got their own stuff going on that has nothing to do with you. If a client’s being crusty for some reason that you don’t think you drove, be cool. Our values have evolved since then and they’re longer than I’ll take the time to go into. For us, that was a big thing. Everybody understood that. I used to ask people during the interview process, if I was interviewing somebody which I used to, I used to run every single interview that we had. I would grab somebody walking down the hall and I’d go, “Come in here. What are your two favorite things about working here? What are the two things that you fucking hate?” We were super transparent about the good, the bad and the ugly. That’s important. We never masquerade as these gurus that know what’s up. We’re learning along the way. I’ve never done this. He’s never done this. We’re figuring out. We’re building the plane as we fly.

Some of that is that if you don’t do that, if you do try to masquerade, they’re going to figure it out six weeks in they’re not going to be happy. If you tell them exactly what the lay of the land is and you show them words and all what you look, then it attracts the right people and it repels the ones you don’t want anyway.

I’ve never experienced a situation where I was super candid with someone about the pain points of the role, the job or the ecosystem and then they came back two months later. They’re like, “Exactly what you told me.” It never happens.

I’ve got an interesting one for you. This is a question from somebody in my network. She wanted to know how you find commonality with your core values with your clients. Do you look for commonalities with clients? Another way to phrase that is would you ever turn away potential clients because they don’t fit your company’s core values?

I’ll triage this by saying do we turn away business because our core values are misaligned? Yes. That’s happened in the past, but probably not for the reasons that she’s alluding to. There was a company that I won’t name, they were essentially a puppy mill, they’re breeding puppies at scale, a lot of different breeds and they were looking for some marketing help. They were a legit puppy mill. Erik and I both have dogs and we have a super dog friendly office. There are probably fifteen dogs in here and we’re like, “No.” I don’t mean to be intentionally controversial. Sig Sauer, who’s a gun manufacturer is a client of ours and we’ve worked with them for a long time because Erik and I both enjoy sport shooting and going out and doing these things. It’s tough to decide who you will and won’t work with and set an ethical or moral line. We’re universally aligned on top to bottom. If somebody is a dick, we’re done. We’re fortunate in this way because we went through that in 2014, 2015, less than ‘16, less than ‘17, less than ’18, less than ‘19. We’re at the point where it’s like, “If you’re looking for a punching bag, that’s not me. Go down the road.”

When we’re building out the COO Alliance, we started the only network of its kind in the world for second in commands. All of our COO Alliance members have to fit this common criterion. They have to be young, fun, entrepreneurial, high viral, high growth, pre-public. If they don’t fit in that zone, they’re not the right fit. We had a guy come in and he was 65. Sixty-five isn’t a problem in terms of age. My dad’s 78, but he’s younger than you are. He’s funny and crazy. He’s got this amazing energy. He doesn’t stop and he swears more. He’s this amazing energy at 78 years old. If somebody is a dick or if somebody’s grumpy and old or if somebody is like, “No, this is the way we always did it,” they don’t fit and they’re not fun. It’s almost less about what they do for work. It’s more how they show up.

We have fired clients. Some of that stuff for us isn’t a prequalification methodology. We get into a relationship. We let a client go because of the way that they were talking to us and this isn’t an overnight knee jerk reaction. Months of coaching them on how to be a positive team member and going, “I’m on your team. Why are you doing this? I’m trying to help you in. Do you get that?” When people don’t get it, we go, “Do you know what? Not worth it.” We are fortunate to be in that position and that’s a newer thing for us.

That sends a massive signal out to your team as well. When your employees see that you’ll fire a customer because of their abusive core values or the way that they’re going to treat our team, all of a sudden, your employees will go through brick walls for you because they realized that they mean more to you than money.

We’ve said for a long time, if somebody is critiquing your work or has feedback on the efficacy of a campaign or a program. You need to be thick-skinned and develop some emotional fortitude. That’s part of being a grownup. If somebody attacks you personally or takes jabs at your character, that’s not okay. If you can’t coach somebody off that, then we’re not going to work with them. That’s not how we do business.

I want to ask about the PR, the press coverage before I forget. Walk us through some of the ways that you guys have generated some of this press coverage for yourself and I assume that as well you’re not talking about the online publications for some of these. You’re also talking about the traditional print publications too.

From jump street, we understood that hype matters in the advertising and marketing world. We have put a concerted effort into making sure that Erik was on Forbes 30 Under 30. We spent some time and money building relationships with print publications that helped us expand our reach and win some awards. We’ve been working on this thing which finally came into fruition, which is eCommerce Week in LA. We do this annual event called Hawkefest, which is a great event for anybody in the eCom space. It’s the anti-conference.

This last one we had at the Houdini Estate, we had magicians and the breakouts. It was a crazy event. We’ve been working with the city of LA to get eCommerce Week in the same way that Paris has Fashion Week. eCommerce Week in LA is brought to you by Hawke Media. We’ve put a ton of effort into stuff like that. We have a big plaque in our office that’s signed by all the Councilmen and the Mayor. We had a ribbon cutting ceremony at our new office. We’re mindful of the optics and it’s time, relationships and money. It’s all three. It’s not just one of those. Erik and I have this symbiotic relationship where most of what he’s doing is that stuff.

It’s amazing when all of a sudden you get out into a broad reach, we think everyone knows us then all of a sudden, I realized people are like, “Everyone talks about you.” I go to some event and like, “I’ve never heard of you before.” I’m like, “I apparently I got a lot of marketing still to do.”

SIC 94 | Hawke Media

The Miracle Morning for Entrepreneurs: Elevate Your SELF to Elevate Your BUSINESS

The beauty of our relationship is that he has been incredibly proactive. Erik and Hawke Media are inextricable. His social profile, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, there is no difference. He is the biggest brand advocate for Hawke Media. We could have 100 people try full-time and they wouldn’t be what Erik is because he is incredible about it. For someone like me, almost to a fault.

You’re touching on something that’s important in the role of the second-in-command. The role of the COO is that our job is to make the CEO iconic. The CEO’s job is behind the scenes to make sure that all the employees know that we’re doing our job when we have to roll out all the tough decisions, hard decisions, and be focused on the business. They have our back and we have theirs. It’s a yin and yang relationship.

We jokingly refer to it as mom and dad. Where dad is on the road, and he’s out there doing this stuff, mom’s taking care of everybody. We’ve evolved quite a bit since then. We have an executive team now that is in each of these disciplines, but I think it does take a minute for a new hire to understand like, “Why is our CEO in Vail? Why is he in Singapore? What’s going on here? Why is he posting a picture on a jet with some celebrity?” That’s not about what he does. What he’s doing is trying to expand our footprint. Opening up the kimono wide here, Erik’s job is to expand our reach.

You and Erik starting this off to 160 people. Now you’re starting to do acquisitions. You’re getting ready to put your footprint. When we built 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, we said that within three years we wanted to have a footprint in the top 30 metropolitan markets. We went after every NFL city and every MLB city. Our goal was to figure out what the primary markets were.

We did the exact same thing.

It was easy. At one point, we were like, “Fuck it,” but we have to add Austin too because we like Austin. We added that as an extra city. Walk us through this growth. What do you think the natural stages are in building the company to go from 1 to 160? What were the different hurdles that you had to get over? By hurdles I mean when did the culture change? When did you have to start managing it differently? Were there distinct stages in the business of your growth?

There are things that stand out in my mind which I’ll share and there’s what I was told by people from the outside, which is like, “You get to 25, it’s this. You get to 75, it’s this.” I’m like, “I don’t know.” I didn’t experience it that way in a linear fashion. I experienced it in a way where when we went from essentially seven people sitting around a conference table, when we went from that to moving downstairs in this old building and now, we had two tables. I remember there was one and these are bullshit, $250 Ikea conference tables. That’s where we work. We heard everything, every sales call, every client call, everything.

That got up to fifteen people. We needed to get more space. What I remember most about that period was there was literally table one and table two. Table two would come in and we do a 9:00 AM stand up, which I recommend for everybody. We would do company-wide 9:00 AM stand up every day. At 8:59, everybody on table two would start pounding the desk on table two. It was killer, it got the day started. We would hang out until 8:00PM, 9:00PM. I’d order soft seat for those that don’t know, bringing some beer and wine and some pizza. We would work. I have a deep nostalgia for that period of the business in the same way a lot of people do for college.

It’s a time and a place it’s never going to be the same. You can’t go back. That was when we transitioned from that to desks, which sounds silly, but going from 14 or 15 people around two conference tables to desks, having conference rooms where we did calls and started to move into their different spots. That was a real inflection point. I think we did okay. I will never give myself a 10 out of 10 on anything. Unfortunately, it’s my nature. I think we did okay with bridging that gap. When we started to have not just one office in that building, by the time we left that building, we had seven different offices spread across this one building.

We were 65% of the square footage of it as a tenant. Two blocks away we had another office that was all of our sales and marketing. It started to become siloed and fractured. That still permeates, trying to break down walls and make sure everyone understands that even though this is your manager and this is your director, we’re a team, unified front. We all wear the same jersey, the Herb Brooks thing, “Play for the name on the front, not the back.”

I’ve been working with people to understand that the team, if you play football, let’s say you’re the wide receiver and you’re on the offensive team. You’ve got your offensive team, defensive team and your special teams but your most important team is the Dallas Cowboys, not the offensive team or the defensive team. It’s whatever team you play on. We have to get the leadership team to fight for the good of the company, not for the business area that they run.

Culturally, as we’ve evolved, the trickiest things have been how do I make sure everybody knows everybody, everybody trusts everybody? Everybody understands that we’re all people. One of the funniest things for me, Erik Huberman to me is like some dude that I know. We haven’t run together and he’s like a goofball. I know all of his idiosyncrasies. People in our company are scared to talk to him and are scared to talk to me. Continuing to throw this vibe of, “Come talk to me.” I grabbed a dude on our creative team and go, “Do you have five minutes?” He started shaking and I’m like, “We’re fine. I’m curious.” He’s like, “I know, I just never talked to you.”

It’s real. It’s different that you’re hitting that next stage.

That’s weird but I think that what we’ve always done a good job of is both Erik and I are transparent to a fault, win, lose, or draw, you know what you’re getting, you know what our motives are. We’re in a fortunate position where we’re not venture or private equity-backed. We have no ambitions of selling our company. We don’t want to get rolled up into Omnicom or WPP, no offense to any of those people. That’s not our jam. We’re trying to consolidate a fractured market and build a legacy.

I love that you see it as a fractured market because I’ve been a part of rolling up a few brands. Once we did it with the auto body space, we built the largest collision repair chain in the world, did it with house painting, built the largest painting business in the world then I did it with junk removal and creating the largest junk removal brand in the world. I had never seen the market that way, it is fractured or it’s the massive old-school conglomerates that is different than a roll-up. It’s different than that local brand with the local feel and that culture. You guys are onto something cooI. I love your thought process.

There’s 500,000 SMBs in the country. If you can’t go to a Shy Day or a Wieden+Kennedy or Red Antler or whatever. They don’t bitch and work, I love these people, they’re amazing. If you’re not in a position as a business to go do that but you know that marketing and growth are critical. You can’t check that box with your internal competencies. You don’t want to spend the time, energy and resources to go hire an internal team that ultimately is myopic because they’re only looking at your stuff and you can cobble together contractors. It’s ridiculous how much blue sky there is in that space.

I want you to go back in and talk to us bit more about your brand and about the business. The outsource CMO, first off, how do you price? I know you’ve said a couple of times you cobbled together this or these outsourced, you’ve got different business areas that you can pick from and pull together, how do you bill, how do the clients figure out what they’re paying for? What do they need on a month by month or quarterly basis?

It’s retainer-based, in the same way that if you were going to go hire someone, this is the easiest corollary. If I said, “I’m going to go hire a dedicated paid search manager that costs X thousand dollars a year.” We’re priced comparably, probably under in most cases, we’re going to cost less than a full-time dedicated resource. We’re going to perform 5X to 10x better than that dedicated resource. Not out of ego, out of exposure. We spend more money on Facebook and Google than any business will on their own in a long time. We get that, we see macro trends, we’ve got a bunch of tools, we’ve got a direct pipeline, all the white-listed, cool, sexy stuff.

SIC 94 | Hawke Media

Hawke Media: When your employees see that you’ll fire a customer because of their abusive core values, all of a sudden, your employees will go through brick walls for you because they realized that they mean more to you.


We have a dedicated rep so if something’s not performing, we give them shit and it works better. We have a foot on the scale in that way. From a pricing standpoint, everything is retainer-based with the exception of media spend, as media spends grow, we charge more. The least expensive thing that we sell is $2,000 a month. We do essentially agency on record engagements for hundreds of thousands of dollars. It depends on the business and whether they are from a lifecycle standpoint. We had a concerted effort to position ourselves as an opportunity for SMBs, growth stage companies. We work with some huge brands as well which is awesome. We’ve positioned ourselves to be affordable. Every Tom, Dick and Harry has an idea about how we should grow. It tells us the same thing, “Go up market, do longer-term contracts.” It’s frustrating but clearly you haven’t been paying attention because that’s antithetical to everything we’re about.

That’s the core is when you can keep your entire team focused, you understand, if your customers are focused, your employees are focused. Create this concept of the vivid vision so everyone can see what the company looks like in three years. We don’t have to have those distraction discussions. One of the old adages in marketing and I don’t know where this came from but was that a company is supposed to spend 8% to 10% of revenue on marketing. First off, do you believe that’s true? Secondly, do you guys do that?

Yes, wholeheartedly I think 8% to 10% at least depending on where you’re at as a business. You should model that at least 10%. If we’re putting marketing and sales or growth in the same bucket, I would say that number is closer to 25%. I’m cut from the cloth that if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Unless you’re aggressively going after new business, new opportunity and new mind share, new share of voice, whatever those things are. You’re probably going to lose in the long-term. There are some exceptions. Patagonia is an incredible company that spends less than 1% of top line on marketing. They’re an incredible brand but they do smart stuff like they said, “You know what? We’ll give 100% of revenue on jackets we sell to charity.” Some CFO is like, “What? No.” They did it, they gave away a ton of money, the next day they sold as many jackets. The day after they sold a bit less.

It’s such a small percentage on the scheme of things, but they get the press coverage, they get the social proof they can drive traffic.

That interplay between earned and owned media and paid and all this other stuff is critical. Nuts and bolts as an operator. We probably spend 12% of top line on marketing for Hawke.

That’s one of the reasons why you’re scaling because a lot of agencies don’t, but they grow at 7% to 10% a year and they’re not even drinking their own Kool-Aid. I had guessed that you were especially if you include things like the travel and marketing that Erik is doing to be at the events. If you include your sales efforts, then you’re probably way more than that.

Sales is way more than that because we also pay. Our methodology for attracting and acquiring customers is closer to a SaaS business than an agency business.

You touched on something we covered in our book, Free PR. The whole digital trifecta of owned media, earned media and paid media. Can you speak to that bit?

If you have a book about it, I’m sure you spoke way better than I will.

It was one part of Free PR, what we talked about was that your owned media is things like your websites and your social platforms, your earned media is all the press coverage you’re getting. If you put that press coverage on your websites, on your social platforms and you buy traffic to it, that amplifies your social proof. It’s like pouring gas on the fire. I think that’s where you were going.

100%, we do all those same things like we did. This is the latest one which I thought was hilarious. I grew a mustache for November for Movember, which is not my normal steez. My assistant was like, “We’re going to do this Christmas thing.” I’m like, “Whatever.” She bought me this ugly sweater. They set up a Christmas tree and our logo and I got eggnog in a Santa cup and did this whole thing where I’m like, “What the fuck,” sitting down and I’m giving holiday marketing tips, they’re all videos snippets that lead back to blog content that we already have that we’re also buttressing with paid social because the video is ridiculous. The first take I did, they’re like, “Be hammy-er.” I’m like, “What do you mean?” They are like, “Go full blown, go ham.” I did and it’s funny. I would never fancy myself like an actor or anything like that.

Are you guys going to upload those videos on TikTok?

On TikTok, we started messing around with it. We are admittedly, for Hawke Media, green on our paid media side for some of our brands. We have a handful of brands that are in that demo that we are agro on TikTok, for sure. For Hawke, not really.

It’s an interesting little platform. It speaks to the fact that it is that real wide-open marketplace that you can play with and see what works. It doesn’t take a lot of time or energy especially when you’ve got a team as big as you guys have got. Two areas I want to touch on before we have to wrap up, the first one is quarterly reviews and annual reviews, employees tend to hate them. It sounds like they’re working for you guys. Walk us through how your review process works and why it’s working.

The first thing that I would emphatically recommend to anybody out there that’s managing a team of 1 or 2 or more is understanding what competencies and behaviors warrant being at tier 1, 2 or 3 of a specific job role. You don’t necessarily have to change the job description, but you can definitely articulate what is the distinction between 1, 2 and 3 at that level. To me, that’s on competencies and behaviors. Behaviors are things like, “Did you show up on time? Are you cool to be around? Are you positive and professional in the face of adversity?” Competencies are more objective and measurable. It’s a good thing to have both. For us, when we’re talking about tiers, job titles, competencies and behaviors, it’s exciting. People want feedback. People want to be challenged, People want to know where they sit, even those that are conflict avoiders or conflict averse in some way, shape or form. They still want to know. If you’ve got a manager or a leader with a high enough EQ to go, “Look, I know this is uncomfortable for you, but this is the best conversation you’re going to have this month because it’s about how you get better.”

Do you train your team, your employees on how to run these annual reviews or quarterly reviews? Do you give them books to read? How do you work with them on growing their skillset? This is a skill in delivering a review.

We’re a 6 on a 10 scale. I think we’re good. I think we’ve put more time and attention into it than a lot of folks, but I don’t know. We’re not perfect. They’re tried and true things. How to Win Friends and Influence People and The One Minute Manager are table stakes for all of our bingo managers now.

The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey, still one of the best books on management and leadership that’s ever been written. It’s based on situational leadership, but we forgot about the book.

I give it to people and it’s a page-turner. It’s easy. You get someone in their first leadership role or in a management position that maybe has another manager job, but it hasn’t been a high-stakes environment, high-velocity environment like this and it clicks. That’s one of those books that will stand up 50, 100 years from now. That’ll still make sense.

SIC 94 | Hawke Media

Hawke Media: If you’re not growing, you’re dying. Unless you’re aggressively going after new business opportunities, you’re probably going to lose in the long-term.


I’m glad you guys are on that, that’s interesting. I like that is the core or it is some of the foundational work around the reviews. Last thing I want to ask about is the, “This is the most comfortable place you’re going to be,” phrase. How do you get people into that uncomfortable zone? I would imagine that’s stretching them to deliver more, work harder, grow themselves, be confrontational in a good way. What are some of the ways that you stretch people to be uncomfortable but still feel comfortable and loved?

That’s the point. I’m glad that you’re taking that part away from it. When I say this is the most comfortable place, I don’t mean we’ve got Eames chairs everywhere, champagne on tap and all that stuff. We do have some nice amenities. Even as we’ve grown and we were a smaller company, we’ve tried our best to make it comfortable. Mostly it’s emotionally comfortable. It’s intellectually comfortable. It’s socially comfortable. It’s this idea of like, “You can be here and you can make a mistake and that’s okay because we’re all going to challenge ourselves to be better.” That’s what I mean by comfortable. The uncomfortable part, because of the nature of our business. I don’t have to drive, that’s from clients. They want more, better, faster, cheaper all the time.

That pulls out some level of ingenuity and creativity. We do have to prod some folks from time to time. Some get into the pocket, they get into the fray and they go, “My God, I got to be better. I got to learn more. I got to read.” There’ll be more proactive and say like, “What should I read about this? Who’s a great resource for this.” We’ll try and shine them up to anything that they have an appetite for. Some people give in to the astonishment of the velocity and the client load and all these other things. For those we got to coddle them a bit. This is a Cutco thing. If you ask any of the old-school Cutco guys, that’s the deal. There’s no shame in it. It’s not for everybody. If this isn’t for you, that’s okay. We’re going to tee you up. We’ll be in a great position later. I’m going to welcome you back with open arms as your career develops. I’m planning on being here for a long time, Cam. I don’t want to make anybody angry.

I love that you’re okay that they leave, but you’re also okay and understanding, they’re probably going to want to come back at some point when they realized the grass isn’t always greener or they’ve grown and they’re ready to come back into the new level.

One of the things that we’re launching is an alumni program for all the folks that used to work here because not only do we philosophically welcome them back, but we haven’t given our former employees a slippery enough slope back into the building.

A slippery slope back into the building. Often, it’s hard for them to put their tail between their legs and come back and ask for a job.

I’m an old enough cat where I’ve had enough egg on my face over the years where I don’t have any shame in asking for help when I need it. I think a lot of folks, especially if they left with their chest puffed up, they got an offer for 25% more to go work in and somewhere or whatever the deal is.

I love the slippery slope back into the company, that was something that College Pro Painters did for me back in 1993 is they brought me, I left for two years, went traveling around the world, did another career job. I was like, “I miss it.” They’re like, “We’d love to have you back.” I went back in as a General Manager to oversee 30 franchisees. That was the summer that I hired Kimbal Musk, Elon’s brother. I hired Peter Rive who built SolarCity. I hired both of them and trained them to be franchisees. That was two years before Elon and Kimbal started Zip2. Had they not brought me in, Elon’s first round of funding was based on his College Pro Painters experience. You never know what that first domino is. I think what you’re saying is as long as the people were good people before, we’d love to have them back.

I don’t want to make a massive Cutco plug here, but one of the most amazing things about that fraternity of people and what they’ve always done well. There are people that I’m good friends with. People that I’ve stood up in their weddings, people that have been to my home, we were looking for a role that I hired the Western Region Manager to talk to him, “Do you have any guys that are transitioning out of the business, looking for something different?” They’ve been around since 1949, but anytime you can do that with a company where you can create a culture of belonging and growth, helping each other, you’re doing something right.

Final question on the personal side, if you were to lean back to when you were the 22-year-old leaving college, what advice do you wish you’d known back then that now you’ve known to be true, but you wish you’d known when you were 22, 23 years old?

At around age 25, work ethic and natural aptitudes start to level out. If you’re smart, if you’re gifted, , grew up in a good place, went to a good school, you’re going to feel like you have a leg up on the world, even in your early twenties. I am telling you true facts that you will get your fucking ass kicked by the 25-year-old that’s been working their tail off for the last few years trying to stay in front. There’s something about being young that makes you feel like you’re invincible especially if you have aptitude. That I wish I cultivated a work ethic. I ended up doing it eventually, but had I cultivated a deeper drive, I think I would have had more rewarding experience and some of my stuff in my 20s. Being smart, nobody gives a shit. We’re all smart. Develop a work ethic.

I appreciate all of this time. Tony Delmercado, the COO and Cofounder of Hawke Media. Thanks for sharing with us.

Thank you, Cameron. I appreciate what you do.

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About Tony Delmercado

SIC 94 | Hawke MediaHawke Media was founded on the idea that every modern business needs a CMO-level expert to lead digital marketing efforts. They customize data-driven, performance-focused solutions to help launch, scale, and invigorate businesses of all sizes, industries, and revenue models. Hawke Media is shifting the agency paradigm by putting client success ahead of our own. Their comprehensive à la carte menu of services and month-to-month contracts mean clients get only what they need, when they need it.

Tony Delmercado is the Co-Founder & COO at Hawke Media. As a passionately curious entrepreneur, accomplished communicator and proven leader, Tony has earned recognition and praise in publications like Entrepreneur, Forbes, Business Insider, Inc. and more.

He has helped generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for multiple companies through leadership roles in business development, marketing and operations. In addition to speaking in front of audiences large and small, Tony has sat across a desk from over 40,000 people, personally mentoring over 2,000 of those. He loves playing golf, tinkering with new ideas, and working to develop the people and organizations around him.


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