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Meet Aaron Henry – Resilience In Uncertain Times 

Today we have selected Aaron Henry to take his interview. He is the President at Foundry512.

First of all, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?

I would have to say pretty well! We have all had our moments, but all of our team members are firing away on all cylinders for the most part. Some of us have had extended family members get sick, but fortunately, no one in our agency or immediate family has been affected. We are extremely fortunate in this regard. 

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company?

I came into advertising through the digital world, first learning how to build websites from HTML & integrating them with a CMS. Then, how to leverage search to be found and to covert. Finally, using social media to accelerate reach and growth. At the start of this part of my life, I worked for a small web company that no longer exists. There, I learned how to master different marketing forms to grow our clients and their brands.  As I helped grow the agency with new business and with the creative, I differed with how the leadership of that company should scale its growth.

I knew that the future of advertising and marketing would not depend on who had the best SEO formula or marketing tactic. Instead, it would be on who could cultivate brand relationships to create consistent growth for a brand.  Ultimately, upon the advice of friends, family, and several colleagues, I elected to leave to open my agency. I started where I left off in the digital world. Taking what I learned from my early days, I applied it to entrepreneurship. Originally, we started as a consultancy and then a job shop. Things snowballed once we saw results from our early work. Even though we had a deep digital offering with a good amount of traditional and experiential, I think things became solidified when we started doing more branding and strategy work. Before we knew it, our clients were asking for services that we didn’t do but also didn’t mind doing. We operate under AOR, retainer, and spec engagements pretty routinely. The fluid nature of the agency world feels natural when compared to the wider creative world. So the transition took a few years but wasn’t as hard as we anticipated. Time will tell, though! 

How does your company innovate?

We innovate as a byproduct of necessity. We are constantly challenged by amazing creative ideas, client business objectives, and finding a way to stand out in crowded spaces. This forces our team members to continuously iterate their work, improving at each step. The approach means that we can accelerate our agency’s combined experience. Tackling tough business objectives with unique approaches is something we’re slowly getting known for.  

How the Coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

We have always aimed to balance our work-personal lives a bit. Our structure already allowed for a hub-and-spoke model for the workplace, so we never interrupted our creativity or collaboration internally. We’ve implemented flex to our integrated project team model, where everyone can work as much or as little as they want, where they want. The only downside to the pandemic is that we don’t get to see each other, our families, or our friends nearly as much as we would like. I think we’re all lacking a bit of social interaction, especially client collaboration. While we grew out of the remote work world, nothing beats IRL creative sessions with clients and brand teams. We miss it.  

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

The #1 lesson we’ve learned was when to call it quits. A core inner belief of our agency is to forge greatness wherever it lies. That means we don’t quit or look at any size of client, campaign, or project any differently. We live that purpose. Unfortunately, the pandemic killed or maybe accelerated the ending of a few engagements for us. It wasn’t so much that it was the loss of business; it took a toll on morale and psychology. We had to learn that while some engagements did not make it, we still lived our purpose. There were lessons learned that will shape what will become of those engagements as the world recovers. That is greatness in the face of a global pandemic. 

What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?

We rely as heavily on our collaboration tools now as we ever have. Collaboration is our key to creating the best work. We utilize Asana to keep our teams and work aligned and on schedule. We also use several apps in Gsuite for client-side collaboration and Slack for internal communication. Virtually everyone at our agency is now a Google meets pro. Is there certification for that? Probably, it’s Google. 

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

That is a loaded question in our industry; everyone and no one. We do our own thing but compete against specialist and full-service agencies every day. Counterintuitively, while we compete against bigger agencies and their networks, we also collaborate with them on brand campaigns and engagements all of the time. We must live in a world increasingly adept and born into technology. It will become an ingrained part of our world. It is democratized as fast as developed, and brands will use it as part of their normal Marcom toolset.

That means creating brand growth and making a meaningful impact globally; our agency must be masters in utilizing that technology and being strategists and creatives. To do that, we stay on top of the latest trends and technology by constant experimentation and rapid prototyping. From AI to AR/VR to blockchain, we believe that the advertising world that is rapidly approaching revolves around scaling creativity, reach, messaging, and tactics. Scaling brand relationships is where we are positioned in that space. We plan to stay strong mentally, creatively, and spiritually throughout this pandemic as we continue down that path.  

Your final thoughts

I think resiliency during these times means staying true to who you are as an ad agency. While taking some losses may have been a downer, staying the course and doubling down on what we do pays dividends as consumers have gained confidence and brands have time to react. Our team’s work throughout the pandemic is already bringing in some nice recognition with several awards. To me, resiliency means doing great work in the face of a pandemic.

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