Inc. 5000 company leader shares her entrepreneurial journey

Inc 5000

A total of 233 EO-member companies were named to the 2020 Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest growing, privately held companies. We asked these elite leaders about their entrepreneurial journeys. Here’s what Tracy Call of EO Minnesota, founder of Media Bridge Advertising, which ranked No. 4,672 on the 2020 Inc. 5000 shared:

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you share with your younger self?

Here’s what I would share with my younger entrepreneurial self:

  • “Get your core values down on paper.” I’ve always lived by my core values, but operationalizing them is a different story. Once we figured out the core values we truly believe in at Media Bridge, they became a filter for everything we do.
  • “Size doesn’t matter.” I used to think the measure of success in advertising was having hundreds of employees and multiple departments. Now I know that it’s having a team of unicorns who you love to work with, and doing a select group of things exceptionally well.
  • “Breathe. Nobody dies in marketing.” I used to be obsessed with getting people answers in half a second. It’s important to be hyper-responsive, but it’s also important to take a step back and think things through.
  • “You have no idea how amazing it’s going to be to see your employees grow personally and professionally.” This has been my greatest joy in being an entrepreneur. I aggressively invest in people. And seeing them hit their stride, find their passion and thrive in our culture is beyond fulfilling.

What’s one important habit you’ve adopted that impacts your success?

I have several, but honestly, working out on my Peloton has been a huge game-changer—so much so that I wrote an article about it! That bike has gotten me in better shape, but it has also done so much more. The coaches and the community have made me a better mom, wife, leader and person. I actually look forward to working out. I do my best thinking on the bike. And it gives me so much more energy. (It’s also been a great thing to have in a pandemic.)

How do you start your day?

With coffee, for sure—black and cool enough that I can drink it right away. I don’t understand why anyone wants scalding hot coffee, anymore than they want a scalding hot shower. I go through my emails and texts. I get a workout in (Peloton time!). I also have a physical “to do” book and a system for jotting things down and crossing them off that I follow religiously.

What has been the most profound impact your company has experienced due to COVID-19, and how are you pivoting to handle it?

I’m proud of the fact that we slipped quickly and seamlessly into a work-from-home environment, with a rigorous system of communication and goal-setting that has shown amazing benefits.

In addition to keeping in touch with each other, we were also extremely aggressive in calling our clients to ask, “How are you doing, and how can we help?” We pivoted a lot of media plans and creative work—often multiple times—and didn’t charge for it (we called it “The Covid Pledge,” and we encouraged all agencies to do the same).

Working from home also exposes what is and isn’t working in your business. Weaknesses are no longer obscured by “culture.” Everyone focuses on simply doing their job, so you quickly find out where the strengths and weaknesses are, and if you don’t have the right people in the right seats.

Covid-19 has actually done us a favor by pushing us to establish new roles and responsibilities sooner than we might have otherwise.

Overall, I’ve learned that we have a highly effective system. Our profitability is right on track, if not improved (hey, fewer snacks to buy!). Most importantly, I’ve learned how much our team really cares about our clients.

How has being a member of EO impacted your success?

EO has played a huge role in my growth as a leader, as well as the growth of Media Bridge as a business. It has directly led to some of my biggest ideas, like implementing a profit-sharing plan for employees and running on EOS.

It has also shown me my gaps as a leader, wife and mother—and helped me close them. It’s been like having my own board of directors, for both my business and personal life.

What critical mistake taught you a lesson that proved invaluable?

At one point I tried to be a full-service agency. There’s a lot of pressure to do that in the advertising/marketing/media world, because no one wants to say, “No, we can’t do that.”

By trying the “full-service” route, I learned two important lessons:

  1. It’s impossible to be an expert at everything, nor should you try.
  2. I can’t manage or lead things that I fundamentally don’t understand or don’t feel a passion for. For example, I know that PR is incredibly important. But I don’t fundamentally understand how to get interviews or navigate the earned media world, so it’s not something we offer.

I’ve learned to stay in my lane and not try to be everything to everyone.

Now I proudly describe Media Bridge as “the un-full service agency,” and you know what? People appreciate the honesty. It makes them realize that things you DO do, you must be truly great at. And we are!

Tracy Call is the founder of Media Bridge Advertising. She joined EO Minnesota in 2016.