We’ve been having a lot of fun around here, celebrating our Decade of Digital Growth - and we thought we’d take a look back on our humble beginnings. There's nothing like the feeling of reflecting on where you started, how far you've come, and your hopes and goals for the future.
We sat down with our fearless leaders, Erik and Chad, to get some insight on what it was like in the early days, and where they see TMC Digital Media (and the industry overall) headed in the next ten years.
Let’s dive right in!
What initially inspired the idea for TMC? How did you decide to create a marketing company in the specific niche of foodservice equipment?
Erik: Goodness, where do I begin? After a tremendous run in corporate America selling outsourced data-center solutions, I started my first company in 2008 as a manufacturer’s rep. I committed to learning about getting found online including website design, social media, and email marketing. I leaned into my creative side. It was powerful. Combining these new skills with my solutions/sales background rounded out how I was going to take a product to market.
A few years later, my life got turned upside down. I suddenly lost my brother, had my first kiddo a month later, the housing market crash hit me in full force, and my manufacturer’s rep business was, well... failing. It all snowballed from there.
Determined to not go back to the corporate world, I decided to give ‘being my own boss’ another shot. I founded TMC Digital Media in 2012 - ten years ago today (June 20, 2012). I didn’t have any money. My wife and I were basically homeless for a few months (bless you, Hallie). But, I had a laptop and… time.
I studied. I learned. I stayed up until the early hours of the morning working on teaching myself WordPress. I called all my friends who either owned or ran businesses. I asked them to give me a shot. A few of them did. Mike at FISH. A small start-up called GadgetKids. Kevin at Eaton Marketing - a manufacturer's rep. And thankfully, I met Mariruth Kennedy. MK introduced me to HubSpot. I am forever grateful, MK (go follow her now on LinkedIn @mariruthkennedy).
Needless to say, TMC Digital Marketing was born and ready to do significant work.
Can you tell us the story about the company name, TMC Digital Media?
Erik: As mentioned above, I started my first company in 2008. TMC is the acronym for The MacPherson Companies. I was talking to a good buddy one day about business and we both said “TMC." It stuck.
Our first logo
Erik, tell us about how you looped Chad into this endeavor.
How lucky can you be to have the most talented storyteller as your brother-in-law?
Chad and I started collaborating on work together right away. I needed a copywriter. I needed creative resources. Chad already had foodservice clients and worked in the industry on the food supply side. It just made sense.
We've been going to the Indy 500 together as a family for 17 years!
We trusted each other. We worked well together. Then MAFSI 2012 happened, thanks to Kevin Eaton. He helped us introduce TMC and digital marketing to the foodservice equipment industry. We were off and running.
Chad, what were your first thoughts when Erik approached you to join the agency?
Well, it wasn’t as much a conversation about joining the agency as it was about delivering on the work. At the time, I was full force into running my own freelance content business, and all of a sudden, Erik had a lot of content to be created when he started the agency. We took a trip to Nashville in the very beginning, visited a factory, and wound up landing the business. That night we stumbled upon the Patterson House kind of serendipitously, one of the top cocktail bars in the country, and we said, why don’t we just partner up? It made complete sense. So did the Smoked Old Fashioneds.
One of our annual trips to the Indy 500.
Can you tell us more about some of the feelings/emotions you had during the first year of running TMC? What was it like when you signed your first client?
Chad: It was euphoric. We were creating great content in an amazing industry. There really is nothing like the foodservice industry. In those early days, everything was so fresh and new. It was fun to meet so many great people who were making so many great things happen.
Erik: I agree. It was fun and I knew we were on to something significant. But make no mistake, it was not easy. There was SO much to learn. It took a lot of hustle and making a name for ourselves in the foodservice equipment industry.
We came into the industry as disruptors - being different. Looking at business differently than the legacy owners have all of their life. We recognized the opportunity in this space. I knew it would be tough, and that it would take time to make positive change. But there were a few early adopters who helped pave the way not only for TMC but for the foodservice equipment industry.
An early design project for Eaton Marketing
We had to learn their language, along with the way they sold. It was a very complex model - and hell, still is today in a lot of ways. Factory, Rep, Dealer, Consultant, End-Users… market segments, learning their buyer personas, etc.
These companies were driven by sales leaders, even though they had marketing in their company names and titles. We’ve come a long way from those crates of brochures in the back of cars and SUVs, huh? LOL.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve worked through over the past 10 years?
Chad: I mean, how can it get any worse than the entire world shutting down practically overnight? Those first few days and weeks during the quarantine were terrifying from a business perspective, let alone the humanitarian one, but we quickly realized that treating people the right way, and being there to support them even as so many dealt with financial issues and hiring freezes, was the right thing to do. We’re a virtual agency. We’ve been working remotely since the very beginning, and we realized we had important knowledge to share.
Erik: Totally agree, Chad. In addition, another challenge was when I realized that this isn’t about me anymore. After hiring our first full-time employee, the priority started shifting to our TMC fam. Keeping our people happy, both in their careers and in life. Checking egos at the door. The fact that Chad and I agreed philosophically on how to treat our people definitely made it easier. Our people lead us to our Core Values, of which I am extremely proud.
Can you give us a little backstory on what food, drinks, and dining mean to you?
Chad: Shit. It’s everything, honestly. You can look at it from one extreme, that sustenance keeps us alive. You can also look at it from the other, that food and beverage are the roots of all cultures. They bring us together socially. When you travel to other places in the world, you can learn more about people by what and how they eat and drink than anything else, and to me, that’s everything.
Erik: I told you he is a hell of a storyteller. :)
Some of our favorite TV icons.
How did you decide that a fully remote company would be the best for TMC? How has being a remote agency impacted the agency's success?
Chad: It kind of decided itself. When you don’t live in the same places, you can’t go into the same office.
Erik: I’d add that the other benefit of being remote so early on was being able to hire people anywhere in the world. We could find the top talent, and they didn’t necessarily have to live in our own community. And they could avoid all of that rush-hour traffic. ;)
Also, technology was so advanced that we could connect remotely like never before. Slack was a game-changer and still is. We live on Slack. It’s our office.
Could you tell us more about TMC's mission + core values, and how you wove them into the agency from the start? Have they evolved as the years have passed?
Erik: A few years ago, I started learning about (and implementing) an EOS (Traction). We did a group exercise asking everyone from the team (at that time) to talk about our core values - what really made up TMC’s DNA, if you will.
Our Culture Code is who we are and how we live, in our work, and in our everyday lives. At TMC’s core is our people.
Any new additions to our TMC fam not only have to align with our core values but should also make them even stronger and more significant over time.
- Hospitalians of digital marketing and growth
- Be passionately helpful while working from anywhere you want
- Be disruptors, driving positive change and growth in a fun way
- Build relationships that are meaningful
- Be significant
We worked long and hard to come up with our Mission. It took time. I really wanted to develop a Mission that was truly TMC Digital Media’s, and no one else’s. Thus:
TMC Mission: Building Brands of Significance™... One Result at a Time.
Sometimes the least amount of words can be the most powerful. Don’t you agree, Chad? Ha ha - I learned that from you.
What is a Brand of Significance™?
I have moved into the next phase of my life - a life of significance. It’s no longer about me, rather my family, my community, my TMC fam, my close friends. Positivity drives me. I am always trying to find ways to help - to be significant - in both work and life.
It’s the same for what we do for our clients. Thus, building brands of significance. How are you going to cut through all of the digital noise? How are you going to grow your company? It’s about your people - those who work for you, with you, and those who will be doing business with you. How will you continue to be worthy of their attention? To me, this becomes the differentiating factor for a brand, especially when you can tell noteworthy and remarkable stories.
Chad: For me, I care about one thing more than anything else as it pertains to the agency: quality. I love it when clients give us the leeway to push the envelope with our creative. That’s the kind of work we love to do, and that’s when we’re at our best when we’re highlighting how clients are different, not how they’re just like everyone else. To me, that’s the definition of quality. And with the freedom to create great work comes happy people. Our team loves to push the envelope. It's what makes our creative team happy, and as Erik said, our people are everything.
What are some of the biggest triumphs in your role, and as an agency overall?
Chad: Seeing other people grow with us. It’s awesome when you bring on new teammates, and at some point, they surpass your knowledge on a particular subject. There are now so many aspects of digital marketing that people on my team know better than me, and that’s refreshing. It allows me to focus on those areas where I provide the most value.
Our first NRA show.
What is your greatest goal for TMC over the next decade?
Erik: My greatest goal is for TMC to be the catalyst for our TMC fam fulfilling their dreams. Sounds crazy, right? But I’m dead serious.
Do you want to live abroad for a few years while still helping our clients and team grow? Do it.
Do you want the flexibility to be a stay-at-home mom or dad, yet still have an incredibly successful and meaningful career? Let’s go.
Do you want to run your own side-hustle while being a successful TMC rockstar? I encourage it.
If our TMC fam is as excited about their Mondays as their Fridays, and we are delivering significant results for our clients, we have achieved the greatest goal I could ever ask for.
Chad: That right there is why Erik is a great company leader but an even better person with a huge heart.
This journey back through has been amazing, and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. We can't wait to see what happens in our next decade of growth - the sky is truly the limit!