Doug Holt, the gregarious owner of Branded Innovation, came to his interview in the same way as he interacts with the majority of his employees and clients: through a video call from his home in the beautiful city of Bend, Oregon. Always on the forefront of new internet technologies (Doug began marketing online before the existence of Google), Branded Innovation is an entirely remote-employed company and is an excellent example of this quickly-emerging form of business organization.
Branded Innovation began in Santa Barbara California as the first company to provide outsourced marketing using their tried-and-true 6-step marketing process and is fueled by what Doug describes as a “entrepreneurship addiction.” Their specific marketing plan is based around “a complete audit like you would [see done] for a business in the financial realm… where we look and see where we can leverage ROI to actually bring clients new leads and new branding situations.”
This auditing system is based around an issue Doug saw his clients, majority small-to-medium business owners, facing consistently. He says that over his 20 years as a marketer “most people would get one thing [to do] such as Facebook ads or SEO, or PPC ads… but they were missing the holistic picture” in a successful marketing campaign so he created a business that can step in and “fill in those blanks.” All while providing a long-term plan for steady gains so that if a business, say, lost a big client one quarter, they would know that their marketing strategy was consistently growing in the background.
The passion that Doug brings to his company is evident not just in the way his face remains animated while speaking about his work but also in the story he tells of the way he found this calling for helping other business owners thrive.
He tells the story of growing up in Orange County with a fierce entrepreneurial spirit. Doug describes himself as a wily and tenacious young kid who went around at five years old “with chubby cheeks walking out with a bag of lemons” from the tree in his back garden, selling them door-to-door.
This spunky child then grew up to pursue a degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Simultaneous to pursuing a degree Doug ran two businesses for other people. He recalls the days with a warm smile, “I just would [spend my time] writing business plans… [Entrepreneurship is] a curse. I can’t help it, I love it.”
In many ways, Doug suggests, Branded Innovation acts as the perfect situation to stop him from continually creating new businesses of his own. As he talks about the process of helping businesses grow Doug says that “One of the things I love about what I do is it allows me to go into a business and intimately get to know not only the business owner but what they’re doing and do what I call playing in their sandbox and help them grow their business. So, it kind of takes my entrepreneur junkie habits and expands them and lets me play with something I am really passionate about.”
While Doug is the inventor of his marketing method, he passes most of the credit for Branded Innovation’s success on to his team. It is apparent throughout our conversation that a genuine sense of care for his employees underlies all engagement in entrepreneurship for Branded Innovation. And, what is most interesting about the ways that Doug demonstrates this component of his businesses mentality is the fact that he has to do it all remotely, and thrives at creating company culture even from afar.
Doug describes Branded Innovation as an “up in the air agency” meaning that all their employees work remotely. The idea began slowly, as Branded Innovation, started releasing employees away from their original home base in Santa Barbara. They found that this “attracted people from all over the world” and gives employees the “benefit of allowing them the live a life on their own terms,” a perk, “which attracts really high-quality individuals” and helps Branded Innovation to “keep the costs down” allowing them to pass on savings to client.
When they began testing out this business model a few years ago Doug and his team at the time worried that clients might perceive this sort of remote work negatively. They were overwhelmed by the support they received from current clients and continue to receive as they grow.
Towards the end of our interview he summed his philosophy up well when he said that, “It really comes down to just treating people like people, right? We do business and business is here to make money and that’s great and that’s its purpose… but at the same time we need to have fun. And we really work hard at making sure that people feel respected and they feel included… even thought they might be, you know, in a totally different time zone. Or, one of the guys is literally a 5-minute drive from my house [in Bend, Oregon] but we still have the same interactions and it’s fantastic.”
Of course, with Branded Innovation already so comfortable with remote work, they serve as an ideal client for Accountix’s outsourced bookkeeping services. After working with other forms of bookkeeping and accounting (in-house bookkeepers or online bookkeeping, for example) Doug says he and the team have been thrilled with the Accountix service.
The transition to “working with Accountix remotely has been seamless” and it feels as if we were “just down the street or in the office next door,” he says. Branded Innovation, like many businesses, was already trying to go paperless, and has found that partnering with Accountix for bookkeeping services, payroll management, and end-of year tax prep, made that process even easier.
The team at Branded Innovations has been so happy with service at Accountix that they would like to “pay it forward” and offer any current Accountix client a free referral-based audit of their business. This is usually valued at $500 and it’s always a great call to join the thriving community at Branded Innovation!