This week on An Agency Story podcast, we have Monica Feid, Co – Founder and Chief Operating Officer of BizCom Associates – a pubic relations and marketing agency based out of Allen, Texas that specializes in PR and marketing programs for franchise companies.
From a young age, Monica has always possessed an innate entrepreneurial spirit. During her elementary school years, she ignited her passion by envisioning and creating a newspaper for her school and classmates. Filled with stories about her teachers and friends, she asked her teacher to make copies and distribute them. From there a publicist was born.
Monica has always been a natural storyteller, a passion that has accompanied her throughout her life. While pursuing education at Baylor University, she decided on journalism as her major. It was during these years at college that Monica had her first taste of public relations through a few classes, and she immediately fell in love. At the time she was unsure of her specific niche within the vast PR world, but she was certain she would eventually find her rightful place.
Since then, life has taken Monica down many incredible avenues. From working for a publishing company on Madison Avenue in New York City, to being recruited back to Baylor working in PR and communications, to going to work for who is now her business partner, Scott White.
Monica shares what it’s like to merge companies, work in the franchising arena, juggle multiple divisions within the agency, and so much more on this week’s episode.
Enjoy the story.
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Welcome to An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from around the world. From the excitement of starting up the first big sale, passion, doubt, fear, freedom, and the emotional rollercoaster of growth, hear it all on An Agency Story podcast. An Agency Story podcast is hosted by Russel Dubree, successful agency owner with an eight figure exit turned business coach. Enjoy the next agency story.
Welcome to An Agency Story podcast. I’m your host Russel. On this episode, we have Monica Feid co-founder and chief operating officer of BizCom Associates, a public relations and marketing agency based out of Dallas, Texas. From a young age, Monica has always possessed an innate entrepreneurial spirit beginning with starting her own newspaper in elementary school. Having worked with many common household brand names, Monica shares her rich experience of what it’s like to merge companies and grow a thriving successful agency. Enjoy the story. Welcome to the show today everyone. I have Monica Feid with BizCom Associates. Thank you so much for being on the show today, Monica.
Thank you for having me, Russel. Great to be here.
Start us off with a quick overview. What does BizCom Associates do and who do you do it for?
BizCom Associates is a public relations and marketing agency. The wealth of our experiences in the franchising arena, we work with franchise companies.
You’ve got that nailed down. It sounds like you may have been in the business for a while. We’ll get to all that good stuff in a minute, but let’s go back to when you were young. How did the PR guru you are today evolve?
It started at a very young age. As a matter of fact, I was in elementary school and I decided that I wanted to create a newspaper for my school and my class. I wrote stories about my teachers and my friends asked my teacher to make copies and give it to everyone, and I liked to say a little publicist was born. History was what it was. I went to a middle school that had a glossy magazine and my aspiration was to become the features editor and by the eighth grade I was the features editor. I’ve been a storyteller forever.
As it sounds like you were. Promoting the class clown in middle school. As you were getting into coming outta high school, going into college, did you know your path was eventually going to be to start your own business? What was your career focus at that time?
When I went to college, by that time I was the rare exception. I picked a major and never changed it. I was a journalism major, went to Baylor University, and when I was in college, that’s when I got my first taste of public relations in a couple of classes and I fell in love with it. Coming out, I didn’t know exactly where in the PR world I wanted to be, but I did start out in public relations. I went to New York City. I worked for a publishing company. I was on Madison Avenue and I had a lot of interaction with agencies in that role. Then I got recruited back to Baylor. I worked in the PR and communications office, so I was on the media side, I was the corporate side, and in both of those roles I worked with agencies and I fell in love with what I saw on the other side of the fence. When I made my next career move, it was definitely agency side. That’s when I went to work for, who is now my business partner Scott White at his agency and fell in love with it.
Sounds like you started with the person you worked with at that time, but how did the idea come about that you were actually gonna run your own agency?
When I worked for Scott, I was with an agency called Hadler White Public Relations, and we were a sister agency with an ad agency. Now,that ad agency decided it was gonna merge with another agency and kind of be like the Dallas office for this advertising agency. It was just assumed that PR was gonna be part of that deal, but the good majority of our clients were not advertising clients. We wanted to take care of our rosters, so that’s when we took the plunge. We started BizCom October the first of1999. The majority of our clients, they all came with us.
Guess you had a pretty good jumping off point. Was it all excitement and go forward at the time, or was there any hesitations or reservations as you were going about this new idea of entrepreneurship?
I can remember taking lunch hours, Russel,and going and shopping for office furniture to lease and look at space. It was all very new to me and very exciting, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I didn’t know failure. I guess I had the confidence of a business partner on my side to navigate those waters. It really was almost like we didn’t skip a beat. We had to do things like come up with a name and a logo and an office address and all the good stuff, but we were still servicing our clients. We were in a really unique and fortunate position.
How did that previous experience, both in agency and working with agencies, accumulate into how you were approaching your own business?
Like I said, we are great at storytelling. Baylor was, I think ,the best laboratory for what we do now as an agency because we got a wealth of experience at a very young age on that staff and I had a mentor that empowered a team of people in their early twenties to do so many incredible things. I was at Baylor for about four and a half years before I went agency side. We left the Southwest Conference and helped form the Big12. We had the first dance on campus, which for the world’s largest established university, was quite the media event. We did tons of media relations. We did development. The time I was there, the university turned 150 years old, so it was one of their largest financial development campaigns for the sesquicentennial. Marketing promotions, new football coach, you name it. It was such an incredible experience that I took a lot of those lessons with me and the agency that we have today is that full service approach. I definitely empower my team of young aspiring PR professionals the way that I had that fortunate chance early in my career.
You’re making me almost wish I’d gone to Baylor. I’m still happy with my choice, but it sounds like some exciting things. There’s so much history with BizCom in terms of how long you started, no way we’ll cover it all. Over time, you’ve evolved to four different divisions. How do you play a role in those different areas and how did those even come about?
You know what, Russel, I take zero credit in the fantastic evolution that we’ve undergone at the agency. That was really all my business partner, and it goes back to the early days when we were that sister agency with the ad agency. Ad agencies, they bring this full account team and people have their specialties. You have the creative designers, you have the media buyers, you have the account executives, you have people that manage traffic. Scott,my business partner, Scott White, he really wanted to branch out in our PR agency structure in much the same way. Today, when you look at our agency, there is a very distinct swim lane for teams and divisions. There’s BizCom PR, there’s digital BizCom, there’s BizCom design, there’s BizCom press. Back in the early days, and there are still agencies that are structured like this, you get an account executive and they need to do everything soup to nuts. As we’ve evolved, we allow people that are specialists to operate in their swim lane and create this integrated team. If I could say anything about our agency today and what makes us successful, it’s that integration. You have the client relations expert, you have the media relations expert, you have the digital expert, you have the designer. That’s made our agency and the results that we delivered to our clients so much more robust. It’s amazing.
We followed an integrated team approach as well and found so much success, so many positives to that. What is your day-to-day role like in the business today? What are you focused on?
The thing that is exciting and also the thorn in my side, on any given day, you think you know what you’re gonna do, and the news of the day could turn it on a dime, right? We live in a world of breaking news 24/7. We might have ideas of what we’re gonna go out and do on a given day, and then the news cycle changes everything. Like right now, today the state of California is cleaning up after some of the worst flooding in the history of the state. We work with restoration companies. That’s their business. Emergency services dictate oh, we thought we were gonna work on something else today, but today we’re focusing on this. But that’s also what’s exciting about our jobs and what we deliver to our clients. The bigger picture, because we work in the franchising arena, the majority of our clients come to us because they wanna grow their brand to more flags on the map. We specialize in franchise development, telling those stories and driving leads to these organizations so that they can grow further across the country and around the world. Franchise development is that forecasting big picture thing that we do for our clients too.
Everyone has a favorite child. What part of the business is your favorite or near and dear to your heart, so to speak?
Our digital division, which is also one of our fastest growing divisions, is so much fun and it really is a spoke on the wheel that’s totally changed the game of what we do for our clients. Back in the day, and even to this day, we might get calls from prospects that think they need a press release. Press releases have their role. It is a tool in the toolbox, but we don’t live and die by that tool anymore. Also, we live in a world where newsrooms are shrinking and reporters have to do more with less, and so getting your stories out there in the media and the mainstream press, it’s a lot of hard heavy lifting. Content creation on the other side of the house is so much more fun, because while we do the media relations, we can put a CEO and a press release that’s quoted, and that may never be covered in the press. We can write a very opinionated thought piece on LinkedIn as that CEO, send that to the media and all of a sudden they wanna interview him or her. It’s totally changed the game and it’s definitely rounded out our services too. I love digital.
You’ve worked with several renowned businesses. How are you able to go about getting these high profile type clients?
You can look at our roster. Companies that we’ve worked with, Little Caesar’s Pizza or Gold’s Gym or Wingstop, there are a lot of household names that we’ve had the great pleasure of serving and it definitely makes everyday fun, I will say, because we are enfranchising. The International Franchise Association has1400plus franchisors. Everything from McDonald’s to Jiffy Lube. In the world of PR and marketing agencies, those that really specialize and have a deep experience and a long track record of success are actually very few. We really are fortunate to have entered this arena early, evolved to the size and scope that we are today and that puts us on the radar of a lot of fantastic brands.
How did that even evolve to be your focus in terms of franchising? An intentional formation or was it more of a natural evolution on some of your early stage clients?
That goes all the way back to Hadler White PR. They had already specialized in franchising. One of our partners, Dr.John Hayes, way back in the day, he had a PR agency called the Hayes Group, and he wrote a book about franchising the inside story, and he became the first PR agency of the IFA. That made him an expert out of the gates. When I joined Hadler White, that was already their swim lane. Ironically too, coming from Waco, Texas, from Baylor to the North Texas area, when I entered the agency side my business partner, he’s oh, you’re from Waco, and he gave me an account at the time called the Dwyer Group because they were based in Waco. I’d never heard of the Dwyer Group. Today they’ve rebranded, they’re called Neighborly and they have over 5,000 locations around the world. You know them as Mr.Rooter Plumbing, Mr.Electric Heating and Air Conditioning, Mr.Appliance. They do over 3 billion a year in business, they’re the world’s largest in the home services. I went in headfirst. That’s how I learned franchising. That was my first client.
Wow. That’s quite an exciting client. It’s like the Clark Kent of clients that you don’t know who they are on the outside, and then there’s this massive organization on the inside. Switching gears for a moment, you had the opportunity to work with what’s a pretty well-known reality TV production. Can you share more about that experience and what that was like?
Yes, you are talking about Undercover Boss on CBS. Undercover Boss, when they first came out about I’m gonna say 12 years ago now. It was the hottest show on TV. They were entering season three and I had a client, she’s been a mentor of mine and a joy to work with all my life. Her name is Dina Dwyer Owens. She, at the time was the CEO of the Dwyer Group. I had helped her write a book called Live Rich about the code of values at the company, respect, integrity, customer focus, and having fun in the process, but these are dirty jobs,right? Plumbers, electricians, all the things. I pitched her to the studio. Of course, they were early on in production of season three. Hadn’t had a whole lot of women in front of the camera, let alone women doing dirty jobs. She was totally up to the task. That was my first foray into working with Undercover Boss, and I’ve had several clients on the show ever since. As a matter of fact, this last year in 2022, I had a client on, and that whole season the studio could only film essential businesses that were operating in the pandemic. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s an experience to follow behind the cameras as you’re shooting basically what’ll become 42 minutes on the air.
You can almost, at this point, brand yourself as the Undercover Boss PR expert. Maybe that’s even a whole sub-niche that you could focus on. Every business has their pandemic story. What did that look like for you when the pandemic came about?
Spring break of 2020, I was off the grid. My family, we were on a spring break trip in Porro Canyon, no wifi, no nothing, no internet hiking for days. We came back to town and it’s like, what’s going on with toilet paper and gas? I was blown away at what was happening. Come to find out, number one, my daughter’s not going back to school, but oh my gosh, is our agency about to crash and burn? That’s absolutely what ran through my head. We went remote, we prepared for the worst, hoped for the best. I will say, we’re in January 2023 right now as we’re taping, three years after Covid surfaced in the United States, and if people don’t have a crisis PR plan by now, then they didn’t learn the lesson. Our business skyrocketed. We’ve tripled in size since then. One of the unexpected things is we became remote, but we were incredibly prepared at being remote because we do an agency retreat once a year. That used to mean going outside of our four walls and brainstorm, having fun. One of the results of those early retreats was, hey, let’s try a work from anywhere program where one day a week we can work from anywhere. We did that for about five years. Of course, it was always Friday, 99% of our staff stayed home on Fridays. We did an all agency call. It made us incredibly prepared when the world shut down. It’s oh, we know how to do this already. Our learning curve was instantaneous. We didn’t plan to stay remote, but December of that year, our lease was up for renewal. We sent our broker back to renegotiate and they weren’t really renegotiating. We’re like, why are we really doing this? So we went to a WeWork format. We do have a working solutions contract where we have office space, wherever we need it, and we do use it. But it also opened up the doors to recruiting, like I said. We grew, we tripled in size and I wouldn’t even look at a resume before the pandemic unless you could come to my four walls, unless you lived in my market. Today I have employees, incredibly talented team members that are in Michigan, Rhode Island, Chicago, Louisiana, all over Texas. It’s been fun.
We had a very similar type journey in all things Covid and post Covid, and ended up in very similar places. Honestly, you couldn’t pay me to go back inside four walls on a day-to-day basis.
But you know what, Russel? Being a remote agency too, we have to be way more intentional about culture today. While we don’t get to enjoy each other’s company every day, now we do have the wherewithal to fly people in and have division retreats or the International Franchise Association has their annual convention coming up here and 15 of us will be going to, that. That’s not something that we would do previously and we’re much more intentional about creating that together time.
I think that’s been a recent realization. I think a lot of business owners, when they dropped their office lease and went remote, they’re like, oh my gosh, look at all this money I’m saving. But we’re finding out the reality is that’s just not going to a commercial space anymore. That needs to go to travel to bring people together or whatever the different mechanisms folks employ to do that, you pretty much need the same or similar budget. It’s just applied in different ways. That’s a good lesson learned for folks. Obviously been very successful and had to probably pivot and grow and develop yourself over the years. Is there something that you were almost doing day one in the business that you still do today that’s like this very key task or focus that’s been consistent throughout your entire journey?
Not that I can think of. It’s actually been our ability to embrace change. I think, if you were to look at the agency and how we are today, it’s miles apart from where we were day one, but that’s also why we’re successful today, I think. If we were stuck in our ways and only doing things a certain way, I really think we would’ve not been as competitive as we are today.
For certain. Even the existence of your agency, the way technology has evolved over the course of that time and in so many different ways, it is really a fascinating journey. In this success, your agency teamwork has to be a huge part of that, building a team. I imagine you’ve had a lot of trial and error in that process, but what are some of the main characteristics you’ve gotten to the point that you look for in how you hire team members, as you add people to that team today?
At BizCom, when we are looking at candidates to hire, we give everybody a DiSC personality profile test. It is a very quick, online test that they answer questions that will funnel them into their creative side, their social side, their analytical side and there is no secret formula. We’re not trying to hire just one type, but it definitely plugs people into the right divisions for the right positions. I think that’s made us a better agency overall. Also too, in the early days, because I was a journalism PR graduate, I always thought, I need to hire people with that same background and pigeonhole, we’re experts at just this one thing. But today, Russel, if you looked at the people at my agency, they have backgrounds in strategic communications, design, definitely journalism and PR. That wealth of skill and background has made us better as a result.
Last big question for you. Are entrepreneurs born or are they made?
I like to say there’s a little bit of both because I’ve worked with incredible entrepreneurs, founders of some of these very famous companies, like Tark Farid, who founded Edible Arrangements. He is as entrepreneurial as they come. He had this idea. But I also think it also takes a little bit of that made part, too, because not everything is easy to figure out on your own. There’s a lot of tools out there to help you too. I liken this question to Guy Ross on NPRs, How You Built It. How much is skill, how much is luck? The most famous people with the most famous companies in the world, they always say it’s a little bit of both, and I agree.
Let’s just ask that question too, while we’re at it. Is it skill or is it luck? Where was your skill and where was your luck?
It is a little bit of both because thank goodness I did have that passion for storytelling and sharpened those skills, as a journalism student and a PR student. But it is also a little bit of luck. I didn’t have ambitions to launch this agency and specialize in this arena. It was all about timing, right place, right time, and I love what I do. I love the fact that we get to tell great stories and build great brands. The thing about entrepreneurs, which by the way, franchising is not about entrepreneurs. Franchise founders are the entrepreneurs, franchisees, the people that wanna be the boss and own their own business, but wanna just buy into a proven system. They’re not creating anything from scratch. They’re actually investing in something that’s proven itself out over many locations. It is the best of both worlds.
That was a bonus question. If people wanna know more about BizCom Associates, where can they go?
They can go to BizCom B I Z C O M pr.com.
There you go. One stop shop. Thank you so much for being on the show today, Monica. Great to hear your story, so much great experience you’ve been able to share today and I really appreciate your time.
Thanks Russel. I enjoyed being on.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from around the world. Are you interested in being a guest on the show? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. An Agency Story is brought to you by Performance Faction. Performance Faction offers services to help agency owners grow their business to5million dollars and more in revenue. To learn more, visit performancefaction.com.
We’re members of the Public Relations Society of America, PRSA, and the Dallas chapter had their annual award ceremony at the end of last year. You can enter your work to be judged by people outside of your market, by the way for awards, and you don’t know who won what until you show up. That’s how they pack the room, right? You gotta show up.
But we did know that one of our employees did win the 40 under 40 awards, so there was already a reason to go and to celebrate. I knew about certain campaigns that we had entered for influencer campaigns, communication and marketing campaigns. We wanted to see how we performed. It was the biggest shock when we were named the small agency of the year. Awesome. I did not even know that my partner had entered us in that. And the look on his face, he’s, oh my gosh. I just threw that in at the end. He filled out the paperwork and entered all of these things and he said, we should enter for agency of the year. Look at all this stuff that we did. On a whim he did, and the stars aligned and we won. It was like a high, it was so surprising and so fun.
And you didn’t even have your acceptance speech prepared or?
Just had to wing it, but if there’s gonna be a person that could probably handle that, I would assume it’s someone in PR.