Test – Diaz & Cooper

Episode graphic for "An Agency Story" podcast with Omi Diaz-Cooper - title Test - Hosted by Russel Dubree - picture of Omi in the lower right corner smiling.
Omi shares insights on time management, the importance of being prepared and adaptable, and the need to remember that clients are human beings with specific needs. She also highlights the impact of becoming a parent on their agency journey and provides practical tips for agency owners, emphasizing the importance of paying attention to numbers and having a clear budget. 

Company: Diaz & Cooper

Owners: Omi Diaz-Cooper

Year Started: 2001

Employees: 11 – 25

In this podcast episode, host Russel Dubree interviews Omi Diaz-Cooper, the CEO and Co-founder of Diaz & Cooper, discussing their journey as agency owners and the valuable lessons they have learned along the way. 

Omi shares insights on time management, the importance of being prepared and adaptable, and the need to remember that clients are human beings with specific needs. They also discuss the evolution of their service offering, with a focus on HubSpot, and the benefits of integrating their background in anthropology into their marketing approach. 

Omi highlights the impact of becoming a parent on their agency journey and provides practical tips for agency owners, emphasizing the importance of paying attention to numbers and having a clear budget. 

The episode concludes with a discussion about Omi’s future goals for their business and the value they aim to provide to their audience. 

Enjoy the story.

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Show Transcript

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.

Russel: 

Welcome to an agency story podcast. I’m your host Russell. On this episode, we have Omi Diaz-Cooper, the CEO and co-founder of Diaz Cooper. A HubSpot gold certified solutions partner growing from a creative boutique to one of Miami’s most respected digital firms. In addition to both her and her husband making the leap to leave their corporate careers at the same time. Another big life event was on the rise and with the birth of their first child. Forced to navigate these major life shifts, Omi shares insights on time management, the importance of being prepared and adaptable and the need to remember that clients are human beings with unique needs. At the intersection of anthropology and Indiana Jones enthusiast, Omi, story is a prime example of how useful any background can be in the agency world. Enjoy the story. Welcome to the show today, everyone. I have Omi Diaz-Cooper with us here today. Thank you so much for joining us today, Omi.

Omi: 

Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here with you.

Russel: 

I’m excited as well. I forgot to say the name already, Diaz Cooper. So if you don’t mind kicking us off, tell us what Diaz Cooper does, and who do you do it for?

Omi: 

Absolutely. Diaz Cooper is a platinum HubSpot agency, and we are a sales and marketing consultancy for B2B businesses. We have a special focus on firms that are in aviation, biotech, technology, and transportation.

Russel: 

That sounds very sophisticated. I’ve never encountered someone with those specific industries, especially aviation. I like that. One can make assumptions about a name, but what’s behind the name Diaz Cooper?

Omi: 

I’m glad you said that. It’s funny because when we started the business almost 22 years ago, it was fairly popular to have the founders last names as part of the business name, Saatchi and BBDO and all that stuff were still going strong. Nowadays it’s more Purple Monkey or whatever the case might be. It’s our two founders, right? My last name is Diaz-Cooper. You might’ve guessed that my husband is my co-founder and hence the name.

Russel: 

Very cool. The naming thing, we were just chatting about, is a very interesting process. What’s the joke now? You basically take two wheels with adjectives on them, a color and random adjective and that’s how you come up with your agency name in 2023 apparently. All things naming and fun. Go back in time before we get into all the nitty gritty of what your business looks like today. Where did you think you’d end up when you were young and how close are you?

Omi: 

Oof. When I was real young, I actually wanted to be an archeologist. I was secretly in love with Indiana Jones, I thought that was a cool job to have and I actually have a degree in anthropology. But I always also loved design and graphics, and so that’s how I entered the industry. I studied advertising design as well, and started my career in an ad agency here in Miami locally. That’s how it all started.

Russel: 

Okay, so you took your anthropology degree into the design world.

Omi: 

I did. It actually comes in handy. It is quite useful in helping to figure out like thinking about behavior of societies and reactions to things. It actually does help.

Russel: 

I can totally see that, cross-pollination of learning sectors. I say all this as a history major that also started an agency. You started your career at an agency. How long was it before you’re like, I’m done with this corporate world, I’m going to start my own thing?

Omi: 

It wasn’t that short. I was actually in the corporate world at various agencies, both in Miami and Boston for about 15 years before I decided to go freelance. Picked up some clients and it was going well. I was making more money than I was making as an employee, had control over what I was doing, had direct contact with clients which I loved. It was going great. Then my husband came to me and said, hey, why don’t we make this official and make it into an agency? It was a little scary because at the time I was pregnant with our first daughter.

Russel: 

Oh my gosh.

Omi: 

His job was the one with the good insurance, so it was a little scary, but we took the plunge and haven’t looked back since.

Russel: 

So at that time he decided to quit, you were already freelancing, but he decided to quit his job as well.

Omi: 

Yeah.

Russel: 

All while you’re pregnant with your first child.

Omi: 

First child, yep.

Russel: 

Oh my gosh. That sounds like a lot of risks to take on, but the good side is once we’re talking on the show, we know how that generally worked out. There’s not suspense there. All those transitions happening at once, what were those early days like for you?

Omi: 

It was definitely a lot. But it was also educational. It taught me how to manage my time better, and it showed me how much I enjoyed the aspect of the business of talking to clients, talking to prospects and listening about their challenges. Having an agency of our own was such a different experience from being an employee because we felt we could serve the clients better by them having direct access to senior level thinking, which was not very common at the time. A lot of the big agencies would land a client and then put a whole bunch of juniors teams on the account. We felt like we were in a niche from that perspective, as well as from the perspective of taking a much more results based approach which, 22 years ago, believe it or not, was innovative.

Russel: 

That’s why I talk to so many people and say, all right, that’s the Wild West, especially, we’re leaving this traditional era and the cusp of digital, but nobody knew,one, how you do it, period, but how do you offer this as a service? And then remember, we were trading so many things from non-digital related industries and that’s how we ended up in waterfall and all those messes. I don’t know how long it was before, but not without your share of economic downturns. Sounds like 2008 was a rough time for you. Talk to us a little bit about that.

Omi: 

We’ve survived a couple of interesting downturns. Of course, 2008 with a big recession that was going on at the time. We had a lot of clients drop off.

Russel: 

Would you focus specifically on the real estate space?

Omi: 

That was a few years later. We had been focused on the real estate space and what they called the bubble, burst, and literally within a month we had lost probably 50 percent of our client base and then ended up diversifying into travel. I had a nice, good, long stretch of time where we had a lot of travel, tourism and transportation, hence the transportation clients. Then COVID. Once again, within less than two weeks, we had lost 65 percent of our client base and ended up having to switch. But by then we had already had a little bit more diversification. We had learned our lesson. We were able to quickly pick up clients and get referrals from folks. I think the biggest thing that helped us there is the fact that we had been in digital for quite a long time and were by then HubSpot gold partners at the time. It helped us a lot because there were a lot of clients that realized, oh my gosh, most of my business is in person or through trade shows, for example, and that’s gone now with COVID. They had to look for digital ways to reach their audiences and better ways to manage their CRMs. Some of them didn’t even have a CRM per se. That was a positive thing that came out of a very bad situation.

Russel: 

Real estate and tourism. That sounds very Floridian. Florida gets beaches and condos. Having gone through the economic recession of 2008 and the rapid fire recession we got with the pandemic, I imagine you had to learn a thing or two that might be helpful. I don’t know what we’re in right now, we’re not in a bubble burst scenario, but clearly there’s some economic activity maybe slowed, what I’m hearing in different circles, but what were some of the key lessons you took away from each of those blows that you had to deal with?

Omi: 

The first key lesson I think is a little mental in that you have to allow yourself some time to be upset. If you try to plow through it, you’re not going to come up with as good of a solution as if you give yourself a day or two to be upset. Once you’ve gotten past that, you have a lot more clarity of what you need to do. And one of the things I learned is first of all, to have contingency plans, right? I can’t tell you the number of business owners that I’ve spoken to that don’t have proforma scenarios for, what if you lost 20 percent of your business? What if you lost 40 percent of your business? What if you lost 60 percent of your business? If you don’t have those scenarios pre-planned out, you’re going to be scrambling. You’re going to be making decisions that you might regret later, such as maybe laying off the wrong people or whatever the case might be. It’s important to be prepared for that. Also, be prepared to pivot. When things are going well, don’t sit on your laurels and stay with that groove. Always be doing your research and try to figure out what’s the next thing. What’s the next industry that might be up and coming? Start doing some research so that you at least have some ideas of where you might need to fish next if your current niche is in distress or gone for whatever reason.

Russel: 

I like that. I like the contingency plans. It’s so hard to think and prepare for bad scenarios, but did you have that the first time around or was that the takeaway after the first time around?

Omi: 

That was the takeaway after the first time. It was such a stressful time. We went from a team of twenty some odd folks to like nine, I think. It was terrible. We hung on to people too long because we were deeply vested in, wanting to take care of our employees. They felt like family to us. We tried and tried to hang on and it was awful when we ended up finally having to lay off a bunch of people. Luckily pretty much everybody landed on their feet. We did as much as we could referring to other places and trying to find other jobs for them, but yeah, not having had that plan in place was terrible. It had bad consequences. It was a lot of stress. By then I had my second child and it got to the point where I was so stressed out that I couldn’t even properly take care of my baby.

Russel: 

I can’t imagine all the business stress, going through something like that and then add what that brings into the home. You didn’t start out focused on HubSpot. Talk a little bit, if you don’t mind, about how your service offering has evolved over the years.

Omi: 

When we first started, we were mostly traditional, a creative shop. We did a lot of messaging, a lot of comps, a lot of ads. We even did white label creative for some of the bigger agencies in town. That was our origin, a boutique creative firm. Then we started adding more and more traditional services. We were doing things like outdoor boards and radio, and even, believe it or not, newspaper and print back then, doing a lot of that. We always saw that digital was going to be very important. Even back in 2000, 2001, we were building rudimentary websites for clients. We were starting to do email marketing, and then little by little we got more and more into it. We got more into social media, paid online media. Around 2009, we decided to drop some of the traditional media related services like outdoor and print and all of that, and focus only on digital media and other forms of digital marketing. It wasn’t until 2016 when we became HubSpot partners that we finally broke off anything not having to do with HubSpot or Inbound marketing, email marketing automation and those related items that we fully focus on it. It’s been a slow evolution, but we’ve been at it for a long time. And what I think is different about us is because we do come from that traditional marketing background, we don’t forget our roots. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking to somebody on social media or on an email or on your website. You’re still talking to another human being that has some need or problem or want that your service has to address. We can’t forget that someday it might be chips implanted in our head, but you still have to communicate with them in a way that’s going to resonate with what their problems and needs are.

Russel: 

Yes. And so, obviously it’s the main tool. You’re very married to HubSpot at this point. It sounds like it’s worked well for you. Talk a little bit of what the benefits has been for you.

Omi: 

For us, we started using it. We drank our own Kool Aid, so to speak. We started using it to send out communications and to do inbound marketing and to schedule our social media through it. Putting out content, things like that. Us using it in the early days helped us understand what a powerful tool it can be for business growth. It started with Marketing Hub and now HubSpot is a full growth suite. What I love about it is how it can help a company centralize all of their data in one place and be able to see and optimize everything from acquiring leads all the way through to loyalty and referrals and reviews. That entire journey in one platform is powerful and a great way for businesses to get their teams all pulling in the same direction and helping them to increase their revenue operations.

Russel: 

I love what you said at the beginning there. I think that’s something I advocate a lot. You said drinking your own Kool Aid. I think that’s so critical for especially a marketing company to do. Sounds like you did, you learn so much about what works and what doesn’t work because you’re obviously heavily invested in making that work for yourself, so then it sounds like you’re able to translate that to your clients and push the boundaries for them as well. Is that a succinct way of describing your journey in terms of HubSpot?

Omi: 

Yeah, a hundred percent. We actually have a policy that we are our own guinea pigs. We never take on a new platform or a new software for a client until we’ve tested it on ourselves. Whether that’s a new data analytics product or whether it’s a texting. Obviously we’re always looking at products that connect to or enhance HubSpot in some way or another, we always use them on ourselves first.

Russel: 

I think that’s very interesting as well. You’re your own R&D. Have you. Have you got any tips or hacks for how you systemized that into a business beyond being a policy, as you mentioned?

Omi: 

Absolutely. We have a form that we fill out, if someone wants to try a new software or something, the form talks about, what does it do? Do we already have a system that does the same thing? In what way does this enhance or connect with existing systems? What department would make the most use of it? And then ranking. Is it easy to use? Is it hard to use? And of course, cost against ROI. Before we even sign up onto that software, we do all of that research first. I think that’s going to be important because I noticed, it’s not happening as much now, but I’m going to say like probably two, three years ago people were buying software. Oh, it does what? That’s cool. Yeah, I get it. It does what? Oh, yeah, that’s cool. Then they end up with this thousands of dollars a month stack of tools that, some of them are duplicative. Some of them have features that do the same thing as another tool that they already have, or they’re not widely used throughout the whole business and worse still, they don’t talk to each other. Sally’s doing this and that tool and Bob’s doing that in that other tool and the two things aren’t talking to each other. We ended up a lot of times helping companies slim down their tech stacks, and connecting things that need to be integrated, but it’s always based on the use case first. There’s a lot of technology companies that are fantastic at building things and connecting things, but I’m a very big believer that you have to understand, why do you need it connected? Why do you need it billed? What is the business process that this will support, and then work from there.

Russel: 

Very fascinating. Thank you for breaking that down and to a lot more practical level on how you’ve implemented that in your business. So many interesting parts of your story, I don’t know how we’re going to get through them all. But one thing that obviously stood out is how integral the birth of your agency and the onset of becoming a parent and how those have worked well, I’m sure at times together and maybe not so well. If you have some thoughts about how those two have been a part of your journey.

Omi: 

Oh, absolutely, yeah. I sometimes joke that I gave birth to two kids at the same time. Cause the agency was maybe six, seven months old when my first child was born. It was great because I obviously I had a supportive co-founder that was, shouldering a lot of the work. It also was helpful that at the time, our clients, we had planned and had pre-done a bunch of work ahead of time. We had some lead time with deadlines and things like that. It taught me a lot about pre-planning and even today we plan all of our clients work in 90 day roadmaps. Obviously, we also learned that you have to be ready for curve balls and changes, and we do have that flexibility built in. The more that you can plan ahead of time, always the better. That was a great lesson. It was actually fascinating seeing both the growth of the business along with the growth of my child. That was interesting and it was also one of the key reasons why we were very early on a hybrid agency. We became a results only work environment in 2011, so we’ve been at least partially remote for over a decade. Having that flexibility, I hate that work life balance idea because there is no such thing as a hundred percent balance. It’s about prioritizing. During this time I’m prioritizing my work and focusing on that, and then during this time I’m prioritizing my family life and focusing on that. Another thing that we learned early on is when you work from the house, is to have a separate place that you like, go to your office. Not have that be in your in your bedroom, for example, if you can avoid it, so that you can feel like you can step away from work. I feel like that’s important in order to stay productive.

Russel: 

Gotta step away. I did not have to work remotely when my kids were young. I don’t know what that world would be like, quite honestly. Every now and then a teenager, I have to worry about him coming and rallying the dog up or something like that but I’m sure that was a lot to manage.

Omi: 

You probably also, sorry, you probably weren’t also like approving a press run from your hospital bed after having given birth.

Russel: 

I definitely can say I did not do that for sure. That would be a wild world so kudos to you for the grit and strength I know you probably had to have to get through that. Any integrations that like, you took from the agency to the parenting world? Do your kids have to do 90 day roadmaps or anything like that?

Omi: 

I do encourage them to be planners. I encourage them to at least write down the things they have to do for the week. I also do encourage them to have a set time during the day where they take care of their homework or, I have one that now has a full time job, but to develop that habit of setting time aside to take care of your responsibilities first and not put things off. I think it’s probably one of the biggest lessons that I’ve taken from the business to being a parent, but I think that’s probably fairly common sense to anyone who’s a parent.

Russel: 

Some days go better than others towards that journey. Another interesting part of your story, as you mentioned earlier, the anthropology background, maybe for the anthropology students out there that aren’t quite sure what they’re going to do with their life. What are some of the ways that has been very helpful in your agency journey?

Omi: 

The discipline of of studying patterns and behaviors is a great discipline to have when you’re trying to influence folks. Having a strong background in statistics helps you to analyze metrics and numerical type of trends. Also gives you a little different view on things. I’m going to tell you a quick, funny story. Way back, I’m talking years back, Gerber, I believe it was. I’m almost positive. It was Gerber, put out baby food in in African nations and they were trying to sell their baby food to a test market in an African nation. As the baby food had the picture of a baby. For us in here in the US it made sense, oh, there’s a baby that must be baby food, right? What they didn’t take into consideration is that, in these nations, a lot of the people that were purchasing the products were not literate. In those nations, the typical thing that gets put on the can or the jar is what is contained inside the can or the jar. It wasn’t selling because people thought it was mashed up babies.

Russel: 

Oh man. Boy, context is key.

Omi: 

It took an anthropologist to figure that out. Nowadays we’ve come a long way with focus groups and things like that, but that’s a funny story of how looking at things a little bit differently can help you figure out a problem.

Russel: 

That’s right. Hire an anthropologist if you’re doing any international marketing campaigns, the key takeaway there. As I understand it, you haven’t given up all of your Indiana Jones roots. You’ve got a book in progress, is that what I hear? Tell us a little bit about that.

Omi: 

I’m actually working on a book on what marketers can learn from Indiana Jones. It’s going to be all about these types of stories and these types of real world examples where thinking like a sociologist or anthropologist can help you to be a better marketer.

Russel: 

How’s that process going? Do we have a launch date yet?

Omi: 

No, we don’t have a launch date yet. It’s probably going to be self published, and I’m thinking probably late 2024.

Russel: 

Awesome. I can’t wait. Sounds very fascinating. There you go, folks, mark it on your calendars, late 2024, Indiana Jones book on marketing can’t beat that. As we start to wrap up here, what does the future look like for your business? What’s the big goal?

Omi: 

We’re looking forward to hitting diamond partner. One of the things that we’re working on is to have our team be a lot more self sufficient. We’ve made great strides towards that. I have an awesome team that doesn’t need either of the founders to be in the business all the time. That gives us an opportunity to work on the business and grow it. We haven’t figured out exactly what we want to do, but we definitely know that we want the business to continue thriving and our team to be able to be a part of that growth.

Russel: 

Awesome. That sounds amazing. Can’t wait to see all those things get achieved. Last big question for you, Omi, are entrepreneurs born or are they made?

Omi: 

Oh, gosh, I think a little of both. I think you’re born with a certain risk tolerance and you need a pretty big risk tolerance to become an entrepreneur, but I think a lot of what you learn along the way, is made. I think a lot of people think, oh, I can be an entrepreneur. Having a solo business isn’t necessarily an entrepreneur, right?

Russel: 

Awesome. I love that. If people want to know more about Diaz Cooper, where can they go?

Omi: 

They can go to diazcooper.com or they can follow us on social media on Twitter@DiazCooper, Facebook, Instagram, all@DiazCooper. We put out a lot of good content. We have an excellent newsletter on LinkedIn, so we’re always trying to give value to our audience.

Russel: 

Amazing. Thank you so much for being on the show today, Omi, and sharing all the wonderful parts of your story. Congrats on your many years of success and look forward to many more to come.

Omi: 

Thank you. It was a pleasure to be on. I appreciate it.

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 podcast@performancefaction.com. An Agency Story is brought to you by Performance Faction. Performance Faction offers services to help agency owners grow their business to 5 million dollars and more in revenue. To learn more, visit performancefaction.com.

Omi: 

We were working with a luxury cruise line, which shall remain unnamed, and we built this website for them. That was unique in the industry at the time. We submitted the website to Magellan, which is the travel weekly awards for travel related work. We had been waiting with bated breath to find out what happened and we find out that we won gold. It’s like the best thing. This website won a gold Magellan, we were all so excited, we even put a picture of the whole team holding up the Magellan on our website and all this. A couple days after we found out we won gold. We got a call from the VP of the cruise line and I’m like, oh, great, she’s gonna call to congratulate us on gold. Instead we get yelled at that their videos that they themselves had submitted won only silver, and somehow we were being blamed for that because of, I don’t know what. I thought, wow, that is the wacky dualist thing that has ever happened to me that, somebody wouldn’t be happy that we won gold for their website and instead were worried about silver on some other thing that we had almost nothing to do with. It was their own teams that had submitted that.

Russel: 

Oh man. That was not what was I expecting, cause I know at times we’ve ran into this, and other agencies, where the companies don’t want you to promote the work you do for them for whatever reasons. That’s where I thought you were going, but I did not know it was going to be that they were going to be upset cause you out awarded them on their marketing initiative.

Omi: 

Yeah. We did have permission