Courtney Culmer, Founder of Uplevel Communications, has been part of the communications and marketing ecosystem for almost 20 years.
She’s worked for Fortune 500 companies like United Technologies Corp. (now Raytheon Technologies), NCR Corporation and ESPN (a Disney company) and later providing communications and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) consulting services to industry leaders, influencers and non-profits such as Google, L3Harris, Precisely, Triumph Group, National Black Justice Coalition, and more.
Her career has given her a unique perspective of the pain points and opportunities for both companies and freelancers – and her passions for connecting people, creating value-based solutions and helping underrepresented groups succeed led her to found Uplevel Communications in 2020 while on maternity leave. She went on to raise $250K to bring the vision to life.
Courtney is a proud HBCU graduate with a B.S. in Journalism from Florida A&M University. She also holds an M.S. in Integrated Marketing Communications from Florida State University and an MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.
Brad MacAfee is the strategist and pioneer of people-first transformation. He builds profitable, socially responsible brands to maximize positive impact on the world. At Mission + Cause, he is committed to immersing himself in the client perspective for each search.
As the former CEO of Porter Novelli, Brad has a long history of hiring and retaining the best people in the industry. His passion is attracting, growing and retaining talent, and has been involved in the hiring of hundreds of executives in both agency and corporate environments. Brad has received a long list of awards for which he credits the talented practitioners who always seem to surround him. From PR Week Best Purpose Agency to PR News Best CSR Agency, from PR Week Best Place to Work to CR Magazine CEO of the Year, Brad is no stranger to accolades and recognition for his bold and transparent approach.
Driving purpose and growth, Brad looks for talent that delivers greatness through empathy, imagination and engagement. They are the qualities that drive him personally and make him a trustworthy partner.
An early champion of diversity and inclusion, Brad embeds diversity principles and practices into all leadership, talent, business and philanthropic initiatives to foster creativity and inclusivity. It’s a founding tenet of Mission + Cause, and one that he credits with broadening his worldview and critical thought foundation.
Brad holds numerous board roles, including Board President of the Global Impact Relations Network, Executive Committee Member & Former President of the Board of Trustees of the University of Georgia Grady College, Board of Trust Member of the LAGRANT Foundation and additional roles with Junior Achievement of Georgia, PR Council, Center for the Visually Impaired, and Jack & Jill Late-Stage Cancer Foundation.
Brad grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and relocated to Atlanta after graduating from Indiana University. He and his wife Nicole, and their two daughters share their time between Atlanta and New York City.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- About Uplevel Communications and Mission + Cause and their partnership
- Benefits for clients from the partnership
- What the freelance market will look like in the next few years
- How the partnership between Uplevel Communications and Mission + Cause will impact the Atlanta PR and comms business community
- Why organizations should consider hiring freelancers or contractors rather than full-time staff
- The state of talent recruitment and retentionwithin the PR and comms industry
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio. Brought to you by Onpay. Built in Atlanta, ONPAY is the top rated payroll and HR software anywhere. Get one month free at on paycom. Now here’s your host.
Stone Payton: [00:00:32] Welcome to another exciting and informative edition of Atlanta business Radio Stone Payton here with you this morning. And you guys are in for such a real treat. Please join me in welcoming to the broadcast founder of Uplevel Communications, Courtney Culmer and founder and CEO of Mission and Cause, Mr. Brad MacAfee. Welcome to the show.
Courtney Culmer: [00:00:57] Thank you so much for having us. Stone.
Brad MacAfee: [00:00:59] Yes, this is great. Thank you very much.
Stone Payton: [00:01:01] Well it is absolutely my pleasure. I have been looking forward to this conversation for some time now. And it is I think we’re going to have a good time. Courtney, I’d love to begin with you if we could. Could you articulate for for me and our listeners mission, purpose, what are you and your team really out there trying to do for folks?
Courtney Culmer: [00:01:24] Absolutely. So Uplevel Communications is a talent marketplace that connects companies in need of marketing or communication support with a pool of vetted freelancers and small agencies. At our core are more, simply put, rather, we’re helping to fill gaps so that these teams and organizations can really achieve their goals in the most efficient way. You know, our mission is to help communications and marketing professionals succeed. And a lot of times we find that these groups are under-resourced, understaffed, and we don’t want the any barriers to get in the way of them succeeding. And so, you know what? Where we feel we are able to bring the most value is by connecting them with talent that can step in, whether on a short term, temporary basis, which is what we’ve been doing through Uplevel or as I’m joined here by with Brad through this new partnership that we have formed with Mission and Cause, we’re able now to also say when you’re ready, whether it’s now or in the future, to have direct hiring, full time, longer term support. We’ve got the best experts on board and working with them in order to help you staff that way as well.
Stone Payton: [00:02:41] I feel like she’s answered that question before. Brad articulate, passionate. I mean, your passion comes through. So at this point in the work, what are you enjoying the most? What are you finding the most rewarding about the work?
Courtney Culmer: [00:02:54] Well, I love that question. You know, I’ve been a part of the marketing communications industry now for about 20 years, started out in journalism and television, went into corporate communications and went on to do freelance consulting work myself. And at this stage in season of my life, I feel what excites me most is it really is a desire to be helpful and resourceful and to make connections, meaningful connections. And so, you know, opportunity, whether that’s connecting people with other people, whether it’s connecting them with opportunities or information, that’s the core of the work that we’re doing right now. And so I’m excited by that. But I really am excited by this partnership with Brad because, you know, our values and what we stand for in that spirit of, you know, really, again, bringing value to our clients, it’s so important. And to meet another founder and find another organization with complementary service offerings, but that share our same values, that share our same just principles of how we approach business and approach being solution finders for our customers. That excites me. So it’s fresh and it’s new and it’s something that we’re pursuing, but I think it’s so needed right now as we look at what’s happening in the job market, as we look at drivers, whether it’s a great resignation, where you have people entering wanting to work on their own terms or whether it’s even unfortunately layoffs and people find themselves displaced and trying to figure out their next opportunity. You know, we’re really in this very unique position to help connect them and position them for that next opportunity.
Stone Payton: [00:04:33] Well, Brad, I appreciate you driving out, but I don’t know that you needed to. I think if you got Courtney in your corner, man, you just you just want her up and turn her loose. You must love collaborating with Courtney.
Brad MacAfee: [00:04:45] I think you understand. Now, how did this partnership developed? Because when you have a leader like Courtney who truly shows the passion, brings a passion, but also has an incredible solution, I mean, it became really easy for us to get from collaboration to dreaming to then executing.
Stone Payton: [00:05:04] I’ll bet it did. All right, Mission and cause I love, of course, the moniker. Tell us a little bit about the history of that and and what you guys are up to and how you’re trying to get out there and serve people, Right?
Brad MacAfee: [00:05:16] Well, one of the things that makes this relationship so logical is, as Courtney was talking about, the mission of Uplevel, to really help communicators be successful. We exist at mission and cause to. Communicators reach their greatest and fullest potential. So there’s such synergy right there. And what we fundamentally believe is that communications really can change the world. Amen. It really can. There’s nearly nothing that we do that isn’t influenced in some way, shape or form by communication. What we might order at a restaurant, which restaurants we might go to, who we might vote for, anything that you can imagine gets influenced, right? And so for us, if we can be a part of that, that environment, that market of helping raise up people as much as we can, and then it gets to people, right? You need people to help change the world and communicate. So for us at Mission and cause we’re a consultancy to communicators and also have a full executive search arm, which was focused on full time placements, right? So getting people full time positions, great positions that align with their values, their individual purpose, so that their career can really take off. But 2023 happened and we’ve got a little bit of of an economy that’s showing some uncertainty for many organizations. And what they started to do is hold back some on some of their full time hires. And we saw that trend happening a little bit last year. And it was like we need a solution for those gaps when when those organizations shift from a full time hire, but then say, I still need to get the work done, I still need talent, talented individuals who can really help our programs and our communication strategies and campaigns. We started looking for a partner who could really fill the gaps a freelance marketplace, a contractor marketplace. And when we started talking with Courtney, it became very obvious of which way we were going to go.
Stone Payton: [00:07:16] I cannot tell you, I don’t think, how many times I have kind of hit it off with someone in some environment, right? Whether it’s in a show or a networking thing or a conference or something. And we say, you know what? We ought to team up and try to help some people. We ought to collaborate. And, you know, we have a beer in my case, and then it just kind of fizzles away. What what disciplines, what process or structure, if any, did you guys lean on to? Really? It it worked this time. You made it happen. What what counsel can you offer on that front?
Brad MacAfee: [00:07:53] Well, maybe I’ll start with a short story and of how we got connected, how Courtney and I first got connected and there’s there’s a gentleman who’s, I would say one of the most connected people in all of Atlanta, and that is Joey Womack. He’s the CEO of Goodie Nation. And the mission of Goodie Nation is they help diverse founders and social entrepreneurs close the gaps on connections, close the gaps on funding, close the gaps. And they have an incredible program that they bring startups and entrepreneurs through. We were working with Joey Courtney was was working with Joey through Uplevel and like a really smart individual. He saw the connection and he put the two of us together. And and to your point. Well, then, yeah, but just meeting doesn’t equal a business opportunity. You have to take it from there. And maybe, Courtney, you want to kind of walk through how we went from meeting and feeling a connection, but then taking it all the way to the, to the stage. Yeah.
Courtney Culmer: [00:08:57] So I to me, when we first met, I came in and after that introduction from Joey, it was really just getting to know you, you know, meeting another person who, you know, knowing Brad’s background professionally. I looked at him like, this could be like a mentor to me, to be very frank about it. He was, you know, just so accomplished, had been in the industry for some time, working with working within organizations that were target clients of ours, but then also as a founder of an organization, an that. And then and I would say lastly, what was important to me was, you know, we shared a real it was evident to me and through that introduction that he he really had a deep understanding of the value people and diversity and just how that can really feed into and nurture an ecosystem, right? And so I came into it completely just I want to get to know him and have questions and get wisdom from him. And, you know, we laughed and I was sharing our solution with him. And he had some great feedback and suggestions. And we left really saying, you know, let’s maybe revisit and, you know, just kind of stay in touch. You know, there might be an opportunity to continue to continue this discussion as we progressed on our journey. And so, you know, to answer the first part of the answering, your question would be follow through, Right? You know, he said that we you know, I followed up in a few months and he said the timing is great right now.
Courtney Culmer: [00:10:24] Let’s actually, you know, connect again. And we were at that time going through what Brad’s saying he’s observing and his you know, through his interaction sessions, you know, what’s happening, how that’s impacting his leads and how his business cycle is changing. And we were similarly going through the same thing. And so it was just kind of like, hey, let’s keep the conversation going. And so, you know, the what the what brings it to fruition, again, I would say is, one, when you are looking to make genuine, authentic connection, it’s not coming in to just sell, but to get to know people to see where their synergy. I think what also is plays a part in it is really keeping a pulse on what’s going on in the industry and going on around you. You know, being able to be flexible and fluid and just say, you know, it was it just worked out. The timing worked out so nicely for us because there were actual things happening in the economy that just made it make sense. And so, you know, with relationship building, I think we just have to leave room that it’s not a walk in today, close today and walk out tomorrow. But let’s continue to explore and grow together. And if we’re always all of us are keeping our customers and the clients we serve top of mind, then we’re able to be responsive. And because the relationship was already there, we were able to move with some speed when it was really time to have that conversation.
Stone Payton: [00:11:46] So, Brad, you thought this was going to work out, You thought it’d be a good idea. Do you have a couple under your belt now that you’ve that you’ve validated? Hey, yeah, this is exactly what we should be doing. And and you’ve had some success serving this common constituency. Yeah.
Brad MacAfee: [00:12:01] So one of the things that was really fascinating is we started meeting every single week our teams and really plotting it out. So there is a real tactical aspect of getting everything out the door. But while we were doing that, I was very comfortable talking to my current clients that we had prospects and just saying, What about a freelancer marketplace? You know, what is you know, do you have needs? Because that’s a different conversation coming from mission and cause that’s typically been talking to those organizations about full time hires. Yeah, but what we noticed and we saw, you know, a great piece of research done by fervor that said in 2023 of these organizations that are kind of pausing a little bit on their full time hires, 78% of these organizations are shifting to contractors and freelancers. And we’re seeing that that same trend in experiencing it. So we would go out to these organizations and just openly ask, are your freelance needs being met? And what we kept hearing time and time again is either it’s really hard to find a freelancer. I have to take time away from our core business to go find a freelancer. It would be great if somebody just had, you know, a freelancer database and access to one. Then there’s the other elements of then you have to manage it, right? So if you think about some some small businesses, they may get a contractor maybe. Two, maybe three. Some of the large PR agencies, the global agencies, they may use literally hundreds. And when I was in my previous role at a global global Porter Novelli, it’s a public relations agency. We use more than 150 freelancers in a single year.
Stone Payton: [00:13:47] Good Lord. And what were all these people doing?
Brad MacAfee: [00:13:50] Oh, you can imagine.
Stone Payton: [00:13:51] Copywriting, copywriting, photography.
Brad MacAfee: [00:13:53] All that, all of that stuff. Design, editing, some writing. But one of the things that happens then, if you just think about a number of that size, then how many people do you need to have in your accounts receivable accounts payable group to just manage the invoices coming in and the payments going out? What are the compliance issues that you might have around your freelancers? What about the end of the year tax when you’ve got to get all those forms out to to to individuals? That’s a pretty heavy lift. And so one of the things that we were very it was important for us is and the and our clients, they said, can you take some of the administrative pain off of this and can you also give us access to people very quickly and the right type of people for the positions that we’re looking to fill on a part time basis? And that’s what we found with Uplevel.
Stone Payton: [00:14:44] Well, it certainly sounds like it’s been great for Brad. What’s in it for you guys?
Courtney Culmer: [00:14:48] I mean, I think, one, it’s helping us expand our potential client pool. You know, we have really leaned into and targeted a lot of your larger enterprises, some of your start ups. And we hadn’t tapped yet into the agency so much in a lot. And that’s in large part I come from the corporate world, as I mentioned. And so some of those same trends that Brad notes in agencies, you know, we would see in corporate spaces when you have when you think of the cycles of hiring or of managing employees and in downturns where you see reductions again, unfortunately, but then you start to see them when there’s the recovery or when you’re when the recovery is in sight. You may start with contractors first. And some of that’s just the administrative getting job requisitions approved, the process of searching and hiring and making offers. And so, you know, we were able to do that. We knew that cycle we and that worked for us and clear value proposition and business case to those those clients. But what’s been really cool is through this partnership is, as Brad said, the agencies and the volume of freelancers that they’re leaning on is is quite significant. And we do have these systems and the infrastructure and the technology in place to solve that pain point for them. You know, I think at times how the really obvious benefit in value was we’ve got good talent, you know, we’ve got this diverse pool, depth, breadth, experience, all of these things.
Courtney Culmer: [00:16:20] But again, that whole focusing on customers and what’s their real problem that you’re solving. It’s like, here is another problem that exists here. The management of the contractors. And to us that’s just part of how we’re doing the business. But that means a lot to them that, you know, that’s something they really need. And again, it’s just really beautiful how we kind of bounce off. And so I get again, just to summarize, he’s connecting us with so many more potential clients who could benefit from our business. And the other thing I would note too, is that, you know, we are a startup. You know, I started Uplevel in 2020, a tech enabled platform. I’m a non tech founder. And so we’re really still out here gaining traction, growing. And to have someone like Brad who has such credibility, who is of such great character and so many strong relationships that, you know, adds such so much value to us, you know, just to see the response when we make this announcement together. And I had colleagues who I worked with years ago saying like, Oh, you’re partnering with Brad McAfee, Like this is the people who I, you know, deeply start.
Stone Payton: [00:17:35] Dropping that name. This afternoon. We had Brad McAfee in the studio this afternoon. I’ll probably get free beer.
Courtney Culmer: [00:17:40] You probably will.
Brad MacAfee: [00:17:41] Your listenership may go down. Actually, you’ve got to be you’ve got to be careful.
Courtney Culmer: [00:17:46] And even hearing Brad say that, you know, one of the things I have to say about Brad that I just really appreciate is he has such a humility and such just he’s of such great character, you know, and that matters in this industry. When you talk about relationships as much as we we talk automation’s new technology, our respective skill sets and expertise in this industry, it still comes down a lot to the relationships and the trust that’s built and that that is just something that is you can’t even quantify in terms of the value Brad brings to me to uplevel into every client. Now, whether it’s. Our legacy client or our prospective client or those of mission and cause. That’s something that he brings. And so, yeah, I’m a fan. Super fan.
Stone Payton: [00:18:40] Well, tell me more, both either of you, about this, this world of of freelancing. Are there a lot of freelancers here in metro Atlanta and Georgia? Is it a is it a growing population in general or are they struggling? What’s the State of the Union with freelancers?
Courtney Culmer: [00:18:56] Absolutely. So, you know, the freelance landscape right now is you know, I’ll throw out some statistics. Okay. So in 2022, annual earnings by US freelancers grew by $100 Million up to a $1.3 trillion. That’s for freelancing. And projections are that by 2027, more than 50% of the workforce will be involved in the gig economy. And when you survey even those who are already actively participating, it’s like less than 10% even have a desire to reenter, you know, to go back to full time, you know, traditional work. You know what what I would say about the freelance economy, again, I mentioned earlier in the conversation around we had a great resignation, you know, well, first we had before even the great resignation, we had a global pandemic. It might feel like a distant memory. But, you know, as it relates to timing and kind of the trends of the why now, why I started Uplevel now, it was the pandemic had clear economic impacts. And so people found themselves displaced. Then they found themselves working in new ways, which I think also made companies get more comfortable with. Everybody doesn’t have to be sitting in a seat now because they can’t be right now. And our productivity can’t stop because people are not in the office. Then that was followed by a resignation, a great resignation, which were people saying, I want to work on my own terms, I’m feeling empowered or just I see a new world.
Courtney Culmer: [00:20:20] I see the future of work. We’ve talked for a long time about future of work around technologies and automation, but it’s about so much more than that. And so you had people coming in and saying, When I think of my future of work, I want something a little bit different. So you had voluntary, you know, that that voluntary joining of the gig economy and which was which was really great for us because we’re able to say, you know, even though we all jump out and say, I want to take gigs, you still have to do things like market yourself. You still got to sign contracts with every client that you do business with. You still got to invoice them and make sure you get your money, you know, in order for that to really be a sustainable career path for you. And then we next cycle was the great layoffs now. And so now it’s growing for it’s like almost like snowballing in ways because like I said, less than 10% of those people who already stepped away on their own accord aren’t trying to go back to work. And then you have the now I’m displaced and I am looking for something.
Courtney Culmer: [00:21:16] So gig work might be a temporary solution for you, but you might decide you don’t want to go back once you once you test the waters or again, it’s just something that’s an in-between until my next big thing comes up. And so, you know, we see it more and more in Atlanta. There’s a you know, as you see in Atlanta, just even more and more companies willing to have more of a hybrid workplace, if not a fully remote workplace. I think that plays into it. We have so many large corporations that will look for more creative ways to source their teams. You know, where did maybe before I had a full time person, but really the work load is more up and down, so it might make sense to fill this gap in with with with a contractor. And so I think that, you know, the gig economy is here to stay. It is continuing to grow. You know, I often tell people even that by 2027, it’s projected to be more than 50%. I would almost think we’d be there sooner because that reporting and that data point actually came out probably in, I think, around 2020 when I saw that report. So yeah, that’s kind of what’s going on in terms of the state of the freelance.
Stone Payton: [00:22:28] That’s very helpful. Okay. So let’s talk about me for a minute. You know, it’s my show, so my business partner and I, we have a media company, right? And we’ve had some success. We we are approached by a lot of people in the PR world, and we’re very blessed that we get to to pick and choose who we want to bring into the studio and and interview. So we see the PR world from that standpoint. And so as you guys are talking about your world, it sounds like some of those PR firms, maybe a lot of them are people that may in turn be working with you, Brad, to help them get the talent they need to execute on the work for their clients who are coming into my studio. Is that accurate?
Brad MacAfee: [00:23:10] That is exactly how it how it works. Okay. And you know, one of the things that’s interesting, if we look at the freelance side of this, so the freelancer experience, right. I think Courtney did a great job of describing why people have moved into that, the flexibility. I want to work differently. I want to have more. Or ownership of my day. And I want to pick and choose a little more. Like there’s a lot of benefits to it. When we were talking during the greatrillionesignation, when we were out talking with candidates for full time positions, we would often hear about it was about maybe one out of every 15 engagements we’d have. The person on the other side would say, I actually don’t think I want a full time job. I think I’m going to go freelance, Right. The reservation, the one reservation that most contractors and freelancers have when they make the decision is where am I going to get the next project? Right? Because some people are really connected and that’s not a worry for them, perhaps. But many people go, I’m going to go out. I might have one client to begin with, but then what? And now marketplaces like Uplevel actually help that portion of connecting projects with people. And and now we’re there are many different options for freelancers to kind of really make this a full time opportunity for themselves. And many of them end up finding out that they may end up making as much or maybe a little bit more or quite frankly, maybe it’s not about the financials. It’s more about their personal interests of what’s valuable to them. Maybe time with kids is valuable for them. Caregiving for an older parent. I mean, there’s a lot of motivating factors, but they find that they might be able to get it in this type of a format versus a full time job. Yeah.
Stone Payton: [00:24:56] What a marvelous credit to you, though, for identifying that challenge in the marketplace. And instead of digging your heels in, this is the only all that we do and we’re doing woe is me and, you know, world’s going to hell in a handbasket. These kids today don’t want to work. No, you saw the situation. You scan the environment and you landed on what apparently is a very productive solution. So I think that is fantastic. So back to me, my favorite topic on the other side of things being I own 40% of the network and then I wear this other hat and run and I run one of the studios. So we at the network and, and I here locally engage freelancers, right? And in fact, I just introduced you to a voice over artist. So and this young lady has has what I’ll call a real job, right? And so she has that. And then she’s a voice over artist and she’s working with us to help us produce and distribute some of the work that we’re that we’re doing now. I was very fortunate to stumble upon her. But as we continue to grow up, Courtney over at Business RadioX, it sounds like it makes sense that that would we reach out to somebody like you, have a conversation with you or tap into your platform and walk me through how that might work if we were a client of yours?
Courtney Culmer: [00:26:17] Absolutely. So when you come to our platform, there’s really two ways that you can engage with Uplevel. There’s what we’ll call a do it yourself option where you could simply say, Here’s my need. I put it, you put it out there, you know, you’re reaching a pool of vetted because we vet all of our professionals. So we’re not we’re not the place where someone can wake up today and say, you know what, I just really like to write. I think I’m a I think I’m a make a good publicist. You know, we vet our talent. We make sure that they have the experience that they say that they are actually experienced in this industry. So the benefit to you, again, even if you’re doing it on your own and simply posting your project or your opportunity out there, you’re reaching this kind of curated audience that you a first level of screening is already completed for, and then we can help you streamline that process of onboarding them. The second way that you can engage with us though, which is actually what most of our clients take advantage of, is more of an assisted hiring model. And so that would be where you would get on the phone with me or a member of my team. We would really talk through, what are you trying to accomplish here? You know, the parameters, the preferences and requirements and the talent that you bring on.
Courtney Culmer: [00:27:24] If it’s industry experience, if it’s a certain level of experience, certain location, if that matters to you. And then just again, some of the scope of the work and we take it from there, really, I mean, the ease and the speed is what we bring. And within as soon as within a few days, if you have urgent, you know, depending on your urgency, we can come back to you with a short list of, you know, here’s top 3 to 4 candidates for you. You know, do you want to move forward with one for sure. Do you want to have an interview? In most instances, people want to have an interview because you always got to make sure for fit. But and then from there, we really manage it. We handle all of the your contract through us. We make sure they get paid. We make sure that all of the administrative stuff is taken care of so that you and that freelancer can focus on making this magic here on the radio. That is what you want to be spending your time on versus in the weeds of a lot of the business stuff.
Stone Payton: [00:28:15] Well, I got to say, and I don’t know if your mentor helped you craft that value proposition and message, but I find that incredibly compelling. A big piece of it for me. I really find it compelling that there that there. Added get. Because one of my challenges, and you probably see this in your line of work, Brad, all the time, I’m just not good at hiring people. I have a tendency to just believe they can do a great job. And, you know, I hit it off with most people. We have a beer. Sounds like a good guy. Look for we get going Monday. You know, if you guys are professionals and you know how to get to do that vetting, but oh man. Taking the admin work. Yes. Off the plate. And also like in a system like ours, I can envision if we can identify because we have several different tasks within our workflow that I think freelancers makes a lot of sense for, like editing and producing the audio, like publishing it, distributing all that kind of stuff. I think it would be really neat if we could find a small pool of people vetted by you, forged by us over a little bit of time. And now Karen Nowitzki in Phenix is going to use that person some, but so so is Adam Robinson in Arkansas. Absolutely.
Courtney Culmer: [00:29:24] Yeah. Yes. I mean, it’s around I always like to lean on the term staff augmentation. How do we help you create an extension of your team that nobody on the outside knows, whether they’re your employee or they’re your contractor. But really, this this work that we do does require different owning your own business. You have to have to there’s owning your own business in communications, marketing, media, any of that. There’s two sides of your brain. You’re juggling constantly between my creative side and then my analytical business side. And that’s really hard. And so we want to I often use language, lighten the load, but say let us kind of take make that a little bit easier for you so that you can just stay in that creative zone and get that done. And a lot of that business administrative piece just keeps on going. And a couple other notes I would make about it. One, too, is that we’ve been really intentional about building a talent pool that’s quite comprehensive across the disciplines within marketing and comms. So we have video editors, we have strategists, we have corporate social responsibility, PR marketing, digital marketing, social media. You know, there’s so many different, you know, there’s so many differences in some of these roles. But but to be fair, a lot of people who don’t come from the industry don’t even know that. They don’t understand that. So they do get we have a lot of people come to us who’ve just got burned. You know, I went out, this person told me they did marketing and they gave me a resume that looked good and they didn’t know anything, you know, they were needing to do. So we’re able to bring some expertise. And this is again, something that Uplevel shares with Mission and Cause.
Courtney Culmer: [00:30:54] We were practitioners in this space. So we’re not just checking some boxes that you put on a piece of paper. We know how to really go a level deeper to make sure that people bring that skill and that expertise that you need. And then and then the last thing I would note around your example for your organization is when we are helping our clients through that second option, that more assisted hiring managed service for you. You have a dedicated account manager, so Courtney might be working with you and we’re getting to know you on an ongoing basis. And so we’re helping you almost be a thought partner in ways or helping you anticipate a need that may come further down the line. And so that that brings a tremendous amount of value because you need people who are going to be able to understand your business. I go back to what I said, We really understand the clients we’re serving. We understand the problems that we’re trying to solve. Well, you need that on a more micro level, too, you know, where are you trying to take your business? Trying to grow. You’re trying to expand. Okay. Where where can some of these where can you bring in talent? And then if it’s a full time hire, you need Brad and his team are able to go take you through their best, best in class process and find that. And then some of them might be much more tactical, short term, project based, and we’re able to help you do that. So it’s a really comprehensive solution that can help people, staff in the most efficient ways for them and and ease. We can’t, you know, downplay that.
Stone Payton: [00:32:19] Well, you had me at go. I got to believe, if you’re sitting in a boardroom in a conference room or having a beer under the elm tree, I got to believe most of the time you have this conversation, somebody signing the dotted line or saying, yes, let’s throw our hat over the fence. Let’s try one. You know, let’s let’s hire a couple of folks. But out there in in in the how does the whole I’m going to ask this of each of I’m actually going to start with Brad. I will circle circle back to you. But how does the whole sales and marketing thing work for you, for you to go get clients? How do you get to even have these conversations? And now I think if you’re wise when you can, you’ll bring Courtney with you. But how do you even get that opportunity?
Brad MacAfee: [00:32:57] Yeah, you’re right. You bring Courtney each and every time. She’s she’s a coach. I mean, I’m certain she brought a contract because it sounds like. Sounds like you’re signing up. Stone But no, you know, we’re we’re PR practitioners, which means this is relatively natural for us to market and promote an organization, right? Because it’s kind of that’s the day job or it’s been our our past, right? Yeah. So, you know, quite frankly, things like this is helpful. We got to get the word out. So first, how do we get the word out? Second. Letting people understand the different options. Some organizations that are engaged in in the contract or freelancer world, for example, doesn’t know that there are organizations that will help on the vendor management of that and take some of the administration off. We’ve got to get that message out there because that may be a pain point for one particular organization. That might not be the same pain point for somebody else. Maybe their pain point is specialization. When you are going through your example about finding a video editor, that’s one of the great reasons why people turn to a contractor or freelancer is I might not need that person 40 hours a week, but the 4 or 5 that I absolutely need them. I need the very best person that has that special technique, that special talent for that that particular role. So we’re getting the word out. Some of it’s doing these type of things we want. Last week we launched at PRSA Counselors Academy, which was a great, great event in New Orleans, and we were letting people know that this this is now an option for folks, especially our clients, that we’re now partnered up with. Uplevel. So it’s a multi dimensional marketing approach, but we’re first and foremost trying to get the word out to everyone we can.
Stone Payton: [00:34:43] Well, I bet that that crowd must have just open arms. They must have embraced you guys and you must have gotten hugged all day. Yeah. Crowd They got to be all over this.
Brad MacAfee: [00:34:53] It was a it was a great use of our.
Stone Payton: [00:34:55] Time, I bet. So sales and marketing. Now, you actually used the term startup and so you’re still kind of making your way. I’m sure. You know, every day is not butterflies and unicorns, I’m sure. But what’s the sales marketing thing? Yeah.
Courtney Culmer: [00:35:09] I love the question. And I have to say, I’m chuckling inside as you as at the start of Brad’s talking about the bring me along because this is really the area where I have to stretch myself. You know, I’m passionate about the work. And when I have the conversations that comes across and I think most importantly, the value comes across. But I’m also you know, we are again, a tech enabled startup. And so there’s a lot of making sure that the product is working, that the product is developed, that the back end processes and the efficiencies so that we can deliver on the value proposition. And so, you know, again, I’ve had to really push myself and part of our approach and our strategy was partnerships, you know, for a long for, for up until, you know, we cemented this and signed on the dotted line. That was something I was presenting, you know, go to market strategy. We need to find the people who are in the space, you know. But for me, it was also very important. It needs to be the right partners. And it really has always been important for me to have people working who we work with and who work in our organization who understand this industry, you know, who can talk the talk. And you’re not trying to prove like, you know, like getting them to understand why this is needed.
Courtney Culmer: [00:36:16] That’s just there. So partnerships is a huge was a huge piece. And I’m glad and grateful we’re able to check that off. And then just to Brad’s point, you know, it is it’s multifaceted. It’s the relationship building. You know, we’re reaching out, continuing to tap into our network, you know, existing network. We also lean on digital marketing that particularly helps us on our talent pool, you know, bringing in the talent because we’re a two sided marketplace. You know, we’ve talked a lot around. Well, no, we’ve actually talked about both sides because Brad has really brought to the forefront the talents point of view. But we have to serve both of these audiences. And so from the talent side, digital marketing has proved highly successful. And then for reaching, you know, getting the message out to the client side, it is a lot. It’s a lot of conversation and relationship building and introductions and and that’s good. And opportunities like this to sit here with you Stone where you help to amplify this message. And that’s really where we’re at. Like Brad said, this is a this is a new announcement. You know, it’s hot off the press. And so, you know, we’re really ramping all of this up right now.
Stone Payton: [00:37:24] So we’re delighted to be a part of it. And I’m quite sincere about dropping Brad’s name. That’s my new go to go to play. So as you as you go forward, what’s the next big milestone? You think like what’s going to make you feel like, yep, we’re right on track, man, You know, high five and this is working. Do you have something like that? Like a next.
Courtney Culmer: [00:37:44] Brad, go first.
Brad MacAfee: [00:37:46] This one. First and foremost, it’s paying this off, right? Because it’s new. So gaining more customers, getting their feedback, what they are really valuing from the engagement with mission and cause and uplevel how the other side of it, the freelancers, what their experience is as well. How many people are we placing? You know, I mean, I will tell you, one of the things that that is really interesting, we keep hearing how job numbers are going great, but there’s still a number of people that do not have a job. Right. And and and some of these stories, you know, when people start getting out a month, two months, three months that are not getting the fulfilling. Opportunities that they wish we always go. You know, there are solutions out there like Uplevel. So so don’t you know, even if you’re continuing your search, you know, make sure that you’re feeling, you know, your sense of purpose in work and getting those that fulfillment or income to, let’s face it, you know, so we I think first and foremost, it’s gaining traction on this, gaining feedback. And then we’re always thinking about how do you iterate from there when you have the client feedback and you kind of get a sense of they also want this or this would be great as well, and then we’ll add in some additional features as we go. Yeah.
Courtney Culmer: [00:39:04] I mean, I think I think Brad hit the nail on the head, though. You know, we want to get more and more traction here, get more and more data, add value, help people help actually make the connections between those looking for work and those needing to find people to do the work. And so, you know, what is beautiful about I think, again, a benefit of our business is we are able to move with some agility. So how do we use this to continue to iterate and improve on the technology? You know, there are a plethora of really great ideas around what where Brad and I think this could go that, you know, might not be ready to share yet, but that that that really excite me, you know, when I think about it. But what is most important now, though, is getting out in front of as many people as we can. You know, I always say when we have this conversation about what we’re doing, when we get in front of people, it almost immediately is like, this is so needed, you know, where where have you been? And so it’s just a matter of getting in front of more and more people to have that conversation.
Stone Payton: [00:40:06] I’m going to shift gears on you both as we wind down a little bit. And Brad, I’ll start with you. What passions, pursuits, if any, outside of the scope of this work for me, my listeners know it’s hunting and fishing for stone. I like to hunt, fish and travel, and I do this and I get a chance to meet great people and share stories. But outside the scope of this work, anything in particular, you have a tendency to nerd out about? As one of my daughters would say, that you just got to dive into.
Brad MacAfee: [00:40:33] Music, Music and more music. Live music. Spending time with with. With my daughters. Going to live music with my wife, going to live music. I just there’s there’s I can’t I can’t play a tune. I can’t sing at all. The thing I have is ears and I and I love it and I love to get consumed in it. So if if I’m getting free time, you usually will see me listening to music or attending some sort of live show.
Stone Payton: [00:41:02] Oh, I think that’s marvelous. And it often pairs well with dinner, dude, right? It does indeed. Well, Woodstock is great for that. You know the studio that we’re in right now? Yeah, absolutely. How about you, Courtney?
Courtney Culmer: [00:41:13] Well, I have a three year old, so my interests. You have no hobbies, you have no time.
Stone Payton: [00:41:18] We’ll talk to you again in about ten years.
Courtney Culmer: [00:41:20] I am. I am raising a start. Growing a startup in a human being in in parallel. So that is my hobby. And other than that, I mean, I like sports a lot. So I came in today a maybe overdosing on caffeine because we’re in the middle of the NBA playoffs. And so I’m up late watching basketball games and then up early because my toddler is in a toddler bed now and wakes up early and walks in the room like, well, enjoy meal.
Stone Payton: [00:41:48] Enjoy every phase. And I’m sure Brad will back this up. The kids are fun at every age. Take the time to enjoy it. You don’t get that time back and you put that investment in now. And when you when you get old like me, you can look back and and you’ll have that relationship with them that you just so and they’ll be fun at every age. But I’m so excited for for you what an exciting time. And I just I really look forward to watching your story unfold with this startup. And I think it’s going to be fun to watch this partnership, this collaboration unfold. And I do anticipate there are things you guys are going to find two ways to work and play together that maybe even you haven’t found yet, that you haven’t discovered yet. And I certainly I certainly haven’t thought of that is going to be a lot of fun to to to follow. Before we wrap, I would like to if we could leave our listeners with just a couple of actionable I’ll call them Pro Tips and I’ll do it from each of you. I’m going to start with Brad and then we’ll circle back around to you, Courtney, on both or either side of this equation, because, you know, you guys, you talked about kind of your you’ve got these dual constituencies that you’re that you’re dealing with, you know, tips anywhere from, you know, things to be doing, not doing reading, you know, stop doing this. Start doing that. Now look, gang, the number one tip, if you have ideas, questions, concerns about anything we’ve talked about here today, reach out to Brad. Reach out to Courtney. They’d love to talk with you and they’ll try to help you any way they can. But before that happens. You know, if there’s something they can be thinking about over the weekend to kind of get them in the mode. I’ll start with you, Brad. Sure.
Brad MacAfee: [00:43:33] Sure. I think that organizations and we’re talking primarily about communications organizations throughout the show, but I think even more broadly than that, 2023. Like every year. But this year in particular, what is your staffing? What is your overall talent strategy? What is your people strategy? What positions are absolutely those positions that should be full time? They’re needed each and every day. They add value to the organization. They drive the organization’s mission forward. What are the specialized services that you might need but you don’t need all the time? That could be, you know, maybe that’s in a variable staffing model where you’re bringing in a contractor or a freelancer for that specialty. What are the other roles in which are going to be maybe enhanced by automation or that you might want just part time or temporary talent as well, or your staff? So I think more than anything, look at the whole entire model of your people. And what what does that look like? What does it look like today? But ideally, with all these changes coming, what does it look like tomorrow? 24, 25? I think we’re going to see a lot of shifts on how people are really thinking through the people side of their business in terms of how they’re structured. And I think that’s going to be slightly, slightly disruptive in some cases. But I think it is like any disruption, it’s going to offer tons of opportunity for everyone involved. And I think solutions that we’ve heard here today, like with Courtney, I think in Uplevel, it’s going to be even more needed as we go forward.
Stone Payton: [00:45:19] I am so glad that I asked. You know, I think I’m going to carve that clip out. You know, I might print the transcript and sell it on as an information product. I’ll split the money with you, Brad. But hey guys, if you want to learn a lot and not have to pay a lot of money for it, get yourself a radio show and just invite people like Brad on. You can learn a ton now. That’s marvelous. Counsel Thank you for that. Courtney. Any counsel to offer these folks?
Courtney Culmer: [00:45:44] Yeah. So I’ll say three things and I’ll try to keep them brief. One, and this is really going to be more to kind of to Brad’s point, we’ve talked a lot about those in the industry, but those outside of it, I always like to say, you know, we believe marketing and communications are among the most critical functions to a company’s success because everyone has to communicate to someone, whether it’s your customers, your investors, your employees, the general public. And so you need to make sure that you have someone with expertise in that area in your corner. And you can either. So Brad’s point, that might be you might have the resources to bring on someone full time and turn to a mission and cause to help you do that. And if you don’t have that, there’s still a solution. Uplevel can help you find someone to support you on more of a project based as needed basis. So don’t downplay it and don’t wait until you get in the crisis. Or you needed someone yesterday to then try to scramble and find something. But even if you do, we can help you do that too. The second thing I would just say is to that, you know, as you’re thinking of your structure and you’re thinking of what’s really keeping you up at night and your pain points, you know, I always like to say we can help you overcome any constraint that you might be facing.
Courtney Culmer: [00:46:51] And so some people might say, hey, I have this gap. I can’t fill it right now or we’ve been trying to fill it for some time, whatever that may look like. You know, we are able, you know, think about there are options out here that can help you really take some of that load off of your plate to, you know, the benefit. One of the beautiful things about using freelancers and consultants is they can come in and literally help you just stop the bleeding. For the moment. We have experts with from various industries who have worked with some of your biggest companies, some of your startups, your nonprofits, and so know that you can quickly find someone and they can come fill in that gap for you. And then the third piece of homework, I would say, is go learn more about this partnership. You know, go to Uplevel Communications, dot IO Backslash mission and Cause and see, you know, learn more about us, schedule some time to talk through what your challenges are, where you see needs and opportunities, and we can help create and come up with the best solution for you. So just to repeat that, that’s Uplevel communications.io backslash mission and cause.
Stone Payton: [00:47:57] Well delivered as promised, concise, articulate, eloquent and chock full of great information. Okay, I do want to make sure that our listeners are able to connect with you. Tap into your work. What are the coordinates? The best way website, LinkedIn, email, whatever you feel like is appropriate.
Courtney Culmer: [00:48:15] Courtney Yeah, I again think the best way, one of the best, quickest ways is to go to Uplevel communications.io backslash mission and cause you can find us there if you want to find me directly. Linkedin is a. Place. Courtney Kilmer and my name will be printed, I think, along with the show. I’m happy to connect in correspond there as well and just be a value in any way that I can.
Stone Payton: [00:48:38] Fantastic. Brad, what’s the best way to connect with you? Man?
Brad MacAfee: [00:48:41] Well, thank you for this. And Stone, as I say, say this thank you for what you guys are doing also here at at Business RadioX. Because promoting businesses in Atlanta is so important and we’re seeing how the city continues to grow. So thank you for having us on. If if you do need any full time hires or now are offering with with Courtney here as well, you can find us at mission and cause talent.com for full time hires and then go certainly to uplevel communications dot zero forward slash mission and cause if you need part time or freelance talent.
Stone Payton: [00:49:19] What an absolute delight having you two in the studio today. I hope neither of you will be strangers going forward. We got to continue to follow this story. And I think what might be a fun segment if you guys are up for it, is maybe bring a freelancer in here, maybe bring a delighted client in here and get their perspective on it. I think that would be great programing for us. Probably wouldn’t hurt you guys in terms of getting the the word out. So yeah, if you’re up for that, let’s noodle on that again over a beer under the elm tree. That’s where I do my best work.
Courtney Culmer: [00:49:52] I love that.
Stone Payton: [00:49:53] But thank you both so much for sharing your insight, your perspective, your passion comes through. You clearly have landed on a set of services that that are going to genuinely help people and and we just appreciate. Keep up the good work, gang. Thank you.
Courtney Culmer: [00:50:10] We appreciate you. Stone This has been great.
Stone Payton: [00:50:12] Thank you. My pleasure. All right. Until next time. This is Stone Payton for our guest today. And everyone here at the Business RadioX family saying we’ll see you again on Atlanta Business Radio.
Speaker1: [00:50:28] Today’s episode of Atlanta Business Radio is brought to you by Onpay. Built in Atlanta, Onpay is the top rated payroll and HR software anywhere. Get one month free at on paycom.