As co-founder and president, Ken Holsclaw holds the reigns of the Phase 3 vision of offering clients complete marketing solutions, including the execution of those ideas all in one company – ideation to execution.
Beginning with seven employees in Atlanta in 2001, he continues to oversee all aspects of the company’s growth and service offerings, including twelve successful agency and print business acquisitions, growing Phase 3 to its current size of over 200 employees with locations in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Nashville, and the New York Metropolitan Area.
A master of business continuity, he has navigated both his business and its clients through three economic crises during the twenty-one years of operation of Phase 3. Most recently, he ideated and developed strategies and deliverables to provide clients with much needed products and services during the pandemic, pivoting from the core products traditionally offered by Phase 3.
Originally from Charleston, West Virginia, he holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Management from West Virginia University. A lifelong athlete, he plays squash and golf as often as his schedule permits. He resides in Atlanta with his wife and is a father of four.
Connect with Ken on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- About Phase 3 Marketing & Communications
- How Ken got started in his entrepreneurial career
- Why Ken decided to incorporate agency services
- What to look for in a marketing and communications partner
- Advice for those interested in joining the marketing and communications industries
- Ken’s greatest lesson learned since founding Phase 3
- Ken’s greatest milestone achieved since founding Phase 3
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio. Brought to you by on pay. Atlanta’s New standard in payroll. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: Lee Kantor here another episode of Atlanta Business Radio, and this is going to be a good one. But before we get started, it’s important to recognize our sponsor, Onpay. Without them, we couldn’t be sharing these important stories. Today on Atlanta Business Radio, we have Ken Holsclaw with Phase three Marketing and Communications. Welcome, Ken.
Ken Holsclaw: Thanks for having me.
Lee Kantor: Lee. I am so excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us about Phase three. How are you serving folks?
Ken Holsclaw: Well, we’re in the marketing services space where we typically work with larger corporations and providing them a one stop shop from creating their marketing idea all the way through executing their marketing idea. So if you look at our value proposition, it’s ideation to execution just simply means that we can come up with a marketing idea and then whatever best channel to execute it, we can execute that idea. All all under one roof.
Lee Kantor: Now, how are you defining large?
Ken Holsclaw: Well, it’s not a it’s not a B to C, it’s not a B to small B, it’s just be to bigger B, So I would define it as our customers are typically from lower middle market all the way up to Fortune 50.
Lee Kantor: And then what’s your backstory? How did you get involved in this industry?
Ken Holsclaw: I came on board with the digital printer in the 90s and that got me into the industry and then I saw how the industry could be consolidated and bringing other parts of the marketing services industry together under one roof. So adding creative, adding marketing services, adding branded merchandise and adding the technology to it, which is the ordering platform, which then also got us into warehousing and distribution, which is, you know, we call it marketing logistics.
Lee Kantor: So, so now when you’re working in this at that stage of client growth where they’re the largest of the large, how do they go with one marketing solution or do they have several that you’re one amongst many in an organization?
Ken Holsclaw: Well, that’s the value proposition. They with the larger corporations, they won’t ever pare it down to one. But one of their problems are is that they’re managing a vendor farm. You know, a large corporation could be managing 30, 40, 50, 60 vendors in the marketing space. So instead of focusing on the the needs of what they need to do from a marketing standpoint, they’re literally managing a vendor farm. So when you look at Phase Three’s all inclusive value proposition, it allows the customer to pare down the number of vendors that they use. I’m not saying that they’re going to take it from 50 down to one, but maybe they can. They can significantly reduce it by using the one stop shop model and by reducing it. You know, they’re not that doesn’t mean that they’re paying for the convenience. It’s actually by going with more of a one stop shop model. It is they can they can accomplish their goals. It’s faster to market. It’s less expensive and in and you’re not you’re not managing multiple vendors. So that’s kind of the value prop.
Lee Kantor: Now in your in your name is phase three marketing communications. Is that different than advertising? Are they still having advertising agencies or how are you delineating between them?
Ken Holsclaw: No, we you know, an ad agency is, I think, kind of a yesteryear term. And so, no, we provide full marketing strategy. We provide full Web and interactive services, We provide heavy creative, we provide social media execution, and then we provide printing and distribution services.
Lee Kantor: And what about public relations? Is that another yesteryear term?
Ken Holsclaw: Uh, PR A little bit, yeah. But we do offer what people would consider public relations. It’s really it’s corporate communications. You know, it’s it’s communications, you know, and that comes with a lot of different formats. But, but absolutely PR would be would would would be a part of that. Absolutely.
Lee Kantor: Now, what is the kind of the pain that these folks are having where phase three is the solution? What are some of the maybe maybe they had some agency creep in there, like you were saying, and then they have dozens, if not multi dozens of different variety of agencies working and they’ve kind of lost track. Like what are some of the pain that that’s obvious to them that, hey, maybe we should consolidate some of this, maybe we should partner with somebody that can handle several of these kind of niches rather than just spread out so thin.
Ken Holsclaw: Speed market. Um, using one vendor rather than multiple vendors. You will be able to get your marketing idea executed faster to market. So speed to market is one cost. It’s actually less expensive as one. Three it frees up your marketing departments time. Like I said earlier, you know, if you’re marketing, folks are spending all their time managing a massive vendor farm, then they are then they are not able to manage on, they are not able to spend their time on, let’s say, market position, research, marketing, research. So because they’re managing so many vendors, um, it also is more efficient. The more vendors you have, you know, the more cooks you have in the kitchen, the more chances of screwing stuff up. And so having one cook in the kitchen, you only got one person to hold accountable and there’s less chance that things can go wrong.
Lee Kantor: Now, are you seeing a trend that these larger companies are having leaner marketing staffs and are relying on agencies more?
Ken Holsclaw: Um, no, not necessarily. Not? No. I think they’re still outsourcing to the same degree that they were. Um, I just think that they, they do see the need to pare down the number of vendors, marketing vendor relationships that they have. You know, the American consumer wants a one stop shop and that’s no different in, in, in American business. They want a one stop shop and that’s what we represent. And so I, I think they’re outsourcing just as much. But I do think that they want to consolidate vendors.
Lee Kantor: So in order for you to be the one stop shop, how do you kind of alleviate the problem that they are having by having kind of best in class and all these different areas in order to execute to the level that they need in response?
Ken Holsclaw: Yeah, that’s a good question. There’s two things you got to have. Number one, you got to have size, right? You got to have some critical mass because if you’re sitting there talking to a big company and you’re saying, Hey, put all of your marketing eggs in my basket, the first thing that they say is, well, your your basket better be pretty big and it better be pretty stable. Right? So so you’ve got to have critical mass. The second thing is, is that you’ve got to have the talent. I mean, if you’re going to offer, you know, these different services, you’ve got to be good at each one of them. And so you’ve got to you’ve got to have you got to have talent and expertise. Um, you know, in, in all the different services that you’re offering.
Lee Kantor: But don’t you have to be better than good in each of them?
Ken Holsclaw: Yeah. Yeah. You got to be good. I mean, you can’t, you know, I don’t. You know, they’re not going to. They’re not going to settle for, you know, a bad service just because it’s a one stop shop. No, you got to be. You got to deliver. You got to perform for sure.
Lee Kantor: So then how do you ensure your kind of best in class in each of the areas that your clients need?
Ken Holsclaw: You hold people accountable and you hire the right and you hire a lot of talent.
Lee Kantor: So how are you able to attract that level of talent in all the different areas that full service marketing agency would need?
Ken Holsclaw: We’ve made acquisitions. We’ve made acquisitions. So part of the strategy is acquiring the talent. And that’s that’s worked well. And then once you get, you know, once you once you’re capable of producing the work, that also you can hire the talent. Once they see that you’re capable, then then you’re able to organically hire it. So that’s kind of how we’ve gone about it.
Lee Kantor: So when you’re looking at the marketing landscape, I guess you’re hiring in the United States or all over the world, like how would you like how does somebody how does somebody catch your eye? What are they doing to catch your eye to say, hey, that might be a good acquisition for us or a good partner for us?
Ken Holsclaw: From an acquired company. How did they catch our eye?
Lee Kantor: Right. Because you’re trying to be best in class in all these different areas, obviously. And in order to do that, you said that acquisitions was the path you’ve taken to do that. So how does somebody catch your eye.
Ken Holsclaw: The you know, as you you know, as you get a reputation like we have over the years for acquiring companies then then companies that decide to to to come up for sale reach out to you. And so the longer that we you know, we’ve made 11 acquisitions over the last ten years. And as as the word has gotten out there of of of what we look for and who we’re acquiring, people actually start knocking on your door, which is good. And then, you know, you take a look at how they’ve done and what their expertise is and is it a fit for to bring them into the fold.
Lee Kantor: Now, you mentioned that your background was started in printing, right? Correct. So how do you how does kind of a young person that’s going on a career that may not point directly to marketing, but they might be good at marketing? How would you advise them on, you know, getting into the world of marketing?
Ken Holsclaw: Well, people need to understand that that marketing services encompasses a lot of different things. Okay, If you are a graphic designer, okay, you’re in the marketing business because what you’re designing, right is used for marketing. Okay? If you are in the public relations business, that’s a part of marketing. If you are a pressman and you are operating a printing press, you’re actually in the marketing industry. And so, you know, so a lot of people don’t understand that. You know, you talk to a lot of folks out there that that work at a print shop and they think that they you know, they think that they work in printing. Yes, they do. And yes, they work for a manufacturer. But it’s marketing. I mean, that’s what printing the vast well, not all printing is marketing, but the vast majority of printing is for marketing purposes, you know. And so so it first of all, it’s an understanding. It’s getting these young people to understand what all marketing encompasses. And in giving them a little bit more of a holistic view of, of what the industry is.
Lee Kantor: How would you advise the person a lot of young people, you know, really lean into social media and influencer marketing and want to be influencers and want to be YouTubers and all that. How would you advise them to kind of reframe what they’re doing and maybe take the leap and go into the marketing or communication industry?
Ken Holsclaw: Um, you’re right in that a lot of young people are interested in being in the world of social media, which is marketing.
Lee Kantor: Or the brand. I mean, in essence, they’re saying I am the brand. And so they’re trying to market themselves as a brand. To me, that’s not a big step away from helping other people.
Ken Holsclaw: Correct? Correct. So if you know, I think at that point it comes down to entrepreneurial ism. If someone wants to market themselves and build their own brand through social media and social influencing, I think that’s more entrepreneurial have at it. And as long as they they’re aware of the risks that come along with that. But those who don’t want to build their own brand, but they want to go into the marketing service of of social of of executing social media for the company that they work for or executing social media for marketing services companies like phase three for other for their clients. I think that’s great and I think it’s a great I think it’s a it’s a great profession. And I will also say that, you know, the, the the being an executor for for social media, I think is a young person’s game, you know, because it’s it’s hip, it’s trendy. So when I see the young the young 20 somethings, early 30 somethings that are doing the social media executing, I think that they have advantage over the the old folks like myself when it comes to that particular discipline within the marketing industry.
Lee Kantor: So if if someone’s listening that is that young person that is maybe tried and maybe is frustrated with the speed that they’re growing their own brand or they’re in this space and they’re doing it for other people, how would you advise them to, again, get on your radar or get into the the world of marketing and communication to get a job in that way? How would you position what they’re doing in a way that’s attractive to somebody like you?
Ken Holsclaw: Uh, work hard. Um, be responsible. You know, there’s a little bit of this whole I need to be, you know, for clickbait. I need to be shocking. I need to say controversial stuff. Um, you know, I think that that is a little bit of a fad that will not have staying power. Um, and so my, my advice would be if you want to build your own brand, build it in a way that adds value to others, like maybe through education or inspiration or what have you. If you are if you are wanting to execute for social media execution for other companies, just whatever it is, work hard. Um, you know, practice, you know, your basics, your basic fundamentals and and stay classy. You know, you don’t need to be controversial. You don’t need to be extreme. I just, you know, so that would be my thoughts.
Lee Kantor: So more elegance and less.
Ken Holsclaw: Absolutely. Absolutely. Less shouting. We have to remember that social media is only in its infancy infancy. So, you know, is it is it is it 15 years old? That’s not a long time. And so the world is an audience is still getting used to how social media is used, consumed, produced. And this whole keyboard warrior where the nastiness and the ugliness and the vitriol that we’re seeing on social media, I think will subside and go away because people just won’t have an appetite for it. And so, um, I, you know. Yes, stay classy, stay elegant, be nice, be kind, work hard. And, you know, that that comes through that that carries the day.
Lee Kantor: Now, you mentioned a lot of acquisitions in a short period of time. How do you kind of build a corporate culture to integrate all those different kind of corporate cultures that you’re bringing into the fold?
Ken Holsclaw: Um. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but when you’re acquiring a company, the first thing you need to do is reassure the employees because they’re going through change. And remember, the employees didn’t ask for the change. Just because an owner wants or the owners of a company want to sell. It’s not like that. The employees even knew about it. So it’s a change that is brought on to them that they didn’t necessarily ask for. So they’re nervous about it. You know, human beings are just resistant to change to begin with. So you have to provide some reassurances. You have to communicate openly and honestly. You have to be consistent, do what you say you’re going to do. And then you know, you know, then you just start out, you know, you lay out your culture, which ours is. You know, we work hard, but we have fun and we build and, you know, and we build together and we have a good time doing it. And so, as you as you express that to the new folks coming on board and you do it in a way that is open and honest and reassuring, you know, it helps. But but the whole process is not easy, I’ll say that.
Lee Kantor: So what is kind of the maybe I don’t want to say the the greatest milestone, but kind of the thing that’s the most rewarding for you in the since founding phase three. What is kind of that that moment for you that you were like, man, I’m really making an impact.
Ken Holsclaw: Uh, one is bringing together people from all walks of life and. You know, creating an environment where they feel comfortable to just display their talents. Um, and then as they display their talents over time, watching them get promoted, watching them grow and develop, they take on more responsibility. They learn. They put more money in their pocket because, you know, they’re growing their income. And then seeing some, you know, 20 something year old, you know, put the loyalty and work into phase three and then phase three develops them and promotes them. And then next thing you know, they’re buying a house and they’re they’re just advancing and succeeding in life. It’s probably been the most rewarding thing.
Lee Kantor: And you’ve grown phase three, not just here in Atlanta, but around the country as well. Right?
Ken Holsclaw: Headquartered in Atlanta. We’ve got operations in Charlotte, Nashville, Dallas, Texas, and then right outside of New York City in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey.
Lee Kantor: And was that in order to serve your clients better or is that to get more kind of boots on the ground to grow in those markets.
Ken Holsclaw: Or serving clients, serving clients, you know, getting, you know, developing a national footprint in a strategic way. You know, so it’s all it’s all part of that.
Lee Kantor: Are your is your staff in the office or are they remote now?
Ken Holsclaw: They’re in the office.
Lee Kantor: So that was important to you to have people actually come into a location?
Ken Holsclaw: Yes. From a from a collaboration standpoint and from a speed of business standpoint, you got to have it. You got to have it. I mean, we we do have a one day a week remote work policy for those who qualify. And I think the employees enjoy that. But but in general, we’ve got to be in the office and and on the print side, you know, you got to be in the office all the time. I mean, you can’t take the big printing press home with you, so you got to be there to produce it.
Lee Kantor: So what do you need more of? How can we help you?
Ken Holsclaw: Oh, gosh. Uh, we, um. You know, we just need. We’re looking for talent. We’re always looking for talent. So any any folks out there that have have that work hard and have a passion for marketing services, it’s a we’re a great place.
Lee Kantor: And if somebody wants to learn more, have a more substantive conversation with you or somebody on the team. What’s a website?
Ken Holsclaw: Um W-w-w-what Phase three mc.com.
Lee Kantor: And that’s HRC the number three mc.com.
Ken Holsclaw: Correct.
Lee Kantor: Good stuff, Ken. Thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work. We appreciate you.
Ken Holsclaw: We thanks a lot for having me. I appreciate your time.
Lee Kantor: All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see y’all next time on Atlanta Business Radio.
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