Leadership + People: Episode 46 - Jacob Hoehne - Part 2 of 2

In this episode Hoehne shares his joy in gift giving and how he stays connected to clients. He provides suggestions for organizations looking to do good locally and abroad and how to build a compassionate team focus internally. Hoehne tells the story of a project gone bad that ended in a successful relationship because they put the client first, no strings attached.

Show Notes

  • How a Santa Claus addiction helps him stand out and stay relevant [01:50]
  • When doing good, do not attempt to reinvent the wheel [06:11]
  • Do good through good work culture and employee treatment [06:11]
  • Examples of men who leveraged their networks and skill sets to make a difference around the world [10:34]
  • The keys to creating a team of compassionate creatives [13:59]
  • One miscommunication doesn’t mean the end of relationship when connections are valued more than transactions [15:53]

Show Audio


Jacob Hoehne 2

This episode of Leadership and People was originally released on: August 15th, 2018

Show Transcript

[BEGINS] 00:00

Welcome to Leadership and People. This is a series that pulls back the curtain on leadership by interviewing CEOs, Senior Executives and Entrepreneurs who had large exits. We ask these experts about how they built trusted networks to rapidly grow their companies.  And what advice they wish they knew if they could do it all again.

00:00 JL: Welcome to Leadership and People. I’m Jess Larson and Part 2 of our interview here with Jacob Hoehne, CEO of ISSIMO Story Agency. We’re going to be diving deeper into what we just were talking about at the end of part one. So if you missed that, I really recommend going back and catching that. But Jacob you know the show here Leadership and People, we’ve been talking in the first episode a bit more about the leadership side of things. I want to talk about people. And as a CEO how you choose where to spend your time and the benefits of being in the right place at the right time. And just kind of, I mean specifically one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show is; to me you’re kind of one of these people who lives this idea of generosity is a competitive advantage. I’ve seen like, you were offering- I know you guys take on pro bono stuff sometimes and you were offering to help us out with stuff at the charity we started; Child Rescue. Which turned into, you know, when I was doing that work with the Vatican, Laudato Si, asking if you guys would potentially be willing to get involved in that. And I know that’s lead to other business. Can you talk a little bit about what it was that you feel like… what it was at Laudato Si that really helped you guys decide this is the way you want to change your business to focus. And also just kind of this nature, you know, you’re not necessarily the most arm waving loudmouth kind of guy but you obviously know how to network. Can you talk about this?

JACOB HOEHNE: Yeah. Yeah. So rewinding a bit it was a bit….

01:50 JL: All six questions there.

Santa Claus Addiction

JACOB HOEHNE: With the C4 trip to San Diego. And I’m trying to remember. I think you and I were in a critical questions group. And I think as you were talking about your charity and I was like, if it sounds like something worthwhile I would love to be apart if we need to. And you know that connection. And we had lunch at Sette Bello, you know, a little bit afterwards and tried to see how we might be able to, you know, donate some time to help that cause. But then this crazy thing popped up that turned into the Laudato Si Challenge. And, you know, the… The way that it’s worked for me, as far as like, I mean I’d have never heard that phrase but I like that generosity as a competitive advantage. That’s just how I want to live. I sort of say that I run a business to support my Santa Claus addiction. I like sending people gifts and surprising them or being… Doing things for people is how I feel fulfilled in my life. But it’s you know, it’s been interesting as you know Corporate Alliance helped me grow my business significantly, early when I was starting out. And it’s been interesting to see the lessons I learned from that; building a business locally. Where I can drop in and say hi to someone, or take someone to lunch. As we’ve narrowed our focus to cause brands, and you know, more impact investing type stories, the clientele is really all over the world. I mean we’re starting a new project for an investment bank in the Netherlands. But you know our assistant Monica meeting with people and setting up opportunities. And it’s harder to stay in touch with people like that. Where you can’t just… you won’t see them at the next networking event. But the same thing like really listening to them as a person and finding ways to serve them. And it might be just a handwritten note. Or you know, they mentioned they really like this restaurant and sending them something as a way to stand out from the crowd or be you know relevant. Plus it’s fun to gift people stuff, you know. So that’s… The lessons have still translated as the sales efforts are different, for me. What were the other questions? [laugh]

04:55 JL: I think this is a good thing. I want to talk about this idea of the way you’ve chosen to take the direction. You know, you look at these big CEO surveys that Deloitte or PWC or KPMG do. And they are constantly covering things like how much anxiety CEOs made from the baby boomer generation have about adapting the millennial client. Those people born kind of the 1980 to 2000, those 20 years in there is a huge portion of the population that is now having larger and larger portions of the buying power in society. And so as they look at becoming more purpose driven organization or things like that. Can you talk about the transition and just, when you guys were flying around the world to make these videos for the Vatican, highlighting these business that are making the world better. Maybe just, anyway that you went about that that helped you get more business. And just what you’ve seen by trying to focus there?

JACOB HOEHNE: [sigh] Yeah. I’m trying to think of how to rephrase that question.

06:11 JL: Well. Ok. So here’s my question. For the rest of us who might want to have our business do more good in the world, You’re obviously able to leverage the work you did with the Vatican into now working with many of these organizations that are very purpose driven, very like, ‘for purpose’ companies, you know for profit companies that are making the world better. Any advice for the rest of us who want to become more like that?

Start to Do Good Internally

JACOB HOEHNE: Yeah. So one of the first things that comes to mind, I think there’s a common thing, maybe especially with tech companies or it depends, but that you want to set up your own charity that has, you know, that does your own good. And you have your own pet project. And there can be a lot of good in that. There’s also just so much redundancy in the nonprofit space. So I guess backing up I would say, do something. Do good and there is good and better and best ways to do that. But I think, don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. There are so many organizations that have spent decades figuring out process and have the organizational structure and the connections and resources and boots on the ground to make a difference. And it’s often, you know, you burn a lot of that good will trying to reinvent the wheel. So to… I think partnering with those organizations who are already doing good, can take your dollars further. I think the trend that is exciting is seeing that giving back or cause is, companies are starting out with it being more a part of their dna than just sprinkled on top at the end to launder their image. It’s sometimes how it’s seen. But it can be something, but as far as a day a month we go and volunteer. I think the more that you can connect it to what you stand for and that it’s authentic to you. And that your motives are in the right place, I think you’ll find something that is a good fit. For the… You’re a home builder and maybe your guys go and build a habitat house. Awesome. For… You know, and maybe… The other part of it is, not that this is an excuse but realizing too that providing a good culture where people can earn a wage that provide for their families is an act of community service. It really is something that makes our communities a better place by having a good place to work. And so look first internally with, you know, how you’re taking care of your people. Because you know, it can be a little scary the amount of influence or impact you have on those that you employe. You make it miserable for them and that ripple effect makes a lot of people miserable. And if you can make some of them happy and that can bless a lot of people. Both their families and the people they interact with. But then also, your customers. I mean. I love Tony Shays approach I mean we don’t have to… They put, the take care of the customer first. And when the customer is happy, oh sorry when the employee is happy they will take good care of the customer. As opposed to over focusing on the customer and undervaluing the employee and having to put on a fake face that they’re happy or that they’re glad to do their job. Is that making any sense?

Post Career Purpose: Leveraging Skills and Networks to Make a Difference

10:34 JL: Yeah. And I kind of want to go back to what you said about those, you know, whether it’s partnering or looking close to home first. When you think about these just whether its a large corporation or just the individual billionaires and folks at these events, you know that you’re at. I know you’re going to Snow Cap out in California coming up. And just this world that you’re a part of now. Who is somebody that you feel like is doing it right. Who is somebody that you look up to whether as an organization or as an individual?

JACOB HOEHNE: I mean, the first guy that comes to mind is Eric Harr. He was the founder of Laudato Si. As incredibly generous as he is, big heart and passionate and driven with what he’s doing. There’s… I mean Joe Ritchie is doing amazing things gathering like, sort of this, you know, amazing group of people that have quote unquote ‘made it’, but leveraging all of their collective efforts to you know, make a difference in some developing countries. And…

11:50 JL: So, like a lot of people don’t know Joe unless they read that Fast Company article about going into Rwanda after the genocide and helping really work with the business men and the political leaders and everybody to grow their GDP back, kind of put that country back together is now like an advisor to all those presidents in Africa. When you think about Joe and the way he interacts with folks and it isn’t like the ‘look at me’ kind of show. Right? Tell me more about, I mean I know what I respect about Joe but tell me what it is brought him up for you, or what you think is different about him?  

JACOB HOEHNE: Yeah I think the… I mean like you mentioned, you know, you wouldn’t suspect the influence that he wields. But he could easily stepped back decades ago and lived comfortably. But he really feels like it’s his duty, his mission you know, and for him it’s part of his ministry if you will, to take both his expertise, And you know and the network that he’s built over years and go make amazing things happen. You know and so taking the same lessons in Rwanda and taking it to Guatemala and some other places. You know I think maybe it’s different seasons of your career but you know, if those who are approaching an exit and thinking what will I do next, there is so much good that you can do. But I would say that sometimes we put it out there as far as like ‘when I’m a billionaire, then…’ But I think a lot of that starts with how are you acting and behaving now.

13:59 JL: I want to ask about that. You’ve obviously gone through a lot of different staff over the years of running your business just like anybody. Can you talk about that about both setting the example and then also like structurally having your organization be the one, like having it built into the organization to help everyone on the team start to live it now?

Creating a Do Good Team

JACOB HOEHNE: Yeah and I mean I only can speak to, you know, our little boutique agency and how we’ve done things. But we have from the beginning tried to… You know you try a lot of different things to try to filter for culture fit and your hiring. But the two things that have come down for us that are sort of non negotiables; that people who put people first. You know, so we like to be compassionate creatives. And the second is that they enjoy a good problem to solve and aren’t threatened or scared away from that. And so…

15:11 JL: So you’re saying you screen for that when you’re hiring?


15:15 JL: And how do you reinforce it once they are hired?

JACOB HOEHNE: I think it’s the way that we talk about, you know, whether it’s, so when push comes to shove, which corners are you going to cut or which things in a forced hierarchy get pushed to the top. We hope, we try, we strive to be sure that we take care of the person and the relationship over the transaction.

15:53 JL: So, what can be an example of that?

Clients Not Transactions

JACOB HOEHNE: So years ago, there was a client that we did… It involved… Her project involved a lot of different stop clips for this particular piece we were making. And when they saw the piece they felt like there was, you know it was about, I think it was $10,000 of stock footage that was going into a variety of things. And they felt like oh, when they had approved stuff they hadn’t really… They didn’t feel like we had selected the exact ones they thought we were. So there was some miscommunication or something. And we stepped back and said ok what do you feel like would be fair? What would make this right? And we were prepared to pay the whole amount. Like not charge them for any of it. It was all somewhat on the table. And they’re like ‘well’, you know, It ended up being refunded I think $1000 for just a little bit. But it was, I guess trying to be what like… That client though, we could’ve burned a bridge there, but they’ve represented probably half a million dollars over the last decade of business since that event. So seeing, you know, it’s seeing the lifetime value of a customer. And that’s maybe, that’s still transactional focused. The relationship, the human being, the connection is still far more valuable than just holding. And you need to stand up for yourself at times and there’s times you can’t always do that. But that one stands out to me because of the longevity of that relationship. You know.

17:52 JL: Yeah. Well. And it sounds like your generosity, like your willingness to do that wasn’t transactionalism. Like we would be willing to eat this as long as we get your business. You know that is was like the genuine, ‘we’ll eat this even if this is the last thing we do together’ kind of approach kind of it sounds like.  

JACOB HOEHNE: It has to be. It can’t ever be with strings attached.

18:23 JL: Yeah.


18:24 JL: I love it. I think that’s a great place to end. We appreciate all the time you’ve spent with us here.

JACOB HOEHNE: Yeah. You bet. I’m happy to.

18:40 JL: As far as, if people want to come see your work and reel, where can people check out the stories you guys have made?

JACOB HOEHNE: Yeah. So the best place our website. issimo.co and the very first video that’s going to show up there is sort of our manifesto as well. I mean, we created it for that Laudato Si challenge but in a lot of ways it embodies our philosophy towards life and business. That gives a good idea of the kinds of things we want to be doing, pursuing this new direction with impact and social good.

19:19 JL: Love it. Thanks again.

JACOB HOEHNE: Thanks Jess.

19:22 JL: You bet.

[END] 19:22