Amy Hanlon, president of Blue Meta Design, visually showcases the impactful stories of startups through graphic design, partnering with VC’s on cutting-edge investments. A small branding agency located in the Mid-South, Blue Meta Design is client-focused, servicing companies that are changing the world and their communities.
With a goal to create memorable brands, Amy dives deep into the inner workings of each company to develop creative visuals while supplementing customizable services. She works with some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names, giving her insight into what makes a brand stand out to a venture capital firm.
Graphic design is Blue Meta’s medium for making their clients’ brand their competitive edge, ultimately acting as an extension of their clients’ teams, providing highly integrated solutions to help them succeed.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Amy Hanlon: Thank you, Jed, for having me. My name is Amy Hanlon. I’m a graphic designer by trade and the founder of Blue Meta Design which is an agency that specializes in branding for VCs and startup technology companies.
We consult and work along side our clients to ensure that their visual brand is a competitive advantage for the company. We work to develop brands from the ground up, work on brand extensions, custom websites, pitch decks, collaterals, events, marketing, and more.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Amy Hanlon: I think the biggest lesson learned across the board is the value of your people. Both 2020 and 2021 were wild and stressful. They caused everyone to reevaluate their life, which lead to The Great Resignation. Businesses have traditionally been ran as machines with people being the engine. They were viewed as something that was replaceable and basic compensation that had previously been sufficient was still considered good enough.
While The Great Resignation didn’t effect us internally, we did see the effects of it while working with our clients. Constant turn-over caused projects to be delayed and budgets to expand drastically. Understanding what worked in the past isn’t acceptable any more.
For me, I sought out to have an agency that didn’t work like other agencies. I wanted our team to feel heard, valued, and to have work-life balance while creating amazing work for our clients and working along side them as a team. We also have different generations of employees, so learning what those values mean to each generation has been eye-opening.
It’s forced me to adjust what the definitions of each of these values mean for the agency. As the founder of the agency, it’s incredibly important to be flexible while also establishing a firm foundation for growth. I know who our agency is and what the future looks like. Getting there, however, involves flexibility since the future is unpredictable.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Amy Hanlon: I think the recession is the biggest disrupter we’re experiencing right now. So many tech companies are laying off their workforce in droves, but that doesn’t mean the actual amount of work is reducing. It means more people are working longer and harder than ever. Combine a heavier workload with little to no compensation for it and the rising prices of every tangible item, people are feeling the pressure and stress of the economy right now.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Amy Hanlon: The pandemic raised havoc amongst design agencies. Many of them folded or were forced to layoff the majority of their workforce. Seeing these things happen as we were just starting to get our foothold was nerve wracking, but it also reinforced my theory of growing slow but strong. Our agency is small, but the people we have on board are the absolute best. I focus on having a firm foundation of smart designers that are quick, creative, and deliver perfect end results.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Amy Hanlon: Be prepared for the long-haul. I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the longevity that the Pandemic was, the number of casualties, or the long-term implications that it had on our lives
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Amy Hanlon: While there is a strong push for more of an in-office work environment, I think it’s going to be a long battle for companies. Working from home gave people so much freedom, less distractions, and showcased that responsible employees can get their work done even while working from home. I think the online space is going to continue to maintain their dominance and will produce some amazing new technologies for people.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Amy Hanlon: This is one I’m not proud of. I honestly spend 12-14 hours a day in front of a screen whether that’s for work or personally on my phone in the morning or night.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Amy Hanlon: Oh gosh, is that true?! Well, I’m a pretty terrible motivational storyteller (just ask my husband). I’m more of a facts-driven person when it comes to communication with my team. Luckily, I have some pretty hilarious and good storytelling leaders within the company though. They balance me out.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Amy Hanlon: Work-Life Balance—I’ve always been a hard worker and I truly love what I do, so it doesn’t really feel like work, but there is such a need to have personal hobbies and interests outside of work. This is something that I’ve always struggled with, but I’m constantly trying to work on.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Amy Hanlon: I’m personally interested in real estate. My agency just purchased a large historic home (over 200 years old), and we share that space with some attorneys. I’m in the learning phase of being a landlord, while maintaining and preserving the history of the building, which means lots of meetings with my attorney and CPA.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Amy Hanlon: I think it’s good to further the conversation about this. Yes, I do think most bosses think this way. I’ve had so many bosses like this, but now that I’m in their shoes, I understand why it’s so easy to get into this mentality. Bosses have so much on their plate and hold some much responsibility to keep the business running, it’s very easy to take advantage of the workforce and think strictly about the numbers.
You truly have to be deliberate in making sure your employees really do feel heard and that you’re acting on the feedback you are getting from them. We try and hold monthly check-in, but I always have quarterly checkin-ins with each person individually. This is both beneficial for them to know how we see their performance, but also gives them a chance to voice frustrations or concerns.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Amy Hanlon: I’d choose the superpower of seeing the future. If you know what’s coming your way, it’s easy to prepare for it.
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Amy Hanlon: I always set goals for the business each calendar year. This year, I set some pretty lofty financial goals (full transparency, we likely won’t hit them, but we’ll be close). I’ve set a dollar figure, but more importantly a gross profit percentage (this one we will hit).
Another goal was to launch our website, (which we did) and to work with a client within the alcohol industry—we haven’t landed one yet, but we still have several months. All of these goals always pertain to our five-year vision and help build the foundation to hit those goals.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Amy Hanlon for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Amy Hanlon or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
Disclaimer: The ValiantCEO Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.