As President and Founder of Anvil Media, Inc., Kent Lewis is responsible for managing operations, marketing and business development towards its purpose of creating meaningful impact for Anvil’s clients, community and its employees through creative problem-solving, making and leveraging connections and educating others.
With a background in integrated marketing, Kent Lewis left a public relations agency in 1996 to start his Internet marketing career at a Portland, OR Web development firm, where he also created a free monthly lifestyle e-zine and acted as Editor-in-Chief for a decade. Shortly thereafter, he built and managed his first search engine marketing team at a full-service marketing agency. Lewis went on to found or co-found two agencies and two organizations, including pdxMindShare, an online career community, and SEMpdx, a trade organization for SEM professionals.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to Valiant CEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Kent Lewis: I’ve been a professional marketer since 1994, specializing in SEO since 1996 and running teams since 1997, with experience at 9 different agencies. I’ve owned my own digital marketing agency since 2000 and have managed to build a family and a few other ventures over the years.
Anvil was founded in 2000, two years after Google officially launched as a search engine and the same year AdWords unveiled. As one of the oldest search engine marketing agencies in the Pacific Northwest, and one of the most award-winning in the United States, Anvil prides itself on its ability to delight customers and consistently generate measurable results. While Anvil specializes in analytics, search engine optimization (SEO), paid media and organic social media strategy services, we provide a full-service approach to integrated marketing.
Our measurable marketing service offering is built on a client-first philosophy. We’ve built a team of talented marketers, all trained and certified in the dark arts of digital marketing, and are aligned to The Anvil Credo. Not only are we a growth-minded team, but we are also a teaching organization that is deeply invested in the local community. Our executive team has nearly 70 years of collective marketing and management experience, which has led to healthy and productive company culture.
Who has been the most influential person(s) in your life and how did they impact you? How did that lead to where you are today?
Kent Lewis: Professionally, the most influential person in my life was Ryan Wilson. He originally recruited me from an interactive agency in 1997 then encouraged me to grow a digital team under his guidance over the next 18 months. I learned how to run teams (and later agencies) from him. He then recruited me to join him at a startup agency he founded in January 1999. We grew to 34 employees and $3.5M in revenue in 18 months before the turbulence we created led him to fire me and another executive. We were never able to reconnect before he died of a massive heart attack 9 months later. I was devastated and learned never to let conflicts get in the way of friendships or mentorships. His insights still guide me today.
2020 was a challenging year for all of us, particularly for businesses. How did the pandemic impact your business? Please list some of the problems that you faced, and how you handled them.
Kent Lewis: We started out 2020 down 30% year-over-year, and COVID only hurt us further as we lost a handful of clients decimated by the pandemic. Fortunately, we’d already started reviewing, rebuilding and optimizing our business in late 2019, and had a head start in weathering the short-term impact. Our revitalized services, processes and team were able to effectively delight and elevate clients the rest of the year. We ended up making back the 30% loss by the year’s end and tightened up profits as a result.
The pandemic led to a myriad of cultural side effects, including one that was quite unexpected that is informally known as “The Great Resignation”. Did this widespread trend affect you in any way?
Kent Lewis: Initially, I doubted the reality of The Great Resignation, primarily because we’re a boutique agency and I meet with my team regularly and have a good feel for their wants, needs and concerns. Unfortunately, I misjudged TGR, and the reality hit us when an employee left to pursue a different role at another company. Her last contribution at Anvil was to write an article on TGR, which helped me understand the importance and impact of the trend that has or will affect a majority of businesses.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021. How do you feel about this trend? Explain.
Kent Lewis: While this is a significant number and validates the trend, I personally believe rising inflation will force the pendulum to swing back towards employment and employers in the next 6-9 months.
According to a study by Harvard Business Review, Employees between 30 and 45 years old have had the greatest increase in resignation rates, with an average increase of more than 20% between 2020 and 2021. That can be quite an alarming rate. What advice would you share to increase employee retention?
Kent Lewis: Here are a few ways businesses can mitigate the impact of TGR, as outlined in my webinar:
Provide Competitive wages
- Set Flexible work schedules (2 days in-office, 3 remote is optimal)
- Provide relevant & creative benefits (including professional development)
- Revise job descriptions (values-based, inclusive, global)
- Invest more time in recruiting process
- Increase quality & quantity of employee check-ins/reviews
- Glean more insights from exit interviews
According to a Nature Human behavior study, In 2020, 80% of US workers reported feeling that they have too many things to do and not enough time to do them – a phenomenon known as “time poverty”. What is your take on the work-life balance? Explain.
Kent Lewis: As an entrepreneur and business owner, I don’t have the luxury of balance. Instead, I’ve tried to master work-life integration, with some success. I measure it by both the performance of my business and feedback from my family. For everyone else, I recommend planning each workweek over the prior weekend and each workday the evening before or morning of. Create a schedule and task list to accomplish and utilize time-blocking to give yourself the distraction-free time to complete tasks. I recommend mastering prioritization (what’s important vs. urgent) and having the discipline to eat, exercise and sleep healthy amounts.
A more recent survey by Joblist asked about 3,000 respondents if they’re actively thinking about leaving their job. That survey found that 73% of 2,099 respondents who answered this question on their employment plans are considering quitting. How are you preparing for the future to counter this potentially persistent problem?
Kent Lewis: I’ve answered this question previously. First and foremost, I’m integrating the entire team into the annual planning process at our company, so they can help shape and implement our roadmap. They will be held accountable for their roles and be rewarded accordingly. Being bought into the vision and supporting goals is important.
Also, I check in weekly with every employee via a scorecard system and in-person monthly to ensure we are aligned, roadblocks are removed and they are empowered to achieve goals set in their own personal career roadmap as well as for their workgroup. I’ve found that people that are well-compensated, have a competent manager, clear goals and match culturally with our organization tend to stay.
Thank you for all that, our readers are grateful for your insightful comments! Now, if the Great Resignation isn’t your greatest concern, what is the #1 most pressing challenge you’re trying to solve in your business right now?
Kent Lewis: Our greatest concern at Anvil is recruiting top-level talent for open positions (vs. retaining them). As a digital marketing agency, we can’t easily pull from college degrees or departments. We have to find people with unique talents, passions, shared values and interests that match Anvil and the specific role. This is very difficult, especially when factoring in DEI goals.
I’ve been an adjunct professor at Portland State University since 2000 and have hired a handful of students from my class. I also run a networking group and online career community, pdxMindShare, which provides us a platform to help with recruiting. Despite that and over 21,000 connections on LinkedIn, we still struggle to locate ideal talent.
Before we finish things off, we do have one last question. If you had $10 Million Dollars to spend in one day, what would you spend it on?
Kent Lewis: I would invest in cryptocurrency (Bitcoin, ETH, and maybe 1 or 2 others). After a few years, I’d peel off a percentage, create a charitable trust and give it away, but leave enough in the portfolio to sustain the trust.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Kent Lewis for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Kent Lewis or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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