As CEO and Founder of Hackett Brand Consulting, Megan Prejzner draws from nearly 15 years of experience working with Fortune 50 enterprises, national franchise brands, independent retailers, e-commerce companies, and entrepreneurs as she helps purpose-driven brands drive real, measurable results through marketing. Her work has resulted in multi-million-dollar, revenue-driving marketing campaigns, national accolades for social media activations, award-winning brand redesigns, and twitter-trending influencer events.
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We’re happy that you could join us today! Please introduce yourself to our readers. What’s your story?
Megan Prejzner: For more than 10 years, I’ve built some pretty killer brands and worked with some really awesome people. I’ve helped Fortune 500 companies, nationally-recognized brands, independent retailers, and entrepreneurs to build branding and marketing systems that garnered some pretty big results.
I’ve led brand marketing that’s won awards. Built social marketing programs that have been recognized as leading marketing campaigns for the year. I’ve supported marketing initiatives that have resulted in twitter-trending events and hundreds of millions of dollars in PR coverage. Results that get noticed. I worked my butt off to land my dream job leading Brand Marketing. But, like so many people, when I got there, I realized it wasn’t really my dream job. And, to be completely honest, I wasn’t happy.
So, I looked inward to my internal why, mission, purpose – you know, that little voice guiding much of what we all do. And with the guiding light that I want to help others push beyond what is so that they can unlock the possibility of what can be.
Around this same time, on a trip to New Zealand, my husband and I decided to bungee jump – a major feat for me, terrified of heights – and it became one of those unexpected, profound, transitional moments in life. After the jump, I knew when we went back home something was going to change with my career.
And after a few short months, the stars aligning, and a leap of faith by me and my husband I started my own marketing agency – Hackett Brand Consulting.
CEOs and leaders usually have different motives and aspirations when getting started. Let’s go straight to the beginning. What was your primary goal for starting your business? Was it wealth, respect, or to offer a service that would help improve lives?
Megan Prejzner: AS long as I can remember, I was planning on starting and running my own business. Even while working for other companies, I would talk to my husband about how we would build culture and create a company that people would actually want to work for. The dreams were in the making well before I started a business.
When I started Hackett Brand Consulting, it was a mix of a desire to have personal freedom by creating a culture that would allow people to work at their own time and pace, and a deeply-rooted idea that I felt I could help businesses push beyond challenges and unlock the possibility of what can be through marketing. It was both an internal mission to help create a better business culture than I had ever experienced, and an external mission to help others grow by providing them with years of marketing knowledge to succeed.
At the end of the day, I just wanted to do things differently and for me, that meant striving for real work-life balance for me and my team. As Hackett grew, we really found our footing with purpose-driven brands. Making a positive impact on the world is something that we’re passionate about. We combine that with our marketing knowledge and experience to bring your brand’s mission and vision to life. It’s not about marketing your purpose, it’s about starting with purpose at your core and then using marketing to get you the attention you deserve.
Working with us means gaining a trusted partner. We live and breathe the same ethics as you and we’ll treat your brand as our own. And we believe that big, bold, attention-grabbing ideas can meet down-to-earth, real business results and do so as a force for good
Tell us about 2 things that you like and two things that you dislike about your industry. Share what you’d like to see change and why.
Megan Prejzner: I love the profoundly positive impact brands can have on people’s lives. Business and good don’t have to be at odds, and there are a lot of brands in the world working to make it a better place. It’s so inspiring to see purpose-driven brands show up every day to make the world a better place through work. I also love the people. As marketers, we get to be creative and come up with new, bold ideas all of the time. It’s always fun to bring a concept to life from idea to execution, whether that’s from a blog to an ad campaign to PR results.
In terms of what I’d love to see change is reputation. A lot of people look at marketing as a gimmick, and when in the hands of the wrong people, I can see why. Clickbait, spam callers, etc. all can work against the true integrity of the field of marketing and the creative side of the business. I also believe purpose starts at the core of a business and should be more than a marketing ploy. For us, the purpose is part of your brand and is deeply rooted in the heart and soul of an organization. It’s not something we “sell” through marketing but work with people to make it a part of the very fabric of their organization and only then, do we bring it to light through marketing.
Companies around the world are rapidly changing their work environment and organizational culture to facilitate diversity. How do you see your organizational culture changing in the next 3 years and how do you see yourself creating that change?
Megan Prejzner: At Hackett Brand Consulting, we were started as a remote team well before the pandemic began. We believe that a great team does not need to be living in one place, working in one place and this allows us to really work with expert consultants from across the United States. Because of this, we see our team bringing different ideas together all of the time. We all have different perspectives and different life experiences that we bring to the table, and it is our backgrounds that make a difference.
In the next three years, are acutely focused on continuing to create an organizational culture that is diverse. We are responsible for creating the change we want to see in the world, and for us, we want to see a world where everyone has a voice and is represented. No excuses, no exceptions.
According to the Michigan State University “An organization’s culture is responsible for creating the kind of environment in which the business is managed, and has a major impact on its ultimate success or failure.” What kind of culture has your organization adopted and how has it impacted your business?
Megan Prejzner: I believe this statement to be true at my core. Your people make all the difference, and people can be the make or break for your organization. Our culture and people really make a difference at Hackett.
As a marketing agency, we put the culture and well-being of our team before our client and seek clients that work well with our culture. This is very different than most marketing agencies. For us, I am focused on making sure every member of our team remains happy and energized around their work. If they want to switch roles, we help them grow and do that. If they want to pair back work or work on different clients, we help them do that. And this starts by having an open line of communication with me and their leaders at any time.
Richard Branson once famously stated “There’s no magic formula for great company culture. The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated.” and Stephen R. Covey admonishes to “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers. What’s your take on creating a great organizational culture?
Megan Prejzner: This reminds me of a quote I love, which is – What if we help our people grow and they leave? But, what if we don’t and they stay. Life is not stagnant and you shouldn’t expect your team to be. We want our people to grow – in their careers, as people, as friends, and so much more. If they grow with us, we celebrate that. And if their growth needs to happen outside of our organization, we celebrate that.
So, we show up with kindness, treat people better than they’d like to be treated and celebrate one another.
The overwhelming majority of more than 9,000 workers included in a recent Accenture survey on the future of work said they felt a hybrid work model would be optimal going forward, a major reason for that being the improved work-life balance that it offers. How do you promote work-life balance at your company?
Megan Prejzner: When starting Hackett, work-life balance was a major driver of doing so. We wanted to create a culture that we actually wanted to work as leaders, and focused on creating a place to work that recognizes all parts of people’s lives. We support the idea that true work-life balance makes us better at work, at home, in our relationships, etc.
Our team members are all based in different states, and work schedules allow them to accommodate their lives. If they want to go for a run in the middle of the day, they do that. If they want to pick up their kids from school and work early morning, they do that. Everyone is responsible for managing their time at a pace that fits their lifestyle. When we notice people haven’t taken personal time in a while, we encourage them to do so.
For us, it’s in the little moments of recognizing our team’s schedule to do the day-to-day activities as much as it is closing for a week around the holiday season and the fourth of July. We find when you’re mentally relaxed, able to live a balanced life, then you also show up as a more present team member.
How would you describe your company’s overall culture? Give us examples.
Megan Prejzner: Below are a few examples:
Open. We truly have an open communication policy at our company where employees can freely express areas of their professional life that they’d like to grow, pull back from, etc. We don’t wait for “reviews” or once-a-year conversations to encourage growth and development, it is happening every day and much of this is in part to being able to be open in communication.
Flexible. We encourage a culture that is flexible to our team’s lives. As long as everyone is showing up and doing their best work possible, meeting deadlines, etc. we provide the flexibility to care for your personal life as well.
Supportive. We truly care about our team members’ whole beings – how their families are doing, how they’re doing, their growth as professionals, etc. We are more than just one professional aspect of ourselves and we take the time to really care and connect with one another.
Driven. Every member of our team is driven to do more, grow bigger and keep learning. It is very important to our culture that every member of the team is driven and ambitious, as it challenges everyone to do their very best work.
Kind. Kindness matters and we are kind to one another, always.
It is believed that a company’s culture is rooted in a company’s values. What are your values and how do they affect daily life at the workplace?
Megan Prejzner: Be Kind, Always
By building a team of open-minded, kind-hearted human beings, we’re able to make a difference in the world and help our clients connect with their target audience on a genuine, human level.
- Do The Best Work Possible
Our team delivers best-in-class work with dedication and heart. We treat your brand as our own and work that hard to make sure it’s growing, reaching the right people, and having your desired impact.
- Think Bold(er)
Unlock the power of what can be. Our mindset is to view challenges as opportunities and, in doing so, unlock the possibilities that lie on the other side of overcoming a challenge.
- Work Hard, Be Nice To People
Life’s a whole lot better when you’re nice to people. And it makes this thing we all call work a lot better too. So you can expect us to work hard, and to always be kind. Some things really are that simple. Our values reflect our culture. We focus both on working hard, doing the best possible work in the industry, and being the best possible people we can be. We spend so much of our lives working, it’s important not just do good work but to also cultivate a culture where people can be the very best version of themselves.
An organization’s management has a deep impact on its culture. What is your management style and how well has it worked so far?
Megan Prejzner: My management style is all about being open. Open-minded, open with communication, and remaining approachable. Before speaking first, I intentionally ask our team for their perspectives, solutions, and ideas and find that this really enables people to become leaders themselves. They feel empowered to share their ideas, to know that recommendations become actions and that they can approach leaders with feedback every time.
Every organization suffers from internal conflicts, whether functional or dysfunctional. Our readers would love to know, how do you solve an internal conflict?
Megan Prejzner: Every member of our team feels confident coming to their leader, as well as me as the CEO, with challenges they are facing. This open style of communication allows for our team to share feedback regularly and freely whether they’re faced with an internal or client challenge. But the big factor here is to listen. As leaders, we must not only listen but act on feedback – providing our teams with clear direction and next steps that will be taken to resolve a conflict. Finally, we follow up. It is a continuous loop that we’re building where we receive feedback, really listen, take action and follow-up to create accountability.
According to Culture AMP, Only 40% of women feel satisfied with the decision-making process at their organization (versus 70% of men), which leads to job dissatisfaction and poor employee retention. What is your organization doing to facilitate an inclusive and supportive environment for women?
Megan Prejzner: As a female CEO, I am acutely aware of discrimination (whether intentional or not) and lack of representation in decision-making at organizations. This is reflected in the highest organization and structures in the United States, for example, Congress being 80% male, and it is a poor representation of the true make-up of our society. In fact, when I was working for an organization they had a party-planning committee that was 90% female. I brought this up to our CEO, sharing why we are asking women to be the homemaker and party planner in the office, and politely declined the opportunity to be part of the group until it included more men.
It is through these personal experiences and also opening of the mind to experiences outside of our own, that I recognized that I have the ability to make change when it comes to creating an inclusive and supportive environment at my organization.
Our flexible culture and working dynamic allow women – in particular, parents- the ability to be both present at work and at home. In addition, we recognize people work from home and that does mean home life connects with work life at times. So if a kiddo pops onto a meeting, we allow grace for the parent to have their child present without judgment or repercussion.
We also have a very transparent culture where I recognize that creating and being open to dialogue around inclusivity, can foster the development of an inclusive environment. This includes remaining open and humble to hearing if/when something is not as supportive as an environment as possible. We are aware of language and actions that negatively impact the facilitation of an inclusive environment and actively work to learn more, do more and grow to be inclusive of all.
What role do your company’s culture and values play in the recruitment process and how do you ensure that it is free from bias?
Megan Prejzner: It is important that every team member reflects our values and can seamlessly fit into our culture. People make the difference and everyone we hire not only must be great at their role but must be a fit for our culture. We involve our team members in the hiring process and solicit feedback both on work and culture to ensure we’re not making decisions in a leadership silo. At the end of the day, hiring falls on the leader, but we want to ensure our team members feel a sense of involvement and have a voice in the process.
We’re grateful for all that you have shared so far! We would also love to know if there was one thing that you could improve about your company’s culture, what would it be?
Megan Prejzner: We’d love to do more in-person retreats. We are a 100% remote team and unfortunately because of COVID we have not been able to actively meet in person. While I highly recommend a remote approach, I would love to have the opportunity for our team to meet in person more regularly than what has been possible as of late.
This has been truly insightful and we thank you for your time. Our final question, however, might be a bit of a curveball. If you had a choice to either fly or be invisible, which would you choose and why?
Megan Prejzner: I would love to fly. The ability to be able to soar through the sky, and see the world from a new perspective intrigues me. It feels like you could experience this life in a whole new way and have the freedom to quite literally feel the wind beneath your wings.
I suppose some people do fly, but I am not enough of a daredevil for that.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Megan Prejzner 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 Megan Prejzner or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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