Entrepreneur Adventures with Brittany Hodak and Leslie Manley

Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2 – TalentTalk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives.  TalentTalk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues and having the cultural mindset to embrace the needed diversity of the workplace. Today’s guests are entrepreneur’s Brittany Hodak, Co-founder, ZinePak and Leslie Manley, President/CEO at International Management Systems. To hear the entire show, click here.

On the show today, two extremely entrepreneurial women talk about their companies and how they’ve achieved success.

Brittany Hodak entrepreneur

Brittany co-founded ZinePak about four and a half years ago with her partner Kim Kaupe. The company partners with celebrities and brands to make cool collectibles and products to connect with their superfans. Hodak has many years of experience in the music industry and is a self-confessed superfan herself which led her to start ZinePak, a company that connects superfans to artists and brands.

Fun Fact

Hodak is a Guinness World Record holder and has a fun story behind how she earned it. In her senior year at school, six months away from graduation, she realized that the band she was writing her thesis on had broken up and the project she was working on wasn’t going to work out. Thus, she was desperately trying to find another topic for her thesis. It was six months to Christmas so she thought of doing something with a charitable intent and that’s when she decided to make the world’s largest Christmas stocking. With the help of her friends she was able to make a stocking that was almost 65-feet tall. They managed to fill it up with almost 13,000 toys that were donated by the community and they gifted them to children in need. This is how she created a Guinness World Record.

Swimming with the Sharks

Brittany and her partner recently appeared on the CNBC show Shark Tank. According to Brittany it is an experience every entrepreneur should go through. They were contacted by the producers of the show because they were the only ones on Inc.’s 35 under 35 entrepreneurs list who were self-funded. The casting director on the show found their profile extremely interesting and offered them to appear on the show. One tip she has to offer to entrepreneurs planning to go on the show is to be thoroughly prepared. Brittany and Kim had gone through multiple episodes of the show to brace themselves for any question thrown their way. They also made a list of 200 potential questions and prepared answers for each one of them.

Awards Galore

Ever since ZinePak was founded, the young company as well as its founders have earned an enviable number of awards and accolades from prestigious places such as Inc. magazine, Entrepreneur magazine, BillBoard magazine, Advertising Age, the Stevies and United Nations to name a few. Brittany is definitely proud of these recognitions but is modest enough to say that these are pretty “awesome” honors but all they look for from these awards are more business opportunities and credibility for their company. She jokes saying people think they must be having a huge PR firm helping them garner these awards while the truth is the company has never hired a PR agency. Brittany emphasizes a lot on participating in any and every contest (or awards) because these recognitions do come in handy and they have benefitted a lot from it.

Company culture

Brittany and her partner have consciously created a very open environment for their employees at ZinePak. Everyone is welcome to put forth their ideas because according to Brittany, sometimes the least experienced person may come up with the most valuable idea. Every time the company starts a new project or takes on a new client, they organize a town hall meeting. This gives everyone in the company to get together and share ideas. “Some of our best and most valuable ideas have come from this forum. It’s a great way to remind everybody that we are all on the same team and we are all working towards the same goal,” she explains. Creativity is a very important aspect of the company’s business. Thus, they make sure everyone’s creativity is brought to the fore. ZinePak also has a “Culture Captain” program where every month a person is given the role of the culture captain and is responsible for all the fun things in the company. There is a dedicated budget to give the person some room to plan whatever they want to organize. They’ve covered everything from ice skating to an afternoon at Dave and Buster’s to inviting guest speakers. There is also a volunteering aspect to this program.

What Are You Reading?

Brittany Hodak highly recommends “Rework” by Jason Fried to everyone she knows because it talks about the easier and faster way to achieve success in business without worrying about planning and competition. Another book she recommends is “Checklist Manifestoby Atul Gawande and the book she’s currently reading is “Better than Before” by Gretchen Rubin which is about habit formation and what makes people do the things they do.

How Can People Connect With You?

Connect with Brittany via their website http://www.zinepak.com or via social media @brittanyhodak.

Leslie Manley entrepreneur

Leslie Manley has been in the IT staffing industry for nearly 30 years. She joined International Management Systems (IMS) in 1989 as an account manager and progressively rose up the ranks and eventually took over as the Owner and President of the company in 2009. The bottom line responsibility that comes with the top job was Manley’s biggest challenge as she transitioned from being a mere employee to being the chief leader and owner of the company.

Initial Challenges

When Manley took over the company there were a lot of overhead expenses due to the costly infrastructure managed by the previous leadership. She realized that the fancy office hardly ever had visitors and that they didn’t require the façade. So the first thing she did was to introduce a virtual model to lower the overheads. Initially it was a challenge to bring synergy to work in a virtual model but with time it all fell in place and it was the right decision strategically.

IT Staffing

“Technology is such an ever-changing and challenging industry. Leading technology is what most clients are trying to get a foothold in and finding ways to qualify and vet people that have emerging technology experience is an ongoing challenge for us,” explain Manley. Also, a lot of the IT talent is not as regionally focused as other type of staffing. Thus, there is always a need to find ways of virtual qualifying people. Sometimes even those are subterfuge so it’s possible that you’re dealing with the end candidate. So it’s important to be sure that the person you’re qualifying is actually the person being sent for the job.

Changing Company Culture

“The one thing that I did probably the most dramatic in our culture is to infuse transparency. I am a strong believer in sharing pain and gain and opening the communication both internally and externally,” Manley reveals. This move increased the camaraderie between the employees and they started trusting each other and knew where the company was going at each step of the way. There is always resistance initially when there is a change involved but Manley feels she is lucky to have like-minded people on her executive team who have a common vision for the company.

Another cultural change that she introduced was to push people outside their comfort zone and constantly challenge them in a way that they are not afraid to fail. “I don’t expect perfection. I just need you to do your best,” says Manley. This gives her employees confidence to explore their capabilities to the fullest and not be afraid of making mistakes.

Mantra for Company’s Success

The company focuses on long-term relationship strategy with their clients. They believe in long-term success for clients, consultants as well as the company itself. Manley says that open communication is the norm in order to keep the honesty and transparency so that the clients know that the company’s objective is to truly help them.

What Are You Reading?

Leslie Manley is not into reading books but she does read a lot of trade publications to keep herself on top of the trends and happenings in her industry. “I like to surround myself with experts rather than being one,” Manley says while telling us about constantly reading up stuff on online communities and attending monthly meetings of user groups that she is a part of.

How Can People Connect With You?

Connect with Leslie via her company’s website www.imssvs.com  or call up at the company’s Huntington Beach office for business queries.