July 23

Tom Ainsley, CEO @ Ainsley & Co.


Tom works with CEOs, business owners, and VP’s of Marketing and HR to generate leads, grow their business, recruit top talent, and tell their organization’s story. 

We’re hired to move the needle. We establish performance metrics for your KPI's, and launch campaigns that create the outcomes our clients need. 

At Ainsley & Co. I lead a team of consultants and creatives that help our clients with branding, digital marketing, website design, internal communications and employee engagement, recruitment, video production, content marketing, social media marketing, public relations and advertising. 

We start by studying our clients’ business, their markets, and identifying ways to help them connect with their customers and employees in unique, game-changing ways. We then build the tools they need to succeed and execute marketing campaigns that deliver results. 

Specialties: Marketing Strategy, Website Design and Development, Media Planning and Buying, Video Production, Branding and Identity, Inbound Marketing, Sales Collateral Design, Social Media Marketing, Email Marketing

Podcast Highlights:

  • Passion First – Find what you love then build a company around it 
  • Adapt or Die – Always remain relevant to your customers
  • Culture is King – Employees stay for the culture, not the paycheck
  • Day One – The day you get a client is the day you start losing them 

Contact Tom:

[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]

Umar Hameed 0:06
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello everyone. This is Umar Hameed, your host and welcome to the no limit selling Podcast, where industry leaders share their tips, strategies and advice on how to make you better, stronger, faster. Get ready for another episode.

Umar Hameed 0:36
Hello, everyone. I'm privileged to have Tom Ainslie here with me, Tom, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. Glad to be here. So Tom, we met about seven or eight years ago when you just started this company. And now how many employees do you have wrapped about 15? full time right now. 15. Full time. So to get us started, Tom, tell us who you are and what you do in about 90 seconds.

Tom Ainsley 0:57
Sure. So as you said, my name is Tom Ainslie. I'm the CEO of Ainslie and company. Originally, we started as Baltimore Media Group, but essentially my firm we're a marketing agency located in Baltimore. We started back in 2010. As Baltimore Media Group, mainly based on my experience doing public relations from the firm, I worked at North Carolina, which is now part of Ketchum. And then my experience here working for a Hearst radio property in Baltimore. Our firm is, you know, calls an ad agency, a PR firm, video production, I, there's so many different names and monitors, going back to, you know, the 1960s and Mad Men. But, you know, basically today, we're a marketing agency, we're a catalyst for companies who are looking to grow, and they met, and they hire us, and they say, Hey, we have these growth goals, be they you know, revenue, growth, obviously, as the most common but also geographic expansion, new product, merger and acquisition, recruitment, a lot of different problems or challenges related to growth. And they say, what can you help us with? How can you help us reach these goals or take care of these problems?

Umar Hameed 2:02
That's brilliant. And we're going to dig deeper into that a little later on. But I just want to do a sanity check. Because you were about eight years ago, the top salesperson at a local radio station, earning a great living, and what inspired you to come and leave the security of that job? And you just had a new child, right? Your first child?

Tom Ainsley 2:21
Yeah, I moved to Baltimore in oh five. from Raleigh, North Carolina. And down there, I'd worked at a public relations firm. So looking to move to Baltimore, I had looked for opportunities in Corporate Communications at McCormick at t Rowe at any of the companies that were institutions here in town, the head Baker Corp comm department so didn't have a lot of success as somebody from North Carolina with no relationships here, who was just moving here for the first time, I went to East Carolina, so it wasn't like I was walking in with a Harvard MBA. And so yet found a job and media sales at wb al radio.

Umar Hameed 2:55
So you're making a ton of dough, what inspired you to leave the security of a job with a new child and start your own agency?

Tom Ainsley 3:02
Yeah, I think it coincided with kind of some come to Jesus moments with the birth of my first child, I've got three daughters. Now they're eight, six, and four. But, you know, eight years ago, when my first daughter was born, I had been looking around kind of at where I was, and said, Okay, I'm a salesperson at an am news talk station, which I love the property and the platform, but, you know, I have to work for 40 more years, right? Like it was 2728 and said, this ain't gonna be here. It's gonna feed your soul as well. Right? Right. Interesting work. Exactly, exactly. And so and I think that was a big challenge is that in media sales, you are a transactional, person, someone else has made the decision of what you're going to do, how you're going to do it, what the message is, and you're just selling spots. And that's just that didn't do it for me.

Umar Hameed 3:44
So you were telling me that, you know, at that time, you had actually been to an event where they had Gary Vee was was sharing his ideas. What about his delivery or his message? Got you to kind of pull the trigger?

Tom Ainsley 3:57
Yeah. So as part of a local sales team for a traditional media outlet, I was looking for partnerships and things like that in the area to bring, you know, an am station into the world. Yeah. Yeah, the internet. It's not a fad. So I looked at some events that the greater Baltimore tech Council is having my first event I ever went to, for the gvtc was tech night in 2009. It was October 16 2009, at the Baltimore Convention Center, and I'll never forget it, I walked in. And before even going into the hall, like just seeing the people that were showcasing the vendors, the exhibitors, all the entrepreneurs, tech companies, immediately, there's just this rush of adrenaline like these are my people like this was what I was looking for nice, regardless of how I fit in and what I was going to do. This is what I want everything around with, right and so the keynote that night was Gary Vee before he was who he is now with his you know, $200 million agency in New York and commanding the fees he has now. But it was interesting. He was he was energizing, and he's, you know, he's a boisterous, loud mouth abrasive. Get in your face. No bullshit. kind of guy. At some, you know how he puts out a lot of stuff. But you know what, it doesn't mean that the message is wrong. It doesn't mean that he's not doing some really, really smart, interesting work. So, yeah, as much as I may hate to admit it, I got to give him credit. I went home that night, and I said, I have to quit my job. And so my wife, who again, you know, we'd had a kid five weeks before, right that we need to move out of the townhouse move in with the in laws. She wasn't working at the time. So let's give up a six figure salary and start over. And she said, I don't know the VA is the right word. But it was a affirmative after a couple of conversations, but she said, I'm gay, I trust you. Let's do it.

Umar Hameed 5:37
So tell them who's your favorite superhero? And why?

Tom Ainsley 5:40
Favorite superheroes? So I probably say, I don't know if it's a superhero. Yeah, Wolverine, right? From the x men. It's just like, even growing up, for whatever reason, it's just going to the the bowling alley, or the arcade or whatever else. Everybody wants to be Wolverine. Right? And then with the movies that have come out, it's just, I mean, he's an interesting character, right? He's the strongest he's endured through generations, right? He doesn't die. So it's just an interesting thing to see him adapt. And I think that, for me, and for the agency, there's a lot of similarities, because we have to evolve most companies that maybe make a widget or what have you. I mean, they have to evolve as well. But for us, the services we offer, are whatever our client needs, and whatever we can deliver on and wherever we think we can point them in the right direction. So let's keep going

Umar Hameed 6:26
and value. That's it. So Tom, tell me about a pivotal moment in the growth of your company where things might have gone sideways, where you kept the ship straight, and you grew the company?

Tom Ainsley 6:40
Yeah, sure. So as an agency, you know, there's I mean, with clients, when you lose a client, it's not necessarily because you did anything wrong, or if they'd let you go, that's not it at all. We had a client that had grown to be a pretty significant source of revenue, and we'd staffed accordingly to be able to serve that client and all of a sudden, one day came where they had actually sold their business, right? The, the owner decided that happy day, right, he wanted to go and do something else, he split the company up and sold it, but all of a sudden, that MRR that monthly recurring revenue goes away. And so, you know, it happens, but you know, as a somewhat inexperienced owner at the time you look and you say, Okay, great, you don't necessarily immediately start changing staffing levels. And right, I was really sensitive to not wanting to be that type of agency. I mean, there's some that have the reputation of staff up and lay off and what have you. And that's just not who we wanted to be. So, you know, a couple of months later, after that, MRR gone away, that recurring revenue had gone away, and the balance sheet started to get hit a little bit. We start say, Hey, we're overstaffed. We have more people than we have work. And it's, again, not because we did anything wrong, happy day for our client, but we needed to make some changes. So what changes did you make? Well, I mean, we had to reduce our staff, right, we had some people that we had very tough conversation with. And you know, as much as I say to them, he has nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with your performance here. This is just, you know, very simply a staffing change. It still hurts. Yeah. And it's hard. And it's conflict that I don't embrace. And at the same time for them, I'm sure, you know, they may understand it at some point, but I'm sure it fell on deaf ears, because it's not a good thing. And it's not a happy moment.

Umar Hameed 8:21
So looking back at that event, would you have made the decision sooner to reduce the staffing?

Tom Ainsley 8:30
Yeah, there's probably two decisions I would have made. Number one, you know, the key learning is don't ever let a single client represent that much of your overall revenue, right? Like, as soon as you there's there was one quote from madmen, even though I didn't really watch the show. Somebody says, The day you sign a client is the day you start losing them. And so it's going to happen, so you have to plan for it. So now, even when good things happen, and a new client comes on board, and they continuously expand their relationship with us, you got to plan for when they're not going to be there. So maybe you look at that that growth and say, Okay, how long is that growth? Are they going to be here for how many years? And do we staff up with full time W's? Do we bring in partners to fulfill, you know, if we want to maintain a culture here, that's, that's what I want for the company, the staff up and layoff game does not work. And so we may have grown a little more slowly there. And at the same time, when the revenue went away, probably would have made some quicker decisions.

Umar Hameed 9:20
Nice. So one of the things that we have to do as human beings as business people is we need to connect emotionally with our employees with their customers. So tell me about one of your campaigns where you actually influence the emotions of either the end user or the employees to kind of create that connection and get the results the organization wanted.

Tom Ainsley 9:44
Sure. So for our client, that's actually the biggest part of our business right now isn't clients that are coming to us and saying, Hey, we need help with revenue growth. Through new customer acquisitions. It's actually people coming and saying, hey, the pipeline is full, but we just can't find the people. I mean, the unemployment rate is what 4.2 Get

Umar Hameed 10:00
rid of 10 talent and

Tom Ainsley 10:02
we're in Maryland, right? Yeah, federal government for meet all these things going on, depending on what business you're actually in, um, it's probably closer to three percents what most people are feeling. So the talent and the recruitment is not going out and finding people that are sitting on their butts, because they're just not, they're the smart people, they have jobs and they may not be actively searching. So for us, what we, when we work with a company, what we have to do is say, Okay, what is going on in that employee's life? If we profile that person, and we say, okay, it's 35 to 45 year old male with this level of education, they went to UBC, they got this degree, they've got a PhD, whatever, they probably live in the Columbia area, they've got two kids, they got x, y, z, where are they in their life? And then what needs Do they have that aren't being met? And what is it that's that they would be interested in, in possibly changing jobs, and it's not the always the normal 401k, and health care and salary, like those things are great. But really, it comes down to culture and being a part of a team. So the campaign's that we come up with are, hey, let's sit down and say, Okay, what is your recruitment look like? Not just your recruitment team, what is your careers page look like? What are your actual benefits? What are the benefits that may not fall under a traditional benefits category, but are non traditional that you could use that you could get a lot of mileage out of one example. We're recording this obviously, in March, we've got St. Patrick's Day coming up on the 16th of that, yeah, we're closed. And people let me say we, it's a holiday. What we rolled out about three or four months ago is we looked at what benefits we could offer our team. We've got a young team, they like to travel, they value experiences, all the things that you read about so we said, Great, let's make sure instead of just say, you know, an extra point on the 401k, which we we actually did that too. Let's make sure that every single month that doesn't have one already. There's a three day weekend. And so we made up holidays, like we already had three weeks, 15 days of PTO for everybody anyway, plus all the bank holidays, but we've made updates, we've got Magna Carta day we've got mouse day we've got St. Patrick's Day, Marty know what's out. There's a tom day though, literally my business partner, Rick fate said that August, we looked at it. My birthday is in August. And he said great Founders Day. So really, so every month, my team, no matter what they have going on, they get a three day weekend, what date in August, August 4 18th, on my side. So Tom, what's, who's a mentor for you? And what attribute do they have? that really speaks to you? Sure. So the first person is, I'd say my business partner, Rick Fang. He came on board. Last year, very accomplished, entrepreneur, reformed lawyer, as he likes to say, also accountant, accounting degree from Towson. And so he came on board, and he has just a wealth of experiences that I haven't had, right. He's taken companies public, he's worked with teams in manufacturing and software all over the place. So a lot of different things. I think, for him coming into the business, what it's really given me is it's freed me up number one, to focus on business development, account management, really working with clients and doing creative that I like, where he's been working on the operations of the company, taking kind of a CFO role, taking the general counsel role taking over some of those things. But his real goal is and enjoy comes from teaching and mentoring the team. So he's running our team through things like Five Dysfunctions of a team from lencioni. He drew in seven habits, books last time

Umar Hameed 13:15
I was here at some event, there's like a bookcase of amazing books. Yeah,

Tom Ainsley 13:18
that's I mean, because that's it. continuous learning. That's another thing that he's instituted here is that, you know, we all talk about it, but personal development, we give every employee a budget every single month and say here, go learn anything, we don't care. We don't even care if it's related to this and probably shouldn't matter what you learn you go, you're gonna learn something amazing and become a better human. Right? go learn archery, go learn how to be an arborist go learn scuba diving, go learn, whatever it may be, I mean, naturally, people who gravitate towards things that help them here, but we don't care. As long as we instill that, that continuous learning mentality, then you're going to be open to picking up new things that will help you here too.

Umar Hameed 13:54
So how do you know you're a good leader? Like, what's the criteria you use for yourself?

Tom Ainsley 14:01
That's hard to say. Because I don't feel like I am a good leader. There's always a self doubt. And I always think somebody else can do it can do a better, but I think the ability to see around the bend and see what's coming and predict the future is not the right word. But see what's happening right now? And what implications are going to have in the future? You know, I think that's true. From a client base standpoint, I think it's true from looking at the employees that we have here and the team members that we're going to need the services, we're going to offer financials where we need to make sure that we're shoring up for where we need to invest. I think that's something that for me, I just I feel like I'm good at and I really get excited enjoy doing is figure out what else can we do?

Umar Hameed 14:39
Yeah. So so that being relevant on a continual basis, to the community out there. What other elements of leadership do you think are important?

Tom Ainsley 14:50
I mean, I think putting your employees first, right, so I think there are, I mean, that's what everyone's talking about, but I think it's always been true. Because if your employees aren't happy, they're not going Produce if they don't produce and your customers aren't happy, if you're making products and your products are going to stink, your safety record is going to be bad. So investing in employees, even if you're the most, you know Ebenezer Scrooge miserly old person, like it just makes good business sense to put in good

Umar Hameed 15:13
wires. Makes sense,

Tom Ainsley 15:14
right? Even if that's your goal, and it's just about the pennies, which for me and others, it's not. It's just dumb not to do that. So put your people first and spin there, and you'll get it on the outset outcome.

Umar Hameed 15:23
So vision, putting your employees First, if you're gonna add the third one to it.

Tom Ainsley 15:30
I just think for us, it's been that word catalyst. And I mentioned it before, like, that's what we want to be for our employees in their lives. That's what we want to be for our clients. We want to unstick things, we want to be a catalyst for change, whatever, for growth, whatever is going on. I think people have undervalued where they work and not really cared, oh, it's a job, I take my paycheck, I go do what I want to do. And same thing I think is true with marketing, a lot of companies, not the ones that really understand it and rely on it as their their lifeblood. But a lot of companies just they spend their couple percent of revenue on marketing. And they're like, Oh, we did some stuff. There were some press releases. We did whatever they they don't really hold it accountable like they should. So we want to come in and shake things up and say, no, this should be successful. Here's your ROI. Here's how we're going to unstick things in a blog post ain't the way to do it. It's it's, it's more than that.

Umar Hameed 16:18
So Tom, a lot of small business owners with small teams, one of the most challenging things I was interviewing 140 sales managers. And the question I had was, if this is the sales process, getting the appointment during the presentation, handling objections, closing the deal, and then going deepening into the account or getting referrals, where do your sales people get stuck in two things tied? One, I guess, with the two things with their people had difficulties. No, go ahead. Were getting appointments. Okay. And closing the deal with the two areas that tied for first place. And then I asked, What's that costing you? How much money is the salesperson leaving on the table? And they said 50% of their revenue potential gets left on the table if they don't get enough quality appointments? Yep.

Tom Ainsley 17:05
No. The first one is I'm hugely passionate about when you talk about getting appointments for me, I just kept getting noticed in the first place like the appointment is almost to me the second one to ask for the appointment, because you have to be almost engaged in the conversation already to get the appointment. So we look for us, we put that on our shoulders as marketers and we say to our client, see, that's our job. Tell us exactly who your perfect prospect is. Who is it that you want to meet? What's their geographic demographic, psychographic descriptors? What Who are they? What do they want to do? What are they? What is their week look like? What What do they have sales meetings.

Umar Hameed 17:35
So give me a real life example of, you can name the customer if you want, but say, you know, hey, we had this company. They were doing this, and this is how we help them get in front of their ideal customers.

Tom Ainsley 17:46
Yeah, absolutely. This is a recruiting story. So it's great. So we had a client of ours who came to us and said, Hey, again, same thing, revenue is great pipelines great. Our problem is that we're not getting the people to do the job. And I said, well, where are you recruiting? They said, Oh, we've Craigslist. We've got the want ads in the paper. And I said, Well, guys, come on, it's 2017. At the time, I said that no wonder that's not working. And that's just dredging the button? Like, there's no careers page, there's no value proposition. There's no message for leadership. So we looked at we said, Who is it that you're trying to reach? And they said, we're trying to reach young men 18 to 25. And I said, you're trying to reach men 18 to 25. And you're putting ads in a physical paper? Yeah. Like, Come on, guys. So we said I, and we looked at the owner said, I know you're not on Facebook, I know you're not on Instagram, I know you're not on Snapchat. But if your audience is 18 to 25 year old men, I can get those for you. So we put together a campaign that just help people be excited about what the opportunity was at the company, and understand what the company's place in the world was, so that they could be excited about the work that they were doing. Because this was this was construction, it was manufacturing, it was lower end, not highly educated, white collar stuff. And so there's got to be a purpose to make them want to work there. So we've put together a campaign, landing page messaging, and even a benefits program to get those people to find them in the first place. Come in and have a conversation feel good about it enough to take a job and stay there.

Umar Hameed 19:05
Nice, because I think it brings up I think my three favorite words are relevant, how can you be relevant to the audience you're serving, and that's a good example of that. Integrity, how you can stay true to your values as organization. And number three is focus. How do you stay focused and not get distracted? You know, it sounds like all three came into play in that great,

Tom Ainsley 19:30
yeah, relevance is huge, is again, instead of trying to tell people that what you're doing or what you're selling, is what they should be interested in. That's why we profile the customer, what's going on in their lives? And then how do we solve one of their problems? I don't care what the problem is. I don't care what you're trying to sell, solve one of their problems, find a way to help them and then you're going to be relevant, they're going to want to pay back the on the last leg. What was the third one that you mentioned, focus, focus focus is the biggest problem I see with marketers and with sellers is just people running around like little spastic chickens with their heads cut off and not that Anything that they're doing is wrong, but they never do anything for a long enough time to see results. It's like, what's the old sales? adage that most people require? What? 789 touchpoints. And most sales people give up and number two or three, right? It's not that number one, two or three were wrong. They just didn't finish the damn thing.

Umar Hameed 20:17
So what's the best business advice you've ever gotten?

Tom Ainsley 20:22
The best business advice that I've ever gotten?

Umar Hameed 20:27
Don't talk to them, or

Tom Ainsley 20:30
I didn't listen to that one. Now.

Tom Ainsley 20:32
There's a lot and I guess it depends on back to relevance, right? Like which one is relevant to me. Right now, the one that that I'm really focused on and having a good time with is from Jim Collins, and great by choice, fire bullets, then cannonballs, that's what we do with our clients. And it's so test first. That's it. And because if either in the business, if we're talking about an investment or with a campaign for our clients, or for anything that we as idea people think may be right, that's great. Look at the data and make sure that that plays it out. And even if you think it's right in the data says it's right. How do we test it? Right, it gets back to the I think as minimum viable product. Right, right. How can we learn if we've got a hypothesis? How do we test it without deploying all of our resources at once tested, have measurable results, then we can go in and having data that says that we know we're right.

Umar Hameed 21:19
And we live in a day and age with that's much easier to do than it was 20 years ago, right? Absolutely. There's so many ways that you could take thousand dollars at Facebook, and you could get a decent,

Tom Ainsley 21:30
right data set. Right, exactly. But you may be testing a landing page, you may be testing a message you may be testing like is this our customer, I there's so many different things, but isolate a variable, that's the biggest thing that most people don't do is that they've got five variables that they change.

Unknown Speaker 21:44
That means Yeah,

Tom Ainsley 21:44
which one didn't work, you changed five each time. So you don't learn anything.

Umar Hameed 21:48
So we're in 2018. Selling is harder than ever. What could salespeople do? People working for different companies by themselves to prove their sales. From your point of view?

Tom Ainsley 22:08
I think the biggest thing that I see this is really true for early stage salespeople, but it's just mentality that I always have a sell by helping, right? So if you put enough good, you know, call it karma, whatever you want to out into the marketplace, I think good will come back. And if you've actually got the expertise, you know, there's nothing I love more than meeting with a prospect or client or you know, whatever it may be friend a first time and we start talking about what's going on and just pull out a napkin and start writing down Well, here's what I might do XYZ, you know, don't worry about you know, qualifying them and then this and just start helping them at some point that contract will take care of itself if they're the right fit.

Umar Hameed 22:44
What I hear way too often, is people saying, Well, I don't want to give away my stuff. And the reality is nobody cares about your stuff and your stuffs not that special. Yeah, like that.

Tom Ainsley 22:54
Yeah, I think everybody thinks that they've got this great idea that no one else has ever thought of. And I think, Jesus, I'm gonna go back to Vaynerchuk again, but it's like, you know, the ideas aren't shit, execution is everything.

Umar Hameed 23:04
Absolutely. I think just building that relationship and giving freely because if you do that, a lot of people do not have that skill set, or don't want to be messing with it. But if they see you as an expert, then it's a no brainer, right? If you hold back and go be coy about it, then you they pick up a vibe that gets in the way.

Tom Ainsley 23:22
Yeah, it's confrontational already. It's like I used to equate it, there's a if you we walked into a there's a client that we were working with, and we're trying to consult with them on customer experience at a physical at a retail location. And just they're all their old showrooms were set up where you would walk in the door. And what would happen is the salesperson who was all the way in the back with the big like eight by eight glass window, right, who was sitting there doing his crossword would get up, see you put on his jacket come out and was just instantly confrontational because you knew there was this negotiation that was going to happen. And it's just it's a poor customer experience. If you just help people answer their questions, they'll open up and they'll give you everything.

Umar Hameed 24:02
So your oldest daughter, how old? She No, she's eight. So when she's 18 or 28, and she started her? Yeah, her company, what would be the advice you'd give her that would allow her to accelerate her success?

Tom Ainsley 24:19
I think it's, well, first of all for entrepreneurship, I'd make sure Hey, is this what you really want to do? Because it's hard. It's been glorified. It's the cool thing to do to start your own business. But do I mean, be prepared to work 7080 hour weeks, like Be prepared to be on vacation and deal with clients be unprepared to be, you know, to have panic attacks or anxiety, like, make sure First of all, that's what you want to do. But number two, is do something you love. Yeah, you know, make sure that it's something you're excited about, like, whatever it is that you read when you go to the beach and you're sitting out there with your toes in the water, whatever the business thing is, or whatever it is that you're reading you're interested in, make that your business because then you'll be successful because you're just a sponge.

Umar Hameed 24:59
Nice. So, Tom, thanks so much for sitting down with me. I really appreciate it. I learned a lot. How can people get a hold of you and your agency?

Tom Ainsley 25:07
Right? They can see us online aynsley agency.com shoot me an email Tom at Angel agency comm or come find us right here. We're in harbor East in Baltimore City.

Umar Hameed 25:15
Brilliant. Thanks so much for sitting down with me. Great. It's been great. Thanks so much.

Umar Hameed 25:24
If you enjoyed this episode, please go to iTunes and leave a five star rating. And if you're looking for more tools, go to my website at no limit selling calm. I've got a free mind training course there that's going to teach you some insights from the world of neuro linguistic programming, and that is the fastest way to get better results.


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