The Case for Putting People First Very Early with Brad Casper

When starting a new enterprise, many decisions must be made. Some are urgent now, and others can be pushed off until the future. One big question is what kind of company do you want to be? This question is interpreted in many ways. But strong companies that know employees are essential to the organization’s success know the importance of putting people first. My guest today is Brad Casper at Heart and Soul Marketing. Brad came from a previous Inc 5000 company and wanted to start Heart and Soul Marketing with a clear focus on the people. We look at the business case of putting people first. Brad shares the questions that he started within the very beginning. Join this interview to learn the art of putting people first.

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About: Brad Casper is the CEO and co-Founder of Heart & Soul Marketing, the fiercely independent boutique agency for challenger brands that uses strategy, art, science, and your unique voices to create purpose-driven business solutions while being a positive force for change.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Brad Casper
And then we really started to get very emotive around the importance of not only consumers and getting to know them, but starts with getting to know our employees. And we felt like if we had employees who felt respected and empathetic and transparent and saw that we were really being kind with them, that would manifest and how they interact with our clients too.

Intro [0:27]
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett [0:45]
Early stages of a business? You have so much on your mind so much on your plate? Where do you start? Well, I know a lot of companies start with what problem are we solving? Who are we solving it for? What’s our go-to-market strategy? How are we different? And all of that kind of marketing questions are very important. But what if the most important thing was? What kind of company are we going to create? What will our culture look like? How will we lead our people and attract the right talent so that we can scale fast? Today, we’re gonna look at that with a very deep perspective with Brad Casper. He is a co-founder of Heart and Soul Marketing. And he talks about the early stages of a company, what they focused on. And you might be surprised that it wasn’t the traditional aspects, but some of the things we look at, like the purpose, the vision, the values, the culture code, and how they’re going to engage with employees, is really refreshing to know that they put their employees first. And when you think about your growth, your next step, you might want to go back and look and say, how do we put employees first? And what are the things that we need to support that? How do we make that very intentional, make it clear to the employees to ourselves as a team, and to the outside world?

Gene Hammett [1:57]
Well, we’re going to go through that stuff today. with Brad Casper, one of the things I want to remind you of if you are feeling any kind of pressure inside your business, it’s because you as a leader have probably worked yourself into this place, you have created a system, that you’re not getting the results you wanted. Everything that is going into the business is giving you what’s coming out. And that’s what you’re feeling. If you’re not quite sure if you’re kind of uncomfortable about these things. I’d love to invite you to a conversation. Just go to you can find start the journey that will help you figure out where we could go next. It’s something that I’m very proud to be able to help a lot of founders, CEOs of fast-growth companies and our teams continue that growth by identifying some of the things that they’re missing some of the blind spots, and specific strategies to help them move forward. This is what I do. So if you want to check out some of those details, go to You can find it all there. Now here’s the interview with Brad.

Gene Hammett [2:52]
Hi, Brad, how are you?

Brad Casper [2:54]
I’m fine. How are you, Gene?

Gene Hammett [2:55]
I am fantastic. excited to talk to you today about marketing, culture, leadership, all these things that an early-stage company does. But I want you to tell us a little bit about yourself, Brad?

Brad Casper [3:08]
Well, I am. I don’t think of myself as a serial entrepreneur. But some people may say that I am. I started my career with General Electric. As a financial analyst, I went to Procter and Gamble where I spent 16 and a half years with p&g and a variety of both domestic and international roles. In fact, each of my three kids was born in a different country. So I think that desperately classifies me as a global citizen. And after Procter and Gamble, I became president of church and white in Princeton, New Jersey, recruited to become CEO of dial Corporation in Scottsdale. And since then, I’ve done a series of smaller and entrepreneurial companies after leaving dial almost 10 years ago. And most recently, I formed this new advertising and marketing agency called Heart and Soul.

Gene Hammett [4:03]
Well, we’re going to talk about the recency part today, because one of the things that’s unique about this, you’ve got a long history of being a strong leader, you’ve worked with other companies that were on the Inc list. And so that’s the reason why we kind of connected, but in this new venture, you started out not? I mean, I know you started thinking about what’s the problem you’re going to solve, but you put a lot of emphasis on what kind of company will we be? What’s the culture of that? Tell us a little bit about why so much focus on that early-stage business?

Brad Casper [4:35]
That’s a great question. And I guess it was somewhat instinctive for my partner, Matt Moore, and I, as we were contemplating this new venture, which we only launched two weeks ago, maybe it’s three weeks ago today, actually. But in the month of September, we started asking ourselves, what would we be, but we started not from the perspective of what problems may we solve future clients, we started from the basis of who is the kind of people we want to attract to this company. And so we put values principles, manifestos purpose, at the forefront, because we actually viewed ourselves as leading a very purpose-driven company. And we didn’t want that to become an afterthought. So before we even got into the strategy of how we would grow the company, we started about what we thought we wanted to be.

Commercial [5:28]
Hold on for a second, Brad talked about the why of the company, Simon Sinek, made this very popular in his TED talk to his book, start with why, why is it so important that you start with why? Well, here’s my take, you want to make sure that you’re clear about why you’re in business. And it’s not just to make money, you want to make sure that you’re clear so that you can make sure that the people that you hire are clear to the people that you sell products or services are clear to because this Why is much more than just an exercise of something you do once it’s something you live every day, Brad reminded us of that, I’m reminding you again, because if you have a mission, a purpose, and a why, but you weren’t living it every day, you’re missing an opportunity. Now back to the interview with Brad.

Gene Hammett [6:16]
You know, a lot of people probably thought you’re wrong, you’ve probably been told you’re wrong if you share this kind of sequence of things, because 99.9% of companies go, what is the problem? Who are we going to solve this problem for? And what if that’s more important than anything else? But you’ve had such an experience with building companies and you know, engaging team members that you’ve decided to start somewhere else? I know, you’ve talked about what it is, but why do you think that’s so important to start there first?

Brad Casper [6:44]
You know, I think in our previous firm together, we were the largest advertising agency in Phoenix, and one of the fastest-growing in fact, I think that’s where you and I intersected because we were on the Inc list of fastest-growing companies for eight straight years. I think that the pandemic began to change my points of view of what was important now, what we saw when we began to work from home is just how fragile the workforce is, or was during that time, and how some of the things that we may have taken for granted when we were working in the office, we couldn’t take for granted anymore in a virtual environment. And given the fact that COVID is starting to spike again, here in Arizona, as well as in other parts of the country and around the world. We face the prospect of actually starting our company from a virtual foundation with mink commingling, you know, periodic face-to-face events, which is the opposite of the way we really built that other agency where it was all about proximity. And we had the benefit of creating a strong culture over time, we felt like we can’t put that at risk. In a large zoom oriented world today.

Gene Hammett [8:04]
You know, one of the things I’ve seen, especially with agencies that the desire to hire, the best talent is very competitive. And you have to think about these things. First, when you have a limited talent pool, and you want to hire the best. Is that fair?

Brad Casper [8:21]
Very, very much. So we’re in the creative business. And I think if we went about things in a standard way, we wouldn’t get the most creative people.

Gene Hammett [8:30]
Well, I want to roll this back a little bit. Because, you know, in these meetings you had with your partner, you talked about you said the word purpose. Yeah, I usually start with a mission isn’t to use those interchangeably? Or is there a difference for you?

Brad Casper [8:43]
We actually separated it under purpose. You know, it goes back to that our why. So we, you know, we first thought about why do heart and soul exists. And we said heart and soul use creativity and strategy and analytics to solve uncommon business and social challenges. We believe as an agency, we can be an agent of change. And we believe that’s what’s happened in terms of social injustice in America that, you know, kicked off with George Floyd but was, frankly, an underlying theme in America for years and years, we felt like we needed to include social challenges as part of our why our mission is for whom and so we say heart and soul is the fiercely independent boutique agency. And we’re gonna go for middle-market companies and challenger brands. We would love a leadership brand every now and then. But we think that challenger brands, which are so far, so much more numerous, frankly, than leading brands, you know, they have to play with a little bit of an edge and a little chip on their shoulder. And I think as a small to the medium-sized agency in Phoenix, Arizona, we need to play with a chip on our shoulder too. So that’s how we differentiate our purpose from our mission.

Gene Hammett [9:57]
I can appreciate that. I’m certainly a challenger. With the fragmentation of podcast, executive coaching, and all that stuff going on, so I totally get what you’re talking about, you know, do you put that much thought into the vision that you’re trying to create over the next maybe three years or so for the business?

Brad Casper [10:15]
Yeah, I would say, it’s not as well-formed as some of the other aspects of our initial marketing plan. We do expect, you know, some of the people that used to work with us being both clients as employees are certainly intrigued by what we’re going to do. And we do feel that even though we’re quote, unquote, a startup, we believe that there’s a familiarity about us in this market, particularly since Matt, and I’ve been here for, you know, more than 10 or 15 years, in my case, we’re not unknown. In the business community, both of us got recognized as leaders in this community. So we do think that gives us a bit of a heart a fast start. But from a vision standpoint, I think some of this has been, it’s been so intriguing over the last several days, as we talk to a company, that’s a B Corp. And a lot of people don’t know what a B Corp is, but it stands for public benefit company. And we’re asking ourselves as an agency, how many agencies are B corpse? And could we make that metamorphosis ourselves?

Gene Hammett [11:23]
Now, I’m going to look at the values because I think a lot of companies misunderstand how to develop values, but mostly misunderstand how to use the values over a long period of time, when you and your partner decided to cast the values. How many did you decide or end up with? And what was that process look like?

Brad Casper [11:43]
Yeah, great, great question. Yeah, I think probably because I worked at Procter and Gamble, where core values were such an important part of that company’s 150 200 year history. We started out by selecting values that we believed, were a reflection of this time, but also timeless, for example, we came up with bold, and we feel like it’s super important right now to be resilient. We think agencies, frankly, all companies, and all individuals have to be resilient. We believe in empathy and transparency. So we began by spitballing. And we currently have 1-2-3-4-5-6, we have 7 values, but I’m sure at one point, we probably had 12, or 15. And then we started to boil the ocean a little bit, and try to bring it down, looking at it from the lens of as an agency, what do we need to offer our employees? And conversely, our clients? And then secondarily, how has the pandemic shaped, I’ll call it that mental and emotional fortitude.

Brad Casper [12:54]
That is, frankly, could be around for a long time. The agency business, I think there are 183,000 agencies in the United States or something crazy like that, we have to ask ourselves, you know, how are we going to come through this? Some people have said, Brad, are you guys nuts for starting an agency in the middle of a pandemic when people are cutting back their marketing and advertising. And we think it’s a perfect time to do that because we think that people are looking for new solutions. So we started with a list of probably of 12, to 15. And we boiled it down to the seven or eight.

Commercial [13:27]
Hold on for a second, Brad just talked about values. When you have values of an accompany you want to make sure you operationalize them, which is another way for, say, live them every day. I’ve said this over and over. I’ve said this in probably three dozen episodes, but I just had a conversation with someone the other day, that knew that they could do a little bit more work on the values. They listened to some of the episodes here on the podcast, and it was something that they were able to learn and go and apply that immediately. So how important is that for you? Well, I think your values are one of the most important things you will do as a leader and as a team is to not just create them, but live them every day. This is just a reminder of how important it is. Back to the interview with Brad.

Gene Hammett [14:10]
Which is a very common approach when you went to the next step. And I don’t know if this was exactly the next step. But one of the things that we talked about the other day and kind of researching whether we would put you on as an interview or not. No offense, hopefully. But we wanted to look at some of the different things that you were doing. And you came up with a manifesto. So what is that manifesto?

Brad Casper [14:31]
Yeah, my partner Matt, who is was the chief creative officer at our previous agency and will be the president and chief creative officer of our current company. Obviously, he comes at challenges a little differently, perhaps than me with my background. So he was thinking of a manifesto from the standpoint of if we were going to turn this into a 3060 or 92nd video that we would ultimately share with both clients as well as maybe More importantly, people are future employees. So he started by thinking initially from the lens of what’s the typical agency or the typical employee, employer kind of implicit contract? And then we said, How can we be different and, and he, he struck a chord and said something to the effect of, you know, we think it all starts with and is about people, ultimately, we’re gonna market to consumers because will largely be a b2c type of company. And then we really started to get very emotive around the importance of not only consumers and getting to know them, but starts with getting to know our employees. And we felt like if we had employees who felt respected and empathetic and transparent and saw that we were really being kind with them, that that would manifest and how they interact with our clients, too.

Brad Casper [16:04]
So we’ve, you know, borrowing off of themes like conscious capitalism and kindness, capitalism, Matt attended some webinar online that talked about the kindness economy. And we started saying, damn, with all the vitriol that we see on politics right now. And this being election season, we really feel that there’s an opportunity not to be tone-deaf, but to stand out because of kindness and concern and care that starts with employees, and they will manifest in terms of our care for clients, too.

Gene Hammett [16:37]
So we’ve been walking through some of the key pieces that you worked with your co-founder to develop, and be very intentional about the kind of company you want to create, through the purpose through the vision of this the values this Manifesto, all of this comes together to really describe who you want to be as a company. Now, I want to ask you another question that kind of goes a little bit deeper. But have you thought about Who do you want to be as a leader in this stage of the company?

Brad Casper [17:05]
That’s a good question. I probably have spent less time thinking about who I want to be as a leader. Because I think the one the leader that I’ve been over the last several years since I made the jump from a large company to a small and entrepreneurial agency was working pretty well. I felt I know, one of the fears I had when I initially came into the other agency gene was, here I am in my mid-50s, am I going to really connect and resonate with young people who are 20, something, and 30 something now I have three kids who are 20 somethings. So I felt like I can relate to them pretty well. But can I resonate with other employees, and most agencies actually skew a little bit female too. So we’ll probably have an agency that’s 60% female. And I use the other agency as a litmus test that my own leadership style, which I think is, is quite approachable and accessible, and people think is pretty authentic and genuine. I don’t think I have to tweak that too much. But maybe I’ll be wrong. And I’ll do a follow-up podcast with you in six months. And oops, I should have spent more time on my leadership brand.

Commercial [18:19]
I want to break in here for a second. Because you may not know that we have a channel on YouTube. If you want to find more leadership tips, insights, and wisdom about being a stronger leader being visionary, just go to, it will take you directly to the channel, there’s content on there that you won’t find anywhere else. If you’d like to listen to YouTube and let it play in the background, I’d love to share some of these quick little insights with you. You’ll go to

Gene Hammett [18:48]
Well, I will say that a lot of leaders put the business in the work ahead of who they are as a leader. And I see that place where they things suffer because the people aren’t being led. There. We’re talking about the projects, the deadlines, the metrics, and all that stuff. And it’s very important, but they’re not truly being led and being asked to be leaders themselves. So I know you, you probably understand that, that we all evolve as we look at this. So my question is, you know, how do you make sure that you’re open to new leadership moves as you bring on this younger or creative staff in this new economy?

Brad Casper [19:30]
Well, I think in one of the things that I put in this, and I haven’t even touched upon it in this podcast, I wrote out 20 different things that define our cultural code, not not like a dress code. But this cultural code, we talk about the power of listening and listening to be understood, and that begins with me as a leader. And so I think despite the fact that some of the people who will join our company, and Some of the clients that will join our company will be familiar to me. I want to take it from the basis of what happens if this was the first time they ever met me. And I want to make sure I start with great listening. And so I think I’ll probably be able to avoid a number of issues. And when they see that I really do practice what I preach about accessibility and approachability. Even in a Morley more or less virtual world, that, you know, I’ll be on 24 seven, if they text me on a Sunday night at nine o’clock after the football game, I’ll be on that on the text right with them.

Gene Hammett [20:34]
You know, I’ve heard a lot of different culture kind of documents that that frame, how people will engage with each other? How do you plan to use this culture code, as the business begins to hire these people and begins to grow?

Brad Casper [20:47]
We think that as part of our, literally our screening, and which we’ve started interviews, we will share the cultural code and ask people upfront, this is what the shape, the look, and, and the countenance of our future employees are like, tell us which of these 20 tenants really resonate with you? What are the five that resonate, so but to keep this thing alive, it’s got to be more than just something that people print out and put on their desk or, or, you know, digital wallpaper, this will be something that we use for our employee reviews, I’ll probably have regular zoom meetings with all employees? And we’ll bring up and showcase best and best in class examples of where employee A or B has utilized the cultural code, if you will, to have success not just internally, but externally to so it’s imperative that this becomes almost in place of an employee manual that this becomes the way we live, work and play.

Gene Hammett [21:57]
Brad, I really appreciate you sharing some of the tools that you’re using some of the thought that you’ve put into the culture that you want to create, from the culture code through all these other things that we talked about. I appreciate you being here on the podcast, sharing that wisdom.

Brad Casper [22:10]
Well, I’m so happy that you gave me that opportunity. I greatly appreciated Jean, and I wish you continued success with all your podcasts and all your speaking engagements that are around the corner.

Gene Hammett [22:21]
Well, this wraps up another fantastic episode of Growth Think Tank. We’ve been talking with Brad about how do we treat people coming into our organization? He’s been doing it much more intentionally than most people are. And I really want you to think about, you know, even if you’re an experienced company, what could you do that you’ve learned from this interview, to take your culture to the next level, whether it be going back and recasting the values of figuring out how you live the values, maybe it’s creating your own culture code, all of those things will create the kind of momentum you need to be the leader that people look up to, and the kind of leader that people really do deserve. If you have any questions about your own leadership, make sure you reach out to me, check me check out some free content with As always, lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Growth Think Tank with Brad Casper



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