Since its founding in 2001, 3 Media Web, a digital marketing and design agency that specializes in helping mid-size businesses improve their online presence through digital experience optimization, has experienced significant growth and change. Most recently, the company announced that CEO Jessica Hennessey and CFO Mary Novick have taken over as the new owners of 3 Media Web.
MassTLC sat down with Jess and Mary to learn more about the company’s growth, their complementary leadership styles, and how they used the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) framework to prepare the team for the transition over the course of a year.
Read on for more in their own words.
Tell us more about 3 Media Web and your roles with the company.
Jess: I’m Jess Hennessey. I’m the CEO of 3 Media Web. I’ve been the CEO for about two years, and I’ve been with 3 Media Web for about four. For the last year, Mary and I have run the organization together. 3 Media Web has been around for twenty-two years. As an organization, we have significantly grown over that time. We started out as a web development-only shop, then later added design and support hosting before expanding into digital marketing. We’re at a point where we can provide soup-to-nut options for whatever a client might need when it comes to digital experience optimization.
Mary: I’m Mary Novick. I am the CFO. I’ve been with 3 Media Web for just over three years. I initially came in as the Director of Sales. Marc did a really great job of building the company over the last twenty years, but when I joined, he didn’t have a sales team at all. When I came in, I worked with him in sales for a little bit, but soon realized that it wasn’t necessarily sales he needed, but more revenue strategy. I moved into a Director of Revenue role and started to look at everything as an ecosystem. From there, I moved into the CFO role.
3 Media Web recently announced a big transition. Can you tell us more about how that came to be and how you prepared?
Jess: I’ve known Marc Avila, the founder of 3 Media Web, for about ten years, and I was brought in when he saw a need. I had a specific set of experiences that he thought were important to continue the company moving forward. One of the things that has been instrumental in 3 Media Web’s growth is that Marc has always been very self-aware of where his expertise ends and is very welcoming to both of our expertise to continue to grow the company.
About a year-and-a-half ago, Marc told me he was thinking of selling the company, and asked if I would be interested in buying it, to which I said, “Yes.” Speaking with Mary, she said she was also interested, and that’s when we both started to take on a bigger leadership role and to work together more closely in shaping the future of the company.
We have been planning for this transition for the last year, in order to make sure it will be a smooth transition for the employees, our existing customers, and the companies that know who we are but are not existing clients. So far, it’s been really great.
One of the most important things that we embarked on as a company was implementing a system called EOS, Entrepreneurial Operating System, which is from a book called “Traction.” Going through that process really forced everyone on the team to identify issues that we were having and to create a plan that focused on where we were going. Going through that process was essential to identifying where everyone’s expertise really lay.
About half of the company changed roles when we went through the EOS process, which has meant that our employees are more fulfilled. They are leaning into their passions, where they’re learning best, and where they can perform the best. That has put us in a very strong position for future growth.
How would you describe your personal leadership styles? How do you work together and with the company?
Jess: We have a very hands-off approach to management. If I’ve hired somebody, I’ve hired them because I think that they’re an expert for a clearly defined role. The last thing I want to do is be a micromanager. To me, the CEO’s job is to help people. I see my role as being to create the vision and direction of the company and to move things out of the way so that our employees can be successful at doing their jobs.
We also put a lot of emphasis on upward opportunities for people, whether it is within 3 Media Web or elsewhere. I very deeply, very honestly care about people’s career paths, and I want to set up everyone on my team to succeed. Most people aren’t going to stay at an agency their whole careers, because there is only so much room to grow. I want people to be at 3 Media Web for as long as possible and be satisfied with the work that they’re doing, that they’re growing, learning, and finding personal satisfaction here. When it comes to a point where someone is ready to leave, where we can no longer offer something new, my philosophy is to let me know so that I can make sure that you are the best whatever-you-want-to-be going out into the world. If people leave and move on to their next role, and we as 3 Media Web have set them up to be successful, that to me is successful as a leader.
Mary: Jess and I work really well together. We balance each other. I often turn to data to validate decisions, because I’m the numbers person, but still, somebody will ask us a question, and we end up at the same answer — just from two different ways. With EOS, we follow a concept of “right people, right seats”. If somebody’s in a job they don’t enjoy, they’re not going to do a good job, so we do have a lot of conversations with the team about what they’re doing now, what they want to do in the future, and how we can help them. Overall, our team is happy with the direction. I think our styles are somewhat similar, but they’re balanced in that I focus more on validating things from a number standpoint.
We have a set of core values that define how we operate; we’ve established these values over time, and we hire and/or fire based on them. Things that we do on a daily basis are based on our core values, and this only adds to our ability to fix problems quickly.
We have also worked extremely hard on our communication skills. To me, communication skills are what make or break a company. We really put a focus on teaching people how to communicate, giving them specific training on communicating.
Jess: We are seeing that an emphasis on communication and core values is extremely important to our staff. People come into an organization and expect to be heard. They want to have a say, they want to participate. We make sure to give them the tools to raise an issue. Anybody can raise an issue. It doesn’t have to just be the manager.
Mary: We’re in a very good place right now. Our team is phenomenal. There’s not a single person on the team that we wouldn’t want on our team. Everybody demonstrates the core values. Everybody knows what our goals are, and we’re all working towards them.
What advice do you have for leaders that are interested in learning more about EOS? How can a team make the transition?
Jess: To start, the book “Traction” really concisely walks through the process of implementing EOS. It took us about a full year to get through the whole book, with every week or so focusing on a new chapter. We found that going through that process forced us to identify issues, make a plan, and identify where our expertise really lies.
It’s very powerful to go through it as a leadership team, but it’s definitely not something that one person can do alone. EOS is best suited for companies under one hundred people, in my opinion. That’s not to say EOS can only be implemented on a company level; you could use it on a departmental level. For a very large company, my advice would be to start with a particular group.
Mary: It’s important to be open and not shoot down other people’s ideas, but instead build on them and see what else you can develop from that. You can’t just go up to someone and say, “That’s a stupid idea.” That shuts down the creativity right there.
What’s next for 3 Media Web?
Mary: From a leadership standpoint, not much is going to change. We’ve been working towards this transition for a year and a half, and we have set ourselves up to get to this point where there won’t be any sudden big shifts. We’ve worked very intentionally internally for that to set us up for success.
Jess: This year, our focus is on creating efficiencies with quick growth, because we almost doubled in size over the past year, and processes need to change to reflect that. We know where we want to go, and I have no doubt that we’re going to get there. We are lucky to have employees that really take ownership of the work that they’re doing. Always keep improving!