Tessa Burg, Chief Technology Officer at Tenlo and Host of the Lead(er) Generation podcast, joins Susan Finch to talk about the company’s recent merger with Mod Op. Tessa talks about the expanded opportunities for clients, the Tenlo team and the future of the business. She also proves that trading the title of “owner” for a W2 can be a positive experience. Enjoy this 15-minute conversation.
From Owner to Employee – When Mergers Align With Your Vision
Originally published by Funnel Radio
Susan Finch (00:00): You’re listening to behind the mic with Susan Finch, as we give you tips to help make your podcast more successful.
Susan Finch (00:10): Hey, everybody, Susan Finch here with funnel media group and funnel radio, and I am joined today by one of our hosts that I enjoy her shows every time when Tessa Berg and share be, come on. I know it’s gonna be some episode that I’m gonna learn at least three things from every time. So it’s been so much fun to have leader generation from 10 lo radio on our network. And Tessa, I’ve invited you today because I want hear a little bit about what’s been going on at 10 lo and give everybody a little history about what it used to be like, what happened and where are we at today? So welcome.
Tessa Burg (00:45): Thanks for having me. I’m so excited to be here.
Susan Finch (00:48): So recently when we were talking about, well, you guys have just expanded. Now you used to do only one show a month, and now you do a show every other week and you and Cheryl are sharing hosting duties, which is fun because it brings in different personalities. But you told me that there’s been, you know, a big change over there at 10 lo. And can you catch us up a little bit?
Tessa Burg (01:09): Yes. So we were recently acquired by Mod Op, M-O-D-O-P. Uh, and it’s an exciting expansion of our core B2B digital marketing services, but also gives us the ability to work on more consumer brands and start to expand into new technologies that our B2B clients are soon gonna need. So we’ve always seen B2B clients be just a little tick behind what’s happening in B2C, but this gives us the opportunity to get ahead of it upbringing new offerings and what’s happening in web 3.0 or in AR/VR experiences. And then down to what creates leads great, you know, marketing automation, CRM, and data strategies. So we’re very excited about the merger post-pandemic. We got really busy. I think the path has been great for creating demand and it is coming at a time when we needed the extra resources. And then we also have the opportunities, uh, to start feeding a new pipeline of business.
Susan Finch (02:16): Well, acquisitions and mergers and things are different. There is not one set recipe, how it works, what, whether it’s successful or not. Did you guys seek out mod op or did they find you, or did you meet together for coffee one day? I mean, how did this merger come about?
Tessa Burg (02:35): Yes. So they found us, they initially contacted my partner, Kip Botirius and expressed interest in what we were doing. And as a way to vet it, we found some projects where we could work together. Where did mod op and mod ops clients need services that we offered? Uh, we started with a market research project. We have a sister company NSRC that we acquired a couple years ago. They did a project. We did worked on some, uh, website and design projects together. And it felt really good. Like the more and more people I meet at mod, the more I’m assured that our cultures align that our skills and talents are really complimentary. We especially coming with such different areas of expertise. And so even though they initially approached us just to acquire us, like it helped build confidence, not just in us, but then people around the office had already heard their name.
Tessa Burg (03:34): So when we announced it, it wasn’t like a who it was like, oh, oh, is that who we’re doing that project with? You know? Um, so yeah, I’ve never been, well, actually I’ve been through a couple acquisitions, none of which were where you get acquired for talent or to grow and compliment the acquiring company. You know, it was more just for the tech and software where, so this was new for me. And there were times when, you know, Kip and I were questioning, is this right? Like, are we doing this? Or, you know, there’s nothing going wrong in our business today. So what’s the benefit like you, you have those doubts, but I think that, you know, ultimately what really drove us to want to do the acquisition and want to merge with mod was the opportunities we could give the team. We as a 30 person company with a specific focus on pipeline marketing, we always pride ourselves on like really people can create their own journey, but there’s also something to be said when you get, when you merge with people with a lot of expertise and experience to also help grow you and to be those internal mentors and to have this national collaboration, I mean, mod has offices in Portland, Miami, Panama City, London, New York, that’s experience.
Tessa Burg (05:03): That’s connection that as a 30 person agency in Cleveland, we were not gonna be able to give our team in any short order. So, you know, this kind of expedited, like our ability to grow as well.
Susan Finch (05:17): Well, I know that they’ve acquired other companies emerged with them or brought them, I under the mod op banner, I’m sure you’ve met some of those companies now and gotten to know what their skills are. What are some of the surprising gifts from this merger that suddenly you have at your fingertips that you’re able to offer your clients because of Mod Op’s network?
Tessa Burg (05:42): Yeah. I just got off a call right before this. They got me super pumped about what we can do and technology. So when you look at who they’ve acquired and their skillset on paper, you’re like, oh, okay, well, yeah, we do some digital media and yeah, sure. You know, we do web development, but what makes me most excited is that they have a lot more expertise in e-commerce and for us, and focusing on B to B, a lot of our B2B clients right now are exploring how do they go direct to consumers? Like you hear D to C you know, selling to people as people, as a big trend. Well, their experience in e-commerce platforms and how those connect into platforms were more experiencing in marketing automation, CRM data analytics is a very exciting marriage. And you know, that office and expertise is largely in Miami.
Tessa Burg (06:33): And then we look at like the office they acquired in Dallas and it’s almost all digital media. So yes, we do some digital media. It’s a part of our lead gen projects, but this is where we can start to layer on really sophisticated targeting segmentation and bring some of the experience we have in machine learning to bear and optimize these campaigns across the different lead gen channels in a way where, you know, while we were taking advantage of tools, they do it in such a deeper way and connect can connect it to like digital signage, digital, outdoor, not something we’ve explored. So yeah, I feel like every time we get on a call with a new office, I’m like, Ugh, like we, that’s not something we’ve done. That’s not something we’ve been able to offer. Um, and it, I think our clients are gonna benefit from it. I think our staff is gonna find new ways to, you know, take their T shapes and get a little bit more broad so that they can introduce more innovative. And, and at the end of the day, effective ideas for continuing client growth and lead gen,
Susan Finch (07:39): That’s exciting. Like you said, you, you two couldn’t figure out any downside to this.
Tessa Burg (07:45): Yeah. The only downside is I’m no longer an owner and that’s like just a different feeling. You sometimes you were like, well, am I allowed to do this? Who do I ask, do I need permission for this? You know, so there’s new essays. Um, but yeah, otherwise I, from a functional perspective, no, and I I’m sure Kip feels the same. I mean, he came in and bought the company out from the original owners. I mean, Teno started as AMG marketing resources at 1973 as a traditional creative shop. And it was founded by a man named Anthony FATCA and he engaged Kip to buy his agency when he wanted to: one, retire. But two: start to explore, you know, what the world of digital marketing could offer his clients. And he had a lot of awesome clients, uh, and Kip and I had been working together for a long time by then.
Tessa Burg (08:41): Um, I had been a consultant for him in digital transformation and digital strategy for a while. So it’s been a long journey coming from a traditional creative agency, getting into digital, getting into lead gen and digital transformation. Um, so this felt like a great next step, but yeah, it’s the, it’s still, you have to get over. The hump of everyone has to operate a little bit differently, you know? So there are, there’s trepidation there’s concern, but there, there is still more benefits than downsides. Like I think it’s just, we’re all little resistant to change. Like you get comfort, especially after the pandemic, you all got comfortable like working at home and you just got used to that. And then now this thing happens, but the good thing is we’re not leaving our office here in Cleveland. Like no one has, has to move. No one has to start becoming more formal, but like they have a real HR department that’s while I’ve now learned, that’s kind of great, You know, like they have, I mean, better benefits for sure. And just a sounding board for how to get through employee to challenges in this trepidation. Like, man, I, the HR person I had to give her a shout out has been amazing. So,
Susan Finch (10:04): And what’s her name?
Tessa Burg (10:05): Her name is Jean. She’s incredible. So for anyone evaluating a merger or an acquisition, make sure they have a great HR department. Yes. It just made the process of bringing the systems and the teams together so much easier.
Susan Finch (10:23): That would be a huge change though, since I’ve been an owner since 2001 and I am the last word in everything, I, you know, even with my nonprofit that I’ve had since 96 I’m the president always will be. I make the rules, I in the last voice. I, so that would be different. It doesn’t make it bad, but you wanna make sure the company you choose or that you decide to merge with is in such alignment with you since you are now, like you said, you’re an employee.
Tessa Burg (10:52): Yeah. I think another
Susan Finch (10:53): It’s different.
Tessa Burg (10:54): It’s definitely different. And something that really helps that we spend a lot of time thinking about is, um, the vision. So Eric Beran is the CEO of mod and he has a very strong vision as to why he’s acquiring the companies he’s acquiring. Why is he bringing these companies and these specific skillsets together? And that’s where you, yes. I’m not gonna have the last word, but I have a ton of confidence in the person who does and the way in which he wanted to grow was very similar to what Kip and I had a visioned eventually, you know, and that’s the part where it’s like, oh yeah, we wanted to have offices abroad. Oh yeah. We wanted to be able to start servicing global clients, you know, in global locations. So when you believe in the vision and you believe in the person who’s carrying out that vision, I, I think it’s made it less scary to give up some of the things you’re used to as an owner.
Susan Finch (11:49): Yeah. I’m realizing that as I’m trying to navigate payroll for two companies, because when I bought funnel media group, I’m still keeping them separate for different reasons. But it’s what a pain payroll for two companies, you know, everything that you have to do and the expenses and the time for that type of, for those departments. So I am, am HR. I am this, I am that. And when you’re smaller, they’re just eight of us. And that’s how it is. I mean, people wear multiple hats. So to be able to, like you said, have Jean for you, how wonderful, because unless you do HR, nobody wants to do HR.
Tessa Burg (12:30): Yeah.
Susan Finch (12:31): Unless that’s your thing. No. Do HR. That’s one of the bad things. Yeah. Right up there with reconciling,
Tessa Burg (12:40): Especially we’re in multiple hats, it’s a very heavyweight to carry cuz the, some stuff just has to get done. You know, uh,
Susan Finch (12:46): There is no choice, right? Well, I am excited for you guys and the opportunities that seem to already be presenting themselves because you can hear it in your voice too. You’ve always been peppy and enjoyed what you do, but there’s this renewed little bit of, Ooh, what’s around the corner next. What’s coming this week.
Tessa Burg (13:05): Yes. No for sure. I mean, I can’t believe it’s already April, but I know that by the end of the year, you know, we’re starting to create these roadmaps. We’re going to look and operate very differently. But in a way that empowers our staff, that takes advantage of those opportunities and where our clients will, you know, they’re, they’re probably gonna test a couple of new things they’ve never heard of before and tried by at the end of the year, we’ll get to see the results of that. So I am, I am really excited. Um, I feel like we’re, you know, April’s like, oh my gosh, like we’re past Q1. Like we gotta get on it. Um, but we got time and you don’t have to, we don’t have to sprint. It’s a journey, but I, it is when you get pumped about something and when you, you know, what’s possible, it’s hard not to want to run really fast.
Susan Finch (14:04): Well, I’m very excited. Congratulations to everybody at 10 lo and mod op because mod op you hit the jackpot with the 10 lo group. Ah, thank you. You are so happy for all of you. And can’t wait to see the, the new projects, the new offerings that I’ll hear about through Tesa and Cheryl. So thank you so much. And Tesa, thank you for coming on and telling us all about your great news. We are gonna share this out because it is a big deal. It’s a wonderful success story. And a next step for both of you, for you partners that are now not partners, that you are employees, but still partnering with your team and how fantastic to be able to have the best of both.
Tessa Burg (14:46): Yeah, no, thank you, Susan. I should have mentioned, we’re gonna be able to now have more topics on the podcast. So you’ll be hearing from mod up experts and mod up clients who are experts. And that’s another piece that I’m super excited about. And why I love hosting is we get like this free chance to learn from incredible people. And now in a door has just been open to a new group of incredible people. So,
Susan Finch (15:10): Hey, we might have to go weekly.
Tessa Burg (15:12): I, you know, I did throw that out there. I said, if anyone else wants to be a host, you know, then we could definitely look at going weekly. Um, so we’ll see, cuz really that was the only thing holding back frequency at the beginning is getting people who either wanted to host or, or, or at the speakers. Cause the quality of the speakers that’s most important.
Susan Finch (15:35): It sounds like you have a whole new arena of speakers that you can invite on.
Tessa Burg (15:39): Yes. Yep.
Susan Finch (15:41): And they’ve already been vetted because they’re already wonderful clients of Mod Op.
Tessa Burg (15:46): Yep. For sure.
Susan Finch (15:46): So I’m looking forward to meeting them too. Terrific. Thank you. Tessa everybody. If you wanna find Tessa’s show, go to TenloRadio.com in all your favorite podcast apps. She is there. She is everywhere. Subscribe to her episode. Cheryl’s episodes, all the episodes and everything else come over to funnelradio.com and you’ll see all the shows that we produce and get to know some the fabulous resources experts and be entertained along the way this been season pinch. Thank you so much. Thanks Tessa. Thanks. You’ve been listening to behind the mic on the funnel radio channel, never miss an episode. Be sure to firstname.lastname@example.org or in your favorite podcast app, apple podcast, stitch radio, iHeartRadio, Spotify, blueberry tune in and more.
With 20+ years of marketing experience, Cheryl strives to clearly understand client goals and user needs. She then helps plan, develop and deliver relevant, high-value content that brings the two together.
Cheryl Boehm, Director of Copywriting