In 2006 Amy Jo Haven-Reynolds founded haven, a one-woman media buying business. Through the last 15 years haven has evolved to become a full-service agency and preferred marketing partner for businesses throughout the tri-state region and beyond.
Here, Amy Haven-Reynolds reflects on founding haven, women in business, resiliency and what she’s learned from 15 years of running an agency.
Q: How were you inspired to create haven?
AH: The truth is, I never set out to start a full-service marketing agency. I never had entrepreneurial ambition of any kind. haven, as we know it today, evolved naturally over time.
I had been working for more than 10 years as an account executive in Greater Philadelphia for CBS-Philly and Clear Channel Radio (now, iHeart Radio). I had developed a great group of clients that I supported by creating results-driven advertising and promotional campaigns.
What changed was that I had my first child (Eveyln) and was expecting my second (Audrey). Audrey was born with complications that required, among other things, regular trips back-and-forth to NYC for the next 4-5 years. I approached Clear Channel with a proposal for a job share – something they had never done before. They agreed and I continued to work for them for another year.
In 2006 I was approached by one of my Automotive clients with a proposal to “handle all of his advertising”. While this had come up in year’s past, that day a light bulb went off in my head, and after some discussions, I decided to go out on my own. I intended to continue buying and placing advertising for him, and hopefully, a few others down the line.
When I announced to my clients that I was leaving Clear Channel to go out on my own, several of them asked if I would take them on as well and oversee their advertising.
As my client relationships evolved, it wasn’t long before they started asking me to provide them with a host of other marketing and advertising services. The fact is, these local businesses simply required a lot more than just the media buying services I was providing.
As things often do, one thing led to another and before I knew it, the company evolved into a full-service marketing and advertising agency, which eventually became a preferred marketing partner to businesses and organizations throughout the tri-state region and beyond.
I think it’s ok to not have a Grand Plan. I’m grateful haven has grown and evolved the way it has, but I had to be willing to step back, open my mind to the possibilities and allow that to happen. Flexibility is key.
Q: The best/hardest things about running an agency are:
AH: As a woman and Mom of 3 girls, I like the flexibility it affords. While I work hard and I work a lot, if there are family needs that I have to take care of, like a doctor appointment, a parent-teacher conference, or even a basketball game, I can manage my schedule to accommodate those things.
I also honestly love providing solutions for other local businesses. I love getting to know other owners and partnering with them to grow their businesses. It’s very satisfying to me. I’ve also made some incredible friends along the way.
That said, every business owner knows it’s a double-edged sword. Being responsible for a business requires a lot – energy, resources, time away from home and family.
In the last 15 years, I’ve navigated the agency through a host of unforeseen events and challenges. There have been a lot of sleepless nights. I am not alone. This is a common experience for business owners. You can never quite put it aside. It’s always with you and on your mind in some fashion.
Q: Looking in the rear view mirror, what stands out?
AH: Everyone tells you not to take business issues personally, but it is personal. I started the agency. I run the agency. My name is on the agency. The buck stops with me.
I vividly remember as a small child watching my widowed Mom conduct her real estate business. I took it very personally. When Mom would advise a client to price their home in a certain way and they rejected her advice, I took it personally. When they let their listing expire only to sign with another Broker at the listing price my Mom advised, I took it personally.
Running a business is highly personal, but it is also highly relational. And as we all know, relationships can be difficult. I think I have grown in this regard over the years in that I am not as shaken when things are difficult or a relationship is disrupted. Early on, it would rock me.
Also, I wish I had understood early on how vital it is to have a strong network of partners to support your business – accountants, lawyers, payroll. Finding the right partners is crucial to building a strong and sustainable business.
The other thing would be related to building a strong committed team of experts at the agency. I have learned that integrity and character are number one and non-negotiable when it comes to job qualifications. There is simply no substitute for a person of integrity. Skills can be taught and knowledge acquired. I have always conducted myself and, by extension, my business with the utmost integrity. I expect every member of my team to do the same. I am thrilled to work with an incredible group of people.
If I could give advice to my younger self, it would be “learn to ride the waves.” The ups don’t last forever and neither do the downs. Challenges are inevitable. Don’t be reactive. Learn to ride out the tough times without allowing them to rock you.
Q: You’ve navigated haven through enormous changes in the last 15 years, from the economic downturn of 2008, the tech and digital communication revolution that changed everything about how we live on the planet, and now a pandemic. What have you learned about change?
AH: Again, learn to ride the waves.
In 2006, when haven began, Facebook was only two years old and “social media” was barely a blip. The iPhone didn’t even arrive until 2007.
Things are constantly shifting and evolving in marketing. New approaches and new platforms and channels come and go. At the agency we’ve learned to position our clients to take advantage of these opportunities and to stay ahead of the changes.
As you grow and learn along the way, you are better equipped and situated to not only survive, but in some instances to actually thrive– even during tremendous upheavals.
That makes all our time and hard work worthwhile. I can’t tell you how great it feels to me and the rest of the team when we can work alongside our clients and do what we do best – achieve their goals and strengthen their organization.
Q: We’re 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still affecting families and businesses, school and work. What have you learned about resiliency?
AH: We’ve gone back to basics and re-learned how to ride the inevitable ups and downs. It has been such a pleasure and “teachable moment” to see the resiliency of not only ourselves, but our clients during this pandemic.
Just looking back over the last year and a half, everyone has dealt in some way with the many and varied challenges brought on by COVID-19. Whether it’s learning how to effectively work from home using a myriad of new technologies, how to support your children through virtual learning, the fears that come with aging parents, etc. We all have had to “figure it out”.
We’ve certainly seen that with our clients. It’s been great to partner with a number of visionary clients during this pandemic and help them not only weather the storm, but in many cases position them to come out of it even stronger.
They have been willing to accept current realities and open themselves up to new and different approaches and tactics have not only been able to continue serving their customers in the short term, but in some cases even create new revenue streams that they might never have considered otherwise. This has been especially true of our restaurant and food service clients. And it’s been very rewarding playing a part in their success.
Q: Where is haven in 2036, 15 years from now?
AH: Ha! I don’t know and I certainly don’t have a crystal ball (although man, I wish I did).
Part of me would like to think that I will be retired and enjoying an adult beverage on a beach somewhere, but that probably will not be the case. The agency is my 4th child and I will undoubtedly still be involved with it on some level.
I would like to think that 15 years from now, haven will have grown and evolved into a bigger and stronger agency that can assist even more local, regional and national clients achieve their businesses and organization’s goals through our creative marketing and advertising solutions.
I hope to have grown a larger and even stronger team of experts and future leaders that will continue to carry haven’s mission to accelerate sales performance by integrating business and consumer data science with creative brand building well into the future.