BizTimes Bubbler Executive of the Week: John Bernhoft

John Bernhoft, president of 360 Direct Inc.
Address: 3245 N. 126th Street, Brookfield
Industry: Marketing and advertising
Employees: 27
Family: Fourth generation Wisconsinite, married, blended family with five children

What was the smartest thing 360 Direct did in the past year?
“We purchased a building in the now renovated Brookfield 124th Street Commerce District. It is an area seeing significant investment by many businesses. From Mayfair Road to 136th Street and Capitol Drive to Bluemound Road, you can see the activity every day. Both retail and business services are seeing significant investment. I have taken on a new affinity for construction barrels. After a tough recession, this is really great to see.”

What’s new at your company?
“We were excited to open our office in Austin, Texas, a city experiencing massive growth and investment. We have coined it the ‘city of cranes.’”

Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?
“We are in a growth mode in Brookfield and Austin, and as such are adding to our technology and creative teams. 2014 was our biggest capital investment year so far with the purchase and renovation of our building. We still have a few projects to go to complete that.”

What will be your company’s main challenges in the next year?
“There are two that I see – the first being a tepid economic recovery, which has caused businesses to constrain their marketing budgets, play defense and attempt to handle marketing in house, often sacrificing goals and results in the process. Second, the world of marketing is in constant change with new opportunities in this digital age. We have to constantly learn and stay in the know, and serve as predictors of the next change, which is a great benefit to clients. Just the other day Google announced that all websites must be mobile accessible for search rankings.”

What are the hottest trends in marketing this year?
“Undoubtedly inbound marketing or content marketing. For the past several years, the buzz was all about social media, and that has now blended into a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy. The time to start inbound and content marketing is now, before your competitors take a foothold. The effectiveness of ‘push type billboard advertising’ in any channel will take a second seat to relationship marketing through digital content.”

How does 360 Direct distinguish itself from other marketing agencies?
“360 Direct brings the typical services of an agency without contracts or retainers and adds the element of consulting with a numbers perspective. We are accessible and approachable. Unlike most, we do not simply seek to spend a budget allocation. We focus on marketing development, long-term strategy and maximization of any size budget. Most agencies rely on the business to bring those pieces to the table and simply want to know how much they have to work with. We want to know the growth you want and will work with clients on how to get there.”

What kinds of clients do you serve? Why are you based both here in southeastern Wisconsin and in Austin, Texas?
“Our clients are predominantly in the B2B sector with manufacturers and business services. However, we don’t shy away from a consumer or retail client that represents a good fit. Wisconsin is our home and will continue to be, while Austin is one of those marketing hotspots that in our view is one to two years ahead of where the Milwaukee area is today. It is a cauldron of creativity and a great opportunity to get ahead of the curve. Most clients do not have a marketing staff, so we serve well either to augment current staff or serve as an outsourced marketing department.”

How would you describe your company’s culture?
“Ownership, accountability, responsibility, consistency and fun. These are keys to attracting creative A players.”

Do you have a business mantra?
“Push the envelope. If you’re told it can’t be done, schedule the completion date and send a press release.”

From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?
“Contemporaries would be Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. I enjoyed observing and learning about these juxtaposed furious competitors. ‘No Bozos …A Players only’ – Steve Jobs. From the previous century this would be Carnegie. Few people truly understand or practice the concept of going the extra mile.”

What lesson from your career has stuck with you?
“Push aside fear and doubt, as they are the dream killers. Make affirmative statements and take specific actions toward your goals. Know the power of negative thoughts, and filter them.”

Sign up for the BizTimes email newsletter

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display