Arnold Huffman Founder, CEO, YALO
Each week, we interview proven leaders from our network, to learn from their experiences, and share their Talent Attraction and Candidate Experience stories with you.
- Our mission is to promote the accomplishments of our guests
- Highlight the companies where they work and the services, and products that they offer
- Share success stories from their experiences and, most importantly
- Provide strategies for job seekers and advice to talent seeking to accelerate their careers.
In this episode,
- Arnold shares the story of how and why he started Yalo:
- With a degree in Chemical Engineering, a decade implementing ERP solutions at Accenture, and then driving Sales & Marketing in a SaaS business, Arnold started his own marketing agency…and built a successful distributed workforce years before it has become more widely the norm.
- Yalo is a FIJI word for “soul” – and Arnold uses film, art, and music to drive inspiration for his clients’ projects
- Extracurriculars matter…especially leadership positions. Become a Greek Heritage Dancer!
- He provides advice on positioning yourself for interview success. Think beyond your resume…create a presentation that tells a story about you and your capabilities.
- Lastly, Arnold offers some excellent advice about the importance of being “nimble” in your interview and trying to break the mold of sticking to a script.
Full transcript of our interview below:
RON: Hello and welcome to episode eight of The Bell Falls Search, Focus on Talent Video Series. This is the Digital Marketing Edition.
Our guest today is another friend of mine, former college buddy from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Spartans.
He’s a previous co-worker and also a client based out of Atlanta. He started his own marketing agency several years ago. And today this firm delivers high end digital campaigns and what I like to describe as immersive experiential events across several different industries.
His unique approach to integrating music and soul into his work has been a large differentiating factor into his success. I am honored to have with us today. Arnold Huffman, CEO of Yalo. Arnold, welcome and thanks for your time.
ARNOLD: Yeah, appreciate it, Ron. Glad to be here.
RON: So that was my intro. I’m sure I didn’t do it justice. Can you kind of reset things and talk about you and primarily your career progression? How did you get started coming out of College? I know you had some years at Accenture and implementing big processes and systems, and now you’re running a very creative marketing agency.
Can you talk through that progression? And then also give us an overview of who Yalo is?
ARNOLD: Sure. Yeah. I get that question a lot, especially from new about to be new graduates having gone to Case Western Reserve. As you know, I was a Chemical Engineer undergraduate, and now being in the marketing field a long way away from where I started and where I’m at today.
So in between, there were stops at Accenture doing large scale supply chain, real nitty gritty type stuff. From there moved into a software role, working for a software company, building partnerships with companies like Accenture, Deloitte and others to have them implement our software.
And that’s where I got a lot more involved with sales and marketing, just kind of an umbrella term. I wasn’t in sales and I wasn’t in marketing, but we had to do both of those things to build these partnerships. And so after I left there, it was again another eight years roughly there, and 8- 9 years at Accenture.
Finally I actually went into marketing at Rosetta, where a lot of us work together as well. And after that, I was leading the business development team. We got purchased by Publicis in the middle of that.
And so I decided that as the head of sales, a lot of that weight was going to fall on me for these new goals and directions that they wanted to sell into. So I looked at the pipeline. So there’s plenty of work out there, lots of clients who need good help.
Why not us? Timing was interesting. We just had our third kid, and the wife was questioning whether it was exactly the right time to get started out. Nonetheless, I think, as most people say right, there’s never a good time is going to pull the rip cord and let it roll.
So that was nine years ago. We’re in our ninth year, and so far, so good!
So one of the things I get asked, “What does Yalo mean?” Because it is a different word. One of my jokes is that if you’ve ever gone out and started a company that there are no English words left to name anything. Everything’s been taken or the URL has already been taken.
So I had been to Fiji once and basically went on to the Internet, looked up a dictionary for Fiji terms, and just started searching for English words. And what the equivalent was in Fiji. Landed on the word “soul”, which means “Yalo” in Fiji and had a nice ring to it. Short, sweet.
And I felt like I was a good centerpiece to build around in terms of how do we want to do this differently for clients? So that became kind of the kernel. And from there we built the whole methodology that’s really embodiment of what does soul mean for us helping our clients brands the way we do that is looking through the lens of film, art, music and sports to come up with unique ideas for our clients.
And the reason we use that lens is because film, art, music in sports, one of those very relatable in everybody’s everyday life. And so our goal for our clients is to create marketing and material and content that is relatable to their customer base. And so we use that film, art, music, sports angle to figure out where that is one of the ways that that comes to life in our process.
Most folks that have been in marketing had the pleasure of going through a creative brief, which, as I describe as the hope streams and expectations the client has of what they want said projects to look like when we get to the other end of it. And the reality is that it’s a bunch of words on paper and those words on paper, it becomes our job to distill those into something that’s going to be creative.
And so the way we do that, we go through to create a brief. The last step in our process is what we call the soul song exercise. And what we ask is if this project, whether it’s a website, a video campaign, if this project were a song, what song would this be?
And what we’re really trying to do is take all those words, those hopes and expectations the client has just shared with us through the creative brief, question and answering process and get that distilled down to a central attitude, one singular emotion that we want people to the project to invoke when it’s completed.
So it’s an excellent exercise for our clients to step away from all the the details of what they think they want to accomplish and really kind of get at the heart of the matter, we build a playlist with the client and we will that down to one specific song.
It becomes the guiding light for the project from a creative standpoint.
RON: So, you know, you and I have talked about this over the years, and I’ve always been pretty intrigued by it. Is there a an example or two a fond memory of a client in a song, that you can you can talk about? You don’t have to mention the client or a specific example if you don’t want to. But is there one that rings a valid, you know, is the great application of this idea concept?
ARNOLD: Yes. I think I’ll make two comments. One, the ones (clients) that really buy into the process, and we really have deep dialogue about why different songs fit their goals and what they want the output to feel like those ones turn out the best.
Because we really work hard to get down to one song that becomes the embodiment. The others who look at the exercise and can’t really associate what they want with the song to be a representation of it, struggle with it.
And we know at that moment, which is when you do the creative is early in the process. We know at that point already in that project that the design process could be difficult, right. Because they have a hard time zeroing in on what is it they want really is what it comes down to.
So it’s as much as a psychological process going through the process with the client as it is helping really focus our creative and us being able to do our job to our best ability. So that’s one comment the second time I make to answer your question more specifically.
We’ve had clients pick “Anyway You Want It” by Journey.
We’ve had clients pick Outcast, “So Fresh and So Clean.”
We just did one within the last year that was “Money Talks,” by AC/DC.
We’ve had obscure song, and pop songs like “Blurred Lines.”
It all comes down to the conversation about what do you want again, the attitude of this to feel like. And so those who buy into it, really, I believe when I get to the end of the project, get exactly what they wanted out of it at the end.
And those who struggle with the process, you may not have the same level of confidence and pride at the end of the project because they had a hard time putting their finger on which way should the ship be moving here in early in the process. But “Anyway You Wanted” by Journey, the CMO actually played that song when we unveiled the initial demo of the website to the rest of the executive management team.
She didn’t tell them why the song was playing, but then once she got into the presentation of the demo explained what you’re seeing is an exact representation of the song I was playing. You might be wondering why I was playing that, and that’s why that was. Here’s the direct output from that.
And the executives all were nodding their head and saying, “Yeah, I can see and feel that coming across in our new website.”
RON: Very cool. That had to be pretty meaningful for you, too, at the end of it as well, to see that come to fruition / validation.
So Let’s talk about talent a little bit. You’ve always been somebody when we work together, both as kind of client and service provider and as co worker, someone who I thought has always done a really good job at attracting talent and retaining talent and more importantly, evaluating an assessing talent at the same time you’ve been we live
in this world today where everyone’s virtual and getting used to this new working environment. You were way ahead of the curve with Yao. It was 5, 6 years ago you were having a distributed team, and were able to manage through that and pretty successfully as it relates now.
So transitioning over to talent. So it relates to students coming out of College or entry level workers as it relates to marketing in your industry and what you see delivering.
What would you advise that segment of kind of the workforce on what they should think about, what they should study, what they should be prepared for as they go into looking for their role and want to make a contribution to our space.
ARNOLD: Yeah. I think I actually think this applies to just about any industry. There might be some that it doesn’t work for, but in general, because I talked to a lot of soon to be graduates from Case, right. And the engineers, business majors, social work right across the board.
And one of the first things I tell them is don’t spend so much time on your resume, I guess, is probably the first thing. Right. Resume just data. And it’s presented terribly on sheet of paper with a bunch of bullet points and words and numbers. So the first thing I would say to them is, I give this advice.
“Take your story and turn it into a presentation and create a presentation about yourself and who you are and what makes you tick, what makes you interesting for this job.”
And that’s why I think it works in multiple industries, not just ours. Now ours is visual. And so that certainly helps some more of somebody being able to put there.
Who am I on a page visually and tell that story? But I think it works in any industry. Because anybody who’s hiring someone wants to hire somebody that that has a direction, a motivation and determination, and that doesn’t come across in data points in a resume that comes across and how you describe yourself and who you are and how you pick.
One time I was doing some interviewing for Rosetta, and we get all these resumes from Miami, Ohio, Case (CWRU) and all of these places. And I would always interview the lesser GPA folks, because what I was more interested in is the activity, which is the shortest part of the resume, your extracurricular activities. But that’s where I would spend all my time talking to them.
And I remember this one at his extracurricular. He had been a Greek dancer, heritage dancer for Greek culture since he was, like eight. And he still was, despite maybe all of his friends, maybe teasing him and making fun of him as a College graduate, still doing the traditional Greek dances back home.
And I said, “That’s a guy who knows who he is. That’s the guy who doesn’t care what other people think and has a passionate commitment to something that not what everybody else might think is cool.”
And I went to HR and he didn’t have the best GPA, and you actually had to fill out a form. So I filled out for and I wrote huge letters, “HIRE HIM BECAUSE HE’S A GREAT DANCER.”
And the HR person called me and they’re like, You can’t be serious. They were like, the GPA is not that good. And we’re not hiring him just because he’s a dancer. And I explained it to him and they understood it. There’s still some challenges with the GPA, which, again, to me, I would overlook that. I would say this guy has values. He’s got, like I said, drive commitment, passionate about something that is cool.
“Tell your story on slides and to play up the extracurricular things that you do because that really gives a much better picture of who you are.”
RON: Yeah. And be a leader in them at the same time. Just don’t participate in I go out on a limb, take those extra roles when you can.
I know we’re running out of time. So I’ll get to my next subject or my last subject as a hiring manager and someone who’s interviewed and looked at lots of resumes over the years and talked to lots of candidates. What would you suggest to people looking to differentiate themselves in the process against other competition for those roles? And maybe even an example or two you’ve seen, if you have any top of mind, that really set one candidate apart from another.
ARNOLD: Yeah. I think it’s how you present yourself. But another thing that I talked to, especially new graduates about is communication come across clean, come across polished, have very specific things you want to say. The second thing around communication, I think, is really important is your ability to move in the moment of the conversation.
So having five questions prepared that you’re going to ask the person that you look down and read it right in the interview, it shows you did your work, but you’re not really being nimble on you your feet.
So I think in the ability to present yourself in a clear, concise communication manner, but also be relaxed and be able to move and pivot based on what you’re hearing the other person saying in review, I think car shows how well those young folks can carry themselves in a lot more complicated situations. Gotcha.
RON: Alright. Cool. Well, Arnold, I appreciate your time. This has been very helpful, and I will share a link to your profile, LinkedIn and yellow and link to the conversation and look forward to chatting again soon.
May 11, 2021