Working to dispel some of the great myths of our society
Bo Pentecost is owner of Solve Design Studio in Ridgeland. He earned a degree in computer art from the University of Mississippi along with minors in business, journalism and music. Pentecost is passionate about design and marketing and serves on the board of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce and as president of the Metro Jackson Young Professionals. Pentecost is an Indianola native and Madison resident. He and wife, Lea, have two children.
Q — How did you start Solve?
A — Because of the relationship I had with BankPlus, they wanted me to come in and teach them how to use their stuff, and I was like — no. I went in one day just to help and they were like, “Hey, while you’re here, can you resize this ad for us?” Sure. And then, “Hey — while you’re here again …”
Long story short, I ended up having a pretty lengthy relationship with them. Today, they’re my most consistent client.
That’s how I was able to start this whole shindig – just by having one really consistent client. HMA – they were another really big client. And then at some point they decided all their work needed to go to Oklahoma.
At one point the two of them alone was enough to fill every day up, and it was just me. I just fell into this perfect niche where I’m the middle guy. I’m way better than some little freelancer out of college, and I’m way more cost effective than the big agencies, even though we’re equally as talented and we would say more so, because their ideas are ridiculous.
Q — So what should people do for their advertising strategy?
A — Really and truly, I like the Mississippi Business Journal for a reason, and I like community papers for a reason. This is a targeted publication — targeted to business people. So if you’re a business-to-business advertiser, this is great. It’s probably a really good way to go. Print is not going away. News print is going away. If it’s (a marketing article, for instance), I can read this today, or I can read it five weeks from today and still get something out of it. It’s a perfect example of something that’s OK to print.
News — we have the Internet and cable. If you’re printing headline news, you’re late. So if that’s your business model, you’re dead. We’re not anti print, we’re just anti (headline) news print. I can grab y’all’s Book of Lists, and it’s still good. Overall, if it’s headline news, don’t print it.
I just see injustice around the world. (A daily paper may charge) $3,000 to run on a Sunday one time. If you paid me $3,000, I would get naked under a sandwich board, and I would go tell people about your company and make an actual impact, and I would probably do that for less. Honestly, you could hire somebody for $10 an hour to go door to door in a neighborhood and be more effective than that.
Q — How has your real estate experience helped you?
A — I guess my real estate stint in retrospect was about me learning how to be good in sales. Because of that, I got involved in the Chamber, and I’m on the board of the Chamber, and I’m the president of the Young Professionals group and all this kind of stuff.
I’m trying to be an overachiever, right? I’m a total community man. But I keep it real. That’s why people like me.
Q — Do you want to grow in the future?
A — Yeah, slightly. I would like to have a dedicated web person. V (Virgilio Guardado) is the art director, and he is an actual fine artist. He is a great artist and probably the best logo guy in town. He just finds the connections between things. I joke around that I’m the capitalist and he’s the artist. By the way, the Solve logo has been chosen to be featured in Graphis, a national art magazine.
Q — Immediate business goals?
A — We’re working on our project now where we’re wanting to dispel a lot of myths out there in the world, like things that make us angry like QR codes and how ineffective they are. Now, you’re just seeing them everywhere. We want to dispel the myth of social media. It’s a great tool in the tool chest, but it doesn’t replace the hammer. It’s one thing. It’s a good thing.
That’s the next phase for us: We’re trying to educate our clients … instead of just selling them what they might want to buy.
I use a leather pants analogy all the time. No matter how great your leather pants are or the quality. No matter how much you deep discount it, I’m not your guy. You can’t win me. You need to figure out, Who are the best people for me to talk to? And how can I get in front of a few of them? That’s it. That’s the best thing you can do.
Q — How do you get big clients if you’re a small shop?
A — That is definitely where my person to person contact comes in. Every real relationship that I have was a personal introduction. My being involved in the Chamber has been hugely beneficial to me, especially once you’re on the board with decision-maker people. I’ve got to be talking to people who are spending money out of a budget as opposed to their wallet.
Q — What kind of bang do Solve clients get for their buck?
A — An example is, I talk to somebody about a website, and my website might be $3,000 to $5,000. But I hear a war story about how they just went to a big ad agency and paid $20,000, and their website sucks. And it’s not standards-compliant, they don’t have a reasonable content management system, it’s ridiculous. And I’m angry about it.
I literally fight against them all the time. I’m perceived as a little hack. But I’m a hack who has taken some of their business away.
Q — How much, percentage-wise, are you usually cheaper than big agencies?
A — I think it would depend on the particular project, but I would say that we’re less than half (as expensive). But we don’t have the overhead. Look at our little bitty office, my little $500-a-month office. It’s just me and V. I don’t have light fixtures from all over the world. I would hope people would appreciate the fact that they’re not paying for that.
More on Pentecost:
Favorite movie: “Shawshank Redemption” & “Harvey”
Favorite Food: “I live to eat.”
Favorite book: “Rework” by Jason Fried and David Heinmeier Hansson
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