Richie KnightRichie Knight is cofounder of HW Creative Marketing, an inbound marketing agency based in Athens, GA.

Richie and a childhood friend created the agency as a web design outfit in 2010, and together they’ve grown their team and refocused their service offerings to help businesses of all sizes generate leads.

From Volunteer to Entrepreneur

Richie manages clients while his partner, Nicole Batten, focuses on the development side. After growing up together, the two worked closely in support of the 4-H Youth Development and Mentoring Program. Both have a passion for giving back to the community, and they eventually decided that the volunteer work they were doing for causes and friends could serve as the foundation for a business together.

That decision meant embarking in a completely different direction than where he was headed with his studies in International Agriculture, but it’s a decision he made with no regrets. Since founding HW Creative Marketing, Richie’s team has grown to include over a dozen interns from UGA, and he stills finds time to stay very active with Georgia Options, a local organization that assists adults with developmental issues.

Getting Ahead of the Curve

To add value for his clients, Richie estimates that he spends at least 15% of his workweek reading and researching the latest tools, techniques, and trends in the online marketing industry, and much of this know-how ends up in educational programs in the community. He and the team organize learning sessions for area businesses covering marketing topics ranging from social media to Google Analytics. HW Creative Marketing also organizes the annual Success Summit, formerly Athens Small Business Summit.

Richie considers himself an educator at heart, so it’s no accident that much of his energy is invested in educating his clients and local small business community. Richie considers his talent for teaching his greatest strength. Teaching enables him to empower clients and other small business owners to diversify their marketing strategies and help themselves.

Interns also get their own education: Richie hosts weekly learning sessions to cover marketing topics the students may not be learning in class. The goal is to invest in his staff and create a learning culture, but also sustain a system that can be replicated from one semester to the next. For Richie, it’s a special treat when he sees someone he’s met with our helped in the past paying it forward to someone else.

Rising to a New Standard

Richie Knight NA@MP2012 (1)Richie Knight has a vision for company growth, but there are a couple of hurdles in the way. They are optimistic about their new direction, focusing on inbound marketing with a partner relationship with HubSpot, but as most agencies can identify with, there’s a need for new clients to jump onboard. And not just any client. A common challenge is identifying a poor fit before everyone ends up unhappy, so Richie’s team has narrowed down the types of projects and partners that are most likely to lead to positive outcomes.

Of course, juggling all the balls while changing the strategic direction of the company is no small task. Richie estimates the team burns through about 200-300 client-related tasks a week, more than enough to occupy his small team. Getting in front of all that work is clearly a challenge, but Richie points to extensive planning, organizational skills, and his great project manager for allowing him to find the time.

These effective project management tools and time tracking software have helped HW Productions double its workload without adding any more hours to the equation. His team delivers 2-week turnarounds on most of the services they offer. Richie readily admits that the typical companies he works with don’t have 6 months to wait around on results, so his agency focuses on managing expectations so they can deliver quality, fast.

The Nice Guy Finishes First

There isn’t a single self-absorbed bone in Richie Knight’s body, and it’s clear his Ned Flanders affability is no act. He really is just a nice guy with strong drive to succeed by helping others. He’s got an open door policy with the world, and so far it’s working well for him.

I think Athens is one of the most unique places in the country. There are so many resources all in this small town. I love being a part of developing the possibility and raw potential that’s present in our entrepreneurial community.

Richie constantly seeks people out, and not just at events. He looks for potential partnership opportunities, and reaches out to see how he can help. He’s loath to turn down students who just want to talk and ask for advice.

He can tie all his clients to one original contact, so his advice is to continually forge new relationships: you never know who you’ll meet and how you can help each other.