For more than 20 years, Wendy Traschen has been a fierce advocate for the power of strong branding and integrated marketing communications in moving organizations to the next level of their industries. As the owner of Bolger + Battle Marketing Communications she leads a diverse team of writers, designers and account executives who help support B+B’s more than 150 clients. Traschen also has a background in retail, hospitality, nonprofits and more, which helps when wearing her other hat as the owner of Whine.
We caught up with Wendy recently on keeping up with communications in the digital age, her go-to person for advice and how the business has changed over the last 25 years.
Q: Wendy, we appreciate you taking the time to speak with us today. Let’s start by discussing Bolger and Battle, because notably, the business is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Can you talk about some of the changes over the company’s history?
A: Bolger and Battle was started by Greta Bolger and Julie Battle. They were writers and they also hired writers. From a graphics standpoint, we didn’t have designers on site, but worked closely with what is now known as ClearRiver Marketing Services. The business consisted of three or four people in the beginning. When I look at where we are now with a strong graphics, digital and social media department, it’s because we have kept up with the evolution of how people communicate today to make sure we are staying relevant.
Over the years, we have learned from growing pains of expanding up to 35 people on staff, versus the approximate 25 staff members we have now. That’s our preferred spot. As involved in the community that we are, it’s easier for us to know everything that is going on within the company. I like to know all of the projects specifically, so we have weekly production meetings, and that helps us keep on top of what’s happening without having to micromanage.
Q: There has been a lot of development in Downtown Midland. What are some things you hope to see as the downtown area grows?
A: Well, I have lived in Midland nearly my whole life. I did spend two years living in Atlanta part time in a downtown area. I lived right on Ponce de Leon which is like Midland’s Main Street. To see how people live and work in a city, there’s always something going on downtown. When you are a part of that, it really does something to your soul. I love seeing the growth of Downtown Midland. We are lucky in that we have so many strong foundations and advocates as Downtown Midland continues to evolve.
I like that Midland is pursuing some more affordable housing options downtown, and I’d like to see more of that. I think continuing to focus on having affordable living, so families with an interest in actually living downtown have options – that’s what I want to see. Some additions that would be great include a little bodega, a drugstore, a small meat market like LaLondes, and additional businesses to be a part of downtown. As Downtown Midland grows, parking always is a concern, but I think people will get used to walking, especially with the streetscape opened up.
Q: As a strong woman in the business world, you have made a name for yourself. Are there other women you look up to?
A: Here in Midland I look up to Kathy Fuce-Hobohm. When I have any issues, she is the first person I call and I have so much respect for her. She owns SPACE, Inc. which she started with a partner and then bought the partner out. The way people work has drastically changed over time, so to adapt to that, she has had to reinvent the business three or four times since I have known her.
She’s one of the first people in the women’s furniture industry to get a government contract and she is often in Washington D.C. doing solid strategy and solid business plans. She cares about her employees, she’s great at making sure they get the training they need and the leadership skills they need and I feel strongly that that she’s a great leader in this community.
Q: As a dual business owner, what is your biggest challenge and how do you strike a balance between everything?
A: Life and the unexpected is my biggest challenge. It’s hard when you’re trying to be actively involved in leading two businesses. I cannot tell you the last time I was on vacation. I’m involved in so much, such as the recent Dow spinoff as an agency partner, so I just have to make decisions based on need. It’s much harder being a small business owner today than it was ten years ago. The laws have changed, technology has changed, and I think if you asked every small business owner today if it’s easier now than five years ago, everyone would say no.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about how you work with clients?
A: I would consider us a traditional marketing and communications company and the fundamentals of the way we work with clients remains very similar to the day we opened in that we have a strong personal touch. Our account executives have day to day contact with clients and their role is to figure out what is needed for the client’s project. But technology has changed the way we interact.
We didn’t even have email when we started 25 years ago, and we had to go over hard copy layouts with clients. The younger generation today doesn’t have a connection to the work processes of the pre-digital age. Now, ninety percent of my clients will text me versus emailing, which can present its own challenges.
Personally, I love to have face to face contact with people. We are a communications company, so we try to have face-to-face communications with clients wherever possible. Of course, with clients all over the United States and around the world, that’s not always possible. Often we will use WebEx or Skype, email, WhatsApp – whatever is easiest for the client.
Q: Bolger and Battle has clients near and far, both big and small. Can you tell us about some of the unique problems you help clients tackle?
A: We cover a broad scope of work. Some clients we have had for a long time and just need materials updated, and B+B doesn’t have to do heavy brainstorming for that. Other projects with both longstanding and new clients are big initiatives and programs that start from the ground up or need rebranding. This requires a different level of engagement with the client and brainstorming and concept development on our part.
Every project is different so our approach has to meet the needs of the client for that project. I am very happy to see people focusing on inclusion and diversity. This has been a priority for B+B for a long time and we are really excited to help support these efforts.
Q: Does Bolger and Battle have any new developments planned for 2019?
A: I think from a strategic standpoint we will continue to grow in order to keep up with communications. We recently brought on a new employee who has the skill set to develop apps and tech, to move that further. When you think about having to keep up with things like technology, and figure out what the trends are going to be, we have to take that seriously and be able to meet those demands and be competitive in the marketplace.
Q: What is the culture like at Bolger and Battle?
A: I have a great set of leaders here, and I have staff who have been here as long as I have. We work hard, and we are a team who has a lot of respect for one another. We do various events as a team, like races or holding potlucks. We are heavily involved in the community as well. For example, I was part of celebrating the recent Dow spin-off, as we have all worked so hard on that effort. Work/life flexibility is important, and we try really hard to continue to allow options for that. There are also days when it’s 8:00 p.m. and we are all still in the office working on a project. We work so hard to get everything done on the client’s timeline.
We are also very philanthropic. Bolger + Battle does pro-bono work for non-profits, and if they have a budget, give them a great hourly rate in order to support the community. We have been involved in collaborative projects like last year’s the Outlandish festival and the accompanying screening of No Man’s Land Film Festival put on by Heart of the Lakes.