The Tribute Media Evolution

Posted by Corey Smith on Jun 22, 2023 8:30:00 AM

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In 2007, I was working for a local company in Boise, Idaho, and really wasn’t happy in my role. I was working for Fisher’s Technology (at the time, it was called Fisher’s Document Systems) as their VP of Innovation. When I was first promoted to that position, I loved it. I was able to use my passion for new things and technology to bring new products and services to the table. I brought document management to their sales team (among other things).

Chris Taylor, the president over there, had an amazing vision for the company and I was a bit too strong-willed (and a bit too immature in business) to understand how to harness my passion and capability to help him reach his vision. Ultimately, I was holding them back.

On October 15, 2007, they decided I was no longer a fit for what they wanted.

Yeah, it was a blow. A blow to my ego. A blow to my delusions of grandeur.

But, looking back, it was the right decision. Not only was it right for them so they could build Chris’ vision (you should check out what they’ve accomplished in nearly 16 years since I left). It was also right for me. I needed to be pushed into what I was truly meant to be.

The Beginnings of Tribute Media

Earlier that year, I met Darrell Amy. When I called him that day to get his advice on where to take my career and leverage his network in the office equipment space, he simply said, “Don’t go work for someone else. You need to be a consultant.”

I didn’t know whom I’d consult. I didn’t know what I’d consult. Most importantly, I didn’t have a clue how to do it.

The next day he said, “Be a web developer. I have five clients for you right now.”

I immediately went to work learning how to be a web developer. Fortunately, one of my superpowers is learning software quickly. I already had a decent understanding of Wordpress but knew that Wordpress would not be a fit for where I needed to take this. I needed an enterprise-class solution. I set to work learning Drupal.

As I learned more and honed my skills, I realized I needed help. So, I started Tribute Media and hired a couple of people to work alongside me as the business grew.

Over the next few years, Tribute Media built websites for Dealer Marketing Systems (now Convergo), which resold them to their clients. Darrell was invaluable in providing me with growth opportunities. He and I built many products and services together (some of which are still going strong 16 years later).

Tribute Media Needed to Be More

As time went on, my team at Tribute Media grew. Skill sets were added to the team. Our culture started to emerge and change. And it became clear that Tribute Media needed to be more than just a white-label web development agency. We had been sort of an “un-agency” because I was using my skills from process management in my previous career to create a unique agency (to this day, some of the things we do are still very unique in the industry). I think that unique approach was what made us a great agency. We were growing in ways that proved we could be and do so much more for clients.

We knew that Tribute Media’s next evolution would be to provide web marketing services. So, we began providing services like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), email marketing, and social media marketing. At the time (~2011), it felt like everyone was getting into web marketing. The economy was struggling, so it felt like all you needed was a computer and a cup of coffee and you’d compete. Most of those agencies are no longer in business, for obvious reasons. But Tribute Media continued to thrive and grow, despite seasons of difficulty here and there.

By 2013, we started working with HubSpot. Tribute Media has never been a sales-focused company, so our tier level always jumped between Gold status and Platinum status, but we went all-in on HubSpot services. In fact, is built on HubSpot. We love the Marketing and Sales Hubs it offers. They are unmatched in the industry.

Fun fact, I was in the first group of HubSpot Certified Trainers and, as of the writing of this post, I hold 39 HubSpot certifications. At Tribute Media, our employees have always been expected to have a certain number of certifications. The funny thing is, though, that we’ve never had a dedicated employee who only had the minimum. Over the years, it almost became a friendly competition to see who could hold more certifications than everyone else. If that doesn’t speak to our love of HubSpot (and our culture!), I don’t know what does.

My Career Shift

As Tribute Media grew into an established agency, I began to get a little bored. If you know me, I’m always looking for a challenge. For me, Tribute Media didn’t really hold that challenge that I needed anymore. Enter Lindsey Bowshier (who had become a business partner, along with a couple of other employees). She became the President of Tribute Media in my place. I left the day-to-day of the agency in her capable hands and began consulting outside of Tribute Media in the middle of 2021.

I kept a watchful eye on Tribute Media as the Chairman of the Board but knew that Lindsey was the leader we needed at the time she was the President. Tribute Media wouldn’t be what it is today without Lindsey’s leadership. However, the day came when it no longer made sense to have her at the helm.

Enter Hawke Media

In January 2023, I was approached by Hawke Media to become a part of the “Hawke Nest” (as they call it). To make this merger work, I had to “come out of retirement” and be present in the day-to-day efforts. My partners were very gracious through the process and allowed me to buy their shares to make this transition possible.

There were a few other considerations to be made before the merger. For example, the well-being of our employees. The ability to provide for families as a great employer has always been important to me. Tribute Media has consistently been a top place to work as a small company (we literally won Best Places to Work in Idaho). I had to be confident that Hawke Media would continue our vision to be a top place to work, even as a large company. In the few months that we’ve been making this transition (and now in the few weeks since the merger was finalized), the folks at Hawke Media have proven they are amazing people and an amazing company to be a part of. I trust them with the well-being of my people.

What’s Next?

Well, that’s a hard question to answer. The vision for us is that Tribute Media will continue to grow and be an amazing web development and web marketing agency. We bring some pretty cool things to the table that Hawke Media hasn’t done before, particularly with Drupal and HubSpot development, as well as other HubSpot marketing services. But, what’s even better for Tribute Media’s clients is that we now have a laundry list of amazing offerings that we couldn’t provide before. These offerings include photo & video services, next-level branding, affiliate marketing, Amazon services, and so much more. They fill in the gaps that Tribute Media always had, and we help fill some gaps that they’ve had, particularly in the Pacific Northwest.

Tribute Media’s future looks bright and I am so very excited about what we can do to provide new services and cutting-edge offerings to our clients. Maybe there’s a way we can help you. We’d love to chat about it.

Corey Smith

Written by Corey Smith

Corey Smith is the founder of Tribute Media and serves as the Managing Director for Tribute Media. He is also the VP of Web & Creative for Hawke Media.