You may have noticed his face on our About page, heard him mentioned in our MCN recap post, or even read his thoughts about digital strategy in the museum space on the blog. Eric Holter was brought in as CEO to help us continue the momentum we’ve built over the last couple of years and deepen our understanding of the complex issues museums face as they implement digital strategy. Coming on as head of the company is no small task, but Eric was more than happy to sit down with me and answer a few questions about his plans for his new role.
AV: What brought you to Cuberis?
EH: Coming on board as the new CEO of Cuberis is an unusual role for someone to enter into, to say the least. But understanding my background, and my history with Cuberis, can help make sense of that.
Years before I met Ray or heard of Cuberis I was the founder of Newfangled, another web design and digital strategy firm that specializes in partnering with advertising agencies. After 13 years with Newfangled I found the company was running well without me, leaving me with not much to do. Because my strengths lie in business management and problem-solving, I decided to focus on independent consulting in digital strategy, while also providing managerial consulting for Newfangled during my transition away from the company (which concluded in 2013). I also spent a few years pursuing my interest in ministry and church planting during that time.
In 2014 I launched a new consultancy called Rewarding Toil which provided both managerial and marketing consulting for design firms, web developers, and freelance artists. Cuberis was one of my early clients. Right away I was impressed with the level of talent and the professionalism of Cuberis. And Ray was eager to grow as a business manager, which is a very normal transition for designers who see their practices grow into larger firms. That’s what happened to me with Newfangled. Over the next two years, I continued to work closely with Cuberis as they implemented some of the changes I recommended.
This past summer Ray and I began a conversation about the possibility of me coming onboard full time as CEO. This seemed like a potential good fit because Ray’s strengths lie in directing the creative side of the business, and there had always been a gap between Cuberis’s marketing strategy, which I had helped to formulate, and its capacity to implement it. The more we talked, the more obvious it was that me coming on as Owner and CEO to compliment Ray’s new position as Creative Director would work well. And so after coming to terms for my buy-in, I formally came on board in November.
AV: What does a typical day at Cuberis look like for you?
EH: I’ve been moving from project to project getting caught up with team processes, helping the company align systems, and making sure we maintain our business focus, all while looking for ways to make sure we understand the complex needs and challenges of our museum clients.
AV: What project/initiative are you most looking forward to at Cuberis?
EH: I have two main goals in my role: to provide excellent business management for the firm, and to help establish a robust marketing plan. But my approach to marketing is not the standard “cast a wide net” and shake the bushes for leads (forgive the mixed metaphor). Instead, I emphasize establishing a laser-tight focus in just one area and establish deep expertise in that area–so that our services become an obvious and irreplaceable benefit for our clients. Partnering with museums has always been a passion for Ray and the team, and so I’ve been really enjoying getting to know more about museums, and thinking hard about how digital strategy can serve their goals and mission. I know digital strategy; I’ve been engaged in it for over twenty years. And I’ve applied it in many different contexts–but it’s been great being able to focus my application of digital strategy deeply in this one area. I also find the museum focus very compelling because museums, as valued cultural institutions, are very complex organizations with multiple important constituencies, and long-term needs. I’m enjoying delving into the depth of museum digital strategy, and I’ve already been able to identify many ways that our clients can move past the first phase of basic digital strategy and begin to use more advanced tactics in order to use the web in more meaningful ways (see my first couple of blog posts, here and here).
AV: What museum-related or digital strategy trends are you following right now?
EH: I have to confess I’m a bit of an old guy (relatively speaking) who finds himself a bit skeptical when it comes to the newest trends. I hardly ever check Facebook. I know that sounds inconsistent for a digital strategist. But honestly, when it comes to digital strategy, most organizations (especially museums) need help knowing what they do not need to do, even before they consider investing in the things they should be doing. The cacophony that rises from the rapid multiplication of digital possibilities can cause institutional paralysis when it comes to surfacing actual good ideas and wise investments. So I follow the trends, but I assess them pretty conservatively, and try to focus on those real benefits where real world, long term museum mission, and digital possibilities align. One shift I’m interested in following in museums is the realization that using digital infrastructure to support a museum’s goals has a big impact on a museum’s success.
AV: What is something interesting you’ve seen recently?
EH: There’s this species of spider recently discovered in China that looks just like a leaf. Its natural camouflage is so effective, it has never been observed until recently, when a group of scientists happened to be searching at night and its web was caught by their lights. I love learning about amazing creatures like that. And don’t get me started on octopi. What?!? Are you kidding me? (That’s not CGI folks.)
AV: How do you use your project management/leadership skills in your day-to-day life?
EH: I have seven children. ‘Nuff said.
AV: Do you have a favorite activity (or activities) you participate in outside of the office?
EH: See last question.