By Barrett Baker
Photo by Jim Pile
It’s safe to say that Lindsey Germono probably knows the Norfolk Designated Market Area (DMA) better than most. She was born and raised in Norfolk, graduated from Maury High School, received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications from Old Dominion University and her Masters of Business Administration from Regent University. While working as a media rep while attending Regent, she saw that a lot of agencies were “doing it wrong,” and she knew she could do better. So she founded Germono Advertising Company three years ago to prove that hypothesis. And the results have been stellar.
CoVa BIZ: Tell us about Germono Advertising Company.
LG: The 15-second version is we work with business owners in the Norfolk DMA to help them with their media buying, and we work with anyone in the marketing coaching capacity in branding, marketing and advertising services. The media coaching sessions are for businesses that may not have an advertising budget and need help getting traction. We do a lot of social media management in that space. As a military spouse, I’m really tapped into the military entrepreneurship community, and I serve as an advocate for military entrepreneurship, especially military spouse entrepreneurship. When we started performing our marketing coaching sessions for military spouse-owned businesses, I was thinking, “Wow, these people have really great stories on what they’ve had to do for their businesses when moving with the military. Wouldn’t it be cool if we shared those stories?” So we created a podcast called “Drop and Give Me 20.”
CoVa BIZ: What was the catalyst to start your own company?
LG: I didn’t really know what it was like to be a military spouse until we got orders to PCS (Permanent Change Station) to North Carolina. Typically, [military spouses] experience that in their 20s. I was over the 30 hump when I experienced it for the first time, and most military spouses have been through two or three PCSs by that age. But I created my agency because I knew eventually we were going to move, and I wanted to work.
CoVa BIZ: Is that a big problem for military spouses?
LG: It’s a huge problem. In September 2014, the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) launched the Military Spouse Employment Survey. They found that a large percentage of military spouses were either underpaid or unemployed. The reason being, when someone looks at their resume and sees that they’ve moved every two or three years, it doesn’t look good from a human resources perspective. I know that from an employer standpoint. If I look at a resume and see that, my first reaction is, “They can’t keep a job.” But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that’s not the case at all. But because military spouses are either often unemployed or take jobs that are way under their skill level, they get depressed because they think they don’t have any other choice. So I also sit on the board of directors for the Milspo Project, a nonprofit that serves to empower and educate military spouse entrepreneurs.
CoVa BIZ: How did you manage a successful business in Coastal Virginia while being stationed in North Carolina?
LG: I’m back in Norfolk full time now, but I would say 95 percent of my business can be done remotely, including the work performed by my employees. So I have staff in Colorado, Alabama, Florida, Northern Virginia and Connecticut, as well as here. We do virtual meetings each week, and we use a program called Zoom to video conference and keep in touch by instant messaging.
CoVa BIZ: What is the secret to your success?
LG: First, I work every day. I think that’s hard to wrap your head around, and most people think it’s awful, but to me, it’s not. I love my business, and I love doing what I do, so I work on it every single day. Even when I’m on vacation I’ll set aside some time to check on the agency. Second, I always work 10 steps ahead. We’re more of a boutique agency, and we’re never going to be a Seventh Point, Davis & Company or BCF, so I always have to look at how we’re positioning what we do. Third, “grit” is a word I like to use. Every single day there are obstacles, and you just have to know that you’re going to be swallowing the salty along with the sweet sometimes. You just have to power through that. And finally, I surround myself with like-minded people so our friendships are relatable. If I’m at dinner with someone and check my phone, it’s not because I’m being rude but because I have a business to run. They do the same thing because they have a business to run. That’s just how it is, and it’s helpful to be around other people who understand that.