Americans are diverse, and its workplaces should be too. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2 in every 5 Americans are diverse and 1 in every 5 is of Hispanic or Latino origin. In order to conduct business authentically and resonate with U.S. consumers, our workplaces need to reflect our population. In order to produce products for a diverse population or American businesses, we need authentic voices to deliver them.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Parker Morse. A media and advertising veteran, Parker is the founder and CEO of H Code, the country’s largest U.S. Hispanic digital revenue business. Parker has more than 10 years of experience leading product development and revenue growth. Before H Code, he served as the SVP of Platform Revenue at Demand Media (now known as Leaf Group (NYSE: LFGR), where he led a team responsible for over $100M in media ad revenue. Previously, he also worked at Rubicon Project, Warner Bros., GCA (fka GCA Savvian), and Blue Bite. Coupled with a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, Parker has an extensive and insightful understanding about media, tech, and marketing. He innovatively applied best practices to the burgeoning Hispanic market, underserved across media. Since founding H Code in 2015, he has led the company to profitability and achieved year over year growth, becoming the leading digital partner for brands wishing to connect authentically with U.S. Hispanics.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
From the beginning, it was clear to me that technology, digital, and media were symbiotically influencing one another and were major players in American business. During my education, I knew I wanted to be on the inside of progress and leverage tech, data, and digital to drive growth in the media industry.
Throughout my time at GCA, Warner Bros., and Blue Bite, I focused on helping to promote growth within these companies, as well as within myself. I sought to understand business development and operations, analyze successes and failures, identify best practices and effective strategies, and educate myself on digital, its capabilities, and its impact on U.S. industries. Ultimately my drive to becoming a leader in the business and digital world led to my participation in the MBA program at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management and my time at Rubicon Project.
This period of my life culminated at Demand Media, where I was able to apply my learnings to their business development, mobile operations, sales initiatives, management of their entire media ad revenue, and more. This is where I began to recognize the absence of diversity within media and tech, and not just in the workplace. No business was proactively investing in or targeting the Hispanic audience digitally, despite their indisputable influence on the U.S. economy and nation as a whole. To me, if there was one certainty, it was that the U.S. Hispanic consumer was powerful, will be more powerful moving forward, and that digital would be at the forefront of this audience’s continued impact on America. From there, I decided to put to use my expertise to start H Code.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
I understand digital and product monetization, revenue, and platforms. The major challenge when first starting H Code was building an authentic U.S. Hispanic company. H Code’s core mission is to serve the Hispanic community, one that I am not personally a part of. As a Latina, my wife was very influential in what my next steps should be. Although I had the passion and knowledge to start an efficient business, future success would rely on that business being representative of the multicultural audience I wanted to reach. H Code’s challenge was how to understand the U.S. Hispanic consumer, not just demographically but also culturally. We needed to know the nuances and needs of this audience in order to drive active change in media. And in order to understand diverse audiences, a business had to be diverse within itself. I learned that the right team is invaluable and sought to find people, who came from all backgrounds and shared my passion. I am proud to say that today, H Code is 80% multicultural, 70% Hispanic, and 55% female. The diversity within H Code has directly impacted our ability to be successful and develop an authentic product.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
Since 2015, H Code has grown considerably. We just celebrated our fourth-year anniversary, and none of our success would have been possible without our amazing team. They are a well-oiled machine that not only have a passion for Hispanic marketing, but also bring every transferable skill they have to the table to meet goals and identify the needs of the Hispanic audience. H Code’s success is directly tied to our belief that learning does not stop in school. We continuously optimize our methods and processes. We see what works for U.S. Hispanics, what products align with our audience, and how we can combine all of those factors to produce premium digital solutions for brands.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
Every day since founding H Code, I learn something new about people, U.S. Hispanics, digital advertising, business, the meaning of true leadership, and the list goes on. If I had to select 5 key takeaways from the last 4 years, it would be:
- Americans are diverse, and its workplaces should be too. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2 in every 5 Americans are diverse and 1 in every 5 is of Hispanic or Latino origin. In order to conduct business authentically and resonate with U.S. consumers, our workplaces need to reflect our population. In order to produce products for a diverse population or American businesses, we need authentic voices to deliver them.
- Revenue does not measure success. Businesses hope to make a profit, that is undeniable, but profit is not the only factor that dictates whether a company is successful. It certainly does not outweigh the importance of a company’s mission and educating others about it. Although revenue helps, a strong purpose is a strong foundation in any business. If a team is passionate about a company’s mission, revenue will follow.
- Do not underestimate the power of a positive work culture. Companies have to take the time to build their team throughout their employment. Work culture affects productivity, and a positive environment boosts creativity. At H Code, we realize that people spend more time during the week at work than anywhere else. It is important to take care of the people that drive a company’s growth, celebrate their accomplishments, and even invest in a comfortable, approachable office space. In return for hard work, we have to invest in our teams just as much as we invest in our product.
- No one succeeds alone. There really is no room for “I” in a company, even from the CEO. We should all strive to be team-oriented. Teams succeed together. If every member of a team believes wholeheartedly in the mission, growth will follow.
- Be present. As a CEO, I must be an active participant. My most important duty to ensure the success of H Code is to dedicate time and focus to the people who take my vision and make it a reality. Our company is built by the people I put on the field. They represent us, and H Code would not exist without them. If they succeed, we succeed for the overall U.S. Hispanic market and as a business. Indifference trickles down, and it is my job to help them do theirs.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
First and foremost, take your time. If you need time for work, take it. If you need time personally, take it. I think it is easy for people to think they have to choose one or the other, or worse, feel bad for not dedicating every second of every day to work — don’t. Taking care of yourself, all aspects of yourself, will help you thrive and not “burn out.”
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Aptly said, I did not achieve success alone. I am grateful for the support of my wife, Lindsey. She supported my vision from Day 1. As a Latina, she understood H Code’s mission and helped shine a light on the need for a better solution for the entire U.S. Hispanic market. Her impact on my life and desire to help me succeed has directly resulted to where I am today.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
Personally, I aim to be an introspective person. I want to keep learning and work on being adaptable and finding a balance in life. Professionally, I hope that is a trait that helps me take H Code even further.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
I hope the success of H Code highlights the value of creating products for diverse audiences. I hope that my lasting legacy is calling America’s businesses to action, ensuring everyone is represented.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
Actually, I hope I have already taken the first step in starting a movement with my H Code team. Diversity in all aspects of media and tech is crucial. Understanding that current and future generations in the U.S. are and will be multicultural and digital-first is essential for the evolution and growth of American businesses. These generations will pave the way and have great power. A media industry that showcases diverse storytelling and content would enhance our industries and show all people within our nation a true representation of America.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Most of my time is dedicated to educating as many brands as possible on U.S. Hispanics, the most influential consumer market in the U.S. I don’t have much of a personal social presence, but I can be found on LinkedIn and to learn more, you can also follow H Code on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.