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Heather Capps: “Embrace unique talents”

I’m an advocate of people asking questions and being critical thinkers. I encourage my teams to share an alternative perspective and then come up with their own authentic point of view for themselves. It’s imperative to stop and think through everything and not always follow the traditional path. One of the best ways to do […]

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I’m an advocate of people asking questions and being critical thinkers. I encourage my teams to share an alternative perspective and then come up with their own authentic point of view for themselves. It’s imperative to stop and think through everything and not always follow the traditional path. One of the best ways to do this is by reading books and articles written from two completely different perspectives. Ultimately, this creates a strong character and sense of self.


As a part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Heather Capps, the Founder, CEO + President of HCK2 Partners in Addison, TX. She continues to inspire everyone around her with more than 25 years of marketing and business management experience. She does it all, from strategic brand positioning for clients to encouraging a collaborative team culture to overseeing agency growth through business development. Due to Heather’s leadership, HCK2 has been consistently recognized as one of the top privately-held marketing agencies and top women-owned businesses in the Dallas Metroplex. In addition to her incredible work at the agency, Heather currently serves on advisory boards for the Executive Women’s Forum and Ability Connection. In 2019 she was recently named to “D CEO Magazine”’s Dallas 500 list of North Texas’ most influential leaders. NorthTexas’ most influential leaders in 2019.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I have more than 25 years of marketing and business management experience, which has been fueled by a passion for building client relationships and creating new opportunities for continued growth through ongoing education and knowledge sharing. I began my career in Texas working at a design studio and was then the first employee at Michael & Partners’ in 1997, I ended up starting a new company, purchasing all of that agency’s assets in 2004, renaming the agency to HCK2 Partners and have been dedicated to growing the firm ever since. HCK2 has been consistently listed as one of the top privately-held marketing agencies and top women-owned businesses in the Dallas Metroplex. It’s been a true privilege to watch the agency grow while creating raving fans out of the clients we love.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

It’s challenging to pinpoint just one story because there have been so many wonderful moments with clients and our internal team. I am truly amazed by our incredible company culture; there have been so many impactful memories over the years where we were able to celebrate our relationships with each other and with our clients. We have built a foundation of love, friendship, and most importantly, respect and admiration for those we work closest with. We always make time for team building activities, because it’s so important to have that time with the people you work closely with. Prior to COVID-19, we attended a Ranger’s baseball game with the entire office each year. It was a great opportunity to get away from our desks and connect as a team. We also attend the Texas State Fair annually for some wild rides and delicious food.

These events foster the work we do every day and is the reason we’re able to carry this hard-earned culture into our relationships with our clients.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I think everyone finds themselves in a situation where they feel rushed and pressed for time. I try to be conscientious with all my responses, so I don’t misspell a word or include a typo, but it’s happened on more than one occasion when I was moving too quickly (not to mention I still have no idea how I got an “A” in typing class! On a more serious note, I am still working on intentionally making time to educate, mentor, and train. Time is extremely valuable, and it’s often the greatest gift you can give to those you care about. My greatest accomplishment is watching people thrive as a result of knowledge sharing. I think it’s critical to let go and put trust back into your employees.

OK, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What is it about the position of CEO or executive that most attracted you to it?

I have always admired a strong vision and the idea of building a different kind of marketing communications agency. I strive to build a style of my own by observing and listening to other people’s experiences and reflecting on the experiences of years past; especially challenges or mistakes that we can improve upon. In my role, one of the most rewarding experiences is creating a positive working environment based on the needs and wants of my employees. I can’t take all of the credit, because it’s my team who has built HCK2’s impeccable reputation in the community. Everyone contributes to the agency in their own way, and I love to watch them grow.

Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

To put it simply, my job is to set the overall vision for the agency. I oversee the holistic environment and ensure that all of its business functions are working in harmony across the agency. If I expect my team to show up every day with energy, drive, and passion, I must be the embodiment of that as a leader. I wouldn’t ask anyone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself.

What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?

This is easy! I love watching other people knock it out of the ballpark. It brings me incredible joy to see the people I work with succeed and accomplish great things.

What are the downsides of being an executive?

As a business owner, I’m always on the clock and it can be difficult to find a work-life balance. While I wouldn’t have it any other way, it has truly become a part of my DNA. I’m constantly networking and considering new ways to turn a business card into a new client, recruiting new talent, and brainstorming about new ways to evolve the agency.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?

I don’t think many people realize that being a CEO is extremely hands-on. While a degree of delegating tasks is required in my position, I don’t just sit back and give orders. At the end of the day, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to maintain the strong culture we’ve built. It’s important for me that I’m blocking off time each week to think through any current hurdles and solutions.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

I think in many cases, women executives are wearing multiple hats but are often expected to act like they only have one priority. As a former single-mom with two young children, I understand these pressures and the feeling that there is not enough of you to go around. This is why I have worked so hard to create an environment where all of my employees can confidently meet the demands of their professional and personal lives.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

As the owner and CEO, I’m responsible for the financial health of the business, which means I am also responsible for the paychecks my employees take home. But it goes further than that, and I am also thinking about everyone’s physical and mental wellbeing. While this focus and concern has always been present, it’s been at the forefront of my mind since the start of the pandemic in March.

Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive, and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive?

In my opinion, the greatest quality a leader can have is the ability to inspire. It takes a certain kind of energy to stand in front of a group of people and command a room. Most importantly, you have to set a good example. I can’t ask other people to show up and meet deadlines if I’m not doing it myself. I can’t make clients feel loved and understood if I don’t embody that character. You have to be authentic.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

If you’re a perfectionist, give yourself a little grace. We are only human, so sometimes you may be late for a meeting or miss a deadline. To an extent, we all have to be flexible and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. As women, we have often pulled in so many different directions — from employee and boss to spouse and parent and now even as teachers. I’ve tried to be superwoman, but I’ve found that staying honest and realistic about my commitments has brought me a lot more joy.

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 about that?

I am grateful to George Michael, founder of Michael and Partners, who saw something special in me even when I didn’t see it myself. A year after I purchased HCK2, I found an old journal from my senior year in high school. The assignment included writing down what you wanted for a career. At the time, I wanted to go into advertising and that was my aspiration. I shared the old journal article with George and included a plaque that said, “Thanks for helping my dreams come true.”

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

One of the things I’ve loved most about being a business owner is to get a chance to give back to the community that has allowed us to thrive as a company. Our non-profit clients mean a great deal to us, whether we are serving in a consulting role or designing a new fundraising campaign. We want to ensure we’re equipping them with the tools they need to fulfill their missions and build awareness for their respective causes. Ultimately this serves one of HCK2’s core values as well: Charitable Hearts.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Take time to teach so you can delegate more and watch others thrive.
  2. Give yourself grace, being a superwoman is a myth.
  3. Learn the art of having a crucial conversation; firm but respectful.
  4. Embrace unique talents. I wish I would have learned to build roles and responsibilities around each person’s unique gifts and skills earlier in my career. I think it’s important to be supportive and encouraging and not to limit people by putting them in a box based on their title or years of experience. Experience is important, but I value a person’s character even more.
  5. Invest in a really good wine cellar! I would not have survived 23 years at this agency without an occasional (or nightly) glass of red wine.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I’m an advocate of people asking questions and being critical thinkers. I encourage my teams to share an alternative perspective and then come up with their own authentic point of view for themselves. It’s imperative to stop and think through everything and not always follow the traditional path. One of the best ways to do this is by reading books and articles written from two completely different perspectives. Ultimately, this creates a strong character and sense of self.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite quotes is the following from Albert Einstein: “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” I am a firm believer in living for the day and operating like you may not be here tomorrow. I question so much in life, and I’ve seen many doors open for my career and personal life as a result.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

There are millions of incredible people who I would love to pick their brain. If I had to choose, I’d love to sit down with Michelle Obama and Laura Bush. I find it absolutely fascinating how these brilliant women brought so much to the table as first ladies. They have also done many incredible things for children’s education, literacy and nutrition. They are both inspiring and powerful women in their own right. How much of their husbands’ success came from having strong women by their side?


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