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Meet Dan Huslin of The Dark Horse Group in South and North County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dan Huslin.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Ten years ago, the idea of an ad agency with a virtual office was almost unheard of. But, after working at a San Diego based agency with a traditional brick and mortar presence, I began to think about how to streamline costs.

No stranger to having an in home office, I had worked as an outside sales rep for a variety of companies in the media and marketing world. I was used to working in a home office and found myself to be very productive.

After some research and conversations with other media professionals, I became convinced that it was possible to have a professional, business presence and to operate as effectively, if not more, than a traditional ad agency.

The benefits of working from home in a virtual agency are that I have very little overhead… no rent, no employees, no retirement packages or other HR expenses that a typical agency has. In fact, I have tax write-offs like: office in home and mileage to meetings. I get to choose who I work with, thereby selecting the best person for the job, not just someone on my payroll who may not be a perfect fit for the project.

I was fortunate enough to entice my co-worker, Julie Carrier, from the old agency away and together, we built The Dark Horse Group. We spent the last ten years improving our business model and doing some award-winning work for our clients. To date, we are one of the fastest growing ad agencies in the Book of Lists and ranked 15th overall. We have received over 26 national awards for our creative work in television, radio, print and digital. But the biggest reward we get for our work is making our clients phones ring.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Growth doesn’t always come when you want it to…it comes when it’s ready for you. Your job is to be ready when it does.

A couple years into running the agency we were at an impasse. We were ready for more business but were having a hard time landing it.

After talking with some fellow agency owners across the country, we enlisted the help of a new business guru, Michael Gass. He reviewed our marketing materials and asked about what type of business we were hoping to attract. A few adjustments and we landed a client within weeks of hiring him. We turned the corner and never looked back!

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about The Dark Horse Group – what should we know?
As an advertising agency whose principals have a statistical and research based background, we pride ourselves on going the extra mile to understand our clients’ business. We believe that it possible to track leads from the moment they react to our advertisements to the moment they become a client.

Any agency can create an ad. or do a media buy. But if something goes wrong and the leads are not coming in, do they have the ability to react within a couple of days to make adjustments? Could they even identify that there was a problem?

We embed ourselves in our clients’ business and learn as much as we can about them. It helps us in the creation of their in house marketing materials, their advertisements, training their staff and recording their revenues.

One of my proudest moments was launching a new client from just an idea to a full-fledged company in a little over a month. We came up with a name, logo, tv ads, radio ads, print ads, marketing materials, website, media plan, media buy and media placement. We tracked leads and calculated metrics like: media efficiency, Cost per lead, ROI, value of a lead, and more. That business became a million dollar business within a year of launch.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I’ve had many personal and professional mentors over the years.

First among them would be my grandfather who taught me to work hard. My father taught me to persevere even when you’d rather not. My mother taught me to use my mind.

I’ve had the good fortune to work with two great salespeople: Jerry Sacchetti and Mike Bustell. Both are among the best marketing and salespeople I’ve ever seen. My business partner, Julie Carrier has been a friend and partner over the years and I honestly don’t think this agency would be anywhere near as successful as it is without her. Jacqui Russo of the Russo Agency in Lafayette, LA has been a great touchstone over the years. And, of course, Michael Gass for his very timely advice and course correction recommendations.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Julie Carrier, my daughter Katie

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