iSynergy has built a reputation as an industry leader, and the man behind the machine, Steve Cross, has been its driving force over the past twelve years, helping companies large and small up their game with an array of forward-thinking initiatives.
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“They felt they were getting a little stale,” he said, and he proposed adding the “next step in media,” as podcasting and videocasting.

“They built out a full video studio workshop. It is very competitive to a lot of DIY shows. You can be linked back to their website to buy the materials and build the project. Their media is everywhere. We had to promote and activate it in the beginning, but now it’s taken on a life of its own, and consumers gobble it up. You wouldn’t think that from a hardwood manufacturer.”

They are doing tours through their shop about technology they have. “They are transparent and authentic. There is no hired talent. We help produce it, but it’s amazing. Obviously that was a pretty large undertaking.”

Cross’ work now also has global recognition, as he is a part of the Forbes Agency Council, an invitation-only organization for senior-level executives.

Cross started iSynergy after working at various small and large companies, and an R&D firm in Pittsburgh, having realized he didn’t like much of the corporate culture around him.

“I got tired of middle management and being micromanaged,” he says. With iSynergy, things are quite different.

“We have a flat business model, meaning we don’t have any managers. We have department leads for mentorship. We have account leads that lead specific accounts. But we don’t have managers. There is me and everybody else. We have to be careful of how we hire to fit into that model, so we don’t get taken advantage of, but the team is good at policing themselves,” he notes.

“I always tell new hires: you aren’t accountable to me as a boss. I don’t let anyone call me a boss either. You are accountable to the people on your team, and your clients.”

It’s all about the team – and that ethic, he says, originated from his college football days. Every player is on a level playing field.

“I won’t ask anybody to do anything I won’t do myself. It’s my company. If I’m not doing it, how can I expect someone else to? When we are out and about I never introduce people as ‘this person works for me’. It’s always ‘I work with this person’. I treat them as an equal,” he insists.

“As I was growing up in football, there was no one that was going to outwork me. There might be people bigger, faster, and stronger, more talent, but no one was going to outwork me. That’s the one thing I can control. That’s carried over in the business world.”

Another thing that sets iSynergy apart from others in the industry, he adds, is that he didn’t begin his career as a creative. And he believes that worked in his favor. “I wasn’t a designer, developer, videographer, that did freelance work or worked for an agency, and wanted to start my own thing. I literally came from a data and analytics background. I was a math and physics major. I was going for aeronautic engineering. I had internships with NASA. I came from that side of the equation, and I hired in all the creative,” he says.

“So, a lot of reasons why agencies falter and fail and get a bad rap, I believe, is because they are started from a creative standpoint, and not from a business standpoint with a true strategy.”

The other important item is, he’s adamant they don’t outsource. “A lot of places call themselves an agency and it’s a one- or two-person shop, and they just do sales and project management and then sub everything out. But if I have to be accountable to the client for deliverables, and creative direction, and strategy, I like to have the accountable for all the work and the staff directly, so I don’t have to rely on a subcontractor.”

What clients love about iSynergy, is that they come wanting a one-stop-shop, a place where all of their needs can be looked after under one roof. “Any brand could have six or seven different agencies they work on, and in any given month they could have a media production company, an SEO branch, a web developer, design and creative. We bring all of that into one house.” In addition, he notes that clients, who have had bad experiences with other companies that had failed them with regard to delivery time, communication, and inattentiveness, are relieved to know that they only see professionalism in iSynergy.

“It’s a great example of why people stay with us for so long. The average lifespan of a client and an agency is probably two to three years. Ours is easily over seven. We have clients that I’ve had since 10 years ago. I would tell clients during sales and onboarding, the most important phrase I’ll ever say to them is ‘no’. I’m never afraid to tell you ‘no’. If you think it’s a good idea, and I think it’s a terrible idea, I’m going to tell you. I’m not going to take your money and shore up your ego,” he says.

The very first thing he discusses with clients is their goals, and not what services he offers. Then he proposes a plan.

Being client-centric in this way, he says, puts clients at ease. “If anything, I’m a consultant first, and then resources. There are times I meet with someone and tell them, ‘There’s no reason in hell you should hire me. Hire one person who specializes in this, and plug them in to do that’. But that’s all right. I’ve made a connection with that brand, and most of the time they come back.”

He sums up his company’s ethos as “West Coast innovation meets Rust Belt work ethic” – harnessing the technological ingenuity of Silicon Valley, with his home state Ohio’s rugged perseverance. And pursuing that, for him and his company, has been the game-changing vision that has propelled iSynergy as a leader in the field.


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