Advertising icon’s heart is in the community and customer service
There are few names more respected in Toledo business than Hart, Inc. With over 50 years of history in the Glass City, the marketing and advertising agency has clients as diverse as the Ohio Lottery and La-Z-Boy recliners. And no one respects the legacy of the Hart family name more than the man who now runs Hart, Inc.: President and CEO Mike Hart.
“I think we’re a really great advertising agency that does great strategy and great creative,” Hart said. “I think every agency does that, but I think the thing that makes us special and unique is the undying focus on the service of our customers. There’s just an incredible focus on service that’s been passed down from my dad to me.”
Mike has worked for Hart, Inc. for over 35 years, after his father Tom — a tremendously respected Toledo adman — founded the company in 1965. Though he would make the advertising business his own, Mike’s first instincts were not necessarily to follow in his dad’s footsteps. He had an entrepreneurial spirit, even in college. One day, Mike met with his father’s best friend, a local attorney, to ask his advice — should he go work for Hart, Inc.? “He thought about it for a while, and told me he thought I shouldn’t go to work for my dad, I should go to law school and come to work for him. And he was my dad’s best friend! And that day I walked back to the office and told my dad I was coming to work for him.”
When Mike joined Hart, Inc., there were only six employees, including himself. But over the past 35 years — through Mike’s own ascension to the CEO position and through the passing of his father 21 years ago — the firm has grown to over 60 employees, including the next generation of the Hart family’s Toledo legacy.
“Our son Zak joined us, as the third generation, and I gave him the same speech – you’re always going to feel added pressure when you’re the next generation, because people are always looking back and looking at you with a little bit of a jaundiced eye, thinking you had it handed to you.”
For Mike, who enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife during his leisure time, one of the most gratifying moves the firm has made came last year when, after a quarter of a century being headquartered in Maumee, Hart, Inc. relocated to the Hylant Building downtown.
“I’m a lifelong Toledoan, I’m a Toledo kid, and I am very proud to have moved our agency back downtown. While we’re not a massive business, I’m really proud to be a small part of the revitalization of our great town.”
Who do you most admire? My dad. I miss him every day.
Favorite Summer food? Steak and potatoes.
Favorite Movie? I love ‘Animal House,’ ‘Caddyshack’ and ‘Blues Brothers.
I have always wanted to… Be on the sidelines of a Miami Dolphins game and a Notre Dame football game. I fulfilled half that goal, because I’ve been on the sidelines at Notre Dame. So I need to get to the Dolphins.
What do you admire in people? Humbleness.
What is your pet peeve? Talking behind people’s backs and being negative.
What is something that most people don’t know about you? I’ll give you two: I’m a clown at the annual downtown Holiday Parade, and I have been for 20-plus years and I worked at the Toledo Mud Hens for 15 years, starting when I was eight years old.
What are the words you live by? Work hard and be humble. You stop being successful when you believe you are.
What advice would you give to the younger you? Have more fun than I already had.
Who is someone you’d like to meet? The Pope.
What inspires you now? Watching my kids thrive and become young adults and having a happy family.