As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan to Rebuild in the Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris McCormick, Founding Partner of Hatch Exhibits.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I graduated with a fine arts degree in watercolor painting and sculpture. That background helped develop a skill set of creative problem solving that has been instrumental in my work in the trade shows and live events. I’ve worked for a number of exhibit producers and the Applied Physics Laboratory at John Hopkins for the last twenty years.
I met my wife, Tracy sixteen years ago at a firm that specialized in trade shows for the dental industry. We worked at three different firms before deciding it was time for us to start our exhibit company. We just celebrated our sixth year as Hatch Exhibits on September 12, 2020. During that time, we created dynamic experiences for a wide range of partners such as including Google, Under Armour, Hitachi, and Advent Health.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take-aways’ you learned from that?
We were working on a huge booth for a trade show.
We created a large fabric graphic with a model’s face printed on the entirety of it
When the graphic arrived and we installed we realized that the model’s teeth looked horrible! And it was a dental industry trade show.
Look at every image you plan on using before you scale the images up on a 10x10 graphic!
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
“The Power of One” by Bryce Courtney and “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spenser Johnson have both helped inspired me.
“The Power of One” taught me a few things: that inclusion, not exclusion, is the way to build a better system. The power to make change starts with us, that good can come from a single act, effort, or purpose. I love the analogy that every waterfall starts with a single drop of water.
The idea that we have an opportunity to affect change has evolved over time for me and influenced my perspectives on everything from people to problem-solving. I believe I’m better served to have a wide range of ideas and influences rather than a narrow view of what’s around me.
I read “Who Moved My Cheese” a very long time ago but it stuck. The idea that change is inevitable has served me well in the events industry. Things aren’t always going to go the way we plan, so how we respond is going to make the difference. When faced with any problem, we roll up our sleeves and get to work instead of throwing in the towel. It’s about hustle — never stopping.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
When we started Hatch, our main objective was to provide custom solutions for smaller exhibitors that typically were only available to larger organizations. We developed tools and capabilities and partnered with Canon Solutions America, who provided us the print technology that allowed us to be agile. That agility has made it possible to tackle touch projects with tight time frames and provide real value for our clients.
Since COVID, our core motto has become “Hope and Purpose.” We want to make sure people have the needed safety equipment to do their jobs safely and efficiently. We saw an opportunity to turn a potentially scary and challenging situation for children into a less intimidating one by printing kid-friendly face shields and other PPE thanks to Canon Solutions America’s support. Until we get back to doing the event work we did so well, we will continue to meet this challenge head-on. That’s our purpose
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Hustle — never stop working to deliver the best experiences and work possible.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Because my wife Tracy and I created Hatch together, our business and personal lives are very entwined. COVID had a devastating effect on the live events industry so our main challenge was to find a solution to keep the doors open and provide for our children.
We went to work on developing a plan that got us operational at work AND home. We’re figuring out how to balance both while trying to keep a 4- and 8-year old from bouncing off the walls!
Can you share a few of the biggest work-related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Our biggest work-related challenge was survival. We had one large event still on the books when everything started canceling in March and it switched to a teleconference on March 19th, 2020. On Friday, March 20th we had to furlough all of our employees.
That was one of the hardest days of my life. Shutting the lights off that day was devastating.
The next morning Tracy went into the office to take stock of where we stood. I was cooking breakfast for the kids and watching a press conference about the lack of PPE across the country. It sparked an idea — our company can try to make that with our existing equipment. I called a small group of our team members to come in and concept some prototypes.
When we left Sunday night, we had created a production-ready face shield and a working gown design. We got the word out through social media over the weekend — we were up and running.
We sought out market feedback and made design changes and improvements, accordingly. We had to develop new supply chains for equipment and materials. We figured out how to completely redo our production methods — from building one large thing one time to building many different small things a million times.
We’re proud that we were able to switch gears to create protective equipment for our friends in the medical and education fields. We initially set out to develop and supply much-needed PPE and now it’s grown into a brand that we hope adds a little humanity to our shared experience during these unprecedented times.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Find something that gives you a sense of purpose or connection. Limit the amount of news you consume — don’t let it overwhelm you. For me, when things seem way out of my control, I look for the one thing I can tackle that will have an impact. Then, I tackle the next thing.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
Domestic manufacturing comes to mind first. I believe there should, and will be, a greater interest in making things here so that we are not relying on the existing model of importing so many products and materials.
From the live-events perspective, new ways of communicating are needed for the foreseeable future. With trade shows and live events canceling into 2022, organizations still need to get their messages to their audiences in the new landscape. It’s a growing area of opportunity — we’re investing heavily to create tools that help people communicate in engaging ways. We’re rethinking how to create content from virtual and live experiences for this new landscape.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I hope it slows us down a little — resetting the historic daily grind. COVID made us stop and look at what’s really important.
Hopefully, we learn lessons from this year that better prepare us for the future. Viruses don’t care about beliefs or political affiliations. If we look out for our communities a little more and ourselves a little less, we can manage outbreaks or whatever comes our way better and faster.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
Without a doubt, it’s just another event that needs creative solutions and action, and the right people and technology to help bring these ideas to fruition.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Identify the problem, assess your assets and abilities, roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I like to say we’re looking for lily pads. We find ourselves on a lily pad for a moment. We keep looking for the next one to jump to when the one we are on starts to sink. The more lily pads of opportunity we identify the more lily pads will open up in the future.
We just keep moving forward, adjusting along the way.
How can our readers further follow your work?