How to Use LinkedIn To Dramatically Improve Your Business, With Teddy Heidt and Phil Laboon

I’m a firm believer in providing strong opportunities and educational advancement to kids, thus setting in motion a successful and flourishing adulthood. I was honored to launch a foundation in 2018 in honor of my late grandmother, Peggy Beadle, that partners with Alternatives For Girls, a Detroit-based charity that focuses on creating opportunity and growth for at-risk girls and young women. If I could, I’d want to inspire this work and movement on a much larger scale, enriching the lives of those who need it most with the skills, knowledge, and inspiration they need to succeed.

As part of my series of interviews about “How to Use LinkedIn To Dramatically Improve Your Business”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Teddy Heidt. After almost six years of managing marketing and social media for brands like The Walt Disney Company and Protein Bar Restaurants, Teddy recognized an interesting need in the ever changing social sphere. Large social media and marketing firms, while having endless resources to support and manage a brand’s digital efforts, often lost the one thing every brand wants: authenticity. It’s so simple yet so profound. Authenticity in marketing and communication pushes messaging with powerful momentum, reaches loyal and new guests regularly, and positively impacts the bottom line. So what were the big players missing? The person or team who manages your social media content needs to know the ins and outs of your brand, as if they themselves created it right alongside you. It’s more than just your mission and core values — it’s the inner workings of your product, the day to day thoughts of your target demographic, and those unspoken ideas that pop into your head from time to time. This is where many social media and marketing firms go awry, leaving a brand with great engagement, but inauthentic, one dimensional content. And this is where The Gauge Collective takes off. Teddy took the leap at the end of 2016 into the world of social media consulting to fix this very problem, on a small scale. He created The Gauge Collective, a community of powerhouse social, digital, and creative freelancers, which helped the smallest of start-ups to established institutions craft a social media program that is true to them. Starting with a full immersion into the brand’s history, culture, values, and voice, TGC creates an unconventional, yet successful, roadmap for digital success while maintaining a brand’s true authenticity right alongside you. It’s personal, it’s powerful, and it’s successful.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Marketing and media have always been a huge interest of mine — and after starting my professional career working for The Walt Disney Company, I knew this was my path. I moved to Chicago in my mid-twenties and worked in brand and digital marketing for a health-forward restaurant group, Protein Bar & Kitchen. After four years of learning and growing, I made the leap to the freelance world and began consulting for various small businesses focusing on social media and digital marketing.

While thoroughly enjoying my freelance journey, I had the idea to launch The Gauge Collective — a freelance based anti-agency that focuses on digital marketing and branding for small to medium tier businesses. Flash forward 2.5 years and we’ve got an incredible team made up of 9 freelancers, each focusing in their own distinct creative space and working alongside a powerhouse lineup of local and national brands.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

Definitely being included on Crain Chicago’s list of Notable LGBTQ Executives. I never thought that, less than two years into this journey, I would have made the impact that I have and been included on a list of game changers who are out, proud, and making a difference in their respective fields. Plus, this was the first ever list of its kind recognizing the LGBTQ community specifically, so it was a truly special moment. It’s a distinction I’ll never forget.

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?

How can I pick just one?! Actually, we were running a pretty substantial influencer marketing campaign for one of our earlier clients and working to create this really distinctive and engaging delivery experience. Juggling as many plates as I was, I ordered about 100 shipping boxes that were roughly four times the size of what I intended to order. And, because we had such a limited budget, we had to work with what came. Let’s just say we went through an incredibly large supply of bubble wrap and tissue paper per shipment to ensure nothing moved or broke.

But it goes to show — when you are small and growing, you work with what you have and constantly go above and beyond despite the circumstances.

Which social media platform have you found to be most effective to use to increase business revenues? Can you share a story from your experience?

As a very visual organization, Instagram has been an impactful business driver for us. We are able to showcase our portfolio, unhindered, in a natural, organic way and that has played well for our Collective. Additionally, it’s a great medium to find other artists and digital marketers to continue to grow our team.

Let’s talk about LinkedIn specifically, now. Can you share 5 ways to leverage LinkedIn to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.

- Peer to peer networking: LinkedIn has been an incredible platform to network with like-minded freelancers and small business owners. This practice has actually brought in one of our long-term clients simply by discovering each other through a mutual connection.

- Demonstrating brand capacity through a business page: we utilize our business page to offer insightful thought leadership pieces and also showcase our capabilities and current partners.

- Leveraging your employees to expand your reach: our freelancers are connected to vast audiences and by allowing them to showcase their work through their own personal LinkedIn profiles, we’re able to amplify our overall reach and impact day-to-day. This has allowed our freelancers to own a portion of the business development piece and allow them to support growing our business.

- Strengthening your team through job postings and ads: we’re in such a competitive field that having a talented and cutting edge team is crucial to pulling in larger-scale clients. We source most of our freelancers through LinkedIn Job Posts and ads, targeting select creative circles to bring in motivated and successful self-starters.

- Learning and connecting via Groups: groups are a great way to get your name — and brand — out there. I’ve also found they provide excellent educational resources on a regular basis. Seek out groups that are pertinent to your industry and background and leverage them to expand your network and uncover potential clients and partners to pursue.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I’m a firm believer in providing strong opportunities and educational advancement to kids, thus setting in motion a successful and flourishing adulthood. I was honored to launch a foundation in 2018 in honor of my late grandmother, Peggy Beadle, that partners with Alternatives For Girls, a Detroit-based charity that focuses on creating opportunity and growth for at-risk girls and young women. If I could, I’d want to inspire this work and movement on a much larger scale, enriching the lives of those who need it most with the skills, knowledge, and inspiration they need to succeed.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

Ina Garten. Not only would lunch be amazing, but I’m constantly inspired by the professional life she has created simply by following her passions. I’m a firm believer in following your heart and allowing that to ignite your success, and she’s a true example of how chasing that passion can create a lasting brand legacy with powerful impact.

Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!