PROFILE: Scott helps HomeBanc perform on the public stage

Last year, Mark Scott knew as much about IPOs as he did about becoming a country music star. Today, HomeBanc's ambitious VP of marketing is proving increasingly adept at both.

Last year, Mark Scott knew as much about IPOs as he did about becoming a country music star. Today, HomeBanc's ambitious VP of marketing is proving increasingly adept at both.

Financial communications specialist Janice Kuntz compares an IPO to planning a wedding, "except forget about the wedding night because the next day you have all these children called shareholders." A decade ago, it seemed every industry had "IPO-itis," capriciously taking the darling-du-jour public only to see many companies, their stock, and the market crash under the weight. Meanwhile, HomeBanc, a small, privately held Southern federal savings and loan, quietly built itself into one of the largest independent mortgage lenders in a region that leads the US in growth. Oh sure, there were M&As along the way - the company didn't totally miss out on the '90s largess - but since it was not a public corporation, most of its public communications were of the general-business or community- affairs variety. That changed this year. "In February, I got the call, 'We're [going] public and you're in charge of communications,'" recalls Mark Scott, VP of marketing. For the past six years, he's been managing the company's reputation using a variety of PR strategies. HomeBanc CEO Pat Flood directly recruited Scott from the Atlanta Neighborhood Partnership Development. Flood was on the board, Scott the director of external affairs. Since then, Scott has focused on leadership positioning for HomeBanc officers and discussing how the lender has weathered rate fluctuations. Some high-profile plans included partnerships with star athletes to build homes for Habitat for Humanity. Scott admits he knew nothing about IR at first. HomeBanc CMO Stacey Cost says the opportunity to go public also surprised the company's officers. "We weren't motivated to change ownership," says Cost. "We sought a business model that would allow us to double the number of associates because of the market. In the course of that dialogue, we were approached with the idea of going public and the economic climate favored a rapid move. We needed an IR plan fast and "Mark volunteered for hazard duty." Scott's lack of IR experience did not worry the executive team, despite the high stakes and intricacies of the IPO. Cost says Scott annually writes a detailed communications plan that ties PR efforts to HomeBanc's business goals and marketing opportunities and presents clearly defined tactics and benchmarks for measurement. She says they were confident Scott would take a similar approach to IPO communications. "We could hire someone from outside who is unfamiliar with our company and culture or look internally and broaden someone's [role]," says Cost. Scott's first move was to contact colleagues who had undergone similar transitions. This led him to reach out to Kuntz to educate him on the IR rules and regulations and to write a plan for the company. "[At first] Mark was a bit overwhelmed," she says. "What impressed me was his humility and intellectual curiosity." She says too many execs and PR people think they're smart enough to figure it out and quickly find trouble. Scott avoided that pitfall. Both Kuntz and Cost laud Scott's performance. A major challenge he faced was helping HomeBanc transition the way it communicates to its 1,350 employees. "Mark had to educate them on what they could and couldn't say in the confines of their homes because everyone [here] has stock ownership or stock-ownership privileges," says Cost. For most, the rigorous process would be daunting. But not for Scott, who was simultaneously launching a second career as a country music star, an interest he had only awakened to last year. "I was scheduled to go back into the studio for a second session in March, right when we were in the midst of taking the company public," says Scott. This private journey started just one year ago. "A couple of friends joined the Navy last year because they wanted to fly jets," says Scott. "That impressed me. I began to think about my own dreams." Around the same time, friends at a new church he had joined encouraged him to join the choir. "I've always enjoyed singing in the shower and the car, but never thought I was good," says Scott. He approached music just as he did the IPO. Scott says he wrote a plan defining his goals, how to reach them, and his own marketplace opportunities. "I cashed in part of my nest egg, contacted a producer, and started taking lessons," he recalls. Scott contacted friends for referrals. That led him to independent record producer Bryan Cole, who has worked with notable jazz and R&B artists like Francine Reed. "I first met with Mark as a favor for a friend," says Cole. He says Scott came in with a "laser-like vision" of how he saw himself. "He was ready to commit the resources and had boundaries of what he'd sing. For instance, he wanted no part of any 'tears in your beers' songs." Scott's preparation made their October 2003 studio session more efficient because Cole could quickly isolate the songs appropriate for Scott's voice and vision. "I quickly gained respect for how hard he works," says Cole. "He had great confidence without being cocky." Much of that confidence in his performing came from singing karaoke, a practice Cole encouraged. "It's a great outlet to [see] how people rate your singing," he says. Scott's HomeBanc colleagues have been supportive of his musical aspirations and even played Scott's music at their annual meeting in January. After the IPO was completed in July, Scott finished the packaging of his debut CD, County Line, and booked a CD release party at a popular midtown Atlanta club. Always wearing his marketing hat, Scott recorded under his own label: U.S. 78 Records, named after the road between Atlanta and his alma mater, the University of Georgia. Scott isn't ready to quit his day job - and doesn't have to, since much of the music business happens on nights and weekends. Cole says Scott's shot at stardom is about one in 1,000, but he's impressed by how strong Scott's voice and performance have gotten in just a year. "If he keeps employing the same marketing skills," says Cole, "he has every opportunity to succeed." Mark Scott August 1998-present HomeBanc Mortgage Corp., VP, marketing January 1994- August 1998 Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, director of external affairs September 1993-January 1995 Mike Wilson Public Relations, Atlanta, SAE April 1992-April 1993 Cleveland Enterprise Magazine, managing editor January-April 1992 WEWS News Channel 5 (ABC), Cleveland, production intern
August 1988-August 1991 Communications Channels, Atlanta, editorial assistant

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