BE Modern Man is an integrative program that honors the essence, image, and accomplishments of today’s man of color. With features of today’s leaders, executives, creatives, students, politicians, entrepreneurs, professionals, and agents of change—these men share the common thread of creating a new normal while setting the bar in tech, art, philanthropy, business, and beyond. The BE Modern Man is making a positive impact, his way, and has a story to tell.
BE MODERN MAN ROBERT M. HARTSFIELD JR.
Profession: CEO, SpokeHub
One Word That Describes You: Passionate
What does being one of the BE Modern Man 100 Honorees mean to you?
Being one of the BE Modern Man 100 Honorees is a true honor. To be recognized with such impactful, successful, and great men is extremely humbling.
What is your “Extraordinary Impact?”
I am currently the CEO of SpokeHub, Inc., which is a social technology business that specializes in Augmented Reality customer engagement, Real-Time Feedback, and Data on Demand. SpokeHub provides a place for everyone’s voice to have value and impact. Through the breadth and depth of my career prior to SpokeHub and in the year since our launch, I have watched the mission I have for this company come to life which is inspiring the next generation. I’ve been told countless stories of men and women, young and old, being inspired to chase their dreams as a result of watching how SpokeHub is changing the way we communicate.
What are you doing as a BEMM to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
As a BEMM it is very important for me to show other black men that they can achieve their dreams in business not solely sports and entertainment. I am committed to seeking out black men in technology to expand their skills at our company and partner with other black businesses to further black male achievement. My company is a success regardless of the fact that I am a black man, yet I am always proud to showcase that we are minority-founded and led because it helps pave the way for those coming next.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
My father would tell me growing up that God will never put more on you than you can bear. Those words stuck with me more than I ever knew. One of the greatest examples of struggle that I experienced was in 2009. The country was experiencing one of the worst markets in history. The company that I was working for at the time had laid off almost half of the company and I was one of those affected. This was my first time ever experiencing anything like this. One week later, my daughter Leah Grace, who was 5 at the time, was having high fevers and rashes that the doctors could not explain. The doctors went almost a year without having a diagnosis but the fevers and rash were still there and still no answers. They narrowed it down to three categories: infectious disease, rheumatology, or oncology. The first category (infectious disease) was immediately ruled out, which left the possibility of cancer or a rheumatology condition. The doctors set up a bone marrow test where she would have to go through this surgery to rule out leukemia. The doctors came back with the results immediately after that she did not have leukemia, which we were so thankful for. A few weeks later, the doctors came back with the diagnosis of Juvenille Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA). Throughout all of this, Leah Grace never complained one time, she approached each doctor’s appointment with a level of confidence, strength, humility, and gratitude that left me and the team of doctors in awe. Today, through God’s grace, she is in remission and healthy. Watching her handle this burned into my soul these important qualities of how to handle adversity and to know that God will never put more on you than you can bear. As an entrepreneur, each day presents its own sets of challenges and the key is how you approach it and overcome adversity. One of the main reasons that SpokeHub is off to an incredible start is because our team embodies all of these qualities.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
The quality that I look for is authenticity when building relationships. This is extremely significant in that you want to know exactly who are you are building and growing with.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
Right now, our focus is on the platform on demand solution we offer through SpokeHub. We recently finished an activation with the Atlanta Hawks and will be sponsoring Social Media Day in San Diego at the end of June. We also have a pending activation in Jamaica with the largest music distributor of the Caribbean. We are focused on generating revenue for the business, growing our users, and using our team to establish SpokeHub as thought leaders in the technology industry.
What is the best advice you ever received?
The best advice that I have ever received is from my 13-year-old daughter Leah Grace. When we first started SpokeHub and this entrepreneurship journey, she told me to remember one thing: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
The best advice that I would have for other men looking to make a difference is to be fearless and to surround yourself with others that share your passion that you can build and grow with. There will be days that are tougher than you can imagine and will test your resiliency and those will be the days you need to dig deep and remember why you started and the impact that you will be making.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
I like to prep for an important business meeting or event by first being in a quiet setting and having time to really collect my thoughts. I know this may sound cliché, however, it is so important to have a settled spirit and a clear vision so you can listen and be well prepared. As I am getting dressed, I like to listen to gospel music to get focused and reflect on my “why.”
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?
It’s always hard to unwind when the business is always calling, however, my family always comes first. I love spending time with my wife and my kids, which makes our time together incredibly important and it’s then much easier to turn off. We love to travel and I would say my favorite vacation would be our annual trip to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. I say this trip because it’s a tradition that my kids will always remember and something that they can do with their families as they become older. Watching them ride their bikes to their favorite spots, run to the beach like it’s their first time there, and eat at the fun, local establishments is something we all look forward to every year!
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
This question is an interesting one in that I was just having this conversation with my son Robbie. I would travel amongst countries of Africa because of the rich history of black excellence being repeatedly exemplified, ranging from Mansa Musa to Nelson Mandela.
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Come celebrate the BE Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction at the 2nd Annual Black Men XCEL, Aug. 29–Sept. 2, 2018, at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.