Dawn Wotapka's Media Movers

Best Money Moves and Think Glink Media’s Ilyce Glink

August 11, 2023

Posted by Dawn Wotapka

Ilyce Glink

Some people create content. Ilyce Glink creates content companies.

She founded Think Glink Media in 1997 and Best Money Moves in 2016. Using her passion for writing to educate others lies at the core of both.

Think Glink is a digital content agency, while Best Money Moves is described as “a cloud-based, mobile-first financial wellness solution that companies provide to their employees to help them pay down personal debt and improve their financial lives.” Simply, she wants to help people make savvy financial decisions that improve all aspects of their lives.

Ilyce is also a keynote speaker, book author, columnist and radio host. Her impressive work has earned numerous awards from SABEW, NAREE, the Chicago Headline Club and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. In addition to all of this, she’s also a mother.

I chatted with Ilyce about being ahead of the curve, the best advice she ever received and … her least favorite hat.

Dawn: What got you into journalism? 

Ilyce: I decided I wanted to write for a living back when I was attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I joined the Daily Illini as a reporter during my first week on campus. But I didn’t know what that was going to take,  so I learned by doing. The University of Illinois at the time didn’t have a journalism program. at least not officially. So I took marketing and some other courses to help me understand more about what it took to convey ideas and spot trends. If I knew then what I know today, I would have taken business courses. As it was, I was a double major in literature and rhetoric, with a minor in music. Rhetoric was all about writing, and I loved it. I learned a lot and decided that somehow this was going to be the thing that I did.

My first job after college was as an editorial assistant at a book publishing company. I really loved book publishing and have gone on to write many books. Hopefully, in the future, I’ll write a few more. I was fired from that job after a year for reasons that remain unclear to me to this day, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I took some jobs writing freelance PR and freelance articles for small, local publications. That was really the start of my official journalism career and then I found myself freelancing for the Washington Post travel section, the Chicago Tribune real estate section, and later, every other section just about for the Chicago Tribune, Crain’s Chicago Business and many other publications they owned.

I loved being a reporter and working in a number of different areas. In the beginning, I wrote about everything from business to what restaurants in Chicago had fireplaces for a Valentine’s Day special. But it’s the reporting about real estate, business and finance that really stuck with me. I felt like I was helping people.

Dawn: You were ahead of the curve when it comes to delivering customized content. Were you lucky or did you figure something out before your peers and competitors? 

Ilyce: What’s funny about this question to me is that I always seem to be ahead of somebody’s curve. I’m an out-of-the-box thinker, and since I haven’t held a full-time job with any one publication or company since my first year out of college, I’ve had to be creative about delivering solutions that paid the bills. 

Custom content seemed to me to be an idea that many people would be interested in. I realized many years ago that if you give people the right information at the right point in time, they would make a decision that would be in their best interest but could also complement a business’s best interests. So I started doing work for some very large companies, all of it referred by people who knew me and my love for thinking in different ways.

Dawn: What was it like getting started?

Ilyce: My first big assignment was for one of the largest mortgage lenders in the country at the time. They were looking for a way to reach out to the 6 million customers they already had. The problem was that their customers wouldn’t think about them first when it came time to refinance. The company wanted to change the frame of reference. So I invented an online/email education and nurture campaign that was wildly successful. It delivered tens of thousands of leads seamlessly with a very predictable close rate.

My company, Think Glink Media, has worked with dozens of companies over the years. We’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies and small tech startups. The idea is to understand exactly what business problems the company wants to solve and then put together a crack team of specialists that can ideate and deliver unique solutions that differentiate and solve those problems.

Today, we’re still working with a variety of different clients, including one we have worked with for nearly 15 years. It’s extremely rewarding to have long-term relationships with large clients because they’re willing to test new solutions in order to achieve their business goals.

Dawn: I also knew you during the housing and banking crisis. I specifically remember being impressed that you spotted the commercial real estate implosion before a lot of other people. How did that happen? 

Ilyce: I think spotting trends is a skill every good journalist should hone. Mostly, it’s about listening and then testing to see if what your sources are telling you makes sense. 

Back in 2003 and 2004, I was talking with a mortgage source about no-doc loans and how he believed that world would eventually implode. I asked him why, and he said “Because you can’t have people who earn $50,000 a year support a $500,000 mortgage.” When he said that, it clicked in my head that not only was he exactly right, but that no-doc loans and stated-interest loans were really negative amortization bombs waiting to go off. I knew they would hurt families. I knew they would hurt businesses and I knew that it would damage the economy. I just didn’t know when it would happen, or how problematic it would be in terms of a recovery. I started to talk about how this was happening at journalism conferences, but I’m not sure my colleagues believed me. 

Being an out-of-the-box thinker has its pluses and minuses. When I started talking about financial wellness and started my financial wellness technology company, Best Money Moves, in 2016, financial wellness as a topic just didn’t resonate. Fast forward eight years and financial wellness is the No. 1 requested benefit by employees. Generational wealth-building is a key plank for candidates in some parts of the country. Nearly 30 states have instituted financial education for high school students. It’s catching on, but it took a pandemic and the highest inflation rates in more than 30 years to accelerate interest. 

Dawn: What should smart journalists pay attention to now when it comes to the next crisis? I personally think student loans are worth watching. 

Ilyce:  I think it is going to come from the world of artificial intelligence. AI is capable of extreme fraud, and we’re only in the infancy of this new era. But already, you can make videos of someone else, use their voice to create real-time soundtracks and get someone to withdraw their entire life savings to dump into a fake crypto scheme. The fraud that’s likely coming will be catastrophic, I think.

Dawn: I know a content creator who sold her business because she was worried about ChatGPT. What are your thoughts there? 

Ilyce: And then what? Do you go to work for somebody else? Do you invent a different business? I can’t imagine that I won’t always have a bunch of clients looking for smart, innovative answers to difficult business questions. My advice is to dig a little deeper, ask more questions, and focus on how you can provide value. The money will follow.

Dawn: You wear a lot of hats. Which is your favorite? Which is your least favorite? 

Ilyce: My favorite hats are spouse and mom.  We’ve always been a family-first organization. My least favorite is head of HR for my companies when I have to let someone go. It always feels like a failure.

Dawn: What advice would you give to a writer who also shares your entrepreneurial spirit? 

Ilyce: It always looks like there is a huge mountain of competition. And there is. And it comes from all over the world. My best advice is don’t be intimidated. Just give it a go. Maybe as a side hustle to start.

Hopefully, at some point in time, you’ll figure out what you’re best able to deliver that no one else can. And then you’ll spend time building on that. 

Just remember, being an entrepreneur means going without paid vacation, without paid health insurance, without 401(k) contributions. You have to plan for your future as the sole provider of that future. I think people get caught up in the whole idea of how cool it is to be an entrepreneur without thinking through the realities.

Dawn: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given? 

Ilyce: Do what you love. The money will follow. My dad said that the night before he died, suddenly, at age 49.

Dawn: Looking back, what do you wish that you’d done differently when it comes to your career? 

Ilyce: Hah! I thought you said you wanted this to be a short interview.  Seriously, always focus on relationships. That’s where it all begins.

Dawn: That is so true. What’s next for you? 

Ilyce: A long time ago, toward the beginning of my career as a journalist, a more established journalist sat next to me on a bus at a journalism conference and asked me what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” I found the question to be a bit condescending and said to her, “I like doing what I’m doing right now.”

And that’s where I am. I like working on Think Glink Media and Best Money Moves and intend to keep going until the next idea takes root.

Dawn: Do you have any time to have fun? If you do, what do you enjoy doing?

Ilyce: I love traveling and walking around old UNESCO World Heritage sites. This year, I’ve been in Merida, Mexico, and Lake Como, Italy, so far. Business travel this year will take me to Florida, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, New York, Montana and SoCal. Having friends in all of these locations means I get to catch up even as I get my work done — which is the best part.

Editor’s note: If you want to learn more about Ilyce, check out Ilyce Glink or ThinkGlink.com. She’s on Substack as well: Glink.substack.com

Dawn Wotapka is a former Wall Street Journal reporter who loves to read and write. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children. She is a slow runner and an avid Peloton user. Be sure to connect with Dawn on LinkedIn

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