Lyda on the Rocks

Last week we told you about three Cobalt employees who rode 202 miles from Seattle to Portland. We’re happy to report that all three made it and are eager for their next ride.

A few weeks ago, another of Cobalt’s finest completed a very different journey.

On an overcast morning a few miles from Cobalt, 27,000 runners finished Seattle’s second annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon & Half-Marathon. They came from every U.S. state and 23 countries, but one athlete in particular was especially notable for us at Cobalt. On June 26, our own SEO Manager Lyda Hawes crossed the finish line near Qwest Field.Rock 'n' Roll Marathon

“I’ve been running for 15 years,” she said. The idea for a full marathon was always at the back of her mind as a lifetime goal. While she had already done a few less-intense events, such as 5Ks, and had worked her way up to a half-marathon, “It was time to take the next step.”

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon follows a typical 26.2-mile marathon format except that live local bands are stationed at every mile, entertaining runners and spectators alike. At the end of the race there’s a post-race concert. All together, there were three DJs, forty musical acts, and the headlining act Tonic, a 90’s rock band.

In addition to live music, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon is also a charity run, benefiting the American Cancer Society. Cobalt’s Hawes took the aid aspect of the event a step further. She worked with Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, who provided training and coaches for five months leading up to the run. Every Tuesday evening, a group would run around Green Lake, along with Saturday morning runs that got progressively more challenging, with the longest run being 4.5 hours. The training paid off as Hawes’s run had raised $3,600 for the Society.

Lyda HawesEarly in the morning on June 26, the runners left Tukwila’s Gateway Corporate Center at 7:00 AM, winding their way along the shores of Lake Washington, over I-90, and through the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Aurora Bridge before finishing up at Qwest Field.

“It was hilly… and gorgeous. When I drive on the Viaduct, I think about what it was like to run that. The views from up there are amazing,” she said.

Of course, it wasn’t all fun and beautiful views. “It’s more than a physical challenge, it’s mental. When you get to the 20-mile mark, a part of you doesn’t want to” continue, she said. The support provided by other race participants kept her going. Cheerleaders from local high school were there till the very end; and when other purple-shirted runners from her charity team recognized each other, they yelled ‘Go team,’ as other participants shouted, ‘You are a rock star!’

At the 15th mile, one of Hawes’s friends joined and ran with her to the end, while her husband helped her run to the edge. As she finished in just over seven hours, a feeling of relief washed over her.

“I felt really grateful to get all 26 miles on my feet,” she said.

After the race she had a well-deserved Slurpee and took an “invigorating ice bath,” the training ritual that inspired her husband to call her “Lyda on the rocks.”

Hawes’s perseverance in running is unwavering, and though she is recovering from a hip flexor injury, she plans to do a 10K in September.

Only someone with her humble dedication would call this a “small step.” Go Lyda!

Margaret Kahn
Contributing Writer
The Cobalt Group
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Two Days, Two Wheels, and 202 Miles of Road

STP LogoA train ride from Seattle to Portland takes three and a half hours. By car, you might find yourself at the City of Roses in three hours. By bicycle, it takes a little longer. Try two days.

Expect to see many intrepid cyclists attempting the ride this weekend, as the Cascade Bicycle Club’s 31st Annual Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic (STP) begins on Saturday, July 17. Procare Team Manager Josh Dand is looking forward to being one of many who pedal their way through 202 miles of valleys, farmland, and mountains.

Dand’s biking journey didn’t begin with STP, which is expected to draw 10,000 cyclists.

“When I [worked in] Seattle, I never biked,” he said; but when he was transferred to Cobalt’s Lynnwood office, and his coworker, Senior Account Advocate Raul Sedano, invited him to take a bike ride. They started cycling together at lunchtime around Edmonds and Lynnwood, which inspired Dand to start biking to work. He now averages around 120 miles every week, riding four days out of five, enough to “recognize coworkers by their bike racks.”

“The 30 mile road trip is a great way to begin my day,” he said. “[I can] decompress and work off stress.” Bicycling has helped bring him closer to his officemates. Dand, Sedano, and fellow first-time STP rider Robert Allen will be doing the STP together. Sedano is a veteran of the event; this year marks his seventh STP ride!

Josh Dand and his bikeParticipating in the largest, multi-day bicycle event in the Northwest, sponsored by Group Health, seemed to be the natural next step to Dand.

“It’s something I wanted to do for past couple of years,” he said. “I can’t believe I’m about to do it; I’m feeling pretty well on my way. I just had a bike tune-up, got a new chain, and [my] legs are feeling strong, nice and spry now.”

Spots go quick, with cyclists from all over America and the world vying for entry. Dand got extremely lucky with late registration and “wasted five minutes of company time” waiting in a virtual line.

Those five minutes paid off, as he now prepares to start at 7:30am on Saturday at the University of Washington. He and Sedano plan to bike around 105 miles before settling in for the night at a Chehalis campground around five or six o’clock. Every ten miles, rest stops with free food, water, bathrooms, and bike repair will be available. Along the way the bicyclists will cross rivers, climb 30 miles of hills, and ride in the shadow of Mt. St Helens.

“You can’t see it in a car. [The STP] is like a party on wheels,” Dand said in anticipation for the scenic beauty of Western Washington countryside

On Sunday, they will cross the finish line at Holladay Park and possibly attend the Finish Line Festival is at the end of each ride-day. Sedano and Dand will either stay the night, or drive back to Seattle that evening.

Dand is a machine that doesn’t seem to ever stop running. When asked if he would relax at all after this superhuman feat, he mentioned a massage on Monday and a little rest, quickly adding that he hopes this event “leads to more.”

The next time you drive down to Portland on business, imagine Dand doing it the hard way and scaling the same distance on two wheels instead of four.

Good luck to all three this weekend. Have fun, guys!

Margaret Kahn
Guest Writer
The Cobalt Group
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Life on the Curve

John HoltIt’s business as usual at Cobalt, and everyone in the company knows that means change.

“I’m 53 years old, and I’m still learning,” said CEO John Holt while addressing the company on the morning of July 9. “Change is constant. You can either close yourself to it or open your arms to it.”

Holt had announced that Cobalt, the company he co-founded over 15 years ago, is now in the final stages of being acquired by ADP, one of the world’s largest providers of information technology. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and ADP logois expected to close in the third quarter of 2010. Until then, ADP Dealer Services and Cobalt will operate as independent businesses.

Once the acquisition is finalized John will lead the new ADP Digital Marketing group within ADP Dealer Services from Cobalt’s offices in Seattle. The new group will include all of the digital marketing capabilities of ADP, including BZ Results, Cobalt and Dealix. This organization will be uniquely positioned to deliver a comprehensive set of digital marketing solutions that will help transform the ways manufacturers and dealers market and sell vehicles and related services.

It’s going to be an exciting time, especially since Cobalt will still be Cobalt – the company’s vision and brand in the marketplace will continue. And Holt will still be here to lead the ADP Digital Marketing group onward to new ideas.

The company meeting was clearly a poignant moment for Holt, as he expressed his pride in the Cobalt’s accomplishments to the packed Seattle auditorium by videoconference to meeting rooms in Lynnwood and at Dealix and Integralink as well as by phone to hundreds of employees over the Internet.

“We’ve come a long way together, but we still have a lot to do,” he said.

Founded 15 years ago at the start of the Internet era, the company has grown its customer base and its capabilities to become a market leader – not just in websites but also in integrated digital marketing solutions for auto manufacturers and their dealer networks. ADP’s existing model complements Cobalt’s, since ADP solutions helps dealers convert opportunities created by Cobalt’s digital marketing capabilities into sales.

ADP’s financial strength, global footprint and capabilities in social media and other technology areas are expected to open up new doors for Cobalt employees and customers. Cobalt will remain laser-focused on building brand awareness for its customers and driving traffic to their stores.

“Some things will change, for sure,” Holt told employees this morning. “But many things will be the same,” he assured. He then entreated everyone watching and listening to keep doing what they’ve always done by sticking to the four C’s: Curiosity, Commitment, Creativity and Community.

“Stay curious,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to commit completely, with a full heart and mind. Be creative, even in the face of things that seem ‘the way they’ve always been.’ Keep community alive; it takes a community to have a company, and this fact is core to Cobalt’s success and spirit.

“I see life as one learning curve after another,” Holt said. “If you embrace them rather than run from them, you can drive yourself to personal achievements that may surprise you. Because of the things I tackled and learned, last year was the best year of my life. It’s daunting to try to make this year even better, but with this announcement it’s off to a pretty good start!”

Like we said – business as usual.

What’s next for John Holt, Cobalt, and Dealix? We’re not done yet. Not even close. Stay tuned.

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For the People, By the People

Family FourthThe Family Fourth at Lake Union is a fireworks display that has been put on by the same group, the non-profit arts and cultural production team One Reel, for over 20 years. It’s practically a Seattle institution. In past years the event was fully sponsored by Washington Mutual, but this year there was no corporate sponsorship. Many thought it wasn’t going to happen.

Cobalt thought differently.

This year, Cobalt was one of nearly 300 local Washington businesses and individuals who donated money to keep the Family Fourth alive. In less than 24 hours after the announcement that the event would be on hiatus this year without sponsorship, the money had been raised and the Family Fourth was on again, thanks to a grassroots effort that started with Dave Ross, KIRO radio host, and Tom Douglas, local chef and entrepreneur. The effort spread quickly to others.

The story started for Cobalt with an email from Cobalt Professional Services Program Manager, Barbara Shackleton. She heard about it while listening to the radio on the way home from work on April 2nd.

“John Holt has always led Cobalt in supporting local charities and promoting quality of life,” she said. “I felt comfortable sending John a note and suggesting this as something Cobalt might want to support. The rest is history, as they say.”

The Lake Union fireworks show has special meaning for Holt. After the Family Fourth fireworks ended in 1991, he got on one knee and proposed to his wife, Susan. They were married after the same show 19 years ago.

“We were and are one of the companies that helped save the fireworks, at an employee’s suggestion,” said CEO John Holt in a message to the company on July 2nd. “You might enjoy them even more knowing this. I am going to watch with special pride!”

Cobalt is proud to have contributed to a Seattle tradition, and wishes everyone a safe and happy Fourth of July!

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