Having lived through several economic cycles, I’ve seen more than a few recessions and recoveries. I’ve also seen companies succeed or fail because of the ability or inability to manage the shifts. It has always amazed me to watch how business owners respond to times of feast and famine.
During tough times, just as in the business startup period, business owners will do just about anything for a client. They pull out all the stops, providing excellent service and delivering well above customer expectations. Then, when the economy improves and business is good, owners often forget the importance of excellence and become complacent and arrogant, often killing their golden goose.
In the marketing and public relations business, history is littered with the dry white bones of agencies that were once darlings of the industry. They often forgot what caused their success and then died a painful and embarrassing death.
I remember one agency that was launched by four bright young men who had outstanding backgrounds and buckets of talent and creativity. They worked hard, dazzled their clients, and grew their agency into a company where people wanted to work and with which companies wanted to do business. The company began attracting larger clients and cash poured in. Cha-ching!
A series of painful mistakes
But then, something changed. The four owners forgot their humble beginnings. They became proud and arrogant, making dumb moves that clients and employees seriously disliked.
One of the first things that got noticed was that the owners were unavailable. Scheduling a meeting or phone conversation with them was nearly impossible. They were just too busy for such things.
Then, in an effort to grow revenues and maximize their very valuable time, they dramatically raised prices and installed software to track every billable minute. When a client called, the clock was started and charges were tallied.
A painful ending
Over time, many of the agency’s original and smaller clients vanished, along with much of its best talent. A handful of larger clients remained and the company was seriously vulnerable. One day, the firm’s largest client announced that it was leaving, going to another agency. Ironically, the new agency was a small boutique firm, owned by a group of hungry owners who would do anything for their clients. In short order, this once proud company lost its luster and suffered an agonizing and sad demise. Jobs were lost, homes were lost, and many people were hurt.
Last week, I was in a community, visiting with economic developers, elected officials, and community stakeholders, listening to their passion for economic growth. With a somewhat high unemployment rate, these people are willing to do whatever it takes for jobs and investment. They told me stories of the extremes to which they go to attract and court employers. Their “whatever it takes” approach is encouraging to see. Whether a project will bring ten jobs or hundreds makes no difference. These people will tear down any barriers to make the deal happen. Period.
At Brand Acceleration, we’ve been blessed with great success. In just a few years, we’ve grown into a leading marketing, public relations, and website development firm by remaining passionately focused on providing excellent service in one industry – economic development. My promise is that we will never forget who brought us to this point.
Our wonderful clients have entrusted us with a very important place on their teams. A role we will never take for granted. They see us as more than just a vendor. They understand that we are part of the team and will do whatever it takes to help them succeed.
I also know that if it were not for our team of brand strategists, researchers, writers, designers, programmers, videographers, and expert vendors, we could never deliver such a high level of excellence.
And, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our valued allies. We can’t do everything and proudly rely on friends to provide such services as community assessment, workforce development, site consulting, business retention and expansion counsel, lead generation, GIS services, fundraising, and countless others. We know we always have friends who can work alongside us to serve the needs of our clients.
As we move into the New Year, my promise to our clients, staff, allies, and the economic development industry is to provide excellent service and fare pricing. We will always live up to our promises and will never let you down. I know we play an important part and promise to remain focused on your success.