Take your business one step further

by malley@solagroup.com

The best part of my job is talking with you – those who are on the front lines every day. I enjoy hearing about your business, what you need to do your job better, and where you think things are headed. I learn a lot from these conversations, and I’m humbled to have them every time I work on a new issue or attend an industry event.

In this issue, two winners of the 2011 Business Excellence Awards are profiled (page 24). I enjoyed talking to these two people about two very different business practices: marketing and community involvement. Charles Cunniffe Architects in Aspen, Colo. won the marketing category; Laughlin Homes & Restoration, Fredericksburg, Texas won the community involvement category.

Speaking with Rebecca Richardson, director of business development, Charles Cunniffe Architects, it was clear how much the firm values marketing, reaching clients – potential and past – and maintaining a positive, professional online presence. Richardson handles all the blogging, Twitter, Facebook, newsletters, videos and so on. Oftentimes, I hear custom trade professionals say they just don’t have the time for these things. But for Richardson and the firm, these tools are non-negotiables – meaning they will get done because they are too important to be ignored. Richardson said something very powerful in the interview: “You are limiting yourself if you haven’t done it.”

Another common argument I’ve heard in the industry is that “my clients aren’t on those sites.” So I asked Richardson just that: “Are the clients you are reaching on these sites the younger generation?” She said it’s clients of all ages, not limited to the younger generation. Because her target client is an affluent one, she says they are more likely to be connected to these sites via an iPad, laptop or smartphone. Richardson has a lot on her plate with her regular every-day responsibilities but she continues pushing the online marketing because she believes so strongly in it. It was refreshing to hear her take.

I was also impressed during my conversation with Richard Laughlin, president, Laughlin Homes & Restoration. His passion for community involvement is hard to miss as it oozes out of everything he says. When asked why he is so involved in so many things, his answers were simply because it’s the right thing to do.

Laughlin and the company are represented on many organizations in Fredericksburg, Texas and they all get the attention they deserve. These aren’t resume builders for Laughlin, they are honestly and truly to make his community a better place – a place his family has strong roots planted.

These two firms make extra time to complete tasks outside the every-day routine, and it’s inspiring to hear how and why they do so. Read their full profiles on page 24.

Does your firm participate in extracurricular business practices? I’d love to hear from you: maureen.alley@cygnus.com, 920-563-1675 or on Twitter @MaureenAlley.

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