20 years, 10 months and 43 days ago Lorraine Gregory Corporation was formed and purchased a tiny business that prepared bulk mailings for about 40 clients. Today the company works for 1,200 businesses, institutions and organizations providing a full complement of marketing services while employing 35.
So what does it take to get to this level and beyond? Three major ingredients have led our growth. Fear, desire and courage. An interesting mix for sure. A healthy balance of each is key.
Fear. A great motivator. As ours is a family business failure is not an option. Every day the level of vigilance is higher. You have to develop antennae that warn of potholes and pitfalls in the business landscape. As an example, the current situation surrounding government's collection of phone records has the potential to erupt into a massive privacy issue and impact marketers by limiting access to mailing addresses, email addresses, demographics, lifestyle and household data. As a marketer, data is the lifeblood of the industry. What happens if that becomes unavailable? Just ask the telemarketing industry what happened after the "Do Not Call" act was passed. In light of this new concern our company is transitioning to offer service lines and products that are not entirely dependent on big data. So, fear keeps us on our toes and gives us plenty of respect for what is going on inside and outside the company.
Desire. I am sure this one is not unique to most business owners. However, the desire that I am talking about is the desire to build something that is lasting, not just for the short term. Over all of the years the most fulfilling aspect of shepherding the growth of the company was that the decisions that were made had quantifiable results. For many years I tracked the sales and revenue numbers, as well as key production and hourly numbers on a spreadsheet of my own making. Each month and year that showed a consistent improvement fired the desire to keep it going. Fortunately that is what happened until we hit the wall at the end of 2008. But even that downturn fueled the desire to steady the ship and stay afloat while riding out the economic storm swirling outside our walls. Desire is the element that gets you out of bed each morning and moving forward.
Courage. If fear is the great motivator, than courage is the great facilitator. As the company and revenues grew it allowed for the planning that would strengthen the business. At first, bootstrapping our resources was the way our services were accomplished. Watching the pennies gave way to the freedom (courage) to make those purchases when the growth supported them financially. That mindset continues to today as opportunities present themselves. Hence, acquisitions that expanded our in-house capabilities were identified, ultimately additional equipment was added and companies were acquired. Without the element of courage one cannot overcome the inertia of fear.
None of the issues that affected or allowed for the growth over the years happened in a vacuum. Many, many facets were involved. Some had to do with money, some time and others pure luck. But if you asked me for the recipe I would say be afraid everyday, desire something bigger than yourself and have the courage to look over the horizon.