Over the past month, Stanton Communications had the pleasure of commemorating our 25th anniversary. Friends, current and former associates, clients, and partners all helped inject nostalgia, laughter and pride into this milestone celebration. For that, we are most grateful.
Personally, I have been with the firm for only a fraction of this time, but what better way to learn about the stories, experiences and opportunities that have shaped a company than a dedicated look back on its history? With every photo, quote and comment surrounding #SCI25, I had a question. “How did we end up there?” “When did that engagement begin?” “How did you get anything done without the Internet?” Simultaneously, I noticed Inc.com concluded its 100 Days, 100 Questions series, highlighting the questions meant to drive action and innovation among entrepreneurs.
Taking a cue from Inc., this week’s Four on Friday leverages the power of curiosity and puts the spotlight on SCI’s own entrepreneur, Peter Stanton. Below, he shares the four questions he never stopped asking as he worked toward this silver anniversary (and he hopes will help drive us to a golden anniversary in another 25 years).
1) What now?
Entrepreneurs are generally driven people. They make plans, anticipate contingencies. And work very hard. Regardless, there is always something – and over 25 years many things – that arose that no one foresaw. A question I found myself asking repeatedly was “What Now?” This was not an expression of despair and desperation but a realization that circumstances inevitably represented opportunities. As often as I could, I asked the question searching for the hidden opportunity. It’s an interesting exercise that leads to unanticipated developments. Here’s one example: A very large and very important client told us they may have to sever their ties with us because we lacked a New York office. Their needs were increasingly focused there and they wanted an agency with on the ground capability. What now? Open a New York office. We did so and 12 years later, it is a thriving profit center…and we still have that client.
In all these years, I never cease to be surprised. There is something about surprises – big or small – and being able to deal with them. When faced with an obstacle, asking “What now?” helps put reality into focus and calls upon our ability to be flexible; whether that’s in our thinking, our approach to business, in response to changing industry trends, or just daily business development. Hand in hand with this question is…
2) What’s next?
The nature of our business can be very intense. We are often so “in the moment,” we can forget to think ahead. It is vital that we continually ask ourselves “What’s Next?” In fact, two of our best professionals carry the title Senior Strategist not solely because they are experts in client program development, but because they have history and perspective with our firm. They are uniquely positioned to look at the craft of professional communication, consider new practice areas and developments in the field, and position our firm for growth in these and other emerging specialties. We will consistently think about the future of the field and our firm, and do what we need to do to remain dynamic and competitive. By asking this simple question, we quite literally have never had a dull day.
3) Are we providing sufficient freedom and support for the people of the firm?
It is impossible to celebrate a 25th anniversary with a focus on any single individual especially the founder. Too many other creative and smart people contributed to the evolution of the company. They were only willing to share their genius if they felt the company honored their work, respected their character and fostered their development. Have we done this perfectly over 25 years? Not by a long shot. We failed many times and I have more than a few regrets about those failures. So we continually ask the question and strive to do what’s best for the professionals of Stanton Communications. We trip over our shoelaces from time to time, but we challenge ourselves to do better and make this a great place for people to collaborate, create and grow.
4) Are we staying true to our commitments?
Very early on, it became clear that a standard of quality was of utmost importance to this firm; not just in the work we did on behalf of clients, but across the whole spectrum of our business. We initiated Stanton Communications’ Client Service Maxims to help ensure every individual at the firm understands, accepts and stays true to our commitment to things like transparency, procedures, the way we prioritize, and how we empathize and deliver our counsel. To this day, these Maxims sit on the desk of every associate as a way to always ask ourselves if we are staying true to our commitments.