Celebrating 15 Years of Marlo Marketing
Today marks 15 years since I started marlo marketing on April 1, 2004 with four clients (Starbucks Coffee, Nantucket Wine Festival, American Seasons, and Grafton Group (who is still a client today)) in a fourth floor walkup office at 276 Newbury Street. It’s been a loooong and challenging road – and anybody who says that starting a business is easy is full of it. But I can also say that the rewards I have reaped along the way – many intangible – have been positively life-altering. The people I’ve met, the brands I’ve helped build, the experiences I’ve had…none of which would have been possible without being on the path I chose to take.
Believe it or not, I had zero aspirations of being an entrepreneur. I never thought of myself as entrepreneurial. I wasn’t the kid mowing lawns or selling lemonade, sales was never my thing, and I don’t even recall having a super strong work ethic in school or in my first few jobs. So a funny thing happened once I was assigned the Starbucks account when I took my first job in PR. I worked my ass off. Why? Because I wanted to be proud of the work I was putting out. This is not to say I was a slacker before by any means, but finding work that I truly loved made all of the difference.
Because I loved the work, I worked hard. And because I worked hard, I was able to start a company after four and a half years in the industry that is still around 15 years later and employs some 35oddish people.
It is because of my experience that my vision for marlo marketing has always been to empower people to act like adults and create their own destiny. The ones who have succeeded here are the ones who embraced that vision and have been willing to put in the work it required, just like I did and continue to do 15 years in.
So today, as I reflect back on the journey, I’d like to share some of the pieces of wisdom I’ve gleaned along the way:
You’re Never Going to Be Great at Anything Working 8 Hours a Day
Sorry, but if you want to truly excel at something, work/life balance needs to go by the wayside for a spell. That’s not to say you can never get it back, or create your own kind of balance and flexibility the further you advance in your career, but for anyone starting a new endeavor who thinks they can have it all…I’m sorry, but you simply can’t…at least not right away.
There’s No “I” in Team
One of my biggest struggles and, one that I would venture to guess is a common challenge amongst entrepreneurs across most every industry, has been building the right team. Doing so is crucial in any business, but even more so in a service-based industry in which your people are literally your “product.” I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing folks over the years, but it wasn’t until about six years ago that the team finally began to truly come together in a way that allowed me to start getting out of the weeds. That’s seven years in the weeds, people. Not. Easy.
Your Path May Not Be Linear
I’m a lawyer-turned-hospitality-publicist-turned-agency-owner-turned-CEO. Try a lot of things, be open to possibilities, don’t burn bridges, and see what moves you. It may be work. It may be family. It may be community. Those of us who truly find that thing in even one area of our lives should be grateful ‘til our dying day.
Know Who You Are
Businesses evolve as they grow. For years our official motto was “make shit happen.” Earlier this year, with input from our staff and feedback from our clients, we switched that up with “don’t stop until you’re proud.” While both share a similar message around results, our new motto better reflects not only our scrappy approach to providing results for our clients, but also the fact that we strive to achieve those results in a way that satisfies our entire team’s personal quest for excellence. The difference may be subtle, but important…especially since it’s a reflection of who our team is at this point in time.
Maintaining Standards Is Not a Choice
It’s crucial to maintain standards in any business. I would argue that maintaining standards in a service-based business is doubly difficult. When Narragansett’s recipe was fixed upon the brand’s relaunch, the right beer went in the right cans and sales took off thanks to the right sales and marketing strategy. When a restaurant struggles to find the right chef and the food is inconsistent for months on end, those customers lost may never come back.
That’s why “don’t stop until you’re proud” starts off our company’s mission statement. The work that we produce for clients is of the highest level because we are adamant about surrounding ourselves exclusively with others who can commit to delivering the same caliber of results. Though we have grown exponentially over the years, at the end of the day, it’s still my name on the door and that still matters to me – a lot. Should the day ever come that I’m not proud of the work we’re putting out, that’s when I know it’ll be time to close up shop. In the meantime, here’s to another 15 years of delivering exceptional work that I couldn’t be more proud to have the ‘marlo’ stamp of quality!