Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sooy+Co at 15 years

I'm not one for nostalgia, but reflection is healthy and valuable so that we can evaluate where we've been and where we're going. It's no different with Sooy+Co – celebrating and observing in 2010 – 15 years of business, all of which we are extremely grateful for.

Business ownership and entrepreneurship weren't a consideration when I graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1984 (the year that the Macintosh was announced to the world). I suppose it was inevitable – my father is one of the most entrepreneurial individuals that I know – and the DNA of entrepreneurship was part of our family from the start. I often say that entrepreneurship can't be taught, it's a way of thinking, but it is possible to teach people how to think differently. When we think differently, it's transformational – and transformation is at the heart of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Needless to say, 15 years goes by fast when raising two children and running a business.

In 1995, expecting our second child and laid off from my position as a creative director at a Cleveland, Ohio design firm, my wife (and business partner) and I decided to form "Brian Sooy & Co." We worked out of a 154 sq ft basement home office, affectionately known as the Design Cave. In 2007, we renamed the firm Sooy+Co, and moved into a 2,500 sq ft space in the Entrepreneurship Innovation Center at Lorain County Community College.

Considering that 50% of new firms survive past five years, I'm happy to be in the half that survived. Most remarkably, we're not the same type of firm that we were when we started, and that's been a key factor in our growth and longevity. We started as a design firm – offering tactical services to our clients – but now lead our clients with consulting on differentiation, positioning, branding and strategic planning (thinking) before we talk about things like logos, brochures and web sites (doing).

Sooy+Co, like any campaign or client engagement, has its own objectives and goals and culture. A successful design firm needs to focus on its own culture and business structure as closely as it focuses on the client projects it is working on. In essence, Sooy+Co has been a 15-year project, with perhaps 20 years to go.

We've won awards for projects we've designed and for business growth, but at 15, that just doesn't matter any more. We're considered a mature business, and we don't have to prove anything to anybody. What matters now are meaningful relationships and big picture thinking: the impact we have on our client's business objectives, our roles as thought leaders and community business leaders, developing the leadership qualities of our staff, leading our clients well.

We're grateful for the clients who have shared our journey with us – for those who have followed other paths, those with whom we still consult with after 15 years, and for those who chose to work with us now. We're grateful to our strategic partners who help us help our clients to succeed. Thank you for your continued confidence in Sooy+Co!· We value our relationships with you, and are fully committed to your success.

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