2010: A Renewed Focus on Values
We began 2010 excited about the future of mStoner. Not just because it’s clear that business is picking up, but because we took some major steps last year to invest in our growth and stability.
First, we developed a two-year process to prepare one of our valued team members, Patrick DiMichele, to join Rob Cima, Voltaire Santos Miran, and me as an equity partner in mStoner. Patrick is not only a smart and dedicated consultant—as anyone who has worked with him knows—but he always asks how he, and we, could do better. We’re excited about his future as a leader in the firm.
In December 2009, we invested a good deal of time in soul-searching and asking ourselves and our clients how we could be create an even stronger, more focused, more service-oriented company.
Our first big decision was to strengthen our focus on education even more. So what, you might ask, considering that more than 90 percent of our work has been for schools, colleges, and universities? The big change is that we’re committing to serving the education market exclusively. We’ve always done some work for non-education nonprofits, foundations, associations, and even businesses. No longer: from now on, we’ll serve education institutions.
Simply put, we get feedback from our clients that a big part of the reason they engage us is that our broad and deep experience offers enormous value. We understand how to operate within a complex and sometimes challenging culture. We know how to get things done. And we want to leverage our experience even more than we have, offering even greater value to our clients. Focusing our practice on education—and just education—allows us to do this to an even greater extent.
Plus, this isn’t just about business for us. Playing some small role in strengthening education institutions that provide opportunities and do research that better the lives of many people is really important to each member of our team.
New products and services to come
We also talked about the services we offer. Though mStoner is renowned for our websites, we’ve always considered our company a full-service marketing consulting firm. Later this year, we’ll announce new products and services that expand and enhance our ability to provide institutions with smart, sustainable solutions.
We also clarified our values. mStoner has always been a values-driven company, but we wanted to be explicit about what those values are. Simply:
- We’re committed to partnership: We treat each other, and our client partners, with respect. We communicate clearly. We’re collaborators with a can-do attitude who can give up the need to be right.
- We are committed to doing great work.
- We are focused on innovation and creativity—but not just for the sake of being innovative or creative.
- We’re committed to learning about how to do our work better—and to teaching others about what we’ve learned.
- We conduct ourselves with the utmost integrity. We tell our clients the truth and avoid apparent (and real) conflicts of interest. We keep confidential data and strategic information confidential. We avoid working for direct competitors of current clients.
I don’t believe that people who’ve worked with us will be surprised by any of this. But it was important to us to spell out more clearly and explicitly exactly what we stand for.
Looking ahead to 2010
We’ve seen lots of signs in the first quarter of the year that the economy is picking up—not least of which is the number of RFPs we’ve received so far. We’re expecting a better (and more profitable!) year. Some of the highlights of the year to come:
Acquisition of Global Image: Last year, we set in motion a plan to acquire our long-time technical partner and sister company Global Image. We’ve been working together since 1997 and operating as one company since last year, when we began to integrate our teams even more closely. We’ll complete this acquisition within the next quarter.
A significant partnership: We’ve developed a close partnership with Slover Linett Strategies, a Chicago-base research firm with significant experience in education. This relationship will allow our clients to take advantage of experienced, professional researchers. In addition to working with several mStoner clients, Slover Linett is partnering with mStoner on a significant research project to benchmark institutional investment in social media and explore outcomes from that investment. You’ll hear more about this later in the year.
Branding: We’ve taken on a significant branding project with Hofstra Law School to conduct in-depth research followed by creative and technical work. We know this project will involve a new website and implementation of a content management system—and other elements determined by what we learn from our focus groups and surveys.
Video: Our work increasingly involves video. Last year, we teamed up with Sean Presley in the Kenyon College communications office and a faculty member to help students develop videos that support a sense of place. This year, we’re working on a series of videos for Hofstra Law School that will help prospective students understand how their degrees can prepare them for a range of career options.
We bid farewell to BigBad
Last week, I heard from a colleague who was in the midst of a project with the Boston-based interactive firm BigBad that BigBad’s staff had received termination notices and that the firm was closing. For good. I was shocked at the news. I’d like to say farewell to a tough competitor whom we first encountered when they entered the education market in a big way in 2004.
You’ve probably heard about the Apple/Microsoft rivalry. Since we at mStoner humbly compare ourselves to Apple, we often viewed BigBad as our Microsoft.
As Microsoft did for Apple, BigBad served as a foil for us—and they inspired us to be better. We thought more carefully about how we marketed mStoner. A lot of what we actually did didn’t change, but we were more intentional about doing it. And BigBad inspired us to enhance our design practice.
I’m reminded of the Dalai Lama’s words: “If we truly wish to learn, we should consider enemies to be our best teacher.” Thanks for the lessons—and best wishes to Ty Glasgow, BigBad’s (former) CEO, and the rest of the staff.
If you’ve read this far, I appreciate your patience! And I’d like to close by thanking our incredible, dedicated, and hardworking team—I’m blessed to work with such outstanding professionals—and our clients, who consistently challenge us to expand our thinking in unexpected ways as we create, together, smart, sustainable solutions.