BINGHAM FARMS, Mich., January 12, 2007—Like many public relations agency entrepreneurs, Paul Kesman got his first taste of the PR business at another agency, in his case after earning a degree in communications and economics from the University of Michigan.
That was in 1991. Seven years later, Kesman invited Mark Winter a colleague he?d met at the agency, to join him in a new venture. The focus: helping business owners create their own identity. That idea turned out to be a pretty good name for their new company ? Identity Public Relations ? which opened its doors in November 1998. It?s located at 30700 Telegraph Rd., between 12 and 13 Mile, in Bingham Farms.
In fairly short order, Kesman and Winter, calling themselves principals and co-founders, gravitated to serving business to business clients. And they continue to do so. ?We don?t try to attract consumer-oriented work,? says Kesman. And they don?t do automotive.
?That can be good or bad,? Kesman admits. ?But we?ve grown pretty steadily from the beginning.?
Indeed, Identity had billings of between $300,000 and $400,000 in its first full year of operation; Kesman says it did $2.25 million in 2006, a figure that was 35-40 percent higher than the year before.
Of some 40 clients Identity has on its books, a little over one third of those are in the commercial real estate sector, with many of them being national in scope. And about half of those are commercial developers, only one of which is actually based in Michigan. The agency also has a couple of hotel management companies as well as a law firm and an engineering consultancy among its clients.
Operating with a staff of 13, Identity last year earned a spot on the Metro Detroit ?101 Best and Brightest Places to Work.? Kesman thinks that has a lot to do with the way he and Winter (along with newly minted partner Tom Nixon, who joined Identity about a year after it formed) run the business.
?It?s a very entrepreneurial organization,? says Kesman. ?We give a lot of rope to the people we have; they?re put in charge of their own destiny and we compensate them accordingly.?
In short, he says, there?s not a lot of bureaucracy. ?People here act as though they?re running their own company within the company,? says Kesman. ?They?re personally responsible for managing their own roster of clients.? For many of those clients, Identity has become something of an extension to their own staff, he says.
?We?re their outsourced marketing and public relations departments,? says Kesman. ?We deal with the decision makers in the company.?
The result, he says, is a decidedly focused organization, not one that?s big on report writing.
?Our clients expect results,? says Kesman. ?And when they get our bill they feel they?ve earned a good return on that investment.?
By J.D. Booth, Your Biz contributing writer