When reflecting on the past year, so many emotions come into play that it is impossible to adequately put them into words. What I will say is that the words of the late Steve Jobs were incredible markers for me as we progressed during the year.
We started 2014 with an intense focus on strengthening the bottom-line – improving margins and profitability — and we ended the year exceeding both of those goals with strong momentum going into 2015.
Probably even more importantly, we got back to what made this firm so successful: We put our clients first as well as the work we do and results we deliver for them.
We also refocused on a core set of priorities and investments — people and technologies that matter, and are truly aligned with our strategy to “disrupt the status quo” – clarifying our Software as a Service as a Service (SaaS Squared), positioning and introducing new offerings in Analytics, Corporate and Strategy (Crisis, Change, Reputation), CCX and Media and Engagement (PESO).
As Steve Jobs once said: “I’m as proud of the many things we haven’t done as the things we have done. Innovation is saying no to a thousand things.”
We made improvements in Infrastructure and expanded our footprint with new offices. And of course we continued to do what we do best – partner with world-class organizations and brands – to transform the way they connect with customers, engage employees, beat the competition in the marketplace and forge new pathways to the future.
None of this could have been accomplished without YOU. I’m most proud and humbled by all of you – the dedicated professionals comprising our firm. There is not a challenge, a roadblock, a problem or an issue that you can’t overcome. There’s not an opportunity or a change that isn’t embraced by you.
Once again, Steve Jobs’ words resonate: “I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.”
An important symbol of that mentality was the formal restatement of the firm’s Values. The very essence of what make us, well, us. These Values were forged at the beginning – when I first embarked on what has become an incredible personal and professional journey — battle-tested and honed over the years. And these Values truly reflect the set of principles and beliefs guiding our behavior.
When I talk about Values, I’m also speaking about career development and growth. We will continue to support and expand W2O University and I’m asking all of our leaders to recommit to content and facilitation of specific programs and courses to build our individual and collective competency and confidence. Our Center for Social Commerce at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University is a premier example of what a modern academic-business partnership is all about – we are training the next generation of marketing and communications professionals.
From a Thought Leadership standpoint, our efforts at JP Morgan, SXSW, Page, CES and IPR, to name just a few, are increasingly strategic and precise in terms of ROI and reach. Adding to this was our first-ever European-focused Social Intelligence Summit hosted by our London office and attracting both a significant on-site and Webex presence extending our Brand throughout a region still less familiar with us and what we can do for them.
One of the more impactful aspects of 2014 was the realization to continue our growth and globalization aspirations, the opportunity to partner, acquire or join up with another organization must be considered. To that end, we held numerous discussions with a variety of larger global players who could provide capital, footprint and resources if we were to choose such an option. However, my priority in doing something like that rests with having the confidence that such a partner is compatible with our culture and respectful of our people.
At this point, my belief is that we can continue to do what is necessary ourselves – given our strong leadership, incredible staff, improving financial position and operational infrastructure, and, most importantly, our unique culture of entrepreneurialism, innovation and collaboration. If, at some point, we identify the right partner or partners, and it feels right, we will explore the validity of such a move.
To quote Jobs again: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me . . . going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful . . . that’s what matters to me.”
From where I sit, I could not be more proud and excited about where we are. And after 13 years, it’s safe to say our journey is just beginning. There are three things that I ask you to think about often during the coming year: 1) Be interested, not interesting; 2) Think Big, but act in small, focused and effective ways; and 3) be creative by being curious.
Thank you all very much for all you do . . . from my family to yours, have a healthy, prosperous new year!
And to paraphrase Steve Jobs once more: “In 2015, let’s put a ding in the universe.”