From the October 1998 issue of Entrepreneur

He doesn't advertise his business. He turns away nearly every Fortune 500 company that comes calling. He works with clients only if they agree to work on his terms. In many ways, Roger Abramson flaunts conventional wisdom--which is precisely why he caught our attention.

OK, I'll admit it: As a magazine writer, I'm on the receiving end of more pitches than the Seattle Mariners' Ken Griffey Jr. Public relations professionals really do have a hard time grabbing my deadline-stressed attention. How did Abramson's PR folks pull off the feat? Ironically, their primary selling point was this 31-year-old office furniture distributor's anti-sales approach.

"I'm not a big fan of advertising," says Abramson, whose New York City-based Atlantic Group projects sales of $30 million this year. "My best marketing tool is my own clients." (Those clients, incidentally, include Hugo Boss, EMI Records and scores of smaller firms.)

OK, so word-of-mouth marketing isn't exactly revolutionary. But the straight-talking Abramson keeps my interest by telling me of the 151 letters of recommendation he keeps posted on the walls of his office. He tells of streamlining the company he co-founded with 36-year-old Mike Leiderman by giving almost all of Atlantic Group's 30 employees the same job title. He tells of threatening to fire employees who ask for raises but only because said employees participate in a generous profit-sharing program. This is a guy who, quite simply, does business his way.

And he does it without apologies. "All we have--and need--is our reputation," Abramson maintains. What can I say? It's hard to quarrel with a man who's gone from zero to hundreds of clients in just three years.

Here's The Scoop

A cool promotion offers sweet rewards.

Talk about your ice cream socials! To promote her Bardstown, Kentucky, Dairy Queen franchise, entrepreneur Alice Perl hit on the idea of giving away ice cream cakes to customers willing to strike a pose at local sporting events.

Well, something like that. Actually, what the 39-year-old Perl did--inspired by the example of another Kentucky business owner--was join forces with her community newspaper in a "Sports Fan of the Week" promotion. How does it work? People are snapped unawares cheering on their favorite hometown teams by The Kentucky Standard photographers. Each week, a photo is published in the newspaper--complete with the winning fan's face clearly circled. If that person takes a clipping of his or her photo to the newspaper, he or she earns a certificate for a free cake.

"It's exciting for the fans," says Perl, who enjoyed so much success in the summer of 1997 that she ran the promotion again this year. "It raises cake sales, too."

Having already been contacted for advice by other Dairy Queen franchisees, Perl is confident her inexpensive promotion could be a winner for other types of companies as well. "We get return business [out of it]," she says. Hey, it's a way to break the ice, right?

Contact Source

Atlantic Group, 1156 Sixth Ave., 9th Fl., New York, NY 10036, (212) 977-6688