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.