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#78: Concentric Marketing

Having high expectations and focusing on goals helped this company stay centered.


The three co-founders of Concentric Marketing in Charlotte, North Carolina, are the first to admit they started their company at the worst possible time. It was in September 2000, the beginning of the economic downturn, that Robert Shaw, 39; Tricia Snead, 34; and Frank Rizzo, 36, opened the doors of their marketing agency.

"We've never allowed the economy to be an excuse," says Shaw. "I'm by nature a hypercompetitive individual who sets unreasonable goals." Not that unreasonable, considering the fact that Concentric Marketing went from five employees at start-up to 19 employees today, and sales of $267,000 their first year to a projected $8.8 million in 2003. This year, the company came in at No. 78 on our Hot 100 list.

Although the three co-founders struggled in the beginning stages, their business exploded as they started to land huge accounts such as Coca-Cola and Sonic Automotive. Hiring the best people for the job has been an important factor in achieving success, according to the partners. Says Shaw, "The extra two weeks you take to find the right person pays off times 100 in the long run."

Not only does Concentric Marketing extensively screen and interview prospects to make certain they're as driven and competitive as the founders, but they also structure the company to play on everyone's strengths. For instance, Shaw is the company's visionary and strategic marketing guru, Snead is the creative force and Rizzo is the financial mind.

One of the biggest challenges arising from fast growth has been communication between the three partners. "As the company grows, yelling over the cube is not a good way to function," explains Snead. "When we started experiencing this huge explosion in growth, it was time to put the right people in place and make sure the processes were in place before the agency got too big for us to wrap our arms around--and that's what we're [still] doing."

That process includes maintaining a delicate balance between being happy with their growth and striving for more. The expansion strategy, Shaw explains, "is to allow people to catch their breath a little bit and feel great about what they've accomplished, and still keep that burning desire and ambition going to never feel satisfied."

With plans to grow the company more than 100 percent in the next year, Concentric Marketing's founders seem to have the burning desire part down.