The Value of Clients

Clients have played a huge role at Lages – well beyond the obvious revenue generated. Clients have been a source for inspiration, trusted advisors, connections and joy. They, of course, have caused frustration and at times bewilderment…but that’s a story for another time.

Today’s client story is about making a critical introduction – one that would provide an unshakeable grounding for the future. It was 2000 and we were in the midst of the Dot com boom. Never before had we had so many clients and the phones kept ringing. I desperately needed to hire someone that could handle a wide variety of client activities, who had a steel trap mind for details and the management skills to rally our team into a highly efficient force that would continue our stream of successes and keep clients and media happy. Oh yes, and that person had to be smart — very smart and someone who knew and loved tech…and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt how to communicate engineering speak into compelling story lines.

Tom Fedro, entrepreneurial tech executive, and our client, was charting new territory for electronic payments at his company, eCatalystOne. We’d just had an input session and I knew he was busy — and I certainly had my marching orders as there was much to be done to gain traction for their innovation. But Tom always took the time to ask how I was doing and how the agency was doing. And he sincerely wanted to know how things were beyond the bounds of his account. It was at that moment, that I shared with him how I really needed to hire someone to help manage the business. He paused and thoughtfully offered the name of a woman that he thought would be an excellent match. She was a software product marketing manager from Colorado who had recently relocated to Southern California.

Kerry Schneider entered my door at the agency with a big smile, portfolio under her arm and carrying Starbucks coffee for the both us. I thought … well if the interview doesn’t pan out, at least I got to have a good strong cup of coffee. She sold me. She was good, very good. 13 years later, Kerry Fedro (yes …she married my former client Tom) is my VP and most trusted partner.

I had an Idea

25 years ago… I had an idea. Inspired by my beginnings in Silicon Valley which began on the electronics assembly line at Systems Industries and then to the launch of my career in marketing at Tandem Computers. Eager to explore new horizons beyond the Valley, I moved to Southern California where the scale of everything seemed so big. Instant communities with hundreds of palm trees appeared to rise over night. The allure of Newport Beach with its beautiful views, homes and business community – all right by the beach — was awesome. The entrepreneurial spirit was thriving in the 80s in Orange County. This was well before the region became known as the ‘OC.’ I quickly found that my Silicon Valley roots were a coveted asset by these Southern California tech companies who were equally influenced by the tech successes in the Valley as they were the real estate moguls in the region who built big and lived even bigger.

I missed tech and welcomed the opportunity to practice my craft at this different breed of enterprise. So it began… trade shows and travel, launches, brochures, promotions and news releases. Comdex, PC Expo, DAC and more. I was on the start-up fast track, jumping into small companies who had a new way to do things and they needed help telling the world what they have. The thrill of bringing new ideas to market was intoxicating and my first hand experiences clearly pointed to PR as the marketing element that had the most impact for these start-ups. Negotiating press coverage, staging launches, press tours…it was a magnet for my energy.

I had idea. Why not become an entrepreneur myself and set-up shop offering my high tech marketing and PR expertise to multiple start-ups? I took on the mindset of the entrepreneurs I had worked with and thought, ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen?’ Like so many before me, I really couldn’t think of anything that should stop me from giving it a go. With the encouragement from an exec who was once my boss, I took the back room in our tiny place in Corona del Mar and fired-up my PC and got to work. 1988 — first client – two young engineers with their idea. David Silver and Dean Hough, left FileNet to start their own document imaging company and called it Kofax Image Products. This was a perfect match. First products hit the market the next year and Kofax was off and running …and so was Lages & Associates.