It's Valentine's Day. A day which I typically associate spending a ten-fold premium on my wife's weekly rose bouquet (yes, I do buy my wife flowers every week...). But I also associate it with the anniversary for 104 West. As I write this from 35,000 feet or so, somewhere over western Pennsylvania, 104 West is celebrating its 10th anniversary. That is a milepost for sure, but I have to tap a bad cliché and admit I cannot simply believe it has been 10 years. It really did go past way too fast.
While the precursor of 104 West was born on my dining room table in Burlingame, CA,104 West was actually hatched in a bar in Boulder. My two original partners, Tom Vollbrecht and Subhaash Kumar, and I had a very different idea than a classic PR firm. It failed miserably and both Tom and Subhaash looked for greener fields in less than a year. But we did have a small handful of PR clients, including GE Access, Advisen, Blue Titan and Webroot and that was a business I understood implicitly. We struggled for the first six months, but then David Moll, the CEO at Webroot, that fall challenged me to find a monthly reason to go on a press tour and said he would pay us to do it. And we were off.
Much of the early success was tied to Webroot and to David, to whom I will always be grateful. He remains a counselor, confidante, concert buddy and good friend to this day. They were heady days, literally putting spyware in the popular vernacular. We did the same with Digital Chocolate and mobile phone games, long before Zynga was around. We grew and Kathryn Marshall joined me in that second year and the business really rocketed. At our height, we had 18 people on the payroll and hefty fees.
The recession of 2008 took its toll on us and whittled our size and we changed some direction, opting for more strategic work and confining the staff to mostly senior folks. Kathryn and I parted and we hunkered down to ride out the storm.
From that bunker state, we emerged with renewed perspective and a strategic vision of communications as a more holistic effort broadened beyond pure media relations. We thought long and hard and landed on our current approach, which now drives all of our programs at some level and certainly drives our thinking. It has proven a smart choice.
Today, our business is as healthy as it has ever been. We have altered our client portfolio to give a stronger base and we are doing some of the best work in our now 10-year history. The fact that I have slept in London, Chicago, New York and Denver in the last 10 days is a testament to our expanding and vital client work -- and to my family's patience.
I cannot say that it has been easy or without stressful moments, or always fun. But it has been entertaining. I feel like there are many people to thank. Tom and Subhaash for their initial encouragement and motivation. Dave Moll for his support. Rich Moore for his unceasing counsel and friendship. Kathryn Marshall for her keen operating skills when we needed it so badly. Jen Roane for her loyalty, dedication and unabashed opinions; Johanna Erickson for her indomitable spirit, Matty Otepka for being a guy in the office and his great sense of humor which I miss daily. Ashley Cox Cohen for teaching me that employees can leave and you can still like them. Elaine Schoch for being right so much. Kelli Flores for her perseverance and Texas charm. Joanie Kindblade for her fresh perspective. My dear friend Alissa Bushnell for her patience on some things and total lack of patience on others. Pietrzak for her laugh. Ben for his willingness to do anything and learn to do it well. Winzent for being so damn smart. Courtney for becoming such a superstar. Meredith. MacLean. Ricky. Laura… the list goes on and on…
And of course to my darling and dear wife, Stephanie, who puts up with the long days, the travel, the emails at night, the ubiquitous cell phone and my many moods… I could NOT have done this without her.
A decade is a long time, but it doesn't feel like it. Yet when I see what we have built and how hard we have worked, I know it has been a long road with many travelers. But I also know the road ahead will be fruitful and could only be that way because of the contributions the 104 Alumni and my current team have made to this firm. So again, thank you...
Happy 10th Anniversary 104 West.