Posts in Category: Small Business

ADG Celebrates 8 Years in Business

It’s hard to believe that Allison Development Group has been in business for eight years. It’s not that you don’t think your business will make it when you first start, you just don’t think about the actual number of years and what each one will feel like. Trust me, they’re each different and I can usually relate back to each one with a certain account, personal life occurrence (think baby #2 here), or periods of growth. Each one is a milestone and I’m happy to have eight under my belt now.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Tell us about what ADG was like when you first started.

It was as if someone fired a gun and said “go!” When you start off by yourself and you’re trying to take on as much work as possible to build your business, you’re going to be busy. It was fabulous, but a hard pace to keep up.

Why did you decide to start this business?

I have always been fiercely independent. I have worked for other people throughout my life. However, if you asked the people closest to me, I’m sure they would agree: I’m one of those people who enjoy being in charge and making things happen.

I also really enjoyed helping my clients bring their projects to life. At first, ADG was primarily focused on real estate development. In 2007, who wasn’t? I helped my clients evaluate their properties, create marketing concepts, and develop materials to sell those projects. It was an exciting time to be in that business – if you were in it, you were potentially helping shape the future of towns and communities by the developments that were to go in them.

How To Make Stress Your Friend

This video couldn’t have come into my life at a better time. ADG is still recovering from our biggest event to date – the Speak Out live & virtual conference that culminated in a live event this past Saturday. For the past few months it seemed like this was the event that would never end, or at least the one that would do me in. When you’re in the midst of stress and deadlines, it’s easy to succumb to the desire for it all to end, to crave those times of peace and ease.

This video gave me a new thought –  what if, instead of looking at stress like a disease that needs to cured, we embraced it as a tool for making ourselves, stronger, sharper and better? Given that our schedule at ADG shows no signs of slowing down, I’m going to choose the latter outlook.

This post was written by Caroline Livengood, Digital Accounts Manager here at ADG. She can be found on Twitter @carolivengood.

Big Growth, Wearable Tech, and Customer-Centric Marketing

2013 has been a big year for Allison Development Group! With January 1st just days away, we asked Erica to reflect and comment on the big moments from this past year, and what she expects to see in 2014.

What were the biggest changes for ADG this year?

Growth!! We experienced tremendous growth this year at ADG: in accounts, revenue, and staff. That’s a lot to handle for any small business; it was even more of a big deal when it was condensed into a six month span.

Thankfully, I had been hard at work on business planning for six months prior and had started to put systems into place and clarify roles. Understanding how to forecast flow was critical to keeping our heads above water. We use Basecamp for our project management tool. I can’t imagine working without it now.

What was the #1 lesson you learned in 2013?

The perfect storm of under staffing and a lack of systems hit me mid-year and reminded me that in order to grow this business to a sustainable level, I was going to need to put the right people in positions that encouraged personal and professional development. Together, we would have to start the arduous task of creating processes to make the business run more smoothly.

As a business owner, you simply can’t do it all. Find the best and the brightest, stretch yourself to make it work, and then get out of the way. Oh, and stop being so fluid; systems and processes really are your friend.

Is there any one campaign that you are particularly proud of?

We are blessed to have had so many wonderful clients to work with this year. It’s hard to pinpoint one over another, but I can point to moments when I just knew that the outcome was going to be outstanding.

  • The branding process for MountainWise
  • The first note I heard from Mac Arnold + Plate Full ‘O Blues at Thrive’s annual Bids & Blues event
  • The moment that the entire ADG team knew that Speak Out for Kids  could be more than just a one day event and instead become something truly innovative and special for an entire community.

I’m lucky to have had lot of those types of moments and they never cease to inspire and amaze me, always reaffirming that I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing at this point in my life. That feels pretty awesome.

Any insights on marketing trends for 2014?

ff_wearables2_largeI have two trends that I’ll be paying attention to this year. The first is wearable technology. It’s seriously everywhere and will become a huge part of how all of us interpret our personal outputs: how much we sleep and eat or how much energy we expend. I’m not talking Google Glass here, I’m talking about functional technology that people are already using or wearing.

For marketers like me, I’ve long been in love with data and how to use it to produce measurable outcomes. Now, we’re all mining data; only this time, it’s from our bodies. If I eat peanut butter 10 minutes before my run, can I go longer? Faster? If I eat a banana instead, what does that do to my pace? If do none of the above and get more sleep, what can I expect then? The options for exploration are endless.

So goes the marketing ramifications. Privacy issues notwithstanding, the actual mindset or physical status of a person could now be available. Going beyond mere psychographics to actual personal profiles, marketers will be challenged to forgo the push notification and broad brush approach and instead recognize context.

That brings me to my second trend: contextual, customer-centric marketing. Read: not the lazy path marketing. Even though wearable technology may be WAY out there for a lot of folks, it represents that once more, the customer is in charge in this relationship. Until we truly understand what they want, how they want it, and when they want it, our marketing will not be as effective as it could be.

The shift in Google to secure search this year really did a number on a lot of us who relied on their Google Analytics to show keyword search. It shouldn’t have. The same goes for this month’s latest change at Facebook: a new Algorithm that made many a news feed take a deep swan dive in reach. Again, not a call to panic, but rather a call to marketers and businesses to constantly evaluate goals, understand their customers, and adjust accordingly. We have to be in tune and responsive to whims, trends, and human behavior, and adjust our marketing accordingly. Today’s marketing isn’t for the faint of heart or those looking for the easy way out. Marketing in 2014 is active, focused marketing. You better charge up that Fitbit now.

Is there a trend from 2013 that you’re ready to be over and done with?

Selfies. Stop the madness, people.

Do you have any resolutions for 2014?

To stop taking selfies.
To practice being in the moment.

What do you hope to see for ADG in 2014?

Continued growth, but not so much that we overextend or drop the ball on client projects. I hope to see my fairly new staff feel like they’ve been here forever and take on more and more leadership roles as we grow this business together.

Welcome to the New ADG Website

ADGIconFBWell, things certainly look a little different around here, don’t they? Welcome to the new ADG website, we hope you enjoy our new look as much as we do! With all the work we’ve been doing lately, it took us a while to finally put ourselves on the priority list, but we’re glad we did. Let’s take a look around at some of the changes:

New Faces

As some of you may know already, ADG has grown quite a bit this year. We’ve added new team members to better serve our clients. Please take a few moments to get to know the folks on Our Team, and learn about what they do here at Allison Development Group. I have to say that without a doubt, we have a fabulous group of people here. Our mission is to do meaningful work for our clients; these folks definitely get that. I know our clients would agree.

New Work

We’ve been so busy here at ADG that we’ve barely had time to catch our breath, and it shows in the impressive results we’ve been delivering for our clients. This year has truly been a record year, with an almost 140% increase in sales over last year. No wonder I’m tired! I’m also energized by the innovative projects that we have been able to work on and the new partners we’ve had the pleasure of working with along the way. If you’ve talked to me, you’ve likely heard about a few of these awesome projects, but if you haven’t yet heard, feel free to browse Our Work to see what we’ve been doing with Websites, Branding, and Media Campaigns.

Same Great Service

You know the saying about the cobbler and their shoes? Well, that’s what keeps us so busy. We help other cobblers not only cobble their shoes, but market them and sell them. Turns out, we’ve not always done a great job of marketing ourselves and the work we do. Being an integrated marketing and Public Relations firm is quite comfortable for us, but it’s not always something the public at large “gets.” In fact, they usually try to put us in one of several boxes: ad agency, PR firm, social media group, or marketing shop. What I realized is that I need to do a better job of telling people that we really do all of the above and if we can’t do something you ask of us, we’ll definitely let you know. First and foremost, we want to be your partner and provide comprehensive, strategic marketing and PR services.

We’ve always known what we are capable of, now we’re happy to say more people will too! Explore What We Do and learn more about our approaches to Brand Development, Marketing and PR/Media Relations. Once you do, let us know what ADG can do for you!

It’s a Beautiful Day. Slow Down and Enjoy It.

Self Discovery

Tremendously cheesy, I know. Bear with me. I’m feeling sentimental today. I just dropped my son off for his last day of school as a 4th grader. That means one more year in the safety of the Elementary School world and one more year before I send him off into the world of (queue the menacing music…) Middle School.

I looked at H and seriously wondered, “where did the time go?” and “can we stop time just for a little while.” I must have said it out loud because with his trademark grin and twinkle in his eyes, he said, “no, Mom. I have a sleep over tomorrow night.”

Speeding through life…

What triggered all of this sentimentality for me was not just the ride over on the last day of school, but the music playing on the radio as we traveled.  It’s a Beautiful Day — the entire All That You Can’t Leave Behind album — was played over and over and over during my pregnancy with H, to the point that we had it programmed to play (loudly) as we drove to the hospital to deliver him. We really liked it.

I’ve always been in a rush. As a child, I was in a rush to get to school. As a high school student, I was in a rush to get to college. In college, I was in a rush to be “an adult” and begin my life. That tendency to speed through life sets us up to miss things. For those of us on the fast track, until we’re hit with a major occurrence, we don’t stop, or even slow down. We just keep moving forward.

…and Business

The same applies to business. Whenever we speed through client work to meet deadlines or to get it done, we inevitably make a mistake or miss something. Most of the time (95%, I’d say), it all works out. We’re known for doing a pretty darn good job around here. For me, however, that percentage of error due to speeding through is what bites. It stings. It stings so much, that we’ve now adjusted delivery schedules to accommodate an extra day of review, and putting into place triggers to remind us to double check and to get a set of eyes outside of our own to look at things. It’s worth it. The trick? Making sure everyone, especially the client, understands the importance of slowing it down a bit.

The System I’m Missing

If you were to ask anyone on my team lately what my latest focus is, you’d get a chuckle and the following:

  • systems
  • processes
  • jumping the chasm

I know I’m a nut job most of the time, but there’s one thing for certain: I value the quality of work that we provide and the skill set possessed by those who deliver it. I value it so much so that I’m indeed obsessed with systems and processes and making sure we’re air tight before crossing over from one level of business growth to the next (that’s the chasm – ask them, I have it drawn on our white board).

I know the systems for my business will get worked out and we’ll make it safely across the chasm. What I worry about even more? Making sure I develop my own system to slow down and soak it up. I want to also recognize that the interruptions along the way…the ones that make me stop my forward motion cold…are the ones that I need to value most. As I was reminded at church on Sunday, it’s in the interruptions that we find discovery. Absolutely.

Many of you know that I have been reminded of how precious life is lately. As a result, I am indeed trying to slow down and enjoy moments. My wish for all of us is this:

Welcome the interruptions that flood in some days and remember that most of the time, it really is a beautiful day.

Before You Endorse Me, At Least Get to Know Me

LinkedIn Centipede Participants in the 2010 ING Bay to Breakers

At the risk of sounding ungrateful here, please, for the love of all things genuine, stop endorsing me on LinkedIn for things you’ve never seen or heard me do!

I know. That’s going to get me just what I asked for, right? All of a sudden my endorsements for skills that I should possess are going to take a nose dive. I’m fine with that. You know why? Because unless you’ve seen me do it, been the benefactor of the results produced by my work, or heard me speak, then don’t endorse me.

Making my iPad Work for Me! 4 Must Have Tools

I know I’m fairly late to the game on this one, but I’m sure there are others out there who struggle with making their iPad the workhorse that their laptop really is. And yes, I’m a PC, more than I’m a Mac. Don’t get excited.

Not one to have a toy that really should be a business tool, I’ve been on a quest to make it right. I’m happy to say that I’ve found success. As I mentioned above, I KNOW I’m not alone here and I also know that I’m surrounded by really smart people who already make their iPad work for them, rather than the other way around. I’m counting on those smart folks to share their favorite tools, apps and tricks in the comments.

If you don’t want to watchthe video, here are my four must have tools:

1. Belkin Bluetooth Keyboard, with case.

2. Evernote.

3. Google Drive.

4. Office2 HD

(As you can see, I’ve not yet mastered blogging on my iPad. I will return and provide links when I’m not in a hurry!).


Your turn! What are your favorite tools to make your iPad business ready?

The Ikea Effect, Pinterest and Competency

As I normally do, I wake up to NPR in the mornings, listening in up until my morning run and then again as I get ready for the day. Today, in the wee hours of the morning, I tuned in to a story on the Ikea effect. Since I adore Ikea like I do office supply stores, I tried to focus more than usual. I caught the highlights (all my early morning brain could muster):

Most of us intuitively believe that the things we labor at are the things we love. Mochon and his colleagues, Michael Norton at the Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely at Duke University, have turned that concept on its head. What if, they asked, it isn’t love that leads to labor, but labor that leads to love?

Labor of Love? Or a Love of Competency?

Perspective: The Critical Business Skill We Need Most

Abstract Perspective Background
Have you ever been told that “you’ve lost all perspective?” Usually right after you’ve been slapped and told to “snap out of it!”?

Often, we need perspective the MOST when we have it the least. Whether it’s in the midst of a client crisis, a PR nightmare, or a personal situation, perspective is a rare commodity to have and often most difficult to obtain when you’re IN IT.

The Curious Case of Perspective Anemia

What I’ve witnessed and experienced lately is a self-imposed lack of perspective. You heard that right. We’re creating situations where we purposefully wall ourselves off to perspective. I see it in the online world of blogging and social media expertise. I see it in situations where so called “leaders in the community” convince those around them that their bad business practices are not abnormal, but rather quite the opposite and to be held up in esteem.

When the blogging and social media experts deem a practice the norm, like “you must blog x times a week, while commenting on a percentage of posts daily, sharing y amount of this type of post,” all while reading the latest social media eBook, it makes me crazy! You know why? Because they’ve walled themselves off to perspective and to the world around them. The folks who follow along are the ones laying the bricks. Together, they’re creating a weaker version of what we could be.

Lest you think this is a rant towards social media experts, it’s not. The same thing occurs in the off line, or “real” world. It’s natural, really. When faced with a difficult situation with an immense amount of public scrutiny or attention, the view of what’s real and what’s not can become skewed. I like to think it’s some sort of fight or flight reaction, but sadly, I’ve seen too often that it’s a creative way to redirect the light.  What follows is the recruitment of others to help shine the light elsewhere and off the real problem.  Perspective is lost and recreated in order to cover up or downplay the core issues.

A False Sense of Perspective

When you lose perspective, do you know it? I think it’s hard for many of us to know, but it usually comes in the form of confusion over next steps, doubt in our approaches and confrontation that previously didn’t exist.  How do you handle it?

For many of us, we seek out “support” from those that we know will offer sympathy and not a shot of real perspective a la a Moonstruck slap in the face.  Why? Because it feels better that way. It builds up our wall of warped perspective even more and makes us feel all cozy.  Unfortunately, it only hurts us in the long run.

Time and Switzerland

I’ve been in a few situations lately where only time could provide the much needed perspective to get me into a solid frame of mind. I’ve also witnessed a few situations lately where a good ol’ shot of honesty and outside objectivity is the cure for what ails us.

What I’ve decided to do from now on is to a) give it time and/or b) go to Switzerland.

With time, you’re able to truly gain valuable perspective because you grow and learn from it along the way. The trick is to recognize that you’re going to give yourself time and in the interim, just put your head down and move forward without further casualty.

Obviously, while nice in theory, I don’t advise physically going to Switzerland. What I do recommend is this: seek counsel from a truly neutral party not intimately tied to a situation and not likely to choose sides.

You know the kind…the one who won’t immediately sit down and join you in a ‘b!tch’ session about the other party or parties. Often, we seek out those who will reinforce our view of the world. What I want are those folks who make me question it.  What I want and need is someone who is objective and can dole out the tough love you need to ‘snap out of it’ and move on.

I find that giving a situation time works well in the real world, and that Switzerland should be visited more often in the online world. Seriously. Seek out a mentor not as engrossed in your online world and ask them what makes their business a success. I’ll bet you find some a ha moments in there.

The results of both approaches? Smarter, stronger leaders for smarter, stronger businesses.

Abstract image via Flickr.

My Love Affair with My Inbox & How to Fall in Love with Yours Again


Good grief! Is that hokey, or what? Unfortunately, friends, it’s true.

Up until the Thanksgiving break, I had issues with my inbox. Email was not my friend. In fact, it was a beast. Email and it’s nasty cousin, the newsletter a la “can I get your email address?” at check out, had taken over my inbox.

I think when I reached 3,000 +, I became immune to the tipping point theory. You know what I mean. There’s a point in which you’ve reached the peak…the too much point, and something has to give. I not only reached that point, I tumbled over it and down into a black hole of missed deadlines, misplaced messages, calendar malfunctions and duplication of efforts. I, and as a result, my team, were becoming a mess – like a hungry toddler on the verge of melt down in a crowded gift shop with aisles stuffed with breakables at Christmas. It wasn’t pretty.