I just attended this year's PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference.
I've belonged to the Academy for at least 15 years and believe it to be the single, smartest professional development I've ever made.
I always seem to take away a gem of an idea or two that make me and my firm just a little bit better. And this year's conference was no different.
Monday's keynote speaker was Stephen Roberts, founder of Geek Squad, a 24,000 employee strong, global tech support company. Despite being a self-confessed geek, Roberts is way cool. And, way smart. And a big believer in public relations. He thinks "advertising is the price you pay for being unremarkable." He sees PR as the real deal since reporters have to be convinced your story is of value to their readers, viewers or listeners or else it ends up in the circular file (virtual or physical).
Roberts shared his views on how he created and expanded his company and how he keeps it authentic. He also told us what keeps him up at night: the fear that a newer, hipper, more cost effective competitor will appear unexpectedly and steal market share.
To prevent (or forestall) that from happening, he's in the process of creating the Geek Squad's 'arch nemesis.' Check this out: he's literally creating the business model for a company that would compete with his own. He's anticipating everything from virtual service models to lower pricing structures. How cool is that? It's a 2009 version of Clayton Christianson's disruptive technology strategies of eight to 10 years back.
And, it got me thinking.
When I conjure up images of an arch nemesis, brands like Edelman, Weber and other aircraft carrier types come to mind. But, then, I think, nah: Peppercom's real arch nemesis is some start-up or some hybrid model I'm not thinking of. The traditional firms won't be the big winners in a few years time. And, it may not be the independent midsized firms either. In fact, it may not even be a PR firm.
I have no idea who my arch nemesis is (or will be), but I do know that I want to devote several hours of our upcoming management retreat to think long and hard about the type of agency I'd create today if I wanted to take away Peppercom's market share tomorrow.
And, that my friends, is why I belong to the Counselors Academy.