The independent entrepreneur

Someone asked me the other day if I identified more as a PR professional or an entrepreneur. I answered that I was an entrepreneur, which in turn makes me a darn good PR professional. I think business first.

Someone asked me the other day if I identified more as a PR professional or an entrepreneur. I answered that I was an entrepreneur, which in turn makes me a darn good PR professional. I think business first.

I started Saxum, my Oklahoma City-based integrated agency, nine years ago when I was 25. I wrote on one piece of paper what I was good at and then built services around my skills. I literally walked confidently into an acquaintance's office the first day I was in business and pitched him on how public relations worked. Remember, I knew it all; I was 25.  He took out a checkbook and wrote me a check for $1,000.

"I have no idea what you are talking about," he said in his Oklahoma drawl. "But I like your passion and your instincts. I think you can help grow my business."

Now with 32 people in two offices, Saxum recently responded to an assignment from a business group in Peru about how to conduct a US road show. A connection with one of our team members brought us a potential relationship with the largest real estate and banking holding company in Qatar.

That first $1,000 gave me the confidence to grow my business into the largest agency in Oklahoma and one of the biggest in our region. Being "largest" in our state sounds good, but it isn't our ultimate goal.

Independent agency peers tell me my story isn't far removed from theirs. Independents are no longer chained to their geography. Competing for global business is slowly, but surely, becoming achievable for aggressive independents that are networked together. We understand what we can do globally and where we need expertise on the ground. This “glocal” strategy is what many independents are doing to grow outside of geographies.

We are able to do this through our relationship with Iprex, the fastest-growing network of independent PR agencies in the world. On a meager annual budget, Iprex has a robust group of 77 agencies in 33 countries with 1,500 employees and $200 million in collective revenue. The kicker is Iprex has doubled in revenue since 2008, while only adding 15 agencies. The Peru and Qatar projects could use our smart, helpful partners. In Iprex, at least, rivalries and competing P&L's don't exist with this model of doing business. We are just happy to help our friends succeed and give the best counsel to clients.

From Oklahoma City, Saxum is limited in our physical reach and relationships, but we are not limited by our resourcefulness. For my entire professional career, I have tried to figure out how to win global business that the multinationals pass back and forth. In the not-too-distant future, we see global brand procurement finding the rates and talents of organized independents as a viable option for their global work. The entrepreneur in me can't wait.

Renzi Stone is CEO and chairman of Saxum.

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