PROFILE: Angus, Rudin take family approach to A&R Partners

Husband and wife team Bob Angus and Zelda Rudin treat their tech-focused PR firm, A&R Partners, like a close family, chalking up the firm's success to the key role the staff plays. To understand Bob Angus and Zelda Rudin's approach to their lives and their business, look no further than the break room at A&R Partners.

Husband and wife team Bob Angus and Zelda Rudin treat their tech-focused PR firm, A&R Partners, like a close family, chalking up the firm's success to the key role the staff plays. To understand Bob Angus and Zelda Rudin's approach to their lives and their business, look no further than the break room at A&R Partners.

Part of one wall is covered with pictures of staffers' babies, lightheartedly known as future A&R employees. For the founders of this Silicon Valley tech PR firm, their success is all about family. Angus and Rudin, who founded the agency in 1986, note that they've never given an interview about themselves because they don't want to detract from everyone else who has made the agency a success. They stress that they are not just partners in business and in life, but also with their clients and employees. "It's all about family," says Rudin, who as senior partner oversees community relations, HR, and administration. "It's about being partners. We can't make decisions based just on what we want to do. It affects so many others. We have to be a bit more like a democracy." It was just the two of them in the mid-1970s, when they first met, although they grew up in the Bay Area just a few miles from each other. Angus was sales head at Zentec. Rudin was working in marketing at Stanford Telecommunications. They met at an auction to benefit the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and became friends. Angus left Zentec to co-found Forward Technology. Rudin was lured away to join fledgling software consulting firm Telos. When Forward failed to raise second-round funding in the midst of "the first great tech industry slowdown," says Angus, he returned to Zentec as VP of marketing and sales. Rudin had taken a post at McGrath/ Power PR, working with software clients. As the industry rebounded, they saw a need for a tech-focused PR firm that understood how the sector worked. Angus encouraged her to start her own PR firm, and Rudin Publicity opened its doors in 1983. Due to a change in management at Zentec, Angus decided to seek greener pastures and consulted for Rudin while looking for the "next big thing." After three months of consulting, Rudin offered Angus a job as her first employee. "She was just trying to get me to work for less," jokes Angus. The couple combined forces to open Angus & Rudin, incorporating shortly after in 1986, only pausing to get married in 1985. They changed the name of the agency to A&R Partners in the early 1990s, insisting that there is much more to their agency than just the two of them and that all the employees make it a success. "It takes a certain amount of discipline and patience" for someone to work with their spouse, admits Angus, president and managing partner of the firm. "And it takes perspective and trust, trust that you are going to work through any business issues and not carry it into your personal life. And for all those challenges, you won't find someone you trust more than your partner." "On Friday nights and weekends, it's about family again," adds Rudin. "On Mondays, we're back to business again." Angus and Rudin apply that same philosophy to their staff, knowing that the partners and employees also have lives outside the agency - as musicians, actors, and one city council member. Angus and Rudin pursue their own passions when not working with the likes of palmOne and Adobe Systems. Angus' interests travel to the sea and open road. He taught himself how to sail, has bought and rebuilt a couple of boats, and often takes to the San Francisco Bay in his Dutch sloop. "It's a marvelous departure," says Angus. "I can't think about press releases when trying to come to the wind. It provides instant gratification." Angus also finds gratification in vintage automobiles. He has spent the past five years restoring a 356 Porsche. He hopes to finish it in the next five years. Rudin is actively involved in the community with numerous nonprofits, from the Family Service Association and Support Network for Battered Women to the San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation and TheatreWorks. That philanthropic spirit is also a key part of A&R Partners. The firm helped coordinate and get media attention for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's (D-CA) recent visit to the Charles Armstrong School for dyslexic kids, during which Newsom revealed he is dyslexic. "Bob and Zelda are elegant, understated, and modest, but very insightful and thoughtful," says Satjiv Chahil, former CMO at Apple and Palm, now chairman of Mobile Digital Media. "They truly care about their people and clients. I've noticed they treat even their entry-level staff with kindness and respect. This results in a high level of performance, creativity, and commitment. Bob and Zelda are very compassionate and giving. They go out of their way to assist with social and community issues they need not participate in." They feel very fortunate, says Rudin, about their firm's success and to live in a place as "wonderful" as the Bay Area. "We want to give back," says Rudin. "That's important to our family and our family at A&R. It's hard to be humble in Silicon Valley. But humility is important. You must relate to society at large. There's a larger community to think of. Our employees are also involved. Many of them are interested in causes, such as literacy or cancer research. We want to give them opportunities to get involved in the larger community." "It's important that we've stayed independent," adds Angus. "Which is not to say we haven't been tempted. It's challenging not to take the money and run. Money isn't everything. You have to have a purpose in life. Selling out wouldn't give us an advantage. Selling out our employees wouldn't be fair. It comes back to the family we've built." Bob Angus 1991-present A&R Partners, president/managing partner 1984-1991 Angus & Rudin, president and managing partner 1982-1983 Zentec, VP, sales and marketing 1980-1982 Forward Technology, VP, sales and marketing 1974-1980 Zentec, national sales manager 1970-1974 Interdata, systems analyst Zelda Rudin 1991-present A&R Partners, senior partner 1984-1991 Angus & Rudin, senior partner 1983-1984 Rudin Publicity, president 1982-1983 McGrath/Power, account executive 1980-1982 Telos Consulting, software consultant 1977-1980 Stanford Telecommunications, marketing administrator

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