Jim Lauerman, CEO of Bailey Lauerman, stays true to his mid-Western, no-nonsense work ethic while representing big name clients like Disney, Smithsonian Museum, Bass Pro Shops and Cessna. Although he’s had an incredibly successful career in marketing, he remains humble and hungry by constantly striving to see what’s coming next – claiming he’s never “made it” even after landing national accounts and being in the industry for almost four decades. He attributes his success to his talented and carefully selected team, and shows that he always gets to the heart of the matter when it comes to business.
Jeff: One of the things you stress for your clients is the importance of branding. Why is it so important?
Jim: You want to find out what the genuine, authentic personality and value is, the brand, and then, how you can take that externally in an emotional, and compelling way. We want to have some aspect of your story that is intellectually intriguing and emotionally engaging to somebody; a certain aspect of your brand that we can capture in a way that makes people want to buy your product or services.
Jeff: Let’s talk a little bit about your story. You didn’t just suddenly have this amazing company that’s fast growing. How did you rise to success?
Jim: If you’re going to go places, you can’t look around and find somebody else who’s going to take you there. You’re going to have to do it yourself.
I think in those early days of being so small that we probably had no idea of what we were really doing, but we simply focused on doing two things: doing great work and keeping in mind we have to make money. Fear and hunger are two good drivers for a small organization. Pair those with some decent talent and you have a great combination.
Jeff: Can you tell me more about the early days, the rough and struggling times?
Jim: We went through months where we made sure we paid our vendor bills and the rest of the team, but we didn’t take checks ourselves. If we did take salaries, they were always modest. It was two to four years before we really had any professional accounting talent. I think that just helped us focus a little bit more on retaining earnings in the company. We didn’t spend money we didn’t have.
Jeff: When you were beginning your own firm, did you ever have anyone tell you that you weren’t going to make?
Jim: No, we never did. But here’s something that alarmed me much more than that. About 20 years ago, a member of senior management said, “Jim, doesn’t it feel good to be a part of an agency that’s made it?” That alarmed me more than anybody telling me we weren’t going to make it because I have never felt for one day that we’ve got it made.
We’re working for a national client, and we’re doing great work. I’m very proud of that, very proud of the team, and feel blessed and fortunate to be in that kind of situation, but man, I have never felt like, “Okay, Bailey Lauerman has just made it.” I think the more successful are the ones that are always concerned about what’s next or excited about what’s next.
Jeff: For people who are starting a business, what lessons did you learn that you can you share with them?
Jim: Looking back, I believe that the biggest mistakes have been the most costly. We hired too quickly and ended up with the wrong team members. The wrong team members or those who won’t play as a team member become short-term and long-term counterproductive to the organization’s best interest.
The one lesson that I’ve tried over the last 15 or 20 years is to slow down and make sure that we hired the right people. We’re currently in a situation like this, where you think, “Okay, good things are happening here, and the reason that good things are happening is because we’ve got just great people.”
Jeff: What are some of the biggest clients that you’ve worked with, and some of the things that you’ve done for them?
Jim: One of the more visible ones is Disney, and we have done a lot of work for them. We helped to create a value positioning campaign for them. We worked for Cessna Aircraft, which for most people, when they think of corporate aircraft or a private aircraft, the Cessna name pops to top of the mind pretty quickly.
Bass Pro Shops is another client. We worked for both Allstate and Nationwide Insurance. Those are all brands and clients that are visible, and we’re certainly proud of them, and certainly proud to work with some some less visible clients too.
The work we’ve done recently for the partnership for a Drug-Free America, “the smoking phone” campaign, that one simple visual that we did has probably generated more media space and awareness for the partnership than the “this is your brain on drugs campaign.”
Jeff: Would you describe your firm more as an advertising agency, a marketing firm, or a PR agency?
Jim: A marketing firm. Right now, with the skill set we’ve got on board, we provide everything from marketing research to strategic planning, communications planning, public relations, promotions, brand building, social and digital media, crisis management, and media training. Everyday we’ve got teams out generating income across all of those.
Jeff: If I’m a young entrepreneur, and I don’t have a penny in my pocket, but I have a really great idea for a business, how can I begin my business? What kind of advice would you give?
Get a business plan together. Start by securing some educational resources from a university that can provide information through an entrepreneurship department. Your State also has resources and counsel, and can line you up. It’s all free. Once you got that down, recruit a marketing firm to help get you to the point where you actually are going to be meeting tactics, strategies, and more.