I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in Chicago the last few months, and now I can share why! Geben is expanding — opening a second office in The Windy City.
It’s (slightly) risky, yet exciting. Nerve-wracking, yet energizing. BusinessFirst wrote an incredible story about our news; however, I want to share the backstory and some details around why and what’s next. So, here it goes (with excerpts from their original story, coupled with my additional context)…
Geben Communication is putting extra purpose behind a market that has developed, in the agency founder’s words, by accident. The Columbus public relations and social media company will open an office Oct. 1 in Chicago staffed by four workers. The outpost is being set up to give Geben a better path to new clients.
Why Chicago? For me, there are three key reasons:
- To better serve our existing client base. We have five clients in Chicago, including three of our four largest. Having a team on-site will help us continue to build and deliver on our “unmatched partnership” promise.
- Natural opportunity. While we have a cluster of clients already in Chicago, that honestly happened by accident. Until now, I’ve never set out to specifically build a business in Chicago. But, if this can just happen by accident, imagine the possibilities if we’re more strategic. While this is the first time we’ve been intentional about business development and talent recruitment efforts on Chicago, we’ve already started to see this intentionality work –marked by the signing of a couple new clients and promising opportunities in the pipeline.
- Logistical ease. To be honest, I thought about other cities as growth opportunities. I’m often asked why we aren’t in San Francisco or New York. Sometimes we even get questions about Kansas City because of its strong startup ecosystem. However, Chicago is the right place for us, right now. As a single mom, I can work it into my lifestyle with minimal impact on my son. A one-hour, direct flight is hard to beat!
“We had a lot of conversations with startup founders, venture capitalists,” she said. “We heard some names, but there didn’t seem to be a default firm. Some are too small. Some are too big. The more conversations we had, I was convinced there is an opportunity for us.”
I had a hunch I wanted to open an office in Chicago, but I needed some additional validation before officially committing. So, we conducted a little “listening tour,” meeting with nearly a dozen venture capitalists, founders and brand marketers. While competition is certainly stiff, it’s not intimidating or overwhelming. While we’ll never be the biggest player in town, we can be a helpful, effective partner for startups that want to grow into big brands … and for bigger brands that want to infuse startup-like innovation and creativity into their communication.
We’re already working with a few of the most interesting, innovative and exciting companies in the Chicago area, so continuing to grow in this direction just made sense — a hunch that these conversations completely validated.
Geben’s strategy won’t change.
Our approach to client service, business development and community involvement will translate well in Chicago. Maybe it’s the Midwestern approach … or maybe it’s just because the two cities are more similar than I realized, but my initial experiences tell me that both cities prioritize relationships … both cities reward hustle and innovation.
I’m convinced that our combination of boutique-style service with national agency results (or what’s typically thought of as big agency results) will resonate in Chicago. We’ll continue to live by our House Rules, deliver unmatched partnerships, become deeply involved with local nonprofits, and infuse innovation into everything we do. If we do those four things well, our Chicago office will be a success.
On a personal note, when I started Geben nearly seven years ago, I thought it would be cool if someday I had two or three people work for me. Clearly, I underestimated my projections. A team 26 people strong and a second office are far beyond what I initially imaged. I continue to be highly motivated by the opportunity to deliver quality work that also allows us to use Geben as a platform for good. I’m still totally committed to my initial goal: Build a firm that people want to work for and companies want to work with. I was recently reminded that us Type A/control freak-type people (like many of you!) probably don’t pause and reflect on major milestones often enough. However, on this occasion, I’ll pause for a moment to be incredibly grateful.
But, then, as I said nearly seven years ago when first launching Geben, game on.
If you’re in Chicago and want to learn more about our PR or social media capabilities, please email me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.