Michael Donovan has led his Boston-area firm to double in size in about 18 months. Donovan Group is one of the top-15 agencies in Boston and was recognized by Inc. in 1994 as one of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the U.S.
How did Donovan do it—and, more important, how he managed it so that growth didn’t overwhelm the firm? And what are the keys to sustainable growth? Donovan and two of his colleagues, design-services director Mark Minter and client-services director David Jackson, offer their hard-learned insights on why growth is great:
1. You get to work with bigger and better clients doing bigger and better projects. “The opportunity to do great work that gets noticed expands as you work for bigger clients—and that’s fun,O Jay Nelson says.
2. You can do work that impacts your clients’ businesses. Being large and multi-skilled enables your firm to be a strategic partner that can, in turn, help your clients grow. “We want to build our clients’ businesses as long-term partners,” David Jackson says, “not do something and then walk away.”
3. Your employees have more opportunities for growth. “If you’re not growing, then you’re not providing opportunities for your people,” Michael Donovan says. “They either have to leapfrog over each other or they leave.” Not so at Donovan Group, Jackson says: “We let them go as high as they want to go [in terms of responsibilities and promotions].”
4. Your employees experience more challenging work. Stepping into an organization with the kind of momentum the Donovan Group has means doing meaningful work and doing it now. “We live up to our end [of the bargain],” Nelson says. “Once we get them here, we let them do it.”
5. Your firm keeps growing because growth begets growth. “People like to be on a winning team and be involved with momentum,” Donovan says. “And that’s not to be underestimated.” The buzz about the firm has its advantages. “We’ve been very lucky with the word on the street,” Mark Minter says. “People are actually calling us wanting to be part of what’s going on here.”
6. The bigger you are, the more diversified you can be. “We really like the freshness of a diversified portfolio,” Donovan says. “That helps us attract top creative talent because people don’t get pigeonholed.”