The trouble with taking on clients you adore is that you care for them as friends, not just business associates. This leaves you vulnerable and shocked when they are suddenly gone.
Last week, one of my favorite clients, Jack Leary, passed away without warning from a heart attack. We’re all still stunned and my prayers go out to his friends and family. As CEO of Intersource, LLC, a boutique technology consulting firm, he and I had worked together a few years ago to clarify his brand and positioning and develop break-out brand messaging. It’s one of the proudest projects I’ve had the good fortune to work on.
Jack faced a challenge common to many founders. How do you take your personal values and parlay that into a company brand that can scale and “live on” without you? We spent many hours talking through his mission and values. Jack, a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy, embraced honor, integrity and teamwork in a way that would put many of today’s young, arrogant tech CEO’s to shame. These were not just words to him: they were the way he lived his life, treated his team and served his clients. With a twinkle in his eye and a straight-shooting passion for life, Jack made me believe that passion and profits really could co-exist. His success as a senior executive at many top tech companies, as well as in his own business, proved it.
We were in the midst of another project to bring his brand story to life through video. “People don’t really understand the Intersource story unless I’m delivering it in person,” he lamented. “I’d love to share it with them in a unique, interactive way that not just tells our story but screens out those who are not a good fit.” The man understood that brand is about who you are and not about pleasing everyone.
Intersource’s case study is included in my upcoming 2nd edition of Branding Basics for Small Business (due March 2014). He passed away just at press time, but his story will live on: he was so excited to be featured in the book. I’ve included it below as an inspiration to your brand and a tribute to a man I admired, one who did not at all think that spending hours discussing the nuances of the words “integrity” and “honesty” was a waste of time. To him, it was values like those that made his company. Made his brand. Made the man.
So this is my tribute to Jack Leary: that you may know who he was and what he stood for. Thank you, Jack, for crossing paths with me. The world is a sadder place with one less ethical and honorable business leader like you in it. You will be missed.
BRAND AT WORK: Intersource LLC (excerpt from Branding Basics for Small Business, 2nd edition, launching March 2014)
Technology consulting firms often appear similar, using the same meaningless jargon like “best of breed solutions” or “maximize ROI.” How can a firm with a unique approach and steadfast values stand out from the competition? Jack Leary, CEO and founder of Intersource LLC (www.intersourcellc.com) in Seattle, Washington knew from the start that the firm he built was different from the rest. He just needed a way to articulate that difference to his prospective target market: innovative companies looking to change, challenge the status quo and offer amazing products and services.
“In every project, we’ve delivered success based on not just what we do, but who we are: committed, experienced, honor-bound people,” says Jack. “We measure success by our level of impact…period. It’s not about overpromising, staffing sub-par resources to save money or making clients pay for things they don’t need. But I knew we were being lumped into the same old ‘staffing shops’ that simply offer interchangeable consultants who often lack the right experience.”
Jack worked with Red Slice to articulate messaging that made their brand stand out and convey the unique principles on which he founded Intersource. The result was a technology consulting firm with a voice unlike any other: frank, honest, jargon-free and – on occasion – a bit cheeky. A website visit instantly shows prospects and customers that they are dealing with a different type of firm: one where “straight talk meets straight tech” to get you where you want to go. Minimal color and “fluff’ combined with bold typography choices further demonstrate the firms commitment to an honest, courageous and unvarnished experience.
“We wanted people to know that our expert consultants don’t hide behind fancy words or trite methodologies. Doing this through approachable language and an uncluttered site helps them immediately trust us to solve their market-changing challenges efficiently, honestly and creatively”
Jack, a former lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy felt strongly about conveying the firm’s values upfront: honesty, integrity, discipline, wisdom and creative thinking. The messaging is hard for competitors to copy because it is authentic to his personal values, which are now baked into Intersource’s own brand fabric. More than just words, the values convey the very manner in which the company partners with clients. They are one of the few technology consultancies with such a Philosophy page on their website and these values inform everything from how they hire to how they speak.
Much of Intersource’s messaging is written to sound like you are talking directly to the man who started it all. No gimmicks. No facades. Just honor, integrity, results and a bit of wit. And that’s just the way Jack Leary likes it.