Living in paradise Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2007

Cedar Hames sometimes knows more about his clients’ business than they do. The president of Paradise Advertising & Marketing Inc. says that because his company is pushing messages and brands into the marketplace, his employees need to be aware of how the marketplace is changing.

It’s all part of the constant quest for knowledge at his $20 million firm. Hames tells his employees that it’s not enough just to keep up — they have to stay ahead of the curve to succeed. For instance, Paradise used to create just print advertising for its clients.

Now, the marketing communications company has switched its advertising presence over to the online component of newspapers.

Smart Business spoke with Hames about the science of planning for growth.

Q: How involved in the day-to-day operations should a leader be?

I’m more of a big-picture person. If you have a motivated team, you shouldn’t have to be that involved in the day to day. If you hire bright, talented people and provide the tools for them, just step back and let them do the work they do best.

The biggest pitfall is for a CEO to micromanage. If you’re micro-managing, you’re not only not letting them do the work that they should be doing, but you’re not doing the work that you should be doing.

Each CEO should have a different approach to that, but in our case, one of my particular rules is to do strategic thinking and planning for our clients. We have a team that does that, but that’s a lot more important than me trying to edit a radio commercial.

Q: How do you develop and communicate a vision to your employees?

As far as the vision, it’s more a way of doing business than anything else. We’re in the communication business, and too often, businesses do not communicate to each other, much less outside the business. We try to open up that communication.

Of course, now with e-mail and such, you get more communications than you want sometimes. But we do try to have weekly or monthly meetings where we try to share knowledge with each other and get together.

They’re not gripe sessions. Sometimes we exchange necessary information; other times we exchange ideas. Communication is a key factor, along with the knowledge that if you’ve hired talented, motivated people, you don’t have to motivate them, you just have to provide them with the opportunities to do the work.

Q: How do you find those qualified employees?

In our business, we’re so specialized, it makes for a small universe of talent that is available to us. So, the best way to attract exceptional talent is to do exceptional work. If you’re doing that, talented people will seek you out.

Regardless of the area we’re working, we try to be very strategically based and very creative. That is the type of thing that attracts good people and keeps them motivated: the ability to be creative.

Q: How do you manage business growth?

We try to be proactive in the sense that over the past five years, we’ve had such substantial growth that we anticipate that each year we’ll continue to have that growth. In our staffing and in our office space and other areas, we try to allow for at least a percentage of growth and build it into our budget plans.

There might be a lot of CEOs out there cringing at that thought, but it’s worked for us. I’m sure a lot of them say, ‘When you get the business, then you staff up, and you make those arrangements.’ When we anticipate (the growth) — and so far that has certainly been the case — then we are already prepared.

Remember, with us, it’s not like we can run an ad in the paper and have a number of people lined up who would be qualified. It’s a specialized area, so we try to be proactive, especially in the staffing arena.

Q: How do you anticipate the amount of business growth?

We have different departments and a formula as to the number of hours for each person in a 40-hour week; we allocate what we call billable hours. That may not be actual, but it will reflect the cost of that person that we’re putting toward the client. We know from experience that a certain type of work for a client will take X number of hours per month times these 12 individuals.

We know that we anticipate growth at a certain percentage, and we can just do the math and make sure that we’ve got the people on board that can accept that business.

The reality is that we would love to have more business come in than we anticipated and rush out and try to attract some talented people. But it’s certainly smart to anticipate that growth. Since we’ve had such an ongoing record of bringing in business, it’s worked for us.

HOW TO REACH: Paradise Advertising & Marketing Inc., (727) 821-5155 or www.paradiseadv.com