Wednesday, August 10, 2005

WMC Interviews: Kelly Allan

This week, I had the opportunity to talk to Kelly Allan, founder of and senior associate at Kelly Allan Associates in Columbus, Ohio. Kelly's firm assists companies in a variety of industries with marketing and operations consulting, helping them to streamline business processes and achieve better results. Kelly has been widely published -- and is just a really nice guy.

WebMarketCentral (WMC): What did you do before starting Kelly Allan Associates?

Kelly Allan (KA): I was a writer, producer/director of educational programs for The University of Michigan Medical Center. Had I stayed, I'd be retired, fat, and unhappy. I had a great boss and great colleagues, but it wasn't what I really wantedto do. Staying would have been a compromise. I tell young people, "Don't sell your life for money. Go take some chances."

WMC: How, when and why did Kelly Allan Associates get started?

KA: I started the company full time in 1976, at age 24. I was too young to knowany better! There are people who, when they read about the evils ofdrinking, they give up reading. I decided to give up being an employee and follow my dream of starting a company. I started the company in my bedroom. It was difficult, but I loved every minute of it. I still do.

WMC: Whom do you target, that is, who is your ideal or typical client?

KA: The ideal client is full of energy to make things happen and to get things done --in an enlightened, healthy way. Our clients are local, national, and international. There are only a handful of companies that do both marketing/sales work and operations management work. We are one of them. When you do both, you attract companies that already have a systems view ofhow things really work. That puts us more in sync with presidents andCEOs --and increases our effectiveness on their behalf.

WMC: What is your key differentiator (or differentiators)? What separates you from your competition?

KA: I started the company with the ignorant notion that we ought to be able to pay for the cost of our advice and services by saving clients a LOT of money --or by making them a LOT more money. I figured we should promise that if within 90 days we couldn't provide a payback that couldn't would more than cover the cost of our work, we shouldn't take on the work. As Mark Twain said, '"Why not go out on a limb? That's where all the fruit is." Amazingly, we still live by that ignorant notion of extreme accountability. And, we like fruit.

WMC: How do you market/promote your business?

KA: We don't need much promotion because we tend to keep clients for a long, long time. Many have been with us for more than a decade. So, we are somewhat picky about adding to the list. Nor do we grow for growth sake. Many of my 25 associates have been with the company for more than a decade. New business often comes via word of mouth. We are also the only authorized contact point for Peter R. Scholtes, and we conduct seminars and consulting on his behalf. (Peter wrote The Leader's Handbook and The Team Handbook).

WMC: What's the biggest or most important marketing lesson you've learned since starting Kelly Allan Associates?

KA: I learned this lesson in the rain forest of Ecuador while doing client work: you must be able to prove you can do what you say you can do. You need to prove it quickly, compellingly, honestly, and humbly. If not, you might get killed.

WMC: Anything else you'd like to add?

KA: I encourage people to move things along quickly, yet thoughtfully. Did you hear about the new microwave fireplace? You can enjoy an entire evening in front of it in fewer than eight minutes. Now that's moving things along.


Keywords of the week: marketing consulting, operations consulting, marketing portal

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