We are thrilled to be selected for the 2017 Best in Business – Small Employer Award by the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce. At the same time, it is humbling to realize your peers recognize outward signs of what has been a deliberate transformation of our business.
Around five years ago, we knew, and realized these things to be true:
- Our culture was mired in a system that rewarded people with titles and office space;
- We were frustrated with our position in the marketplace;
- Our service offering was not as highly valued as [we] thought it should be; and
- Clients hated the pricing model our industry was clinging to
It was time to ‘rethink’ our culture, business model, and service offering.
On the business front, we were in a challenging spot in terms of our positioning: seen as a ‘traditional’ PR firm, a service offering that was interpreted as a team to ‘execute,’ rather than provide high-level strategy, and pricing compensated by the hour versus value.
Faced with this harsh reality, and in-the-midst of the Great Recession, our leadership committed to transforming our business. And while transformation in this new disruptive era will never be complete, we are proud to share we have made great progress.
Rethinking the supervisor model, we realized it was a reactive system that relied too much on expecting our team members to figure out on their own how to thrive in the business and be rewarded for excelling. We scrapped supervisors and performance reviews and moved to a coaching model. Instead of only looking back and searching for faults, we pivoted and agreed to look forward with our team members. Forcing ourselves to rethink a system that was once a dreaded annual ritual has turned into an ongoing, year-long conversation that inspires all of us to continuously improve.
Off with office space
Perhaps, nothing is more emotional in the professional world than office space. We had a real estate problem. Four years ago, Tunheim was a collection of offices that circled the rim of windows around our office. We literally took a sledgehammer to it. It wasn’t about new colors and new furniture (we did that, too); rather, we focused on building new space to deepen collaboration, cause incidental conversations and greater sharing of insight and thoughts. We moved from a very quiet floor full of single offices and corner suites to a more open plan designed to ignite greater collaboration.
Back to the Future
As for our service offering, rethinking took us back to the future. Nearly 30 years ago, Tunheim opened our doors as a strategic communications consultancy. Our very first assignment as a company was to reimagine and redesign a corporate communications function for a Fortune 100 company. Initial clients included big organizations navigating difficult change. Over time we morphed into a national consumer and B2B public relations agency, then we amassed great talent focused on public affairs issues. But as the level of disruption grew to dominate business, and the pace of change threatened our clients’ ability to keep-up with it – we realized it was time to pivot back to our sweet spot – consulting.
Over the last five years our talent and growth has shifted to be more focused on consulting and less on traditional public relations. Our total revenue for 2016 increased by 11 percent over 2015. We’ve grown incrementally over the last few years without any acquisitions; rather, our focus has been on client intimacy and creating a workplace where our employees want to work and feel challenged.
We invest heavily in external development and professional organizations to ensure our talent has access to development opportunities. Our membership in IPREX gives our team access to talented professionals working in 115 offices around the world. We send staff at all levels to meetings around the globe with these colleagues, host and participate in webinars and training opportunities, and have access to our partners for insights and recommendations based on our client needs.
As we look at our business today, we still have clients in consumer endeavors; we have large B2B multinationals; we are still involved in complex public affairs and community issues, and we have a thriving business in sports and immense events like Ryder Cup, Super Bowl, the NCAA Final Four and in 2023, the World’s Fair.
But, our role today is different.
We are strategic partners to our clients. We are dedicated to what we call ‘The Business of Rethinking.’ Internally for us, and externally for our clients, it can be very messy stuff. But the journey is extremely rewarding.