I tend to value loyalty, perhaps for no better reason than, in terms of temperament and makeup, I am that way myself. My best friend has been my best friend for 33 years. I have two employees who this year will celebrate 10 years with SmartMarketing. I have others who are 5-plus years. And I have clients who have been with me for many years, as well: five years, seven years….which brings me to the subject of today's blog post. Our clients Joe Strazzeri and Steve Mancini of Strazzeri Mancini LLP, an estate planning law firm in San Diego, have been our clients 10 years this month.
Our association began in May 2001 when I attended a conference of estate planning attorneys in San Diego. I had a marketing firm and was eyeing the legal market, but as yet had no clients in that field. I didn't have much at the conference, either. A tri-fold brochure and some business cards (both awful, in retrospect). My strategy was two-fold. First, since I had nothing to hand out, and not a whole lot to say, either, I had hired a gorgeous model from a San Diego agency to stand at my booth for two days. This seemed to be an effective strategy in a roomful of middle aged white guys. The second part of my strategy was to find a "center of influence." This was not too difficult as there was this guy in the middle of the conference floor who always seemed to have a crowd around him, and whom everyone seemed to know. That was Joe. I don't recall exactly how I wormed my way into his inner circle. Probably just barged in and introduced myself. But before long we had a deal: Joe, I will do a great job on your marketing for cheap, and in return you let your wide circle of friends and colleagues know that it was my firm that did it for you. And that's just the way it happened. Before long I had the attorney clients that formed the base of the business I have today. It all starts with one client, as they say. I used to joke to Joe, "I lost thirty thousand on you, but I made three hundred thousand."
Soon I was making frequent visits to Joe's office and got to know his partner Steve, who is a great guy and who will always be one month older to me. I began bringing my young son with me on trips to San Diego, because he loved LegoLand and the San Diego Zoo. Steve and his wife Carol became like second parents to him. There is no need here to recount our many triumphs and setbacks in the never-ending quest to market the Strazzeri-Mancini firm, the Southern California Institute, the Laureate Program, and other events and enterprises. Joe and Steve and their team have invited me and my son and several members of my staff to Hawaii (at their expense). They have visited us in Florida. The SmartMarketing staff love them, not least because periodically they receive large boxes of See's Chocolates, and hand-written thank-you notes.
We've watched each other's kids grow up. Joe's son Sal, who had just been born when we met, is now 10. My own son, who visited LegoLand, the San Diego Zoo, and Hawaii, beginning when he was eight, is now 18 and beginning college in the fall.
In the words of Jerry Garcia, what a long, strange trip it's been. But here we are, still working together, going to Hawaii next month, still having fun. Time to say thanks. Thanks Joe and Steve. Thanks for ten years together. Thanks for your loyalty. Thanks for your financial support. Thanks for gifts and trips. Thanks for saying thanks. We could not have been more fortunate in our first attorney-clients.