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Relationship Building for Business and More

relationship building for business
Relationship building is a fundamental facet of life – we meet people, we connect with them, we become friends with them. Building relationships happens over time, and as time goes by, acquaintances become friends through common interests and shared experiences. Perhaps we’ve known a person long enough to have watched their children grow or were present during tough life events. The longer you know someone, the more you share. These shared experiences form bonds and serve as the foundation of a more profound friendship, but this type of relationship affects our professional lives as well.

Friendships and business relationships overlap fairly often. One of the things we have learned over time is that business relationships often evolve into friendships, and vice versa. Someone who has been a friend for years may one day open a door that you never knew was there.

Case in Point

This is a story about a small network of three people who were connected in different ways, with names changed for anonymity.

September was on the hunt for a job, and her first search terms pulled up a website for a company that she had never heard of, despite the fact that it was right down the street from her old photography studio. She looked over the website and thought the company looked interesting, so she prepped her cover letter and resume and thought she would give it a shot. Sending an unsolicited resume is often fruitless, but September knew that sending hundreds of resumes out would be more likely to yield a collection of viable results. She sent her resume to every single email address she could find.

Diana received September’s email and read over the cover letter with curiosity. She was intrigued, so she decided to do “the search.” First, she went to LinkedIn and discovered that she and September shared a number of connections, although she had never heard the name before. One friend in particular was William, who was a good friend of Diana and whom she had met years ago through a leadership program. She immediately called William to get the scoop on this mysterious September. William, always one to chat, was instantly excited. He told Diana that she had to hire September, sang her praises almost endlessly, and almost kicked himself for not having made the introduction himself, much earlier.

On the other end of things, September continued her search and had sent her resume to a few more places, not expecting immediate results, but diligently focused on acquiring at least one or two responses within a week. To her surprise, she was to receive a response within minutes of sending out that first resume, certainly a personal record. The phone rang and it was William. It had been quite some time since September had seen or even spoken to William, but he was one of those timeless friends who you pick up with wherever you left off. She was happy to hear from him. William instantly began talking about Diana, the owner of the very company September had just sent her resume to. He was ecstatic for the connection, and told September that he thought it was the perfect fit. He told her that he had just gotten off the phone with Diana, and had a really good conversation.

September emailed Diana when she hung up with William. They set up a time to meet, and their first meeting was such a success that September knew almost instantly that this was where she would end up. William was right. He had seen something in these two women that he knew would bring them together. September accepted Diana’s job offer, and the rest is history. The three of them still have lunch on a regular basis, and September and Diana both are grateful to William for bringing them together.

As you can see from the story, there was one small hole in this network – the connection between September and Diana had not yet been made. Now this web is complete, and they have connected other parts of their web as well, through friendships, business partnerships, and acquaintances. It is quite interesting to think about the vast network of people that we have in our lives, especially for those who are involved in many community activities. Your network could extend much farther than you even realize. Sometimes it takes only one person to bridge the gap, as in this case. Once September and Diana’s gap had been bridged, they realized how many other friends they had in common.

Have you had a similar experience? We would love to hear your stories about networking surprises.

Cultivating the Best Customer Experience

cultivating client relationships

There are satisfied customers – those who have received their products or services and are content with their purchase; there are dissatisfied customers – those whose expectations have not been met; and then there are off-the-charts fans of your business – those clients who have received memorable, exceptional customer service and products. Can you think of the last customer service experience you had that made you a raving fan? Creating this type of memorable experience for your customers does not have to be difficult.

Use Failure as an Opportunity to Improve

We all set out to make our clients happy with the work we do, but we don’t always succeed. Failure to make a client happy with your product or service is not a failure at all – rather, take it as an opportunity to create an even stronger impression. Think of client dissatisfaction as the best time to show just how resilient, patient, and cooperative your company can be. Use negative feedback to improve your future operations and customer service. As long as you learn from your mistakes, you will only get better.

cultivating strong client relationships

Say it with a smile – being personable and passionate goes a long way in great customer service.

Customer Experience is a Part of Your Brand

Great customer service should be a part of your package, not an afterthought. If you find yourself constantly patching up problems and messes, then it’s probably time to re-evaluate your approach. Think of good service as a part of the product you are selling – people are buying your product or service over others because you offer the complete package – a great experience in addition to a great product. Win more sales with great products, win customer loyalty with great service. Be passionate about customer service and show your customers that you care. Find a way to build excellent customer service into your process from the very beginning.

Leadership Leads Good Customer Experience

Realize that good customer service starts at the leadership level. If treating your customers to a good experience is not valued by leadership, then that will be reflected in other positions. Other hindrances to good customer experience are apathy, disorganization, and disengagement of employees. All of these are problems that can be solved by good leadership. Executives should provide training, assistance, and perks for good customer service. A solid client-centric program should have guidelines for providing good service, as well as protocol for addressing problems when they do arise. In the case of Zappos, for example, if clients don’t like the shoes they ordered, no problem! Just return the items with free shipping both ways. The problem of customer dissatisfaction is virtually erased, since they can return the product without worrying about being charged. When you have a great customer experience, it’s because that experience is built into the very culture of the organization, beginning at the top.

Check out a few of our favorite books on the topic of customer service:

The New Gold Standard – The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company

Zappos: Good to Great

Pinstripe a Founder of Et Cultura Film Music Interactive Festival

interactive marketing communicationsThe first Et Cultura Film-Music-Art-Interactive-Makers Festival will be held November 16-20, 2016 in downtown St. Pete. The Festival is St. Petersburg’s showcase for everything from film-making to art, music, yoga, cutting-edge technologies, digital innovation and entrepreneurial inspiration.

The Festival features pop up art shows in galleries across the city, and a makers space and film screenings at Green Bench Brewery. Interactive presentations and panel discussions will take place at the Station House event space, and music will be featured at several venues across the city. Yoga classes will be held every day of the festival on the event grounds near Green Bench Brewery.

The festival is a community event and is made possible through the collaboration of artists, film-makers, entrepreneurs, musicians, and other creatives and businesses that support the growth of downtown St. Petersburg’s cultural tableau. Partners include Pilot Moon Films, Green Bench Brewery, Film Freeway, Daddy Kool Records, St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, Keep St. Petersburg Local, Station House, and Pinstripe Marketing.

“As a creative agency, we are proud to be a part of St. Pete’s cultural revolution,” said Pinstripe president, Ginger Reichl. “We are excited about the future of Et Cultura and what it represents in our city – the passion our neighbors have for the arts, technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation.”

Visit for more information.

Follow Et Cultura Film-Music-Art-Interactive-Makers Festival on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter for updates.


Spotlight On: Shannon Bennett, VP Sales & Marketing at ADM Two

ADM Two has been one of our clients for years and we feel like we’ve become a part of the family. We love working with them because of their incredible creativity, fine craftsmanship, and awesome gigantic warehouse space that we get tours of every chance we get. They design and fabricate trade show booths, corporate signage and interiors, and museum cases and displays. It’s a really fascinating business, so we are honored to feature Shannon Bennett, VP of Sales & Marketing at ADM Two.

Shannon Bennett

VP Sales & Marketing




What inspired you to pursue a career in exhibit design?

I kind of fell into the industry. I studied mass communication – programming and production – and intended to work in the new media. However, I had my first business job with ADM Two (the original one). Once I started I was hooked. It was much like the industry I studied as we too were putting on a show, but it was just a 3D show.

What is the first assignment you remember? Why?

I remember my first time on the show floor. It was Supershow in Atlanta. We were working on the Nutmeg Mills booth. They are the licensed sportswear company that is on Linebaugh and has the stadium-like building. Their booth replicated the look of their building. Ray Butterfield, our founder and my mentor, was supervising the installation. I found it very impressive seeing all these large companies whose names I see in stores. I felt like I was in on the secret of the new items to come out. However, it was most memorable because during the install, one of the labor guys dropped a beam and hit Ray on the head and he had to be seen by the medical staff onsite. Not only was I worried about Ray; we still had a booth to get up as the show had to go on. However, Ray was fine and everything went up without a hitch.

What do you like most about the exhibit design industry and community?

I like the change every day brings. There is always a solution that needs to be found to meet an objective. The creative vibe of the community is what inspires me most. There are very talented people who love what they do and it shows in their craft. The people make the difference in this industry. One you are in you never seem to leave which lends itself to long lasting business relationships and friendships.

What challenges does your industry face?

Our industry faces many challenges that change based on the business climate at the time. During the economic downturn, we had to determine the best way to help our clients exhibit most cost efficiently without sacrificing their brand. This meant extra efforts on our part to determine everything from layouts to materials that would reduce the cost of attending shows.

Another challenge in our industry is how to maximize the experience beyond the trade show floor. A client’s success at a trade show is determined by the overall experience they have inside the booth space as well as before and after the show.

How do you measure your success?

I measure my success by my client’s success. If they do well then I feel we have done our part of the job.

What has been your greatest accomplishment in your career?

My greatest accomplishment is balancing family life and my work life. Both parts of my life allow me to achieve greater success in the other.

What do you think is the biggest mistake companies make when working in exhibit design?

I find that companies try and rush through the process of design focusing on a final look prior to doing their homework and determining the overall objectives. I think it is important to include decision-makers in the process rather than just delivering a design that meets parts of the objectives. More time should be spent on understanding the branding goals of the company, the budgetary costs of the exhibit as well as cost of exhibiting, the functional needs of the exhibit and how a new design impacts the overall trade show program.

What is the most interesting trend you see in exhibit design?

The increased use of rental components in the design for various types of events – trade shows, small private meetings (Yara) and private events (PSCU, NexTech). By integrating rentals into the program either as a complete solution or in combination with existing or new components, clients can achieve more with less and not have the commitment and cost of ownership for parts they may only use once a year.

How has technology helped/hindered your work?

Just one of the ways technology has helped is it allows us to quickly and easily look up show information. Back in the day (15+ yrs ago) they communicated information about a particular show to the exhibitor through a show manual. The pros of the old exhibit manual were that it were usually accurate and received in a timely manner. Today’s technology makes it easier and more cost effective to provide the information online. However, I have found that the information is not provided as early as the old style manuals were. Additionally, I have found that the information from year to year is only updated and often the dates/days etc are not changed in their entirety, making important dates not 100% accurate. You may have the right date but not the correct day of the week noted.

The second way I think technology has hindered our work is in the delivery of information. We tend to get pieced information rather than a well thought out delivery of complete details. We then have to spend additional time compiling emails to ensure we have all the information and that any changes through the e-chain are caught. Information is not provided in a timely manner, pushing us to change our internal schedules and rush to meet client needs.

Technology has helped immensely in the search for specific or specialized materials needed for our various projects. It also helps in the speed of communication, conveying images and transferring data. However, the speed of communication can also be a hindrance.

How do you stay on top of your field?

  • I attend various trade shows to see what is the latest and greatest in the field
  • I read industry magazines, blogs and studies
  • I look at new product innovations to see how they may impact my clients

What resources do you recommend? (Books, magazines, web, etc.)

I read Seth Godin every morning as in inspirational start to the day, as well as:

 If you could give one piece of advice to Tampa Bay companies, what would it be?

Invest in your community resources. Use local companies as there are very talented people and companies just around the corner from you. Build relationships.

What are your hobbies?

Traveling, reading, learning about healthy eating/lifestyle, wine, and I’m in a Krewe – Queen Anne’s Revenge.

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