Local business owner engages community resources to grow
C Suite Communications of Sarasota County
“You have to invest to get,” Patricia Courtois said of her renewed focus on growing her local business. “It isn’t about a free ride. You’ve got to ask for help.”
Courtois owns C Suite Communications, a brand communications firm that takes client’s insight about their business and translates it into communications, whether it be advertising, social media or public relations. “We’re just fascinated by what motivates people to change behavior and how we get to that emotional connection,” she said. “Our feeling is, let’s figure out the right way is to reach people and get them to change their behavior,” she said. “We want them to buy. We don’t want to sell to them.”
Tim Clarke founded Clarke Communications and Public Relations in 1987. Courtois left a position with a New York health communications firm to join the team in 1999, to lead the public relations division. After she succeeded in building that side of the business, she bought the company in 2004, with business partner, Bill Pierson.
Just as most small businesses have, Clarke experienced its own challenges with the Great Recession, and in January 2008, the company was bought out by an independent, mid-sized agency headquartered in Syracuse, New York. After two years, the sun was scheduled to set on Clarke Advertising when the firm decided it wasn’t profitable for them to have an office in Sarasota.
“Because of the legacy of this agency and our active involvement in the community, and the clients who didn’t want us to go out of business, we took up the ownership and management of it once again,” Courtois said.
Since retaking the helm, Courtois has had a laser focus on what she wants for the business, and to get there, she knew she needed assistance. Clarke Advertising, now called C Suite, first looked to EDC Sarasota County, to find out what resources were available. “They offered us access to some training programs through State College of Florida, for our team to do team building, leadership training, and presentation skills,” she said. “That was really my first taste of ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t know’.”
A year ago, EDC Sarasota County led her to the CEO roundtable program, through GrowFL. The program is designed to give CEOs access to their peers who deal with similar growth challenges.
After watching her progress over the course of a year, EDC Sarasota County told Courtois she should check out Growth Acceleration Services with the Florida SBDC at USF Sarasota-Manatee. Growth Acceleration Services include multiple certified business consultants completing an intense evaluation of all aspects of the business. The end result is a comprehensive report with recommendations for sustainable growth strategies. The process typically takes three to six months to complete.
“I was so eager to have somebody to either validate or course correct,” Courtois said. “It actually validated some of my fears and evaporated others. I would not have signed a new lease if I had not gone through this process. It reenergized me and it gave me a good feeling that even in the worst of times, I can do this.”
Courtois’s lead consultant, Dr. Anita Rose, said Courtois has done many things right. “Patricia coming from a marketing background, was very strong in the marketing element, but there were a few areas that she and I both came to the conclusion, needed to be looked at a little closer.”
For her part, Courtois said she’s not letting any grass grow under her feet. She’s moving ahead, full steam. “The next step is to go to a workshop to learn how to write a business plan. I’m very good at process but I’ve never articulated a business plan and I was overwhelmed by the thought of doing that. I’m exited about it.”
In addition, she is already focusing on client diversification, with an eye on new opportunities. “The work Anita and her team did opened my mind, so we’ve been able to look at work we may not have before.”
Engaging in community resources has translated to nothing but success for C Suite, as the company was recently named a finalist in GrowFL’s Florida Companies to Watch.