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Secrets of success? Late nights, a lot of weekends

Holmes Specialty Advertising (HSA) got off the ground in 2003, and has soared ever since.

Owned by brothers Derek and Jaret Holmes, the Clinton-based promotional products business has experienced exponential growth the last five years.

“We’re 35% ahead of where we were this time last year,” Derek Holmes says, adding that the company has doubled every year since 2003.

Those are big numbers for a business that started small, in the back of Jaret’s house in Clinton. After two years of operating as a home-based business, the brothers bought a facility on Northside Drive in Clinton, where they remain today.

As has been their habit, though, the two say they are trying to remain ahead of the expansion curve. They have already purchased an acre and a half lot behind their 1,500 square-foot building.

“We’re growing,” Derek says. “Like everybody else, we add to our business every year, something that fits.”

One of the bigger things the Holmes brothers have added is a 6,000-square-foot facility separate from the Northside Drive site that houses their T-shirt screen-printing arm. It opened in September 2005. This past December, Derek and Jaret added 3,500 square feet to it.

The brothers have not only invested in brick and mortar, they’ve added some human capital, too.

“We recently hired a full-time graphic artist,” Derek says.

Looking ahead is the only way not to get behind, Jaret says. And extensive planning is the only way to look ahead.

“It involves a lot of late nights and a lot of weekends,” Jaret says.

Such is the advertising business, says Derek.

“It’s tough — it’s highly competitive,” he says. “It’s about staying in front of the customer. I can’t afford to lose a customer. The critical thing for a sales organization is repeat business. And price is a factor, of course.

“It’s difficult. We’re trying our best to evaluate where we want to be. We’re already looking at 2010. We’ve been fortunate so far to be six to eight months ahead of where we need to be.”

The two agree that just as important as foresight is to anticipating growth, so, too, is managing it properly.

“That’s where a lot of people get in trouble,” Jaret says. “They get into things that aren’t part of their core.”

As for their products, the brothers say they like to have their fingerprint on everything that leaves their facilities. That way, they agree, if something goes wrong with an order, the customer knows exactly who to call. That is one part of HSA’s overall concept of operating as a family business.

“If something happens with an order, or something similar, we take it personally,” Derek says. “We like to be in control of as much as we can. I think that resonates well for our customers.”

Like the new T-shirt facility was three years ago, there is something new on the horizon. To maintain the rate of growth, the two brothers have to adapt and reinvent. A lot of promotional products companies eventually morph into full-fledged advertising agencies, concentrating more on the concept side of advertising than the actual manufacturer of the product. Derek says he would like for his company to partner with an existing ad agency, but not become one.

For now, the brothers look for ways to streamline their operation.

“There are a lot of things out there that help you do things faster,” Derek says. “Technology is the wave of the future. We’re always evaluating the latest and greatest technology so we can offer something our competition doesn’t.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at clay.chandler@ msbusiness.com .


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