Meet Dawn Hanson, founder of The Fairmount Group
The Fairmount Group, a Cleveland Heights marketing and communications firm of five core people and 12 external partners, helps clients build strong and lasting brands, reputations and relationships with their key stakeholders. The firm provides marketing and communications counsel, training and services to a diverse roster of businesses across industry sectors and select nonprofit organizations.
How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
Becoming an entrepreneur didn’t come naturally for me. I always thought my destiny was to work and retire from the world of corporate communications. When pursuing my undergraduate degree in public relations, I even had a bumper sticker on my car that said “Up and Coming Corporate Executive.” I was on that path for almost 20 years before deciding to establish my own business.
Why did you start The Fairmount Group?
I was working at Eaton Corporation
with global responsibility for external and marketing communications. It was a great job, but I began longing for the independence, flexibility and satisfaction that can only come from being in control of my own business and future. I also wanted to serve a broader and more diverse group of clients, rather than work on behalf of a single employer.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
The biggest surprise was learning the importance of finding the right clients. At the end of 2008, we lost our largest client due to budget cuts within that organization -- and it hurt. Ultimately, though, the loss of that client provided valuable lessons that have helped our business grow stronger.
We became so focused on winning new business that we completely lost focus on our business plan. Indeed, we were able to land new clients -- lots of them -- including some that we should have never taken on. That experience taught us the importance of working with the right clients and remaining true to our company value to “profit joyfully.”
What are the challenges and advantages of being a small company?
One of the challenges of running in a small business is having responsibility for every aspect of the business. I had no idea what was involved in running a small business until I jumped in head first. The first time my computer froze up, my instinct was to call the Help Desk. Over time, I have established an infrastructure of necessary resources to run the business -- from a payroll company to accountants to printers.
The single biggest advantage of owning a small company is that I get to decide who I work with in terms of staff, vendors and clients. And we do have some rules. We have a sign in the office that says “Be Nice or Leave.” I love that. We also decided early on to only work with well-intentioned clients who share our commitment to social responsibility.
Where do you see The Fairmount Group five years from now?
Geographically, I can say with confidence that we’ll still be right where we are in Cleveland Heights. Both of my partners and I can literally walk to the office from our homes, which is awesome! Cleveland is a wonderful place for entrepreneurs. We have plenty of local talent, a central geographic location, a growing international reputation and a low cost of doing business. And the quality of life is excellent.
From a business perspective, I have no doubts that we’ll continue to grow our team and serve a larger client base. All indications for 2013 are that it is going to be an excellent year for us.