four partners for penna powers
The four partners behind Salt Lake City, Utah-based communications agency, Penna Powers. — Penna Powers

In our Growth Studio Spotlight series, CO— aims to connect budding entrepreneurs with business owners who have been there, providing advice that can help bridge the gap between a business idea and successful execution. In this edition, we consult with David L. Smith, partner, president and CFO of Salt Lake City, Utah-based communications agency Penna Powers, to share his entrepreneurial experiences — from tackling challenges to scaling the business with new technology. Penna Powers has been in business for 35 years and has 42 employees.

Here's how Smith describes his company: Penna Powers is a full-service communications agency that offers creative advertising, public relations, digital, social and public involvement work.

If you had additional capital, how would you invest it in your business?

Expand our service and product offerings, as well as enhance the presence and footprint of our satellite offices.

What is your biggest business challenge?

Our biggest business challenge is keeping pace with ever-changing technologies and communication channels, which results in a constant evolution of consumption habits and information sources used by consumers. Continual research and use of new methods and mediums are required to communicate with and reach our clients’ target audiences.

As a partner with our clients, we are fully invested in producing positive outcomes and results.

David L. Smith, partner, president and CFO, Penna Powers

Hire right

Penna Powers values its work culture and recruits its employees from a variety of sources — from internships to referrals. Read on for more best hiring practices.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in the past year?

One of the biggest frustrations in the last year was the inability to successfully retain one of our top clients.

What was your biggest win?

The most satisfying and big win (or wins) last year was how we pulled together as a company, leadership team and employees when we lost one of our top clients by turning around and directly addressing the adversity with a determination to move forward. We identified what we needed to do to rebound from a very challenging situation. We came together as a team, working side by side, without complaint, and proceeded to replace that top client with new clients and additional work from existing clients within a matter of a few months. While one door closed, others opened, and it turned into one of the finer moments in the history of the firm.

How do you find great employees?

Through internships, utilizing all types of recruiting platforms, and receiving referrals from existing employees and clients. Offering a great place to work, with a very competitive benefits package and a thriving and rewarding company culture of inclusion, employee recognition, quality work and community involvement doesn’t hurt either.

What’s the one thing your business is known for doing better than the competition?

Besides being strategic, creative and passionate about our work, clients appreciate and recognize our genuine interest and understanding of their customers, products or services. We are driven to not just be a vendor to our clients, rather to be a strategic partner in advancing their communications and marketing efforts. As a partner with our clients, we are fully invested in producing positive outcomes and results. We are obsessed with producing high quality work. When we work with clients, it’s more than just another client with another budget, it’s what we accomplish for them that makes Penna Powers stand out from others. Plus, our annual holiday card rocks!

 penna powers staff group photo
Penna Powers is staffed with 42 employees and has been in business for 35 years. — Penna Powers

What is your best source of new customers?

While referrals from business partnerships and existing clients as well as networking are great sources for new customers, our best source is working with existing clients to expand the work with do with them because of the results generated. Organic growth is our best source of new customers.

How do you market your business?

We market our services in a variety of ways — networking, serving on high profile community and business boards, creating social and digital media content, utilizing public relations, presenting at association and industry conferences, and receiving referrals through word of mouth and from existing clients.

How do you hope to grow your business in the next five years?

We plan to grow by continuing to evolve and adapt to advances in technology, changes to communication mediums and methods, and staying in tune with ever-shifting consumer attitudes and consumption habits. We have been successful by anticipating future trends and adapting and adjusting to them, while staying true to the heart of what we do: addressing our clients communications challenges by delivering strategic and creative communications solutions.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.