Mini disaster shines a light on what makes small business special

Andrew Stanten


At the end of the day, all the great positioning and sell copy do not differentiate competitors. People do. Blasphemy coming from the Chief Spinmaster at a marketing company?

Not really. I have always espoused that companies – particularly small businesses – need to have a solid foundation in place for everything to work together seamlessly. The core to that foundation is people.

A business is only as successful as the people they have dedicated to the cause, giving their all, each and every day – no matter what the task. I am truly blessed to have such an amazingly committed (maybe some of us should be committed!), ridiculously talented team here at Altitude. It is the team, the collaboration, the ability to disagree, the willingness get into heated arguments and move on and the “we have each others’ backs no matter what” mentality that makes this such an amazing place to work. That in turn, breeds creativity, client-centric focus and an unrelenting commitment to excellence. If we didn’t genuinely care about each other, walls would go up and the magic would fade.

Gwen, our Director of Public Relations, called me at 7:30am Tuesday. Her basement was under a foot of water. Without hesitation, a group text went out to rally support. I asked Gwen if I should bring the shop vac. She said don’t even bother. Trouble ahead. Dave and I mobilized and headed over, while the rest of the team kicked into high gear jiggering schedules, covering for us, taking meetings, calling Service Master and doing what we do – rallying for the cause.

Four hours later, everything was out of the basement, her front lawn was laden with sooty, wet boxes full of memories and assorted crap and the clean-up crew was on the case. Faced with the daunting “what’s next” task, Gwen wiped her hands and said she needs to get to the office for the 1pm client meeting. You often read about the value of ‘team building’ exercises. There is nothing that pulls a team together quicker than a mini-disaster.

I’ve worked in places where people can’t stand each other. We have had clients where the politics and backstabbing are sickening, and obstructionists throw up road blocks just because they can. In a larger company, bureaucracy and size mask some of it. But it is these kinds of toxic environments that prevent organizations from reaching their maximum potential – plus they waste a lot of time and money. Four out of five small businesses fail in the first five years. We can never lose sight that success is always about the people.

Gwen asked me how she could ever thank Dave and me. My response was simple and heartfelt: Do what you do every day to keep this a special place to work, continue to churn out amazing work that turns our clients into evangelists for the company and be the consummate team player. After all, it is the team that truly sets the small business apart.

Andrew Stanten

Andrew Stanten co-founded Altitude Marketing in 2004. As CEO, he ensures the right people are on board, delivering world-class marketing services to Altitude’s global client base, and staying true to Altitude’s mission, vision and values.
Andrew possesses an innate ability to process, organize and summarize massive volumes of client and market information and turn it into actionable, strategic thinking. This enables Team Altitude to get smart about a company quickly—and develop winning, integrated approaches that vault clients into a position of prominence and strength.
Andrew graduated from Syracuse University and earned his MBA from Lehigh University.