Oleson weathering economic downturn by expanding base

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Kirk Oleson began his career working for the Ford Motor Co.

Kirk Oleson began his career working for the Ford Motor Co.

From an early career with the Ford Motor Co. to today’s role as head of a national advertising and marketing agency, Kirk Oleson has mastered the art of results-oriented communication.

The upbeat CEO expects to not only weather the current economic storm, but to increase Graham Advertising’s market share nationally and in the Pikes Peak region.

Oleson recently took time to tell CSBJ about himself and his company.

Organization: Graham Advertising

Position: CEO

Hometown: Waterloo, Wis.

How long have you lived in Colorado Springs: 10 years

Education: Undergraduate degree and MBA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

A few words about your company: Graham is built on two main premises; client-driven and customer-focused.

To be client-driven, we’ve created an environment where our clients are at the center of everything we do. This means being results-oriented at all times, flexible, trustworthy, listening well and acting quickly with a fun, professional attitude, and finishing strong with knowledgeable, proactive solutions that actually help them.

We have full-service media, planning, creative and art departments, as well as broadcast edit suites and a studio/sound stage so we can move at our client’s ever-increasing pace and leverage our resources and capabilities to help them grow their business.

To be customer-focused means providing our clients a clear understanding about their real and potential customers by using the best tools and methods available. It also means sound strategy and execution that efficiently and effectively links our client’s unique strengths with the most relevant needs of their customers.

Recent accomplishments: The most obvious is surviving the past recessionary year, with advertising spending at an all-time low.

So many agencies have closed during the past 12 to 18 months; we’ve managed to actually add to our client portfolio, including Ent Federal Credit Union and Goodwill of Colorado Springs, as well as large automotive dealer associations (Honda of the Carolinas, Honda of Washington, D.C.).

Biggest career break/accomplishment: Winning the Honda new business, Ent and Goodwill. Being selected to speak at National Auto Dealers Association during 2005. Success with Ford, my former employer, while staying in Colorado.

The toughest part of your job: Simply put, time. Finding enough time to spend with our clients and continuing to build those relationships and carving out the time to meet with each of our team members, advise them on the larger challenges and to help them learn and grow.

Someone you admire: Our founder, Jerry Graham. He built this company from the ground up, through sheer will and hard work, with infectious enthusiasm, always embracing the “new” and with an unbridled dedication to his team and his clients. He also has kept his family at the center of his life and has such a heart for his local community.

About your family: My wife, Debbi, and I have been married 21 years and have a 14-year-old daughter, Michaela — and Baylee, a Bernese mountain dog.

Something else you’d like to accomplish: Personal: Dive the Great Barrier Reef with my family. Professional: Continue to grow our non-automotive client base.

How your business will change during the next decade: Few industries have changed so rapidly and dramatically in the past decade as marketing communications. So many new mediums have developed and, for consumers, so many new touch-points.

We used to see new marketing mediums develop every 10 years or so, but now they’re developing not daily, but hourly.

The thing that won’t change, however, is the need to understand your clients’ key selling points, your customers’ needs and to bring these two elements together in the most relevant way possible.

What book are you currently reading? “The New Rules of Marketing and P.R.” by David Meerman Scott.

What is the one thing you would change about Colorado Springs? This is such an incredible place to live and raise a family. Are you looking for a complaint?

If I had to dig, I’d say add more to the already great bike paths we have and foster the continued growth of more locally based, unique restaurants.