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Connolly & Co. expanding to new space, adding staff
San Antonio Business Journal, August 12, 1999

T.J. Connolly, in a rare (for these days) interview, says his company is expanding and adding new staff. First to join is Brooke Connolly who is leaving her position at the Adams Mark Hotel and taking one of the hotels most coveted projects with her to join her husband at the Connolly & Company Agency.

"When T.J. started the company, we talked about whether I wanted to get involved," explains Brooke. "We left it open as a possibility, and for the last six months or so he has been bringing it up again. I have done a lot of marketing and I was able to identify numerous areas where I could have an impact. It really became obvious to both of us that it would be a good idea for me to join his company."

Her project for the hotel through November is the popular Seasons of Community Giving event. "The project originated even before the hotel opened," says Brooke, who was with the hotel for two years. "Seasons of Community Giving raises more than $50,000 each year for local charities in in-kind and cash donations."

Brooke hit the ground running by landing a second client (a restaurant) in her first week on the job. "We just completed the marketing plan for the restaurant and are ready to get the final go-ahead to start implementation." And if that's not enough, the new mother says she is also acting as "general contractor" for the company's new office space.

The agency, with six employees, will move into new space by mid-September. The 1,200-square-foot leased space is next to the former Barcelona's Café conveniently located in the middle of Alamo Heights on Broadway. Connolly plans to top out the agency at nine employees sometime next year.

Bradfield Properties, San Antonio's largest real estate firm, has just celebrated its first anniversary as a client of Connolly & Co.

T.J. says the firm still has all the original clients on its account rooster. And they've added National Bank and Trust, which relocated to San Antonio from La Grange, and Carter-Burgess, the largest engineering firm in Texas, which recently opened an office here. Other active accounts include professional services ranging from a law firm and architectural firm to physicians.

"A year ago, I thought we were building a PR firm," says T.J. "But now we've grown into all areas marketing, advertising, as well as PR. Were strategic partners with our clients. We are now a full-blown, full- service company.

"Our clients tell us they want a relationship with a firm that can do the PR, the advertising and the marketing," he adds. "Many companies find medium-sized firms more effective and more responsive from a customer service standpoint. We offer clients our availability on a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week basis. And they've tested us on it. One client called in the wee hours Sunday morning just to see if he would be able to reach me. He did."

After spending 15 years on the corporate side hiring PR agencies and advertising firms, T.J. doesn't want to just sit behind a desk doing paperwork. "I want to have a real hands-on policy and service the accounts from media relations to setting editorial board meetings and more," he adds.

In emphasizing client service, T.J. says he asks his staff to do what the client asks for and think ahead to provide the next level of service. "This means clients will realize more value and more return on the money they spend with our agency," he adds.

T.J. says the trend in agencies is "similar to Katie Brickman's."

"She's built a wonderful firm and she's holding to eight or nine people," T.J. says. "I think the future for San Antonio agencies will be smaller firms. Were keeping our prices at the middle or a step below mid-range to keep from pricing ourselves out of the market.

"I was told the second year in business is the most difficult," T.J. adds. "But were working even harder this year and we had a phenomenal first year in gross billings."

To continue the momentum, Connolly & Co. will add graphic designer, Tracy Taylor Ochoa, to the agency as a strategic partner. She will continue to manage and operate her own graphic design firm, Taylor Ochoa Design, and be the exclusive designer for Connolly & Co. She will also share office space with the agency.

The companies have worked well together for more than six months, T.J. says, and the idea to partner grew out of that relationship.