Lorimer: Man Of Justice

May 18, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — After two decades in the ad business, Skip Lorimer discovered he still had a lot to learn.

This year, he achieved a personal milestone when he assumed the role of agency director of Grand Rapids advertising agency Justice & Monroe Advertising LLC. His career came full circle only a block from where it began in the early 1980s: Johnson and Dean Advertising, the market-leading agency once located in the Waters Building.

But before that, Lorimer left the agency world for a sojourn into small business, leaving Grand Haven-based YH Communications to open a Signs By Tomorrow franchise in Comstock Park — where he quickly realized that advertising agencies didn’t know nearly as much about business as they think they do.

“I’ve never had to handle and oversee all the tasks that really need to be done in a business,” Lorimer said.

“Agencies become so self-absorbed that they sometimes forget there are other facets of a business to make it successful. That experience gave me the perspective that most businesses have when working in the marketing area.”

As the adage goes, small businesses don’t spend much time on marketing simply “because they’re running the business.” An easy enough concept to grasp, but as Lorimer points out, few really understand what it means until they are solely responsible for growing a business. Senior management positions at a number of agencies and high-profile accounts such as PepsiCo. and First of America Bank had left him unprepared to run the three-employee company he started with his wife, Kim, in 2003.

“This gave me a great deal of respect for the small business owner,” he said.

That perspective may have something to do with the philosophy Lorimer brought to Justice & Monroe: Build sales overnight, brands over time.

“A lot of agencies say they’re branding consultants — and branding is important, you should have a strategy for that — but our clients need results today,” he said. “With the way business is today, you have got to have a result now. This agency as a whole is trained to help provide instant results.”

What is today Justice & Monroe was launched six years ago as the in-house marketing division of DP Fox Ventures LLC, the multifaceted holding company of the Dan DeVos family. Originally, it existed solely to provide resources to the company’s various properties, including Fox Motors, the Pamella Roland clothing line and the Grand Rapids Griffins and Rampage sports teams, among others.

In 2003, the division was spun off to serve the general market and adopted its current name. Today, 55 percent of its clients are from the general market. It is one of the few local ad shops to maintain a full media department, buying $10 million of media each year.

The firm was a valued Signs By Tomorrow customer in this capacity, and eventually led to Lorimer’s new position. DP Fox was familiar with Lorimer’s resume. He had worked at a half-dozen large agencies across the country, eventually deciding he wanted his family to live on the lakeshore, and did so when he joined YH Communications in 2000.

He left to start the sign company, knowing that the one thing he still wanted to accomplish was running an agency. He had considered expanding Signs By Tomorrow into the advertising field, but DP Fox offered him an opportunity instead. After months of half-time consultant work, he took over the firm in April. He is no longer responsible for the day-to-day operations of the sign company.

“For years, I’ve wanted to run an agency on my own, but couldn’t for one reason or another,” he said. “This allows me to work in a quality organization that is ethical, with lots of integrity, and stable clients, many of whom I’ve always worked with. Plus, it’s an opportunity to groom some people.”

Lorimer has been most impressed by the speed at which the young staff is able to move.

The number of plates Justice & Monroe juggles in a given week is staggering, he said. Fox Motors has 14 manufacturers of automobiles with separate print, radio and television campaigns and deadlines. The firm manages all of the marketing needs of the Griffins and Rampage, from outdoor advertising to checks. Some items, like programs, have to be updated every week.

All this must be juggled with clients of similar value but with looser timelines, such as Arbor Mortgage, Beene Garter LLP and the Brann’s Steakhouse and Grille chain.

With the diversity of the company’s client base, it has found ample opportunity for cross-promotion, especially when centered on one of the sports franchises.

“I’ve worked with agencies who have really wanted to have a piece of business like that,” Lorimer said of the sports teams.

Lorimer sees nothing unusual about his firm’s position within the DP Fox family, comparing it to a branch office of a large national firm.

“Every agency has one large customer or two that the agency is responsible for, and then there are other customers that need to be tended to, as well,” he said. “That is kind of our outlook here. The ownership is a little different, but they are pretty much hands off.”    

Briefly

Name: Skip Lorimer
Company: Justice & Monroe Advertising LLC
Title: Agency Director
Age: 46
Born: North Hampton, Mass.
Resides: Spring Lake
Organizations: Spring Lake Wesleyan Church, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce
Family: Wife, Kim; children Graci, Evie and Griffon
Biggest Career Break: Starting his own business.

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