Going global electronically
The other day Randy Boileau, founder of Boileau Communications Management in Holland, went to meet with a client face-to-face to talk about a new project. His son Erich, the firm’s web developer, was at the meeting, too, but he wasn’t sitting at the table like the others: He was literally on the table.
Although Erich Boileau was just another face at the meeting — listening and talking, seeing and being seen — he was in Morocco.
The subject of the meeting with the client was a new project involving the Internet.
“I brought my iPad along and dialed up Erich on Skype and just set him on the edge of the table in the conference room where we were meeting. And he sat in on that new business meeting, via Skype,” said Randy Boileau.
Erich, 25, has worked for his father’s small agency for more than three years, but he has been living in Morocco for a little more than two years, where he works with a charitable organization and also serves as web developer for clients of Boileau Communications.
Telecommuting is routine at the firm. Last week, the firm was working on some projects and a couple of questions arose for Erich, so his father Skyped him.
“Sometimes there’s just nothing like face-to-face to figure out what you need to do,” said the elder Boileau.
It really doesn’t matter that Erich is in Morocco, he said. The distance causes no interference in his work for clients.
Skype has become “pretty ubiquitous,” said Boileau, but he noted that it is only one of the electronic tools in use at the firm. The staff uses Google’s Gmail e-mail service, which also includes a video chat service that works like Skype. “I’ve got a couple of clients that I video chat with over Gmail,” he said.
Boileau said that probably more than half of his clients have some of that same electronic communications capability “that they either use with me or they use internally to talk with their clients or customers or their people in other areas.”
Boileau, 54, is a Detroit native who began his career as a reporter, writing for newspapers in southeast Michigan and later the Miami Herald. From newspaper work, he went into corporate communications, working both domestically and internationally for about 25 years with companies such as Bank of America, Comerica and Hill & Knowlton, a public relations firm.
Boileau has lived in West Michigan since 1994, when he was recruited by Donnelly Corp. in Holland to head its corporate communications. After he left Donnelly, he was with Varnum Law in Grand Rapids for four years as marketing director and also worked as a communications consultant to Varnum clients.
“Being in that environment really taught me about client service,” said Boileau. “It was a graduate degree in its own right.”
He launched Boileau Communications in 2004, a small business and very much a family operation. Another of his sons, Erich’s twin brother, Vince, just joined the firm to lead the expansion of video production services. Vince holds a bachelor’s degree in film and video production from the Honors College at Grand Valley State University. He and his wife live in Zeeland.
Prior to joining Boileau Communications, Vince Boileau worked with Grooters Productions, a Holland-based video production house, where he was involved in many aspects of video production, including pre-production, shooting, editing and finishing. He is credited on the Internet Movie Data Base (imdb.com) for his work on three feature films shot in West Michigan in the last three years: “The Frontier Boys,” “What’s Wrong With Virginia?” and “Tug.”
“At our core, we are about telling stories, and video today is an essential component in storytelling, especially in web-based work. Having Vince join us really dials up the level of the service we are able to deliver,” said Randy.
The staff at Boileau Communications also includes Paxton Weirs, who is a copywriter and graphic designer, and two part-time employees. The agency is located at 299 Douglas Ave. in Holland “on the way out to the beach,” noted Boileau.
He said the agency has worked with about 20 client companies, about half of which are actively involved with the agency at any given time. The clients range from small businesses to large corporations and have included the Holland Board of Public Works, Perrigo, Lakeshore Advantage, Partners In Dental Care, C/D/H, GHSP and Coastal Container. Boileau does not divulge the agency’s total annual billings. Some of those clients are in the Detroit area, but most in the Grand Rapids/Holland area.
Boileau said West Michigan appears to be recovering from the Great Recession “better than other places in the country, and certainly other places in the state. We were not immune to what happened, but we were able to continue to grow our business over the past years.”
Along with the hiring of Vince Boileau, there is other good news at the agency.
“Erich is going to be leaving Morocco later this spring and coming back here to live. As you might imagine, we’re pretty excited about that,” said Boileau.
But the clients may never notice the difference.