GRAND RAPIDS — Listening to a piece of advice from Rich DeVos to never let your dreams die, Kim Bruyn followed her heart to her new position as managing director of Bruyn/DDM Public Relations
In fact, Bruyn followed a series of opportunities throughout her career, which, coupled with hard work and determination, have led her to this point. In the early '80s, with a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas in tow, Bruyn accepted an entry-level public relations job at Amway Corp.
"That was the best move I could have made," she said. "I had decided that I didn't want to be a reporter and knew that public relations was an option. I had worked as an advertising copywriter for a couple of years after I received my master's, and then became involved with Amway after that. With Amway I was fortunate to have some extraordinary opportunities very early on."
One of those opportunities was working with Rich DeVos during a national speaking tour, "An Evening With Rich DeVos," that was targeted toward Amway distributors.
"We'd hit three to four cities in three to four days, and every evening Mr. DeVos would work his magic, inspiring and motivating tens of thousands of people. It was an incredible experience," said Bruyn. "Here I am in my 20s and barely out of grad school and having the opportunity to learn the business, its culture and values, from the co-founder and president himself."
Bruyn admits the experience accelerated her learning curve and, more importantly, built some trusted relationships that she has enjoyed throughout her career.
Eventually, Bruyn worked her way up to head of the North American Public Relations Division. She worked as head of a 15-member department including members of both founding families, with whom she was able to produce award-winning work.
"I marvel at the front row seat I had watching two truly great American entrepreneurs build a multi-billion-dollar international company and then pass on the leadership mantle to the second generation," Bruyn added. "I enjoyed a very exciting and satisfying career there during an incredible time in the company's history."
After 16 years with Amway, Bruyn was recruited by Dick DeVos to head up a newly created communications function at his private company, The Windquest Group, where she did some consulting work for Amway and Rich and Helen DeVos. After two years there, Bruyn joined a public relations firm and then a consulting firm, but continued to do work for Rich and Helen DeVos.
Subsequent to contemplating whether or not to purchase the consulting firm with a colleague, she ran into former co-worker Kurt Dietsch, chairman of Davison Dietsch McCarthy (DDM). Dietsch and Bruyn had worked together during her first job out of grad school as a copywriter, and after catching up on lives and careers, decided that partnering on a new venture might be the next step for both.
"Kurt and I both really looked at this as an opportunity to compete in the public relations market," Bruyn said. "And it was truly what they had to offer that attracted me to this partnership."
Bruyn was attracted to her new venture because of the appeal of leveraging DDM's current capabilities in strategic market counsel, creative services and market research to provide integrated services to her clients as well as DDM's.
"This partnership in our new affiliate offers me the opportunity to offer my clients a full menu of cross-marketing which will only take them further," Bruyn said.
The new firm, of which Bruyn is part owner, became official on Dec. 3, 2001. While Bruyn views the organization as a start-up, she is aware of the respect she and her colleagues garner from previous ventures.
"While Bruyn/DDM Public Relations is just getting started, we are not. Kurt has been in this line of work for many years. I have been in the area for over 20 years. Mike McCarthy, president of DDM, and Mark Blodger, COO of DDM, have all been here and have had opportunities to establish a well-respected and trusted client base," she explained. "So while the company may be fresh, we are able to each bring our expertise to the table as well as a client base that will now be able to be served in a much broader fashion."
Bruyn admits there is never a dull moment when starting a new company, but she said she is taking her time to breathe, too. "I love all water sports and I am passionate about traveling. I really like the Mediterranean and took a trip there awhile ago, and I am going back this summer," she said. With a trip that includes stops in Greece, Italy and islands along the coast, there might not be much time for breathing.
Bruyn, however, continues to focus on the task at hand and looks to grow her company. "My colleagues and I hope to set a solid example that helps create a better understanding of what public relations is — and isn't," she said. "I recently read that only about 30 percent of the public has a strong understanding of what PR practitioners do. Much of this is due to the fact that the best PR is often invisible, and we typically don't have tangible products to show off. We are really about providing strategic and trusted counsel."