Look Ma, No Building!

KEY POINTS:Unusual Business Profile, Internet, World Wide Web, Home Business, International, Advertising Agency, Parents working from home

Pensacola, Florida, October 16, 1998: Coco Design Associates breaks all the rules for what a successful marketing firm should be. Jay Massey, the president and main client interface, wears flip-flops and shorts to business meetings. “I don’t try to impress a new client with an expensive suit and a Rolex watch,” he said. “I just try to be myself. I know if they hire our firm it’s because they like what’s in my head, comes out of my mouth or is displayed in our portfolio.” Personal appearance is rarely an issue, since Coco Design does not invest in the hard core infrastructure of concrete, steel and glass that houses a conventional ad agency.

Massey is no stranger to prejudice against companies without a physical site. He owned and operated the first successful mobile video store in Florida back in 1982. Bankers did not take him seriously but the customers loved it. “What counts is what you do, not what you say you can do,” Massey says. “Now your business isn’t taken seriously if you don’t at least have email with your company’s own domain name.”

Coco’s got a lot more than a domain name. While not buying into the concept of an expensive physical infrastructure, Coco fully exploits new telecommunications resources. Associates from around the world use Internet-based communication technology to support offices in Pensacola, Florida and Montgomery, Alabama. The company has no traditional employees. “Everybody’s a contractor, but we call them associates,” Massey says. “We have a writer in Taiwan who’s teaching English as a second language to kids, a web programmer in Toronto, and a business editor in Chicago who’s a stay-at-home dad. Our creative director is in Montgomery, our task manager is a stay-at-home mom in Atlanta, our clients are all over the continent and I’m here in Pensacola. What could be better? It’s almost like a 24 hour shop: at any given moment one of us is working on a project, no matter what time it is where our client is located.”

Coco’s business model affords the company the flexibility to provide single job support as well as long-term, full-partnering relationships, while keeping its services nationally competitive. A highly efficient and cost effective virtual corporate infrastructure provides Coco with the foundation to deliver marketing success well into the next millennium. The company capitalizes on the capabilities afforded by its unique organization to help clients maximize the effectiveness of their resources.

Coco’s corporate web design services are characterized by that focus. “All of us enjoy developing for this new media, it’s fun and dynamic.” Massey says. “But there is a lot of trash out there, mere web glut. A company who wants to be on the web must understand how it fits into its total corporate image. A poorly designed or homemade web site can hurt a business far more than not being on the web at all. We even have other ad agencies who, for whatever reason, don’t have web design capabilities that outsource their web development to Coco. They keep their web savvy clients happy, it makes them look good and keeps us busy.”

“Where we really shine is when we have a startup or expanding company working toward a national image and exposure,” Massey says. “We slide in like an in-house marketing department (without the overhead) and take the client where they need to be. This kind of partnering relationship is where more and more companies are heading. It’s more cost effective in both the short and long run.”

Coco’s cost effective approach has helped revenues to double every year since the company’s inception, even while operating conservatively. “We have controlled growth because I, too, stay home with my son,” he says. “I made that commitment to my family 4 years ago. But he starts kindergarten next year, so I’m trying to decide if we’re going to buy into the whole glass office idea or just keep doing what seems to work best.”

“So many talented people have pulled out of the traditional work place, either to raise a family or find a more meaningful way to make a living.” Massey says. “Coco Design is taking advantage of advances in communications technology and the availability of home computers to help more people make that leap. I only wish everyone could work this way. Working at home has offered me the luxury of watching my son grow up, as well as giving him the opportunity to learn what his daddy does for a living. It’s a 100-year step backwards in time. We’re returning to the age of cottage industry, when a child’s concept of work was more than that of mommy or daddy (or both) driving away in a car for 9 hours.”

Bullet points:

  • Coco Graphics was founded in 1994 as a graphic design firm and has grown to a full service, national communications design agency.
  • Principals are Jay Massey (Pensacola, Florida) and Joe Martin (Montgomery, Alabama)
  • Name change to Coco Design Associates and incorporation in 1998
  • Web address – http://cocodesign.com
  • Email address – info@cocodesign.com
  • Contact number – 850-434-2626