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Business Observer Friday, Sep. 2, 2016 3 years ago

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A hip work culture, down to the Frisbee breaks across the street, has fueled fast growth at a Polk County ad agency.
by: Elizabeth Morrisey Contributing Writer

It was a few years ago when Clark/Nikdel/Powell's President Alex Nikdel realized his marketing, advertising and web development company needed to identify its core values and refocus its long-term vision.

“We realized we were at a point that we needed to have more structure and discipline,” says Nikdel. “There wasn't clarity on who is accountable for what.”

Now Winter Haven-based Clark/Nikdel/Powell has regular leadership team meetings, 10-year goals are mapped out in detail and each employee clearly knows the firm's priorities. “We are evolving with the times,” he says.

The company's core values have evolved, too, and now include: a sense of ownership; demand more from themselves; humble competence; continuous improvement; and a balance of work and life.

The values are a core reason why word has spread that Clark/Nikdel/Powel is one of the best places to work in Winter Haven. One piece of evidence comes in the 24-employee firm's low turnover rate. Perks those employees receive are Silicon Valley-esque, and include a flexible schedule, open vacation policy, bonus plans and 100% paid health care coverage. And on any given sunny afternoon you'll most likely find some employees at the park across the street, taking a break and playing Frisbee.

Having a hip working environment helps retain employees, too. Last year the company expanded its office and renovated an empty space next door in a 1920s-era building. The
revamped office has brick walls and original wood flooring, as well as an open plan workspace and loads of natural light.

CNP, founded in 1991, approaches its clients with clear goals, whether it's doing website redevelopment or brand development. “We tend to be more strategic,” Nikdel explains. “We do a lot of work upfront gathering data about the client. Ultimately our work has to sell our client's products or services.”

Up to 70% of CNP's clients are in Polk County or the surrounding area, including prominent entities such as MidFlorida Credit Union, Bok Tower Gardens, the Central Florida Development Council, Heacock Insurance and the Polk County Commission. Industries it works in include travel/tourism, financial services and technology.

While the core client base is local, CNP, like many ad agencies not in a major city, has had to go outside its home base, to other places in Florida and other states, to find more growth. Revenues are up 10% to 15% a year for the past four years; Nikdel declines to disclose specific sales figures.

One market Nikdel has targeted for growth is education.

Nikdel has a passion for education and wants to expand his work with schools. CNP has done work for St. Leo University in Pasco County and Polk State College, schools that want to boost the student population count. CNP, in response, has worked on communication strategies, brand development, fundraising and websites. CNP has also worked with Florida Polytechnic University and South Florida State College, and is in discussions with other schools.

“It's very much about enrollment,” Nikdel says, who adds that his passion is to see more people get a post-high school education. “We're reinventing how we are talking to students. When you have a population that's not well educated, it causes a lot of problems.”

Over the next three years, Nikdel plans to grow sales at CNP 15% per year. “We have the space,” he says, “and we want to make the best use of it.”

Get a grip
One of Alex Nikdel's favorite business books is “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business,” by Gino Wickman. Wickman is the founder of EOS Worldwide, a leadership team development company, which aims to help small businesses and entrepreneurs. The book tackles some common and big-picture themes entrepreneurs face, such as personnel conflict, profit woes and slow growth.

“It's helped me put things I know we need to be doing into a simple, clear vision,” says Nikdel, president of Winter Haven-based Clark/Nikdel/Powell, a marketing, advertising and web development firm.

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