The right people

Partnering pays off for Mercury communications marketing firm

Bonnie Moyer Topczewski thought she had an ideal situation when she started her own marketing communications firm in 1999.
She had worked for the Owens-Darr and Advertising Boelter and Lincoln agencies and learned some great business practices from those companies.
"I didn’t want any employees," she recalled during a recent interview at the Brookfield offices of her Mercury Communication Partners.
Yet she wouldn’t be alone, despite not having employees and working at home.
She would partner with the right people for the right jobs.
And it worked very well. Too well.
"We just grew," Moyer Topczewski said. "I saw that we had something pretty serious here, something we really had to pay attention to."
The business eventually moved out of what was her children’s toy room, into leased office space, ending up in an office complex along 124th Street in Brookfield today, with 10 employees.
And it’s time to move again. This fall, Mercury Communication Partners will move to Elm Grove, leasing 5,600 square feet of space in the Reinders feed mill building.
Kubala Washatko architects is coming up with the design, transforming the current seed-mixing space into offices. (The seed operation is moving to Oak Creek.)
Mercury will have twice the space the firm now has. And it will have room for growth.
Keeping with her philosophy of employee involvement, Moyer Topczewski asked her staff about the change and the opportunities it presented. "We discussed it as a group, and everybody said ‘Yes, let’s go for it,’" she said.
But Moyer Topczewski doesn’t want to grow too much. "I want to keep it small," she said. "The new office will have room for 20 people – that’s the maximum I want to build this to."
The company is also rolling out a new corporate image, with the solo Mercury name preceded by the familiar flamed shoe of the Roman god Mercury.
Mercury was the messenger to the other Roman gods, due to his swiftness and speed, Moyer Topczewski notes. He was the god of commerce, the protector of merchants and travelers, and served as ambassador for integrity and ethics.
"That’s a good umbrella to keep us honest," Moyer Topczewski says. It’s about delivering ideas quickly and flawlessly and with integrity and ethics.
As a reminder of those missions, everyone on staff wears an old Mercury dime. Those caught without their dime pay a penalty – but a positive one, like bringing in a snack.
It’s all part of making Mercury Communication Partners an enjoyable place to work.
How good?
Moyer Topczewski tells of a vendor who has asked to come in and help answer the telephones at Mercury after she retires from her own job.
A family place
So good that, when the staff has to work late on a project, it’s not unusual for their children to come along to play while the parents work. Moyer Topczewski’s own office has a stack of infant things for when her 18-month-old daughter is there.
"We have a very different environment here," she says. "Family members come in, vendors come in just to hang around."
An obvious buzz of energy filled the air the day a reporter visited the firm – a regular atmosphere there, Moyer Topczewski says, noting the staff’s commitment to the company.
She’s confident the buzz would continue in her absence. "If I wanted to take a month off, I have no concern that this place would not thrive," she says.
But she has no plans for an extended leave or early retirement. "This is too much fun," she says.
And there’s business growth to enjoy, too. Mercury Communication Partners has about $12 million in billings now, Moyer Topczewski says. She can see capitalizing out at about $35 million, at that 20-employee level her new offices will accommodate.
How will it get to that point? Strategically. "You need to stop every now and then and ask yourself where you are going as a company," Moyer Topczewski says. "If you’re on the right path, OK. If not, you need to reengineer."
Mercury Communication Partners recently went through one of those reviews, recommitting itself to its Mercury ideals.
And Moyer Topczewski recommitted to having the right people on the bus. She says her core group "has been around the block" at other, sometimes larger agencies. "They’ve done the big agencies; they’ve done the multiple agencies."
Moyer Topczewski first worked for the former agency run by John Owens and Bob Darr. "I was afforded a lot of opportunity to learn. John taught me how to let people do their jobs and to hire people smarter than yourself and to give those people what they need to get their jobs done."
She later worked for John Lincoln, where she continued to learn about partnering and about going after business. "John really allowed me to run with a lot of business," she said. "And he taught me the value of collaboration and how to really explore those opportunities."
Besides leadership and management experience from those two, she culls "bits and pieces" from books by and about other agency moguls. "You can always extrapolate something that’s good," she says.
Another source of good ideas has been the Council of Small Business Executives roundtable at the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. "It’s a good group to bounce ideas off of," she says.

Bonnie Moyer Topczewski
President: Mercury
Education: Marquette University, B.A.
Leadership Philosophy: Surround yourself with smart people that have courage, commitment and passion — and aren’t afraid to use it.

May 30, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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