President and CEO
Saxum Strategic Communications
Renzi Stone has a lot on his mind and on his plate as CEO and President of Saxum Strategic Communications. What's on his mind? Being creative, taking risks and pursuing his greatest business accomplishment. What's on his plate? Building relationships, bringing value to his clients and growing his already successful communications firm in a city that offers great potential for talented, young entrepreneurs just like him.
As one of The Journal Record's "40 Achievers Under 40" in 2004, Stone has lived up to the honor by serving on the board of directors for Leadership Oklahoma, Creative Oklahoma and Allied Arts, and as an advisory board member for the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.
Stone recently helped with the conception and ongoing implementation of the Chamber's Greater Grads program aimed at matching businesses to summer internships.
Please describe the company's mission and goals.
Saxum Strategic Communications creates targeted public relations campaigns for clients to maximize their influence and credibility with all internal and external stakeholders. The company provides strategic, integrated communications counsel that incorporates public relations, public affairs, and advertising/marketing practices to help clients achieve their goals.
Where did the idea for your company originate?
Before I started Saxxum I ran a public opinion research firm linked to a Washington, DC organization. We had a lot of success, but during that time it became obvious that there was a gap in the Oklahoma City market. There were a lot of individual public relations consultants and ad agencies that did public relations work, but there weren't any large, strategic public relations firms. I just saw an opportunity and pursued it. I had a hunch that starting a metro PR firm and growing it was going to meet a need in the market. I didn't see any barriers to entry, so I jumped on it.
What made you decide to start your own company?
At the heart of it, I grew up watching my dad as a successful entrepreneur in the convenience store business. Being creative, innovative and taking risks were things I was brought up to think were normal. I always wanted to have my own business.
How did you initially finance your company?
Financing is a perceived barrier to a lot of people, I think. Some people think it takes a lot of money to start a business, but it really doesn't. I wrote a business plan and found an angel investor who was willing to invest $100,000 and had reasonable terms of payment. I actually could have done it with $25,000 because I was profitable after a couple of months.
What are some of the challenges that keep you awake at night?
The biggest challenge for me is that I constantly have to evaluate how I spend every minute of every day. It is easy to get sucked into doing things that don't grow your business. The hardest thing is being objective about how to spend time, and realizing I have to do some things I don't particularly enjoy. For example, I don't like the billing and accounting part of the business, but I love to write. If I don't write I don't succeed. But if I don't do the billing I don't get paid. It is the challenge of doing the work I like versus doing the work that has to be done.
What is your greatest business accomplishment?
Well, the one thing I am sure of is that I know I haven't achieved my greatest accomplishment yet.
What is your "if I'd only known then what I know now?"
I think a lot about my management and business philosophy. A lot of it I learned from Kelvin Sampson, my coach in college. I wish I had understood then how to be a better basketball player, but the lessons I learned playing basketball have taught me a lot about how to lead an organization.
How has your position with company changed?
My role in the company is completely different than when I started three years ago. I started off doing what I love to do. Today I spend a lot of time running the business. I don't really get to do as much writing as I would like to do.
What do you find personally rewarding about being an entrepreneur and growing your own company? It is really easy. The things that are most rewarding are the things you accomplish and the value you bring to your clients. It is so gratifying. The best part is the ability at the end of the day to see what you've created.
What makes the Greater OKC area a good place to start and grow a business?
It is a numbers game. I could be in Dallas, Houston, Chicago or New York with a thousand other Renzi's trying to build a PR firm, or I could be in OKC with all the indicators of a strong market. It is the old "little fish in a big pond" or "big fish in a little pond" scenario. In Oklahoma City's case, I am a "big fish in a growing pond." If you want to become something and take a risk as a young person, there is no better place in the country than right here.
What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
First, you don't need permission. People want validation, but you can't wait for approval to take the risk. Second, you have to be able to focus on the details. And third, you have to be ready for nobody to really care. You're really excited about what you're doing, but most other folks aren't. To make it you have to have self-confidence, be a self-starter and have a lot of humility.