We caught up with this year’s Professional Services Excellence Award honoree to see how the Greater Philadelphia business community has contributed to their success. Check out what Marc Coleman, Founder, President & CEO, The Tactile Group has to say as we highlight one of the excellent small businesses driving the Greater Philadelphia region. Join us as we honor this year’s winners at the 37th Annual Excellence Awards on Thursday, November 21.
Where did the idea for your business come from? Describe the moment that you decided to go into business for yourself.
In between my senior year of high school and my first year of college, I had an internship at a major corporation in downtown Philadelphia. I realized in those few short months that I would never be happy working for someone else. My entrepreneurial journey began with the DJ company I ran and expanded with a few friends at college. When I moved back to Philadelphia in 1996, I built a pretty credible career as a nightclub DJ. I also owned and operated a bed and breakfast (pre-Airbnb).
Part of being a nightclub DJ meant we had to promote our own parties. So, I began to design my own promotional flyers out of necessity. Those flyers garnered a lot of attention and I began to get requests for my graphic design skills from colleagues and small businesses. My next business, Marc Coleman Design, grew organically from there. After about two years of this, I saw the rise of the internet and the shrinking of the demand for graphic design services, so I taught myself HTML and CSS and The Tactile Group was born.
What is your business philosophy and how is it unique?
Our motto, “Designed to Give a Damn,” really encapsulates the spirit of our company. We have built a place where talented people are supported, all lives are celebrated, and mutual boundaries are respected. We pursue civic work that lifts us up as a society and turn down work that deepens divisions.
What is the biggest challenge in owning/running a business in the region? How do you deal with the challenges?
One of the biggest challenges for us has been access to talent. As a small tech-focused business, we’ve found ourselves not being able to compete for talent with the giant corporations based on salary alone. We’ve met this challenge by having a mission-focused business model, offering great benefits, trumpeting our culture of inclusion, and living our commitment to diversity. In so doing, we’ve become a destination for talented folks who are looking for what giant corporations can’t offer.
The other major challenge has been access to capital. Bootstrapping could only take us so far and we were having trouble forming relationships with traditional banks. We’ve addressed this issue by partnering with Your Outsourced CFO who has helped us get our financials up to par and given me more time to concentrate on winning more work.
How has the Greater Philadelphia business community impacted your success?
This city has so many resources for entrepreneurs. The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program helped me learn how to take a step back from working in my business to concentrate on working on the growth of my business. The Chamber had provided some of the best opportunities to network with other business owners. The Small Business Development Center at The Wharton School has helped us research and develop growth opportunities. But most importantly, our long-term partnership with PIDC has provided us with informative programming, access to resources (Your Outsourced CFO and Clarifi), and access to capital when traditional banks turned us down.
Others will be looking to you for advice about starting and/or operating a business here. What are your top 3 tips?
- Get involved, go to everything, network like your business depends on it.
- Take advantage of free resources and trainings.
- Never stop learning.
What does it mean to you personally and/or to your business to be named an Excellence Award winner?
It is truly an honor to be recognized by our peers at the Chamber. We have been actively involved with the Chamber for over a decade and are humbled to be mentioned in the same breath as some pretty extraordinary companies. We are excited about the visibility provided by this award and its potential to expand our network of clients and colleagues.
Where do you see your business in 10 years?
$15 million in revenue.
Why is it worthwhile for businesses to invest in their employees?
Businesses are really just our people: inter-connected and working with our clients toward a common goal. An investment in one’s employees helps them to keep their skill sets up-to-date and their life-work balance in check. Happy employees working in an environment based on empathy and respect make for an efficient company.