‘Slow and Steady Wins the Race’

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David Nevins is
celebrating 30 years as head of his own company.

David Nevins admits the public-relations industry has evolved dramatically over the past 30 years. With the advent of social media, high-speed Internet and the 24-hour news cycle, a public-relations firm has many more bases to cover to get its clients sufficient exposure.

Nevins, 58, sat down recently with the JT to discuss his firm, Nevins & Associates, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, the state of the media and his recent selection as president of The Center Club.

JT: How did you get started in the public-relations/marketing industry?

Nevins: I thought I would get into higher-education administration. My first job was at Towson University as an assistant to the president. He
encouraged me to get a master’s
degree in higher-education administration. Ultimately, I ended up as the school’s marketing director.

What came next?
Joseph Meyerhoff recruited me to do marketing for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. After working for both of those high-profile organizations, I had several people approach me about going into business for myself. Two members of the BSO board promised me their business. Nevins & Associates was born, albeit without an associate initially. I haven’t looked back. Today, we have 17employees, and many have been with me almost since the beginning.

How have you persevered during the tough economic times?
I had a friend who once said, “Every decision they made was perfect. Unfortunately, the world kept changing.” I think that applies to us. We’ve been incredibly fortunate. We never grew too quickly — I’m a conservative investor. We believe that slow and steady wins the race, which has allowed us to persevere during down times. … That strategy has served us well for 30 years.

How has the industry evolved in the past 30 years, especially with the advent of social media?
The execution has changed, thanks to social media and computers. The Internet and the speed of communication have dramatically changed the game. What hasn’t changed is an organization’s goals and objective. We stress with almost all of our clients … traditional media outlets. People have not given that stuff up. They have added to it. The Internet has not replaced the newspaper; it has enhanced it. The Baltimore Sun and the Baltimore Jewish Times are no longer in the newspaper business; they are in the news business and still very valuable in the community.

On top of that, we’re also about Facebook and Twitter and blogging and email blasts. But these are enhancements, not replacements, of traditional media.

I think the combination of an older guy and a bunch of younger employees serve our customers well, because we make sure we don’t miss anything and use a comprehensive strategy to achieve their business objectives. I know the importance of social media in the world today, but I have experts to take the lead on it.

Does being a smaller company make it easier to adjust with the times?
Absolutely. We are lean and mean.

Are you still enjoying the ride?
The whole business has been great, and the best part is that I’ve been able to combine my work with my interests, such as education and politics including the chance to sit on the University System of Maryland Board of Regents.

What does it mean to be the newest president of The Center Club?
I’m a big believer in networking. You can’t do anything on your own in this world. You want to develop champions for your cause, and we all need mentors; those who think they don’t are just flat wrong.

The Center Club is Maryland’s premiere social organization that promotes the business community and economic development in Baltimore. It has 2,000 members who represent the area’s largest companies, as well as young, upwardly mobile business, political and educational leaders.

I view it as a great honor to work with an outstanding board of directors, made up of the region’s top leaders, and to advance the club. Obviously these are challenging times for any organization like that. When I was recruited to the BSO, Mr. Meyerhof took me to The Center Club and I looked around and saw this incredible view of Baltimore and liked what I saw; I even saw Mayor [William Donald] Schaefer dining there that day. Now 30 years later, I’m the president of the club, which is special to me. There’s an opportunity to make it bigger and better.

What would you tell others seeking a similar path as a business owner?
I didn’t start Under Armour with 6,000 employees, but I have 17. It’s a misnomer to say that I or anyone in my position are our own bosses. Frankly, we have 40 some clients, and they are all our bosses. In many ways, we have way more bosses than others do. … At the same time, I have a responsibility that I never forget. I have 17 people who depend on me and this business for their well-being. And … I rely on them.

I feel the pressure every minute of every day, but it’s not a burdensome feeling because we enjoy what we are doing.

Ron Snyder is a local freelance writer.

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