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An Ad Man Who Had a Very Good Year

Entrepreneur John Most describes how his ad agency quadrupled in size between 2008 and 2009.

Adam Amengual


John Most, founder of Most Brand Development + Advertising, likes to remind clients that recessions are also opportunities. Apparently, he is pretty persuasive. Revenue at the Aliso Viejo, California, agency jumped from $10 million in 2008 to $40 million in 2009. That sent the company soaring up the Inc. 500, from No. 403 in 2009 to No. 107 in 2010.

I became an entrepreneur by accident. In 2004, I decided to leave my job and began looking at other agencies. But one of my big clients wanted me to keep working for them. They suggested I start my own agency, so I did.

We started with four people working at my kitchen table. It was September, and we knew we weren't going to get paid until February. I took out a second mortgage. I used credit cards to pay Christmas bonuses. My employees were blown away.

Brands become even more important in a down economy. It's a counterintuitive thing. You might think that people would buy a cheap, generic product. Instead, consumers gravitate toward the brands they trust.

Smart marketers like Procter & Gamble invest in branding during downturns. When others are pulling back, they see an opportunity to extend the power of their brands.

We have a philosophy we call "wise-sized." Rather than try to be a one-stop shop, we stay small and form strategic alliances with companies that do things like public relations, digital production, or ethnic marketing. We know we could never hire enough people to be the best at all these things, so we keep our costs down and bring in fresh ideas from the outside.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Most Brand Development + Advertising made the second largest jump on the Inc. 500 list between 2009 and 2010, after Lead Research Group (No. 23 this year).

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Last updated: Sep 1, 2010


Darren Dahl is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine, which he has written for since 2004. He also works as a collaborative writer and editor and has partnered with several high-profile authors. Dahl lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

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