Life Lessons from Dad

As kids in the Demirjian family, we had home cooked meals on the table every night at 6:30 sharp. You ate what was prepared, no complaints. We took family road trips in our wood-paneled wagon; I sat in the rear-facing trunk seat, of course, because I was the youngest of five. Chores weren’t paid. They were simply expected, and our curfew was strict. My mom would even wave a wooden spoon at us if we misbehaved. She never used it, but we still ran. Education was always a priority for my family—put the time in, do your best, always keep learning, and help others with what comes easily to you. So much of the business that I have built and who I am today started with my childhood, made wonderful in part by my amazing father Jerry Demirjian.

My dad always made it a priority to foster our unique passions and guide our career paths. He preached confidence and independence while building up our individual skills. He brought us up as a close-knit family that supported, cheered, and helped one another—which was truly an accomplishment with five, highly competitive children. Everything my dad does (still today at 88) comes with an important lesson—even his grandkids lean on every word. My dad’s story is an inspiring one that we recently captured in our succession planning efforts.

As I look back, I am so proud and extremely grateful for my dad and late mom. In fact, I can honestly say everything I do today for my family and our businesses is born from their influence.

At the ripe young age of 50 (my age now), he risked it all to buy a business and put everything on personal guarantee with four of the five of us in college. He worked for years, sharpening his skills to be able to take on this new level of responsibility. He believed that without risk, there is no reward. He believed in building teams, filling gaps in his weaknesses, and being hyper aware of company culture. He built a supportive work environment not just for his employees but, also, their families. My dad believed in rolling up his sleeves and working hard. He would always say, “No matter your position—you must always be personally accountable.”

You rarely see him stress (unless it’s tax season), but I now know why he always preaches to save wisely, never live beyond your means, and keep debts low. My dad has always given back to the community and the faith that has supported him. My father taught us all the importance of generosity, kindness, and integrity. He has spent his life leading by example, and now, I spend mine leading by his.

Happy Father’s Day, dad. Thank you for giving me the tools, love, and guidance to build my own business, launch and lead a real estate investments portfolio, and stand by my brothers Richard and Charles to help grow their businesses, T/CCI and Tillotson. You risked everything for us 35 years ago!

Kara Demirjian Huss

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Building Brand & Marketing Strategies

Whether you are building a brand, messaging strategy, go-to-market plan, or reinventing/expanding your position in the market—it’s a Science and An Art.  As you prepare to develop your strategy, it is critical to begin with the end in mind and ask yourself, your team, and your audience the important questions that will ultimately lay the foundation for driving your creative and guiding your integrated marketing plan. Here are a few tips to get started.

  • Evaluate—Start by asking what does success look like? How will I measure success? What do I want my audience to see, do, and feel? What do we do better (and worse) than our competition? Why does my audience need my product or service? What is the market potential? What are the competitor product pricing models and how does that compare to mine? What trends and economic conditions will affect my opportunities and threaten my success?
  • Identify—Who is my audience? Who is my competition? Where is my biggest opportunity for reach? What are the behaviors and interests of my audience? Who else is selling to this audience that I could partner with? Is my audience aware of my company and product? What does my audience think of my product(s) and company? What processes and people do I need to put in place (or change) to achieve my goals? What are the current benchmarks I am measuring against?
  • Create—It’s hard to create a consistently winning brand and message strategy without taking the time to research the steps and questions as laid out above, but once you do, the magic happens. Your brand develops a voice, a story, and a strategy both in content and design. Remember that pretty pictures are no good if they aren’t built on strategy, communicated to your employees, or answering the important question from your customers of “so what?”
  • Action & Assess—You’ve done your homework, and now, you can put a realistic and effective integrated marketing plan around your efforts. You have defined benchmarks to measure against and a tactical plan around each communication vehicle—working them into a unified content strategy on a timeline and within a budget. You can remain focused on driving your goals on paid, earned, social, and owned with a plan built from a customer-facing lens. Good pre-planning and regular monitoring are critical for success!

Good luck! And if you need help hugging the hippo, let’s talk 😉

Kara Demirjian Huss

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Giving Is Good For the Soul

Giving—it’s good for your soul.

Community. To me, it is a way to come together, to unite. Uniting for the wellbeing of others and ourselves. Giving back and being involved in philanthropy is something that has been rooted in my family for generations. No matter your position or status you can always find a way to give and make a difference. This comes in many forms—giving time, resources, kindness, support, money. Creating a culture of giving in your home and business provides an important sense of purpose that permeates all areas of your life. Teaching kindness and giving to your children will help cultivate empathy and generosity at an early age that will last a lifetime. We need more of this now more than ever.

The same is true in the office. As a leader, encouraging generosity and involvement is critical. But you can’t just talk about it—you need to lead by example and integrate it into your work culture. People always ask me how I have time to dedicate to boards and my response is, “I make time, it is incredibly important to me and my family.” Immersing myself in my community gives me a unique perspective and opens my eyes to the world around me. Working alongside others who care about our surroundings is one of the most rewarding parts. I have gained so much from listening to others perspectives—communication skills, patience, and resilience just to name a few. My experience working with so many diverse teams, board of directors, and community volunteers has helped me navigate life better in every way.

I find things I am passionate about such as education, youth, mentorship, nutrition, healthcare, economic development and find ways to make actionable change. Sometimes, that is with my personal time, skills and resources—other times it is financial support. I love to see others passionate about programs and initiatives—it truly gets me fired up to participate along with them. Lead a charge, be a trailblazer and you will see the results from so many people coming together for a common cause. I guarantee this is as good for your soul as it is for others. Sharing your passions together and inspiring others can help shape our communities around us. So get out there and give.

Kara Demirjian Huss

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Your Business Reputation

Everyone is familiar with that age old saying in real estate is location, location, location. Well, I am in a unique position as a real estate developer and owner of an advertising agency. In the agency business, I like to relate that critical component to reputation, reputation, reputation. Your reputation relies on some key things: trust, integrity, experience and value. Every person in your organization is a reflection of that reputation—what they say, how they say it, what they do and how they do it are all guiding factors. Understanding that reputation carries emotion is so important, which is the reason I value EQ in my staff as much as IQ. Every business, regardless of industry, should focus less on the sale and more on doing great work. Clients and customers remember experiences. So, ask yourself some key questions:

Did you guide them through a process productively?
Did you listen to their needs and deliver value?
Did you communicate clearly, transparently, respectfully, and authentically?

If you cannot say yes to these questions every time on behalf of you or your employees, your reputation is at risk. We all know Ben Franklin’s saying, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” I believe that making others successful, clients or partners, should be a number one priority. We have to go beyond the lines and do what it takes to reach their goals and always remember their success is your success. Reputation. Reputation. Reputation.

Kara Demirjian Huss

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10 Quick Business Etiquette Tips

For Business Etiquette Week, I would like to share these 10 quick and easy business etiquette tips. Whether you are meeting with a client, collaborating on a project, or interacting within the workplace, your daily interactions can have a large impact—making proper business etiquette essential for success.

Listen intently—Lean into the conversation and make sure you are displaying active listening.

Reiterate what you hear—Recap and summarize what you are hearing.

Ask intelligent questions—Do your homework before a meeting and be prepared to ask intelligent questions. Follow up a conversation with a thoughtful questions that clearly indicates you understand what they are saying. Make sure you leave a meeting understanding the “why” and “what”.

Be in-tune with their perspective—Always think about things as if you were in the other person’s shoes. Make sure you are seeing their perspective and point of view.

Send a note—It is a lost art these days. If you are meeting someone for the first time, if someone opened a door or referral, or if you’re invited to their business, their home, breakfast, lunch or dinner; I strongly encourage you to take the time to send a hand-written note that thanks them for their time. If you are at a conference, write down from what you have heard something that has made a valuable impression on you, and then, send a note acknowledging the impact. Make sure your note is sincere—without any other intent or expectation.

Take notes and send a recap—Be prepared and take good notes. Do not write down just what they say. Think about the meaning behind their words and how that reflects what their goals are. Within 48 hours maximum, you should send a complete recap from your meeting.

Communicate—Silence is not good. You may know you are on-top of things, but if you do not communicate, no one else does. This applies for internal communication with co-workers, external communication with clients, and even communication in your personal life. Let others know what you are working on—give them updates and keep them informed. Trust me, this is an important part of etiquette that will allow you to be fully appreciated and valued in your business endeavors.

Be respectful of time—Everyone is busy. Make sure your meetings have a clear agenda, you are aware of your time, the project at hand is productively moving forward, and that you can recap the next steps. Most productive meetings can be done within an hour. If your meetings generally run longer, ask yourself why and what you can do differently the next time.

Greet each other appropriately—Although we are in a new era of COVID-19 and social distancing, the importance of a firm handshake will never change in my mind.

Make eye contact, be authentic, and smile—All relationships (professional or personal) start with trust. You can immediately tell when someone is not genuine. Treat those you meet with respect and acknowledge the teams working around you. Continually work on improving your EQ (emotional intelligence) not just your IQ.

Kara Demirjian Huss

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Corporate Census Day

Join us for Corporate Census Day on Friday, April 3, 2020. We encourage you to have employees take 10-15 minutes out of their workday to complete the census. The census form contains only nine questions and can be filled out online or over the phone. It is a quick and easy way to make a major impact for all of us in Illinois!

A complete and accurate U.S. 2020 Census count is critical for our state and local communities to receive billions of dollars in federal funding for programs and infrastructure you value most. From healthcare centers to nutrition assistance, school funding, libraries, roads, EMS services, and more—our communities benefit when every person is counted. As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for human health services and educational programs has become even clearer. For each person not counted, our community stands to lose $1,400 a year in funding for programs that support our state and local communities. That’s why it’s critical to #CareAbouttheCount.

Simple Steps:

  1. Employees should refer to their census letter received by mail for their unique code. If they do not have the letter, they can still complete the census.
  2. Go to and click Respond.
  3. You can complete the census for everyone in your family. Everyone counts including newborn babies born on or before April 1, 2020.
  4. The census form contains nine questions and only takes about 10–15 minutes to complete.
  5. Once completed, we encourage employees to share their participation using the Facebook frame “I’m counted.” as their profile picture by searching #careaboutthecount.
  6. Download social assets to post on your corporate page (Click To Download Assets).

Thank you for helping every person be counted!

Kara Demirjian Huss

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Becoming A Women-Owned Business Enterprise

Well I did it. I finally bit the bullet and became a certified Women Business Enterprise!

When I started DCC Marketing 20 years ago, it was because I saw a gap in the marketing agency sector. As the global marketing head for a manufacturing organization, I found that the marketing agencies I had hired were not interested in taking the time to understand my business. They consistently failed to provide me a brand strategy or go-to-market plan. The reason? They were not asking the right business questions. How can you market without integrating and measuring sales?

For my entire career and still today, I have worn multiple hats on the corporate marketing side of business while simultaneously running an advertising agency. This dual perspective is unique, and I believe it is the key component to our success. Rolling up your sleeves, learning the products and services, understanding the customers, knowing how and where revenues and margins are generated, analyzing market sectors and growth opportunities, building a database by identifying and segmenting audiences; all of these pieces are what great marketing strategies and brands are built on. This was why I started my own marketing business, and it remains a part of DCC Marketing’s core principals to this day.

Diversity and culture has always been inherent in our business philosophy with or without a certification stamp. So why become certified now after 20 years? For the first five years, I never really contemplated certification—even though 100% of our staff was female and minority. As the business grew, there were several milestones that I crossed and considered certification, but it was not until recently that I realized what an impact this can make—not just for our business—but for our employees, our clients, and our partners. After a little more research, guidance from a few of my YPO colleagues, and a really awesome attorney and state liaison (Yes, I said it. They were really helpful.), I went for it. DCC Marketing’s work with government contracts continues to grow in the education and healthcare arena. Certification has opened new opportunities for training, education, and networking within our corporation as well. It has solidified our commitment to unique and diverse cultures, while providing a network of connectivity—for me personally—to help other businesses thrive and inspire diversity in leadership. While our values and philosophies have not changed, I’m proud to finally say that DCC Marketing is officially WBE certified.

Kara Demirjian Huss

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Women in Business

I decided to write a blog post about women in business because I am always asked “What is it like to be a woman in business today?” I find this an interesting question because I rarely (or actually never) think to myself “Gosh if I were a man, would I be more successful in business?” or “Gosh if I were a man running a business, it would be so much easier.” Who does that? And, why are there so many articles on how it’s hard to become a successful female business leader?

I don’t think I have any more (or less for that matter) secrets about how to be a successful leader. In fact to me, success and leadership isn’t about gender no matter what your chosen career field. Am I missing something? Am I naive? If I google “what is a good leader” does it say “a good leader is a man who…?” No. It says “the best leaders exhibit these traits that make them hugely successful”. I wear a lot of hats in my current business career, and I am constantly surrounded by men. I don’t think anything of it!

I am the President / Founder of DCC Brand Marketing Agency, Vice President of our family manufacturing business T/CCI, and about to be the Chapter Chair for YPO (Young President’s Organization) (as a note: I was the only female member of the 45-member group for years). Never once have I wondered if I can do it and never once have I felt like I was treated differently or that I experienced different expectations because of my gender. Now granted, my YPO Forum mates who are all men tell me that I am not like other woman, but I don’t believe that.

I am mom of 4, a Scout Troop leader, a business owner, and a community leader—the same as so many other women (and men). I believe that success is an attitude and a mindset—not a gender thing. If you work hard, have great integrity, are motivated, can motivate others, have a vision, and—most importantly—are passionate about what you do; you will be successful—woman or man. So, in my opinion it’s awesome to be in business today. I love the challenges, and I love the opportunities. Most importantly, I love being a leader.

Building Partnerships Not Clients

Creating good relationships can result in loyalty of business. The industry average for length of a client-agency relationship is just 3.2 years. Over the last 18 years of business the average client agency relationship at DCC is 7 years, more than double the industry average. So how do we achieve this? As with any relationship the key is trust, communication, understanding and always keeping things fresh! It’s what every good relationship is built on and definitely the core to long-lasting partnerships.

Speaking from the heart, at DCC it’s about truly caring about the success of our clients. It seems a partnership philosophy isn’t always the norm with some agencies. For us it’s an everyday way of thinking—it’s about putting their business goals ahead of ours, listening to their needs, communicating openly and regularly, investing the time in understanding their business and their customers because at the end of the day if they are not successful neither are we.

The old saying put others before yourself—well that applies in business too. I believe that the fastest way to success is to first help others succeed. If you operate that way growth and success is sure to follow.

You also can’t discount the need in a partnership to be giving and flexible.

Giving—the cornerstone for any partnership. It shouldn’t be hard to give back. It can come in many forms, when clients have fundraisers or charitable events we are passionate about getting involved. If we have business opportunities we do it with them. It’s the foundation that DCC was built on, it’s engrained in our culture and our staff; in fact, it’s how we connect with our clients and the communities we serve.

Flexibility—things change that is just reality. People change positions, leadership changes priorities, new products and services get launched, something that was due in 30 days is now due in 3 days—sound familiar? Be ready, be able and be proactive. Being flexible is a valuable approach to the ever-changing and always evolving world we live in. But what does flexibility really mean in the work environment. Well for us, flexibility is a mindset we don’t employ a one size fits all relationship model purposefully so that we can react if needed and be more proactive with our partners. Using our team wisely—understanding our clients and their communication preferences, being responsive, and becoming part of their team and not just an agency they push work to.

Finally, how do you keep a relationship spicy? This is particularly critical in our creative world whether it’s a new partnership or one that has been intact for 15 years we have to keep the work and the relationship fresh! That seems like a challenge, but it’s a top priority here. Sharing insights, keeping our clients up on market trends, identifying opportunities to improve performance with new ideas and strategies, being innovative and making sure their investment in us is helping their company grow. Big or small we are thankful for our clients and appreciate the success we have had by investing in them!

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