Thanks for the kind words....although I prefer to think of myself as "highly motivated" and "tenacious" (refuse to "lose")....rather than "pushy."
I know I come at mapping from much more of a graphic design bent than true "cartography." However, my assumption for the past 18+ years has been that, like with art and graphic design, most of the folks who go through and get their cartography degrees probably don't spend 30 minutes in the classroom learning anything about economics, marketing forces, branding and positioning, etc. They learn/perfect their trade, but then have practically no idea how to promote themselves. That, and worse, their instructors seem to reinforce the "if you build it (well), they will come" philosophy related to sales and marketing...which presents a false or, at minimum, incomplete reality to the students who are graduating from those institutions.
I graduated with a B.A. in Marketing/Management back in 1992. I had all but 3-4 art history courses I needed for a Graphic Design degree as well! However, I ran out of time/money to complete both degrees. All the other "art majors" thought I was a sell-out because I dared learn something about marketing and economics during my four years as an undergrad, but it was precisely that experience and education which helped me to realize just how much of a tremendous opportunity there was if someone could work to "organize" artists (map designers, in my particular case) without struggling for power or killing one another in the process.
My completion of an MBA program 7-8 years later only helped me to further refine and define how I wanted to organize our business plan and positioning strategies.
mapformation isn't about "I", it is about "WE." It has always been about "we." I end up getting a larger percentage of the face-time at conferences and the occasional article or press release, which is actually the result of the fact that most of our team members LOATHE sales and marketing! However, the reason why we have succeeded (so far) is:
1. It is about "we." All of us share in the process of making major decisions, and we keep little/no secrets from one another. We also will happily refer people to styles other than our own...as we know that "keeping work in the family" is better for everyone (all boats rise), and what goes around comes around.
2. Our designers set their own rates, knowing that the more they try to squeeze clients on price, the greater the downward pressure on demand will become. That, and they also make sure that their own prices are not TOO out of line related to other team members, so as to not lose a disproportionally large amount of work to other design styles.
3. All of us contribute 20% to our "marketing kitty" on every job we complete. Part of that 20% covers my time and expenses associated with marketing all of our individual design styles when I'm not doing design. However, that is the money we essentially use to keep our marketing engine running...and every dollar is stretched a LOT farther than if we were to try and spend our own money marketing only our own individual design style(s).
4. Teamwork. A LOT of our projects now are not completed by only one designer. Two or even three members of our team will each take a piece of a project that they are better/faster at completing than everyone else, with each of us getting paid proportionally for the amount of work we do on a project. When we were each operating independently, we couldn't do that...and/or would have to hire out sub-contractors to complete portions of projects and/or simply pass on a project if it required tasks outside of our own personal skill-sets.
I will also be completely honest and say that we are actively looking for another few 1-2 person shops (especially in Europe or with folks who have specialized in corporate/resort type of work) who we can effectively roll-into our larger collective marketing engine....particularly as it relates to GIS/CAD work, as well as other unique map design/illustration styles that we are not currently offering. It's NOT
about power/control though. Rather, it is about synergy, efficiency and economies of scale. If Acme Mapping (fictitious example) does fine work but only is eeking out a living on its own, finding it difficult to impossible to find the time/money/expertise to market itself effectively on the web and at conferences and tradeshows, they are the PERFECT candidate for coming on-board with our team. They shift from worrying about running a business and promoting themselves to being able to focus again on design....letting others (me, primarily) worry about keeping them busy.
Long post (sorry). However, this kind of thing...the behind-the-scenes expertise which makes a small business run, is as much a passion of mine as is designing a wonderful map or an attractive and fast-loading web page. I could talk all-day about this sort of thing......