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A Video Conversation with Ethan Giffin, Founder and CEO of Groove on the Baltimore Business Climate

Click here for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 Creative digital marketing services with measurable outcomes and proven results Ethan GiffinEthan Giffin is the is the founder and CEO of Groove, a Baltimore-based digital advertising and marketing agency. Groove offers a host of services such as inbound marketing, website design, ecommerce development, branding and UX, lead generation, and more. The company is a Hubspot Platinum Partner as well as a Magento Gold Partner. Groove’s numerous awards and recognitions include inclusion on Business Insider’s “Best Young Companies to Work For” list (2013), the Agency Post’s 2013 Agency 100 list of the fastest-growing agencies in the U.S., and the Inc. 5000 for 2013. Additionally, Baltimore Business Journal named Ethan to its 40 Under 40 list, also in 2013. EDWIN WARFIELD: What are your feelings on Baltimore’s business climate? ETHAN GIFFIN: I think the Baltimore business climate is awesome. You see other agencies around town—Planit, R2i—both are our growing and achieving things, both are building great new offices and are bringing people into town. That’s actually really exciting for the whole community and everything that we’re doing. I think we’ve got great colleges and universities here that continue to churn out great talent. What they’re doing at UMBC is just amazing. I think all of those things make us ripe, and we don’t have to charge New York prices for it. That’s something that I think people love about engaging with Baltimore agencies. I think the business climate in Maryland is changing and evolving. I love what Secretary [Michael] Gill is doing in DBED in terms of trying to open up and make sure that we’re letting people know Maryland’s open for business. I think even the mayor has been wonderful here at acknowledging people that are doing things by adding jobs and growing. She sent me personal correspondence congratulating me on some wins and things that we’ve had. So, to me, that’s really good stuff. Where do you see the city going in the future? There is a whole group of businesses that are new and emerging. They might be technology, and they might be other things, but they don’t seem to have quite hit the radar yet. I think one of the things that I’ve really seen across the last 12 months is both the city and the state start to acknowledge those businesses, and start to pull them into conversations. I think that that’s the first step of the process. I think many entrepreneurs kind of come up with a chip on their shoulder that they aren’t the Wal-Marts of the world and they don’t have all of the resources that other, bigger, publicly-traded organizations have. Tearing down those barriers and getting folks involved earlier in the process helps them to stay put and grow their businesses in Baltimore city, rather than move out to White Marsh or somewhere else out of state.   Have you thought about expanding? What do you look for in a potential acquisition? We did an acquisition last year. It went very well. It happened to be another agency that worked more on the traditional side—a lot of multimedia production, branding, design. There’s a lot of things that you look at when you’re doing an acquisition: Do they have a great culture? That’s the first thing. Will they fit with your culture? Do they have a good book of business? That’s the second thing. Will you maintain that book of business? Do you have similar rates? If their rate structure is half of what yours is, you’re not going to maintain that business. We’re constantly looking for those things, and we really would like to do at least one acquisition a year, but it’s all about finding the right operation. You’ll find a lot of folks in our space that are really creative and amazing, and can go out and build a $800,000 or $1,000,000 or $2,000,000 a year agency, but they don’t have the fire or the skill set to grow beyond that. That’s one of the things that we feel very confident in, is the infrastructure that we’ve built and the processes that we have and the advisors that we have to be able to take that book of business and grow it.  

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