I have been intimately involved at the highest level of an organization’s communications strategy for five decades. Whether on an in-house or retainer basis, I have always reported to an organization’s most senior executive.
In the early 1970s, when I was 23 and a reporter for The Alexandria Gazette daily newspaper, the Superintendent of the public schools of Alexandria, VA, recruited me to create a public information program that would facilitate the peaceful integration of the schools. The effort to integrate the secondary schools was memorialized (somewhat accurately) in the movie “Remember the Titans.” But even more memorable was the integration of the elementary schools a year later, which was commended in a NY Times editorial as a model for the nation.
After working for the Alexandria Schools for nearly four years and with the challenge of building support for the integration of the school system behind me, I spent one year with a Washington, DC-based advertising and public relations agency before scratching my entrepreneurial itch for the first time by establishing my own one-person pubic relations firm when I was 29. That firm evolved into one of the most active firms working with local businesses in the Washington, D.C., market. My clients included a broad array of enterprises including national and international trade associations, commercial and residential real estate developers, economic development campaigns, professional services firms, banks and financial services companies as well as retailers. I even led the PR for the launch of Atlantic City’s second casino (a Caesars World operation). I sold my interests in that firm in 1980 and began a two-decade focus on investor and corporate communications issues. For the first ten years of this period I served in-house as part of the senior management teams at three NYSE publicly owned companies. That was followed by another ten years providing investor relations counsel to a number of companies on a retained basis.
In 1981, I joined Flow General, Inc., then a NYSE multinational company involved in two segments: government contracting and biomedicine. The company faced major challenges and in my four years at Flow General, I reported to three different CEOs. While there, I learned to deal with numerous corporate crises and became the company’s face to investors, meeting personally in one-on-one and in large group sessions with investors in the US and in European centers of capital.
I left Flow General when the Chairman/CEO of Planning Research Corp. (PRC), another NYSE multinational, recruited me to help reposition the company to build shareholder wealth. In a 16-month period, the company divested certain of its businesses, and repositioned itself from being the “World’s Largest Professional Services Firm” to being positioned as an integrator of large complex computer systems (a precursor to what is now identified as an IT company). In the process, PRC’s share price moved from about $11.00 to more than $33.00 when the company was amicably acquired.
Almost immediately after the sale of PRC, I went to NVHomes, which was then a regional homebuilder in the Greater Washington area that had gone public a few months earlier as a Master Limited Partnership (MLP). As VP, Partnership Affairs, I joined the team that initiated the acquisition of Ryan Homes in a classic minnow-swallowing-a-whale takeover. The subsequent company, NVR, became the nation’s largest homebuilder. Today it is a NYSE company.
NVR became my first client when I established a one-person corporate communications and investor relations consultancy in 1991. As was the case for virtually all companies then involved in residential real estate, NVR had to deal with a severe cyclical downturn in real estate. That economic situation was exacerbated by changes in the real estate development financing, primarily due to federal legislation adopted in the wake of the late 1980s S&L turmoil. As an outside consultant, I led the communications effort for the company’s announcement that it was filing for Chapter 11 reorganization, from which it subsequently emerged extraordinarily successfully.
While working as a one-person investor relations firm, I became one of the early believers in (and promoters of) the technology community in the Greater Washington area, representing many of the regional tech companies that prospered during the 1990s. By building a solid reputation for high quality and original thinking, I was retained by other tech enterprises throughout the U.S.
As the tech industry grew in Northern Virginia, my one-person firm morphed into The Poretz Group. We expanded to serve pre-public companies as well as those already public. In August 2000, using The Poretz Group as the core base, I co-founded Qorvis Communications, using the business model that anchored my career: that the provision of communications strategy and execution should be seen as a value-add service rather than as a commodity. Thus, we eliminated time sheets and established a unique culture without “practice groups” or territorial silos. That, in turn, gave rise to a client-centric culture where all areas of expertise are integrated seamlessly versus a time-driven culture where the priority is to consume hours. A fundamental principle of this model is that the client does not care how busy the firm is (or isn’t) but they do care very much about whether their goals are achieved. The model was the focus of a column written by Pulitzer Prize winner Steven Pearlstein for The Washington Post.
This approach proved to be successful by every measure, including loyalty of clients, low employee turnover, growth of revenues and continually expanding margins. Qorvis became widely regarded, garnering recognition including being named as Public Affairs Agency of the Year in 2009 by the Holmes Report, and twice being named one of the nation’s three finalists for PR Agency of the Year by PRWeek, first in the “small agency” category and then as a “mid-size agency.” The company worked with globally known tech and traditional products and services companies as well as with governments and associations.
I have played an active role in the Greater Washington business community. I served in numerous leadership roles for such organizations as The Northern Virginia Roundtable, the preeminent by-invitation only business leadership group in the DC area at the time, and The Northern Virginia Technology Council, which was and remains a major driver of the tech community in the region. I helped to create and serve on the steering and executive committees of NoVA HealthForce, a unique business-academia-state government collaboration to address the healthcare workforce shortage. I served for 10 years (two as Chairman) on the Board of Hospice of Northern Virginia Hospice (now Capital Hospice). On a pro bono basis, I created the Capital Region Technology Investor Conference, held in 1997 and 1998, which brought recognition among investors and the news media for the growth of the region’s tech industry. I also conceived of, created and produced three iterations of The Northern Virginia Dinner, which were benchmark events in the development of the region’s positioning as a globally important tech community. Among other notable and personally rewarding engagements, I was a member of the selection board that names the annual winners of The Jefferson Awards, the nation’s leading and most active organization to promote public service.
I received my BA in 1967 from The George Washington University, where I majored in Philosophy. I also went to law school at GWU on two occasions, having acquired some nominal information about contracts and a clear realization that I was not born to be a lawyer. I and my wife Eloise, who is known in her own right for her substantial contributions with a variety of community organizations, have been married for 43 years. We currently live in the Greater Washington area. We have one son, Edward, who is an attorney, as is his wife.
FOR A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF MY CAREER – CLICK HERE
FOR A FORMAL RESUME – CLICK HERE
The Doug Poretz Blog
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