Merritt Engel, Monica Tiffany Assume Ownership of Merrigan & Co. (M&C)

Business partners now co-own the 25-year-old agency that specializes in messaging and strategy for nonprofits

After a gradual transition process that began in the fall of 2010, Merritt Engel and Monica Tiffany have assumed equal co-ownership of Merrigan & Co. (M&C). The duo have worked alongside each other at the company for the past ten years and look forward to leading the business started by Bob Merrigan in 1990.

"It's been a very natural process," said Tiffany. "Our clients and partners won't notice a huge change."

Merrigan will continue to work with clients and serve as President. He's excited to usher in a new era of leadership at M&C.

"This is our 25th year in business," he shared. "Merritt and Monica have been instrumental in helping the company grow to this point and their transition to co-ownership is a logical next step. I'm happy to celebrate this milestone and look forward to our continued growth."

M&C specializes in messaging and strategy for non-profit clients. The agency, housed in a recently rehabbed office on the corner of 55th and Troost, has clients ranging from national organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Unity Village to other local and regional clients.

Learn more about M&C at

Five Fears to Feed Failure

No one wants to fail. Yet all too often we let our fear of change - personal or organizational - undermine the likelihood of our success.

Are any of these holding you back?

1. Fear of tradition.

With all due respect to Tevye, just because something worked in the past doesn't automatically make it the best choice for today. The longevity myth asks us to take comfort in past performance. The longer a practice has been in place – the more established that proof is – the more comfort we're likely to take. There's nothing wrong with sticking with what works ... unless it keeps you from considering alternatives that might work even better.

2) Fear of losing face.

How many mailers (or online marketers) accept diminishing returns from an established package or approach rather than take the risk of trying something new? Or settle for an incremental change rather than test something completely different? Sure there are costs involved, and few of us can afford to "bet the farm." But, don't let the risk of controlled failure today keep you from learning the lessons that might just prevent a total free fall in the future.

3) Fear of finding out.

What you don't know can't hurt you, right? 

Wrong! In fact, it may be your unchallenged assumptions that are holding you back. Don't let a reluctance to learn (or admit) shortcomings within the current organization prevent you from exploring the possibilities. Talk with lapsed constituents, especially long term supporters, to find out what may have changed. Check in with volunteers who cut back their hours ... regular event attendees who have not yet registered ... monthly donors who cancel their commitment, etc. to find out what's causing them to pull back.

4) Fear of added effort.

Sounds like a lot of work, right? Something that requires thought, not just a rote responsibility. "I don't have the time ... the staff ... the budget ..." I hear you say. And I understand that it's true. But there's a risk:reward ratio in all of these fears. And a very real risk is the unwillingness to make the investment required to reach the reward.

5) Fear of the unknown.

This is the big one (despite the fact that we don't know what we don't know most of the time!) Our goal as managers is to be in control. But we can't control what we don't know. How often, when faced with unknown consequences, do you fall back to the safety of the status quo. 

Fear is a powerful force. It's also insidious, sometimes sneaking in almost unnoticed. Be on your guard, as they say, or it can stop you before you even get started. 

Be smart. But be bold.

How to Get A Job ...

I found the recent New York Times column, "How to Get a Job at Google" fascinating. Thomas Friedman condensed the approach down to five key traits: technical ability, learning ability, leadership, humility and ownership.

In my experience, that list is as relevant to a small entrepreneurial operation as a Silicon Valley giant. Or a small nonprofit.

The opening paragraph attention-getter - "... that Google had determined that 'G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless" - was a bit disconcerting, however.

I've always been a big believer in the value of education. So I was somewhat relieved to see this position clarified a bit in follow-up column, "How to Get a Job at Google, Part 2" this past weekend. (I'd encourage you to send the link to this column to every student you know!)

Between the two columns being published, I also had the opportunity to meet some some of our budding young communications professionals at the Rockhurst University Department of Communication and Fine Arts annual "Speed Networking" event.

(Full disclosure: I am a Rockhurst graduate. In fact the first to graduate with the then-just-added Communications major. Even accounting for that bias, I was impressed with the number of bright, eager, curious young minds.)

Some of (what I felt were) the best questions asked of me parallel the points Friedman makes. 

1. What qualities do you look for when you're considering a hire?

Curiosity, initiative and a willingness to take responsibility, were the terms I used. (Remarkably similar to learning ability, leadership and ownership.)

2. Should I have an online portfolio?

Does that sound like technical ability? Friedman quotes Lazlo Block, the senior vice president of people operations for Google, who feels, “Humans are by nature creative beings, but not by nature logical, structured-thinking beings. Those are skills you have to learn." He goes on to emphasize that the people who offer both skill sets are the strongest candidates.

3. What can I do to make myself a more attractive candidate?

Be engaged. Volunteer. Look for opportunities to develop real-world examples of how you can apply your learnings in your chosen field. Be positive and enthusiastic about communicating your successes. But always remain honest and genuine.

4. Are there more or fewer opportunities for communications careers with nonprofits?

More. If you're selling a product, you have the physical item and experience to help build your case. If you're selling a mission, you're presenting a concept or idea that depends almost entirely on how it's communicated to make it real.

5 Is M&C hiring for any intern positions?

It wasn't the question that struck me. Or the fact it was asked multiple times. It was that in four of the five instances, a second-semester senior was looking; in one a second-semester sophomore.

She, I think, understands what Friedman is saying. And, I suspect, will have no trouble at all getting a job!