Hometown: Champlain, NY
Family: Wife, Jennifer, and two children
Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire
Occupation: Co-owner, Boire Benner Group
Community Involvement: Serves on the Board for The Development Corporation. Coached lacrosse and basketball with his son and donates time to edit and organize floor music for Trudeau’s Gymnastics Center gymnasts. The Boire Benner Group donates both time and services to the Strand Center for the Arts.
Retaining local talent is a frequent topic of conversation among business leaders in the North Country. This month’s Insight feature offers a case study of a local boy who crafted a successful career without having to leave the area. When Chris Boire left college as a freshly minted graphic designer, he was certain that he would need to move to a larger city in order to make ends meet. “I was a designer and there were no other people doing what I did here, so I was heading to Boston or some other city,” he explained, “For some reason the area just pulled me back in, and now I don’t see myself ever leaving.”
After working for design firms in Vermont for a short time, he took the leap and started his own Plattsburgh based company in 2001. Boire Design, Inc. grew quickly with the help of word of mouth and Boire’s talent. The solo venture continued for twelve years, offering graphic design, photography and website services locally.
In 2013 a mutual friend introduced Boire to Aaron Benner who had marketing expertise and was at a pivotal point in his career. The rest, as they say, is history. Boire Benner Group emerged as a full-service advertising and marketing firm in May of that year.
In spite of Boire’s strong preference to stay hidden behind the camera, he recently agreed to step out from the shadows to share his professional success story and a bonus surprise double-life personal passion with Strictly Business.
SB: What are you most proud of professionally?
CB: I started my company from nothing, by myself and with zero clients. Today I am co-owner of this agency, and we have nine employees, five who are full-time.
SB: What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
CB: My family’s advice has been very helpful to me throughout my life. My Mom has always been wise with money, and my Dad was very handy — he could fix and build anything! They taught me how to treat people right. My wife is the opposite of me in a lot of ways, so she helps me see things in a different light.
SB: What important lessons did you learn early in your career?
CB: Often, the most challenging advice to follow is usually the best advice. A former boss taught me that you miss an important opportunity when you always hire people who are just like you. Working with people who see things differently than you do can make working together harder. But when you do that, you each fill in the holes where one of you is strong and the other person weak, and the result is always better.
SB: What advice would you offer to someone starting his or her business career?
CB: Get your foot in the door somehow. Get out there and start doing something. You may not like your first job but use it to get experience. Internships are a great way to do this. If you are a hard worker who is not afraid to learn and take advice, you will do well.
SB: What does success look like to you?
CB: I see success through our clients. When our clients are growing, it is super exciting to see their results. It is rewarding when you can see that your work helped other people grow.
SB: What habits do you have that
contribute to your success?
CB: I live by the mantra of radio personality Colin Cowherd. “Grind daily, celebrate rarely”. That is who I am. I never get too high, and I never get too low, I like to stay steady. I try to never get too emotional in the office. But, make sure you love what you do, so it never feels like work. Around here, they sometimes call me a Stone. Either that or Papa Bear.
SB: What do you do to keep your
CB: It really helps me to listen to music while I am working. I listen to different kinds of music to reach certain goals. I get easily distracted, so I like to work alone where I can concentrate and think. Being in a room by myself is good for my productivity. That and coffee, of course.
SB: Tell us about your approach to
management and leadership.
CB: First, I would say lead by example. But also, my goal is to let my employees take the reins on projects. It can be hard because I am both a co-owner of the company and a worker- bee with the rest of the production crew. I think it is important for people to feel empowered to do their job. I don’t like to over steer.
In the creative world that we are in, everyone has their own way of doing things. It is not good to force your way on others, so I try to give guidance and then stay flexible.
SB: What do you look for when you hire?
CB: A go-getter who likes to learn new things, and who is not afraid to work hard. We are in the learning business. A lot of things we do are tests, and they might not work at first. We need
someone who wants to live here, and not be transient. We are a small company, so we all work closely together and really have to get along.
SB: If you could start your professional career over again, what would you do differently?
CB: If anything, I would open my mind to more new things. Aaron [Benner] is a person who I knew I wouldn’t agree on everything with, and who I knew would push me to places where I would be uncomfortable. I knew that would be good for me. Aaron has opened my eyes to things I would never would have considered doing. I probably fought him on some of them but in the end, he was right. We are like yin and yang, so we complement each other’s strengths well.
SB: What is something no one would guess about you?
CB: I had a double life going with the music scene. I was one of the owners of the former Backwoods Pondfest music festival in Peru. I am not a huge fan of mainstream music; I am a jam band guy. [Boire defines this as bands
who write music for themselves, not necessarily for the purpose of making money.] I am a huge fan of live music, and I have done a lot
of audio recording of concerts. In the past I was a bouncer and a bartender at Monopole for ten years where I got to see a lot of talented bands who were up and coming.
SB: What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic?
CB: The hardest part is making big decisions during a pandemic. We had been thinking about hiring a new staff member, but it is really hard to make that decision with so much uncertainty about the future.
SB: What opportunities have come from the changes you made to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic?
CB: It has given us the chance to figure out how to be more efficient and smarter. We now have two people that work from home fulltime, so we can shrink the amount of space we need to rent. When the pandemic hit, there were a lot of companies who were able to focus on their business for a few months. They contacted us because it was a great time to let us overhaul their websites and marketing. We have come out better, honestly.
SB: What is your favorite quote and how does it speak to you in your life?
CB: This isn’t exactly a quote, but it is something I believe in. Always try to improve. Whatever I did today, my goal is to do it a little better tomorrow — even if it is only a small notch of improvement. It is a never-ending cycle, because you’re never done getting better. That is what drives me. I always want to do it better the next time.
SB: If you could spend an evening with a well-known person, living or dead, who would it be and why?
CB: Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots. Any person who has been so good for so long in an ever-changing environment must have a way or system in which he lives and handles decisions that is genius.
SB: What do you believe the North Country community should do today to ensure a prosperous future?
CB: We need to work on developing downtown Plattsburgh. We need to make better use of the space and fill in all of the holes we have in that area. A good downtown makes for good suburbs. We can’t rely just on tourist money. Since COVID-19 this is especially evident. Without the Canadians here, we are going to really struggle.