More than a Mascot: Why We Embrace the Hedgehog
Walking around the Freese and Nichols headquarters, you can spot stuffed hedgehogs resting on desks, sitting on shelves and grinning on greeting-card covers.
The spiny mammal has been our unofficial mascot for several years, thanks to the Hedgehog Concept.
This business philosophy is based on an ancient Greek folktale, in which a fox uses a variety of strategies to try to catch a hedgehog. Every time, the fox walks away defeated, with a nose full of spines.
The moral of the story: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” In other words, the hedgehog knows how to do one thing expertly: defend itself.
Author Jim Collins promoted this idea in his 2001 management book, Good to Great. He said organizations are more likely to succeed if they focus on one thing and do it well.
In the 2000s, our leaders decided to identify Freese and Nichols’ Hedgehog Concept. After debating a number of ideas related to technical expertise, they chose, “Be the very best at client service, resulting in long-term mutually beneficial relationships.”
“We knew that other firms would probably be bigger, have more resources, maybe have more people who are technically qualified,” said Bob Herchert, our Chairman of the Board from 2002 to 2016. “But what we do better than anyone else is client service.”
That focus on putting the client first has paid off. As of 2017, 96 percent of our business comes from repeat clients.
Today, CEO Brian Coltharp explains the Hedgehog Concept at new Employee Orientation, and every new employee gets a stuffed hedgehog as a reminder of client service.
Some employees have taken hedgehog fever a step further— collecting hedgehog figures of all kinds.