The Hedgehog: A Mascot With Meaning

This article is part of our 130th Anniversary celebration series.

In every Freese and Nichols office, you’ll find stuffed hedgehogs resting on desks, sitting on shelves and peeking around every corner.

From 2010: Chairman Emeritus Jim Nichols, Chief Financial Officer Cindy Milrany and Vice President Lee Freese with toy hedgehogs

For years, the prickly yet endearing hedgehog has served as our emblem, a symbol of our adherence to the Hedgehog Concept.

This business principle finds its roots in an age-old Greek folktale. A cunning fox, using a myriad of strategies to catch a hedgehog, only to retreat each time, defeated, with a nose-full of spines.

The moral of the tale is simple: “The fox is cunning and knows many tricks, yet the hedgehog knows one grand truth.” That is, the hedgehog excels in one crucial aspect: self-defense.

This concept was brought into the limelight by Jim Collins in his influential 2001 book, “Good to Great”. Collins argued that organizations can achieve greatness by concentrating on a single core competency.

In the early 2000s, our leadership team sought to define our own Hedgehog Concept. After much deliberation, they landed on: “Excel in client service to foster enduring, mutually beneficial relationships.”

Bob Herchert, our Board Chairman from 2002 to 2016, noted, “We recognized that other firms might be larger, possess more resources, or have a greater number of technically proficient personnel. However, our standout quality is our unparalleled client service.”

Executive Vice President Kevin Johnson’s office was invaded by hedgehogs during Dallas’ 2023 United Way campaign.

This client-centric approach has paid off. By 2017, repeat clients constituted a whopping 96 percent of our business.

Today, our CEO, Brian Coltharp, introduces the Hedgehog Concept to every new employee during orientation, gifting them a plush hedgehog as a tangible reminder of our commitment to client service.

In some offices, there’s even a “hedgehog invasion” aimed at raising funds for the Annual United Way Campaign.

A version of this article was originally published April 3, 2019.




We have plenty of hedgehog photos to go around! Check out these fun ones from our Raleigh office!