The transition seemed almost instantaneous. Last week Berg Muirhead and Associates was one of Detroit's most recognizable boutique public relations agencies. This week it has a new name, Van Dyke Horn Public Relations, and new owners. But this change has been a longtime coming.
"It wasn't a quick turnover process," says Peter Van Dyke, CEO and co-owner of Van Dyke Horn Public Relations
. "We have worked toward this slowly and carefully for the last five years."
Berg Muirhead and Associates is one of the household names in Detroit public relations. The company was founded in 1998 by Bob Berg
, a public affairs adviser for former Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young, and Georgella Muirhead
, a public relations administrator for the cities of Detroit, Southfield, and Ann Arbor. The company built an enviable client list that included everything from Detroit Future City
to Strategic Staffing Solutions
to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island
Successful businesses like this are often built on the shoulders of their founders, and too often live and die with them. But Berg Muirhead/Van Dyke Horn seems like it has a better shot than most of surviving because it's been preparing for this moment for a long time.
Van Dyke started as an account executive at Berg Muirhead a decade ago, becoming an account supervisor a year after that. Five years ago Van Dyke made the move to vice president. He became a partner in the firm about two years later. Marilyn Horn
, the co-owner and president of Van Dyke Horn, has been working at the company for even longer as director of administration before becoming a vice president in 2013. All four people became practically interchangeable over the last few years in preparation of this transition.
"Bob, Georgella, Marilyn, and I work very close together," Van Dyke says. "If we can work closely together and leave each day as good business colleagues and friends, then we have something special going on."
That group of four will continue to work together. While Horn and Van Dyke are the new owners, Berg and Muirhead are staying on as "of counsel" senior staffers. The company's staff of nine will remain the same and continue to work in its offices in the Fisher Building in New Center. In fact, Van Dyke expects to hire another account executive or two before the year is over.
He and Horn have set a goal of raising the firm's annual revenue to $1 million this year. Van Dyke expects to announce new clients within a few months, and hints they many will come from developers building up the greater downtown area and the rest of Detroit.
"There will be a lot of growth in the next six months," Van Dyke says.