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300 Decisions

2723 S State
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Helen Dennis on encore entrepreneurship and starting the same business a second time

For a lot of people, starting just one business is enough. Helen Dennis is not like most people. Not only did she start another business after selling her first one, the second business is quite similar to the first.

Call it encore entrepreneurship.

Dennis started Project Advantage and built it into a multi-million-dollar company over 20 years. The Ann Arbor-based firm helped relocate more than 200,000 employees before it was acquired by CBRE in 2006. Six years later she launched 300 Decisions, another relocation management company named for Dennis' guesstimate of how many questions a company must ask itself when executing an office move.

"I like what I do and it's a niche business," Dennis says. "I felt the market was large enough for several companies. I wanted to continue to be innovative. I wanted to continue to set trends in this industry."

For Dennis, starting a second company in the same field as the first is a bit like being in a second marriage. She has a better idea of what works and what doesn't in the relationship, and an eagerness to avoid making mistakes she made, or saw, the first time around.

For instance, Dennis knows this time she should be focusing on establishing her company's brand, gaining market position, bringing the right team on board, and growing sensibly. It's why she worked to establish 300 Decisions in southeast Michigan and Chicago her first year and worked on consolidating those gains the next year.

She also did a lot of research on best practices in her industry. Dennis accomplished that, in part, by becoming a member of the Small Giants community, which is a support group formed of fans of the book by that name.

"There was a lot we learned from the small giant communities," Dennis says.

That helped her focus on things like her passion and perfecting the details of the company. She routinely listens to her customers, does what they need, and works to outperform their expectations.

"What you're selling, you should be able to do it and do it well," Dennis says.

- Written by Jon Zemke

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