Whatever happened to common courtesy? Nowadays, it commands four divisions in four locations, counts some 135 on the payroll and takes in over $4 million in sales each year.
Courtesy Associates is uncommon, not only as an established woman-owned and operated service business, but for the range of services it provides. On April 1, the firm marks 35 years in the business.
"We're arrangers," says Chief Executive Officer Louise Lynch.
What started as a two-woman telephone answering team in 1947 has grown into the largest answering service in the area with locations in McLean, Silver Spring and downtown. Spread throughout six floors of an office building at 16th and K Streets, a new computer, telephone dictation machines, telecopier, telexes, word processing and copying equipment complement an old-fashioned switchboard staffed by 14 operators.
Courtesy's travel agency, begun in 1964, includes a new branch at Woodward & Lothrop on F Street. And the "executive office package" provides corporate-looking digs plus secretaries and support services to almost 100 different businesses at the K Street headquarters.
Lobbyists and traveling executives from a range of firms (including Hershey Foods, the National Association of Private Industry Councils, the Washington Convention Center and Carnation) rent "instant offices," usually with a one-year lease. Courtesy Associates' logo does not appear in any of the intentionally anonymous offices or reception areas. "You may have an orange couch one week, a blue couch the next," says Lynch; "it's a turnkey operation for an office."
The Wolf Trap Foundation Gala in June, Toyota convention in May, conference on Hazardous Material Spills in April and ongoing scientific exchange programs for NIH are among those entrusted to Courtesy Associates. The firm's conference and management service department puts together hundreds of bashes and meetings each year, handling logistics, mailing lists, invitations, reservations, tickets, seating, catering--whatever it takes to accommodate the government or private industry clients. Lynch is familiar with Secret Service logistical requirements: her client list includes every presidential staff dating to Harry Truman's.
"Referral is our best sales tool," according to Senior Vice President Sheila Stampfli. The company won the Small Business Association's Prime Contractor of the Year award for the Eastern Region in 1978, but no longer qualifies as small.