“We were over the moon and we were humbled,” said Howard St. John, president of Lynnwood's The Howard Group.
His company was among 300 Western Washington businesses nominated for the honor after being evaluated for integrity, customer service, ethics and innovative business practices.
Robert Andrew, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon, and Western Washington, described the companies that win the award as the elite of the elite who stand out above fierce competition. In praise of The Howard Group, Andrew said that he believed the company should serve as a model for other businesses.
The Howard Group is a multifaceted event company noted for offering a wide array of unique special-event services. These range from personal affairs such as arranging weddings, bar mitzvahs and the like to big corporate functions, trade shows and product launches.
The events firm was founded by Howard St. John just over 25 years ago.
He said the idea stemmed from an alcohol-related accident in high school in which he lost a friend. It brought home the need for students to have an alcohol and drug-free party to attend on graduation night.
Howard St. John said he established the grad nights division in 1983 with the goal of making the parties so much fun that kids really wanted to go to them rather than attend unofficial keggers that so often have tragic results.
“I truly believe we are saving lives,” Howard St. John said. “Based on national statistics, 6 to 10 additional kids would be killed each year if we weren't doing what we're doing. The death toll spirals on graduation night.”
The company provides much of the equipment and decor for its events from its own warehouse, which is filled with items such as props, lighting, backdrops, games and DJ equipment.
Howard St. John credited the company's success to a commitment to listen to the clients' ideas and to try and make those wishes come true. This isn't always an easy task, as clients aren't always sure just what they want, he said. And even when they are, they often have a difficult time articulating their wishes.
He said another important element is to offer complete support to the customer from start to finish. “The journey to the destination is often as important as the destination itself. You can do a fabulous job on an event but if getting there was a nightmare, the overall experience of the client is unsatisfactory,” Howard St. John said.
Howard St. John sits on the board of several charities, including Seattle's Table, which provides food to the hungry.
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