The Greater Lehigh Valley is booming with small businesses, and many are owned by veterans.
Throughout a multitude of industries, a lot of these businesses find ways to get involved and give back to their communities. One of those companies is SWBR in Hanover Township, Northampton County.
Here to answer this week’s “Behind the List” questions is Marine Corps veteran Ernie R. Stiegler, CEO and majority shareholder of the marketing agency.
Lehigh Valley Business: How long has SWBR been operating in the region and what are its primary services?
Ernie R. Stiegler: SWBR has been operating in the Lehigh Valley since May 1969. My father, Ernie G. Stiegler, started the company in Allentown and we eventually moved to our existing Bethlehem location in the 1980s.
Something I’m really proud of is my son, Ernie Thomas, joining SWBR four years ago, giving us a third-generation Stiegler working in the business. And now, we’re all really excited to be in our 50th year of operation.
When it comes to marketing communications, we offer the full spectrum of strategic planning and creative execution: product launches, integrated brand campaigns, lead generation, web design, public relations, social media and media planning and buying and so much more.
Our clients are a mix of B2B [business-to-business] and B2C [business-to-consumer], and we’ve operated in practically every vertical at one time or another during our five decades of existence.
Our current client base is primarily found in the medical, financial, logistics, industrial, education, tools and construction industries. We work with local, regional, national and international clients.
LVB: What have been some of the biggest challenges and opportunities that SWBR has encountered throughout its years in business?
Stiegler: The rise of the internet and the digital sphere was a major disruptor in our industry, which resulted in a complete rethinking of how we communicate with audiences and help brands tell their stories.
Ultimately, it has been positive, as we still utilize many of the classic tactics. Except now, we have an additional suite of powerful tools at our disposal to execute them in new and exciting ways.
Seeing the speed at which the industry continues to evolve, we work to ensure our team lives at the cutting edge of technology and is able to provide clients with the right choices for their unique needs.
LVB: What are some of the perks of being a veteran-owned business? How does being veteran-owned directly influence your operations?
Stiegler: Personally, serving in the United States Marine Corps – three years of active duty from 1971-1973 and four years of Reserve duty from 1973-1977 – instilled a sense of flexibility and discipline that has benefited me greatly in my civilian career.
I learned the ability to adapt and get along with people of different backgrounds. I learned the discipline to never give up and to stay the course.
My military experience also gave me the confidence to make decisions quickly, because you have to make decisions in a split second.
LVB: How does SWBR directly stimulate the local economy? How does it get involved with the local community?
Stiegler: The overwhelming majority of our employees live and work in the Lehigh Valley. We have partnered with – in some cases, for decades – numerous local printers, programmers, photographers and videographers for projects.
Our leadership team members participate on local boards and committees, including Bethlehem Catholic High School, Northampton Community College, Lehigh Valley LaunchBox, United Way, Minsi Trails Council of the Boy Scouts of America and more. We also have provided pro bono work for a handful of local nonprofits.
We always encourage our employees to pursue the charitable efforts that are dear to them and get involved whenever possible.
LVB: What does the future look like for SWBR? Does it have plans for growth?
Stiegler: We anticipate continued growth, both through expanding the scale of work with existing clients and in partnering with new ones. Digital efforts will continue to be a significant focus for us and our clients, and we’re evaluating newer and better ways to implement smart solutions.
We’re constantly meeting with new people and new companies, and reconnecting with old friends and business partners. Our deliberate business development efforts are – and will continue to be – integral in maintaining our success with clients here in the Lehigh Valley and around the globe.