IQ Interactive Special Report: Shock Troops/The Agency – On Track

Dan Lynch helps Organic clients carry out business plans.
It’s 7:30 a.m. on a Monday in Lafayette, Calif., and Dan Lynch, president of Logistics–the most recently created division at professional services firm Organic Communications–is surprisingly perky as he sits down in a hotel restaurant for a breakfast interview.
Lynch has just finished a grueling jog in the Northern California hills flanking the hotel. Despite the workout and the early hour, Lynch, who heads up a staff totaling about 50 of Organic’s 1,000 employees, has the square-jawed, immaculately garbed appearance one might associate with a GQ ad. After the interview, Lynch will head off to the third day of a four-day summit meeting for San Francisco-based Organic.
Lynch’s connection with the agency is, well, organic; he met Organic president Michael Hudes at a party in 1992, a year before the company was founded, and the two became fast friends. Over the years, they discussed whether Lynch’s 12 years of experience in customer fulfillment at companies such as Airborne Express, Seattle, and Burbank, Calif.-based Technicolor could be beneficial to the agency.
“I had spent six years at Airborne helping companies redesign their distribution channels,” says Lynch. He served as national account project manager, then manager of the entertainment division in the Hollywood, Calif., office. “Then I went to Technicolor in 1992.” At Technicolor, a manufacturer of motion picture film and video and inventor of the Technicolor process, Lynch was senior vp of sales and marketing for the Technicolor Entertainment Services division. Lynch says the company saw the opportunity to take better care of both the product they manufactured and their customers, and launched Technicolor Entertainment Services to manage the physical distribution, customer service and quality-control aspects for film distribution; Lynch helped design the distribution system from the ground up.
Lynch and his company constructed a zero-defect distribution environment, with a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week customer service hotline. Clients included The Walt Disney Company and DreamWorks.
“In 1998 Jonathan Nelson, CEO of Organic, came to visit one of our facilities and found it impressive,” recalls Lynch. “Shortly thereafter he commissioned me to write a business plan and a strategy. Technicolor gave me a leave of absence to do this, hoping I would return once the plan was completed.” In early 1999, however, Lynch’s plan was accepted by the Organic board of directors and he left Technicolor to launch the new offering.
When Lynch first wrote the business plan, the idea of marrying fulfillment with marketing-oriented services was still a novelty. “When word got out that we were going to build a logistics division, people said we were crazy.”
At that time, Internet marketing firms would help customers write a business plan, build and market their Web site, “and then push them out on the street,” says Lynch. “Now we feel they have to deliver all the way to the doorstep.”
For example, Lynch says, one of the largest clothing designers in the U.S. is working with Organic to establish an online presence. The company has warehouses for distributing clothing to retail outlets such as Neiman Marcus, but no facilities for what Lynch calls the “onesie-twosie” (or smaller) orders. “We established a separate location for fulfillment and set up a separate operation with real-time ordering and payment processing,” says Lynch.
The latest project is with Chicago-based General Growth Properties, the second-largest mall owner in the U.S. with 137 malls across the country. The company has a Web site, mallibu.com, but has been struggling to marry its existing real estate with its Web commerce. The modifications developed by Lynch’s division, accessible to users when the site’s second iteration goes live this month, have several components: customers will be able to shop at any of the participating stores; they can buy items from different stores in a single order; and they can put every product in a central location at the mall’s hardcopy site where they can go to try on clothing or buy the goods.
According to Charlie Graves, senior vp of e-business for General Growth Properties, “The same-day delivery and pickup at the mall are the two most important elements. We are a retail real estate company. Logistics issues are foreign to our business. We need Dan and Organic to handle these issues.”
Says Lynch, “When we help a customer flesh out a strategy, we are also thinking about how they will get the goods to their own customers. A lot of people think that’s weird, but we feel that the brand relationship has to begin at the site and live all the way through.”–Janis Mar