Dr. Edward B. Shapero, my grandfather and namesake, was a surgeon. After completing his time at New York University in the spring of 1932, where he excelled in ping pong and handball, his grades prevented him from attending a US medical school.  Wanting to be a doctor, he moved to Germany in May speaking English only, took German classes for the summer and enrolled in Gymnasium starting in October.  The following year he was accepted at the Heidelberg University Faculty of Medicine, where he studied medicine in German until the rise of Hitler made Heidelberg an unwelcome place for Americans.  He returned to the US with straight A’s on his transcript, enrolled and completed his studies at the New York  Medical College.  After serving overseas in the Pacific front for three years, one month and twelve days, he came back to New York, established his practice and went on to become the director of the Strang Cancer Clinic at New York Downtown Hospital.

Throughout his career, which lasted until the day he died at 86, his passion was medicine.  My grandfather cared deeply for his patients.  They entrusted their health to him.  He carried that responsibility as both a gift and an honor.  Before the days of health insurance, deductibles, HMO’s and tort lawyers, his patients would thank him in numerous ways (the closet full of Scotch bottles my mother emptied from my grandparents apartment after his death in 1997 being one of my favorites.)  He looked out for his patients, and in turn, his patients took care of him.

It is in that tradition that I keep a watchful eye over the hundreds of clients that have chosen to work with Union Street Media.  94.2%, to be precise, of the clients that were with us at the start of 2011 are with us at the start of 2012.  That’s a solid A, a grade I didn’t receive all that often at my alma mater, but a figure I’m proud to share our 2011 retention rate.

Why does this number matter?  To me, our retention rate is the barometer of whether our clients are finding good value in our services.  There are a lot of website developers out there, but the vast majority who are with us have chosen to stay.  That means we are successful in helping our clients generate more leads, promote their mission and convert more business off of the Internet.  They reward us for doing so by keeping their website with us.  It’s a virtuous cycle.

Much like my grandfather, we really care about the outcome of our work.  Since a website is never finished, our relationship with our clients extends well past site launch.  One of my themes around the office is “retention through attention.”  We proactively reach out to our clients on a regular basis to keep them informed of the trends we see and how the changes might impact their business.  Our clients can call an Account Manager at Union Street Media anytime to talk, for free, about what they can do with their website to improve their business.  We’re there for them and, in turn, they are there for us.

A big part of the value we provide our clients is education: our monthly newsletter highlights insights from our blog, gives tips on how to best leverage the tools we have developed and profiles clients who are making the most of their relationship with us.  Like medicine, no one has all the answers in the web development world, so by transparently sharing best practices we provide our clients an opportunity for the best outcome.

Having a front seat to my fiance’s pediatric residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, I can see there are big differences in a career in web development and medicine.  We are dealing with websites, not lives.  While my grandfather did say that laparoscopic surgery was boring since he couldn’t touch the organs, how he would have reacted to the Internet will remain a mystery. What I do hope is that my grandfather looks down upon me with pride in seeing that I have carried on his values of caring for those who entrust themselves with me.  I thank him for that life lesson big time.

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