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October 12, 2015 Faces of Business

From odd jobs to digital media CEO, Valencis' career runs full circle

PHOTO | Steve Laschever Stan Valencis is CEO of Farmington-based Primacy, a digital marketing agency whose clientele includes ESPN, The Hartford and Yale-New Haven Hospital.
PHOTO | Steve Laschever Primacy has a unique office environment, which includes a garden and chicken coop, which Valencis showcases (above).
Stan Simpson

Stan Valencis concedes to one vice when it comes to his professional focus on all things digital. He still likes to read his daily newspaper the old-fashioned way; not online.

Call it a 20th Century pleasure for a new millennium thinker, one who has never forgotten his humble upbringing in Terryville.

Valencis and his brother Kirk were raised by a Russian immigrant grandmother living off Social Security disability payments. His late grandfather was a farmer, but took sick and lost most of the family's 50-acre farm.

The Valencis brothers would make a few bucks in the 1970s by selling corn, plants and, when the fish were biting, night crawlers.

At 17, Valenis was washing dishes in his first real job. A year later, the 1981 graduate of Terryville High School and a buddy travelled to Florida to live in a trailer park and work odd jobs. A pivotal moment in a wayward young life occurred when a curmudgeonly 80-year-old named Bob paid the boys $10 (and cold beer) to dig up tree stumps on his adjacent property.

“I'll never forget he said to me 'Boy what are you going to do with your future?' ” Valencis recalls. “I said 'I don't know; maybe a draftsman.' And he said 'No. Computers. … Computers are the future.' ”

The old man's words were prophetic.

Today, Valencis is the owner and principal of Primacy — a Farmington-based digital marketing firm, with 105 employees, about $20 million in revenue and offices in New York and Massachusetts.

The journey from the trailer park to a CEO's office was a circuitous one. But Primacy doesn't happen if the kid who hustled plants and night crawlers, busted soap suds and pounded stumps and brew in the Florida sun, didn't heed the octogenarian's advice.

Valencis returned to Terryville in 1982 and enrolled in a data-processing program at Waterbury State Technical School where he graduated in 1984. For the next 10 years, he worked in a series of computer jobs — programming, sales, installation, repairs, recruiting.

In 1994, Valencis started ACSYS (short for Accounting Systems), a small business accounting firm. He was 31 and had “a small, but stable client base.” He quickly realized that the business needed to expand.

“One thing I learned is if I was a lone horse, I could only grow so fast for so long,” Valencis said. “You can be very successful as an independent. But if you really want to grow in scale as a business — and take vacations — you need to know how to work with people and build a team.”

ACSYS was eventually re-branded and morphed into Primacy in 2012. The full-service digital marketing agency helps businesses better connect with existing or new audiences by leveraging the latest technologies. For example, a virtual tour may be developed for a university client looking to better engage its market; or emerging technologies, such as Google Glass, can be infused into a marketing plan.

Among Primacy's clients are ESPN, The Hartford and Yale-New Haven Hospital. The company focuses primarily on the health care, financial and higher education markets.

“We feel as a company that digital is the primary medium in today's world,” Valencis said. “It's the first place you go to get answers, to conduct your life, to travel, share information, photos, etc.”

The company's work-hard, play-hard culture reflects its free-spirited leader. Work attire is casual-professional. Valencis, an avid cyclist, rides his bicycle to work up to three times a week, about an 8-mile trek from his home. He and employees have participated in obstacle-run events and even Tough Mudders. There is a garden on Primacy's property and a chicken coop, from which fresh eggs are used for company breakfasts. Among the employee clubs are ones for wine and beer aficionados.

“We have an environment where the over-achievers can thrive and be successful, and the folks looking for more of a balance in their career can be successful,” Valencis said. “It's a nice sort of harmony.''

His management philosophy is to hire good people, set clear goals and give employees autonomy.

“There's a lot of trust here,'' Valencis, 52, said. “There aren't people looking over your shoulder. We treat you like a professional. We give you the tools you need to be successful, the targets that you'll be evaluated on — and your job is to make it happen.”

Over the next five years, expansion will be on Primacy's agenda, specifically doubling the size of the business. “In order to propel our growth, we have to look at other markets,” Valencis said. Among his targets are Texas — and, yes, Florida. Opening a Primacy branch in Florida would bring Valencis' life full circle.

Somewhere, old Bob is smiling.

Stan Simpson is the principal of Stan Simpson Enterprises LLC, a strategic communications consulting firm. He is also host of “The Stan Simpson Show” which airs Saturday, 5:30 a.m., on Fox CT — and online at

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