For Rick Segal, chief executive of HSR Business to Business, life seems to just keep getting better.

"Every day our work is a little more interesting, a little higher profile, a little more fun, and a little more profitable than it was the day before. At the end of each day, we can say that the work we've done is the best that we've done yet," Segal says.

HSR, a marketing communications firm, combines the strategy of a consulting firm with the specialization of an advertising agency. It also specializes in media relations and Internet development

"We are exclusively dedicated to the needs of the client who is marketing their goods or services to other businesses," Segal says. "We're not involved in any consumer advertising. Most of our work you see in trade journals and trade shows."

The first few years were typical of any new enterprise, but once HSR reached its seventh year, things began to change. In the early 1990s, HSR gambled on computer-distributed communications, which gave it an early appreciation of the Internet's power. Four years later, HSR won the GE Aircraft Engines account, a milestone for the company, Segal says. Since then, HSR has lined up clients such as Kodak, Cintas, and Cincinnati Bell.

Advertising Age has named HSR the best business-to-business agency in the Un-ited States three times. The recognition has strengthened HSR's position in Cincinnati and made way for the national market. This growth has allowed HSR to open a Chicago office.

HSR has grown quicker than what Segal and Michael W. Hensley, executive vice president and director of integrated marketing communications, expected.

HSR has seemingly weathered the storms of the dot-com bust, Sept. 11, and challenging economic times. The agency reported a new record in capitalized billings of $70.3 million for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2004. The agency's fourth quarter, June-August 2004, was also a record quarter.

Once consumed by his work, Segal now pursues other interests. He has de-veloped a fondness for sporting clays, which he describes as "putt-putt with a shotgun," and has started playing the banjo. Taking his focus off work has allowed Segal to grow in his personal and professional life.

"You just need something that is not totally involved with the work. A hobby takes you into a whole new group of friends that don't have a hold on you in the business interests."

Segal found that becoming a student again helped him better train his staff. "The guys that are teaching me to shoot the shotgun and play the banjo are really teaching me how to be a better teacher."

The key to success at HSR is keeping a hold on the staff. "It's a lot like being the owner of a sports team, and everyone on the staff is a free agent," Segal says. "Everybody here has lots of opportunities available to them all the time. A large part of my job here is trying to keep HSR more interesting, more challenging, and more fun than what people think they could do flying solo.

"This is a business where you ask yourself, 'Are you being responsive to the service requests that are being made of you and are you continuing to come up with fresh, imaginative ideas?' As long as you're doing those two things, then you're going to keep clients."