Our fifth birthday is this year. That just blows my mind.
To some companies, that’s a blip in their history. To us, it’s a huge milestone. The reality is I didn’t plan on being a business owner. I didn’t have a business plan. I didn’t want employees. I definitely didn’t want the liability of a long-term office lease. I’d be just fine working as a freelancer, thank you very much. Or so I told myself. But the Nashville market was hot, I had to grow to avoid turning down projects and here we are almost five years later. When I first started out, numerous people told me that if I could make it five years, apparently my chances for long-term success increased exponentially.
It’s been full of extreme highs, the lowest of lows and everything in between. I’ve cried (a lot), I’ve laughed (even more) and I’ve learned more about myself these past five years than in the previous 29. And while it is difficult to pinpoint just a handful of lessons – because, quite frankly, I make a lot of mistakes and each one provides learning opportunities and a greater self-awareness – here are the ones I’d offer to aspiring business owners.
Surround yourself with people who get it. Other business owners have been critical to my sanity. Not everyone knows the pressure of making payroll or trying to figure out the right thing to do versus the affordable thing to do when it comes to employee health care benefits or how the heck to try and take a maternity leave and still run a company. Those are the people you want in your corner. There are organizations for business of all levels. I participated in the EO Catalyst program early on and still meet monthly with some of the other business owners from that group. Depending on the day, the people in my forum are my sounding board, my cheerleaders, my reality check or sometimes my happy hour buddies. It’s been inspiring to watch their businesses take off. As my company has grown, I’ve also joined the Women Presidents Organization, where I’m able to tap into the advice and expertise of a group of truly amazing women running multi-million dollar businesses. Find a group and plug in. You will inevitably hit tough times as a business owner and I firmly believe the support of others who have been there can be the difference between fighting through and coming out stronger on the other side or giving up.
Hire people smarter than yourself. Being a lifelong learner is critical to running a successful business. I want to be surrounded by people with skills and natural abilities that I might not have. If I’m the smartest person in the room, who will I learn from? Set your ego aside, figure out your weak spots and hire people who can make you better. This is especially important in my business. I’m not selling widgets. I’m selling our time and expertise. I personally only have a finite amount of hours, so I need really smart people to a.) do the things I am not good at so I can spend my time working on the things I can do well and b.) handle projects and clients that I am not involved in, increasing our capacity for additional revenue.
Reward success. The job’s not done once you hire those smart people. You need to make them stay. The top talent could walk out today and get other jobs, especially in a strong market. Pay people what they are worth. Teach your team that compensation is directly tied to the value they bring to the company and then reward them for growth. In my experience, being generous with profit sharing has only caused our revenue to grow.
Know your ideal client – and the value that you bring. Early on, I thought we had to be the perfect fit for every client and we had to win every single account. We had to recognize that not every client is going to be a great fit. Until we learned that, we weren’t able to do really great work for those who were a good fit. By working with just anyone who knocks on the door and not paying attention to red flags, you aren’t setting yourself up for success.
Sometimes you just need a donkey. Or puppies. Or tacos. Or whatever it is that lightens the mood and reminds you not to take yourself too seriously. Life gets busy, work gets stressful and even the most functional team can wear on each other’s nerves. Have fun. While the resulting visit from the landlord was slightly awkward, one of my all-time favorite days was sneaking a live donkey into our office to film an invitation to our Cinco de Mayo party.
It’s funny – while I never wanted to be a business owner (let someone else sign the rent checks!), after five years I can’t imagine having it any other way. I’m most grateful to my family and friends for their constant grace as I try to balance mom life and work life, my team for showing up every day and making me look awesome (even after that one time I was in Hawaii and forgot to run payroll) and my tribe of other business owners for their support.
Oh, and we’re obviously going to have a party. Stay tuned.
As a public relations agency with a focus on cause marketing, we help our clients make an impact in their communities. But why did we come to work each day? What was our core purpose?
We spent hours trying to figure it out as a team until one night it just clicked. We want to work for something more than just a paycheck. We want to help others go out and do good in the world.
That’s how this initiative was born.
Through Be The Good, our agency provides travel grants to individuals who want to do volunteer or mission work at home and abroad.
We believe that mission work changes you. It makes you a better team member, spouse, parent, friend. As an agency, this allows us to work for something bigger than ourselves. As individual people, it’s a way for us to pay it forward.
Will you join us?
“What would you do if money was no object?”
In January, our team sat down to discuss our core purpose during our first planning session of the year. The goal was to answer one question: Why do we come to work each day? Yes, we’re good at PR and we enjoy helping our clients grow their businesses and their brands, but there had to be a bigger purpose. We just couldn’t put our finger on it.
We came up with this core purpose statement:
Challenge ourselves through work we love, with people we love, to make a lasting impact.
But what does that mean? What can we as an agency do to make that lasting impact? We’re just a few women working in a small office in Nashville. How can we work toward something larger than ourselves to truly make a lasting impact – in Tennessee and beyond?
Fast-forward a few weeks.
Raven was peppering me with questions on our way to a client meeting in St. Louis. Among them was one of the most simple, yet thought-invoking questions I had ever been asked.
“What sort of business would you start if money was no object?” she asked.
Without hesitation, I shared that it wouldn’t necessarily be a business. It would be a nonprofit that provides travel scholarships or financial assistance to send people into the field to do mission or volunteer work. We delved into what that would look like and suddenly had a near-complete hypothetical business plan.
Within a matter of minutes we realized that we – RPR – could do that.
In ten minutes we had the plan mapped out: the selection process, candidate criteria… even a map of the world for our office that we would add a pin to each time we sent another traveler into the world to do good.
There was a lot of squealing, and in our excitement, we missed the exit for our hotel. Twice.
This is an area that I am deeply passionate about. Mission work changes you. It makes you a better business owner, team member, spouse, parent and friend. And with this program, it goes even further. It impacts the lives of those we’re sponsoring, and it impacts the lives that they are touching.
RPR will provide travel grants to individuals who wish to do volunteer or mission work abroad. The amount of money allocated to this will be tied to agency revenue. This allows us to work for something bigger than ourselves.
It’s actually quite simple. We do fantastic work for our clients, make money and send people to do more fantastic work around the world. Now instead of making money for “the man” (or woman, in our case) our team is working hard to help mankind.
You know that action-oriented core value of ours? Well, since dreaming up this program in November we’ve been able to provide grants for four individuals to do mission or volunteer work in various parts of the globe, including Africa, Ireland and Costa Rica – all during the unofficial pilot phase.
Stay tuned for the official launch in 2016. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for details on how to apply and where our volunteers are going.
We’ve only just begun.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it shouldn’t be news that millennials are passionate consumers. They have high expectations for brands and an increasing buying power that’s forcing businesses to take notice.
With various sources predicting millennials will outspend baby boomers by 2017, let’s make 2015 the year we stop talking about this generation and actually take action that makes a difference.
What does that action look like? First, it isn’t good enough to have a great product. Should your product and service be excellent? Absolutely! But you have to take it further. Integrating a cause marketing initiative into your brand is one way to do that.
To execute a successful cause marketing campaign, a brand needs to keep these three components in mind:
It must be authentic and intuitive. You have to truly believe in the cause, and it must make sense for your audience. What is the emotional connection? Our agency chooses to take a portion of revenue to provide travel scholarships for individuals to do mission work through our Be The Good program. Find what makes sense for you and your business and make it a reality.
Your audience includes your employees as well as your consumers, and you need to engage both. Simply writing a check to an organization is a one-off, not a campaign. While the organizations certainly appreciate it, it likely won’t drive sales or engage your audience. Corporate giving is not cause marketing. Know the difference, and take the time to develop something that will make a long-lasting impact.
It must be measurable. Remember, this is still marketing, and you still have to deliver bottom-line results. How will you gauge success? One key way is to judge your audience engagement. Did you start a valuable social conversation? Did you inspire action? Assess what value it brought to your business. Are your employees motivated and involved? What positive reactions did you receive from consumers?
When done correctly, a cause marketing campaign will strengthen brand reputation, engage customers and create loyalty. You also get to contribute to something larger than yourself that you’re truly passionate about.
Giving back in a way that makes sense for your company and your customers is one of the most effective ways to reach the millennial generation. An initiative that comes from the heart and is paired with effective marketing only strengthens your brand and your bond with your customers.
This article was originally published in the Nashville Business Journal.
The Nashville Post has the scoop on our newest hire. Welcome to the team, Katie!
Before I made RPR’s first full-time hire, I thought a lot about culture and what truly makes a great workplace. Not just a good workplace, where people are semi-happy and get the job done, but a great workplace with fiercely loyal and passionate employees.
This is a topic that is near and dear to me, because, quite frankly, my business depends on it. At an agency, where you sell your time and knowledge, your people are your most valuable commodity. It’s extra important that I get this right.
I knew that if RPR could be a destination workplace and attract best-in-class marketing professionals, it would shine in our work and ultimately benefit our clients.
If you know me, you know that Google is my friend. I will research a topic to death, only to ignore it all and go with my gut. It’s sort of like when I had a kid. It took me a few weeks of parenting – and lots of unsolicited advice – before I realized that I know my child best, not some author or baby expert or girl on Teen Mom (guilty pleasure) – and to do what feels right.
So here’s what I finally realized. Don’t overthink it. Hire people who live by your core values. Show them respect. Give them room to do their work. Celebrate successes.
And I think we’ve done this. Am I biased because I hired these people? Yeah, probably, so I asked our clients to describe our team. Warning – shameless plugs ahead.
Working with RPR for the second year in a row, we’ve come to view them as an extension of the O’Charley’s Marketing Team. They know our industry, brand and culture allowing us to have full confidence in their efforts on our behalf. A partnership with RPR guarantees the development and execution of smart strategic communication that demands public awareness while supporting our key business goals. – Rickey Bryant, O’Charley’s
Over the past 10 years, I’ve worked with Lauren and her team on both short-term and long-term campaigns. They bring the same expertise, personal integrity and tireless focus to protracted efforts as they do to the quick hard pushes of short-term campaigns. Reed Public Relations gives it their all every day and they make every client their most important client. – Wendy Norton, Norton Consulting Group
How do we do this? For starters, RPR has a results-only work environment (ROWE). We don’t have set office hours or require that you be in our physical office except for regular team meetings. People have asked if this hinders productivity. It hasn’t in the least.
First, it makes you take the hiring process very seriously. You know you are putting an immense amount of trust in each hire so you don’t make impulse hires to simply fill an open position. You hire the best.
Second, two of our core values are measurable results and passion for excellence. When someone is evaluated based solely on his or her results, not the amount of time they spend sitting in an office, something crazy happens. They get really, really efficient. It’s one thing to throw some core values on your website or in a new business proposal. With this culture, we live them. You have to, or to be quite frank, you won’t last. There’s only room for top performers in a ROWE.
Every member of our team has worked in a traditional 9-5 office environments and we all agree that we’ve never been on as team as functional, close-knit and productive as ours. This comes from the trust and mutual respect we place in each other. We communicate constantly and have yet to have an issue where someone is unreachable because they aren’t sitting at their office desk.
Does this sound like a place where you can thrive? If so, shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what makes you so awesome. Seriously. We’re always looking for our next rock star. *
*Since we are in Nashville, I feel compelled to clarify that by rock star I mean stellar communicator with a passion for clever marketing and a killer sense of humor, not an actual rock star.