I don’t know about you but I’m convinced that fear, or at minimum, feelings of doubt are natural when undertaking something very important.
According to the book “The Millionaire Next Door,” “Courage is behaving in a way that conjures up fear.” The book also says that between a person with a $5-million trust account and a self-made entrepreneur worth several million dollars, typically “…it’s the entrepreneur, the person who deals with risk every day, who tests his or her courage every day” who has less fear.
With that being said, thanks for visiting my new blog, “Public Relations and the people behind it.” While a more lengthy explanation is available here, in short, this blog is not about me. Rather, it is about you – the PR pro, student or wanna-be.
To kick things off, I recently asked four pros questions about starting their own businesses. From how they ended up in PR to the decision to breakout on their own to, you guessed it, fears and doubts along the way, their answers were so insightful I decided to publish them verbatim. As someone in the process of “behaving in a way that conjures up fear,” I learned a lot from this group’s answers, and I wish the same for you!
So, enjoy, learn, comment and share!
Aileen Katcher of Katcher Vaughn & Bailey Public Relations
Gayle Falkenthal of Falcon Valley Group,
Heather Whaling of Geben Communication, and
Sarah Evans of Sevans Strategy
1. How did you get into PR?
- Aileen Katcher
Aileen: I worked on the high school paper and thought I wanted to be a journalist. Two uncles who had pursued that profession convinced me that might not be a good economic decision so I went for an English major instead. Then half way through college, my financial situation changed, and I had to start working full-time and going to school at night. Ultimately, my high school journalism skills landed me a series of jobs doing public relations, the most significant at a hospital. When I moved to Nashville in the late 70s, I got a job with the PR firm for Hospital Corporation of America and have been doing health care public relations and crisis communications ever since.
Gayle: I spent the first half of my career as a broadcaster in both radio and television. I got to the point where I didn’t find it a challenge anymore and turned to public affairs work for public sector and nonprofit organizations. I decided to start my own consulting practice in February 2004, and it was the best thing I ever did. I love it. I admire and respect my clients, and most days it hardly seems like work.
Heather: Since high school, I’ve had an interest in communicating stories. Back then, that meant I was our yearbook editor. I actually went to college to be a journalist, but soon realized that wasn’t quite the right fit for me. As I explored other potential career options, PR’s role in making and shaping news piqued my attention. And, I guess the rest is history.
Sarah: As a little girl, I hosted afternoon tea parties and would invite my friends and family to join in. My love of connecting people hasn’t changed and has served as a natural progression into the PR and social media industries. Instead of hosting tea parties, I host tweetchats, like #journchat, connecting bloggers, journalists, PR pros and social media enthusiasts across the country and even in different parts of the world. Through Sevans Strategy and my role as a social media correspondent, I’ve built a business of teaching clients about engaging with consumers, bloggers, fans and other key constituents via social media.
2. Why did you decide to start your own biz?
Aileen: In 1994 I was part of a big management layoff at Baptist Hospital where I was director of marketing. While I was looking for a job, I started handling projects for a few clients that knew me from my Baptist days. By 1996, I reached a point that I needed some other senior level colleagues. Roy Vaughn and I worked together when he was fresh out of college, and I knew Greg Bailey from his journalism days. They contacted me about that time about starting a firm together, and KVBPR was born.
- Gayle Falkenthal and Mario
Gayle: After I was laid off for the third time in less than five years, I decided to take my fate into my own hands. I thought to myself, “How much worse could it be?” I’d been slowly laying the groundwork during the first two layoffs. Each time I secured client work immediately and held on to two small clients each time I went back to full-time employment. With these “test runs” I felt confident it would work out, and it did.
Heather: With nearly 10 years of agency experience, I was ready for the next challenge. For five years prior to starting Geben Communication, I was the director of PR for an agency in Orlando, where I had the opportunity to play a role in business development. I was like a sponge, trying to absorb as much as I could about the business side of agency life.
When my husband and I decided we wanted to move back to Ohio (where we’re both from), it seemed like the perfect time to launch my own company. So, in the worst of the recession, I gave notice that I was quitting my safe, steady job to move 1,000 miles north and start my own company. As crazy as it may have sounded at the time, that was easily the best professional decision I’ve ever made.
Sarah: I’m an entrepreneur at heart and wanted to use my skills in social media to help others.
3. With regard to your biz, what keeps you up at night?
Aileen: Keeping the new business funnel full.
Gayle: I sleep extremely well. I beat myself up when I make a mistake such as a typo in a client newsletter or a mistake with a quote in a news release. I fret sometimes not being able to come through for a client with good media exposure. It’s often due to forces I can’t control, for example, having to do with the news cycle. Still, it’s hard to explain that to the client who has high expectations.
- Heather Whaling
Heather: We’re in a creative field, so sometimes ideas strike at the most random times! It’s not uncommon for me to wake up in the middle of the night with a new idea or a creative way to approach a project.
If you’re asking about what worries me, the answer varies, depending on what’s going on at that specific time. But, when I step back to look at the big picture, none of the “worries” are that bad. If a challenge arises, we deal with it and move on. I’ve learned not to let things fester. Communicate clearly, manage expectations, find a solution and move on. I’ll gladly trade a little lost sleep for the freedom and flexibility that comes with entrepreneurship.
Sarah: I like to brainstorm new, creative ideas for clients. On occasion, I might go to bed thinking about what we can do to improve a campaign or how can we add to what we’re already doing, and I’ll wake up in the morning with several strategies.
4. With regard to your biz, if you could do anything over again what would it be?
Aileen: We could have done a better job of planning and managing our growth in the late 90s and early 2000s. But, we have done a great job of managing our resources and keeping up our own marketing during the great recession.
Gayle: I don’t look back with many regrets. With some of my early clients, I would have set expectations a little more firmly, which is critically important to ensuring that your working relationship is a smooth and prosperous one for both the consultant and the client.
Heather: Trust your instincts. If you have a bad feeling about something or someone, don’t ignore it. When you first start a new business, it’s hard to leave money on the table. But, sometimes saying “no” really is the best decision. Now, I’m much more particular about the types of clients I agree to take on. I want to work with people I like and organizations I believe in. I’m also committed to working with people who see our relationship as a partnership, where my team is an extension of their team.
- Sarah Evans
That said, I don’t know that I’d take a do-over on anything. Everything that’s happened thus far has influenced where we are and where we’re going. I love Geben’s current manifestation and am very excited about where we’re headed.
Sarah: Work hard — but also make sure to find time to rest. With a new business, you have to give it your all, but it’s so important for your health (both mental AND physical) to schedule some down time — whether it’s taking a vacation or being selective to opportunities that come your way. Trying to take on everything might not catch up with you right away, but to stay energized and focused, you need rest to keep up the momentum.