Los Angeles Magazine used to have this great column—”Free Advice from People Who Charge a Lot.” It was one of my favorites. Now that it’s gone, I find myself really gravitating to the Biz Ladies column over at Design Sponge and the Knock Knock blog. I love reading advice and struggles from business owners. Which brings me to last night… I had dinner with a good friend, who also owns a boutique PR firm. I had taken only one sip of my margarita when her eyes welled up with tears and she proclaimed how she was having the worst, most stressful week. I immediately related. Working for yourself is hard, but it’s also very rewarding. Believe me, I have days when I burst into tears, think I’m not good enough, think all my clients are going to fire me, etc. etc. (just ask my husband). But, luckily the good days outweigh the bad. So, here is my best advice for you friends out there struggling with your biz. Don’t worry, I’ll just put it on your tab.
1) Ride the Waves, Weather the Storms-When you own a small business, there are always ebbs and flows. Sometimes you will have so much business you think you need a staff of 100, other times, you worry how you will keep the few you have. The key is to prepare for both— mentally and financially. When the chips are up, save some of your extra income for slower months. During my insane times, I just try to make it through the storm, delegate as much as possible and realize that things will calm down soon. Oh and cocktails help. (I kid!) When things are slower, after I have reached out to my network and have done all I can do to bring in new biz, I make a conscience effort to fill my extra time with things that make me happy outside work (like this blog). Sometimes I find that not dwelling on something so much turns things around naturally. Just don’t mistake this for laziness. There’s a difference!
2) Consider Business Coaching-I have a great friend and mentor Liz Dennery Sanders, who also happens to be a business coach. Her company is called SheBrand and her coaching sessions always give me a new perspective, and specific step-by-step instructions for reaching my goals. It also doesn’t hurt that Liz owned a boutique PR firm for many years. Find someone you look up to in your industry and don’t be afraid to ask or pay for help. And while you’re at it, in turn, be someone that is generous with your own time and knowledge. I love helping out my other friends in PR—not everything has to be a competition!
3) Hire Great People and Manage Them Well-I have been so lucky in that we have had only two great assistants since we started our business. My current assistant is so eager to learn, is someone that my clients like and is genuinely fun to be around. Whether you are hiring an assistant or someone to run a department, make sure it’s someone you and others want to work with every day. Well liked people go far. And when you hire great people, be a great boss to them. Mentor them, teach them, respect them. For God’s sake, don’t drown them with personal/company burdens unless absolutely necessary.
4) Start Saying No-Sometimes in business you will have no choice but to make decisions based on money rather than your excitement. (A girl’s gotta eat.) But, a big lesson my partner and I have learned is that most of the time saying no, despite the financial gain, makes room for other business that is more in line with your passion. I have never regretted passing on a client. I have only regretted saying yes…especially when I knew better.
5) Be Nice-I’m always amazed when colleagues tell me I’m nice in a shocked voice—like I’m the exception, not the rule. People in my industry can be MEAN. In fact, publicists are notorious for being awful, even worse than agents (gasp!). My first boss in PR was one of the most well liked people in our industry and I wanted to be like her. Hopefully a little bit of that rubbed off.
6) And Furthermore, Realize that It’s Not You; Some People Are Just Jerks-I took a general meeting a few months ago at a large management firm. I had worked closely with another manager there, so this was a get-to-know-ya-hope-we-can-work-together type of deal. It was the worst meeting I have ever had the displeasure of sitting through. From the second I walked through the door, the manger was rude, disrespectful, arrogant, and made me feel like I was being crossed examined. I couldn’t say anything right. I walked out of that meeting praying that our paths never crossed again. But, now I kind of hope they do. And I hope it’s at the Oscars.
7) Realize that Bigger Doesn’t Always Mean Better-As a small business owner, it’s hard not to compare yourself to huge companies doing what you do. I do it all the time, comparing my company to the firm that gave me my start. Then I remind myself that I am not them. I offer something different. A luxury boutique hotel experience if you will. What makes you unique?
Finally, if you happen to forget just how awesome you are, email me…I’m happy to remind you!