It is easy for me to rattle off the reasons I decided to start a PR firm 12 years ago. At the time, it made all the business sense in the world: I had spent years leading public relations campaigns and I was looking for the next challenge. I had (and still have) ambition to continually improve at what I do. So there were certainly career-oriented objectives.
There were also professional reasons. The healthcare industry was, at the time, still nascent and under-serviced in terms of public relations. I had experience in the space, and so it became a natural fit to launch forward to fill a niche. When I started Pascale Communications, I was reasonably certain I could succeed.
These are, I think, very good reasons to start a business. But the real reason I wanted to be an entrepreneur? Simple. One word: Passion. When you love what you do, it is easy and natural to want to excel, to stay engaged, and to be creative. For me, I loved the notion of connecting companies with their customers, of engaging the public, educating, and telling important stories.
When people say, “it’s business, don’t take it personally,” I think they are mostly right. Yet, there are certain aspects of owning and operating a business that may be OK to be personally invested in. You should take pride in your operations, the company should reflect the values you espouse, and if you do not expose yourself a little bit, you may miss connections with people you work with as well as growth and learning opportunities.
Of course, starting a business and growing it are two vastly different disciplines. I’ve already stated that some degree of passion is a great precursor to getting your dream out of your head and into the world. But once it’s there, and now that it’s tangible, how do you foster and grow that vision into something even greater?
Below are 5 quick tips I offer to business owners facing this question. In truth, there is no universal formula for business growth, but being guided by passion, and taking a personal interest in the success of your endeavor, are good first steps.
1. Get outside your four walls. Be willing to speak and spend time outside of the office promoting what you do—be a judge for awards within your industry, speak on a panel, participate at annual conferences and tradeshows, author articles that have great insights into your industry in the appropriate publications, etc. Work with people that respectfully challenge you and bring different perspectives… brainstorm continuously, and not just with those who agree with you. Getting outside your four walls means challenging yourself and your preconceived notions while exploring whether you can do things differently.
2. Up the ante. Encourage your team to adopt and invest in new products, services, and processes. Know what works and what doesn’t. Always be on the lookout for new programs or platforms that have the ability to challenge and change the way you benefit your clients/customers. Efficient workflow increases profitability and opens new avenues for strategic growth. But it also has to be the right fit, meaning that technology (services, processes, products) that is added without an objective in mind is a waste of resources.
3. Talk the talk. Let your “fans” (meaning happy clients/customers) do the talking for you. I always end every new business meeting with, “who cares what I say really … talk to those we’ve worked with!” Let the work speak for itself. If you want to diversify business or grow an existing client base, there’s nothing like good old fashion word of mouth.
4. Get feedback. Do a survey. People love to hear what others think. Ask clients why they like working with you and your team, then use their ideas and quotes on your digital channels and marketing materials. The people you work with, and for, have the power to generate a lot of buzz about what your company does well if you give them the opportunity. Of course, getting feedback is also an excellent way to get outside your four walls.
5. Be your biggest advocate. “PR” yourself, your team, and your company. No one will do it for you. Take advantage of any opportunity that positions your team as experts and thought leaders in their respective areas. This a great way to not only engage your current client/customer base but attract new leads; it also does wonders for retention and morale if people within your organization are recognized—but it has to be authentic!