It might surprise you, but it was never my goal to start my own business. I always viewed myself as more of a good soldier in great organizations. But when the opportunity to strike out on my own presented itself, I grabbed it, and I haven’t looked back.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned over the last six years of being my own boss and building Dale Curtis Communications into a thriving independent PR agency:
Trust your strengths. You know what you enjoy doing, and do well, and which of your talents people seem to value most. Identify your core skills and go for it. Passion is contagious -- people will respond to your enthusiasm, your competence and your results.
You can’t do it all yourself; get help. Recruit support staff for brains, experience, and character; then set clear expectations and provide plenty of training, guidance, and feedback. Delegate as much as possible and get out of the way. Over the past two years, my staff size has doubled, and my office space has tripled. It’s been an interesting process seeing Dale Curtis Communications grow from essentially me and one assistant into an organization of staff members and sub-contractors.
Cherish and cultivate your professional relationships. You may be the most brilliant expert around, but without a great network of supportive colleagues, your potential is limited. Keep in touch via meetings, lunches, drinks, calls, emails, and social media. Pay attention to what your clients care about.
Be disciplined about your time. Next to your team and your skills, time is your most valuable asset! Enjoy the flexibility of being your own boss, but remember, it’s a very competitive market out there. Other service providers are eager to steal your lunch if you are not disciplined about continually producing valuable results.
Have other outlets. Even in the fast-paced field of PR consulting, maintaining productivity requires taking the time to recharge. I build in appointments with a personal trainer to ensure I get to the gym at least twice a week. While client deadlines often pop up that require me to reschedule these appointments, knowing that I have a hard stop (and another person waiting for me) at a given time helps me to focus and work more productively around that schedule.
And have fun! If you’re bored, find an item on your to-do list that will charge you up. Make a game of completing tedious tasks efficiently.
And don’t forget to enjoy a sunny day, a coffee break, or a baseball game with your colleagues every now and then.
Photo by Dave Dugdale.