What drives individuals to become entrepreneurs and succeed at it?
Although I can’t speak for anyone else, I wanted to share some insights from the dark side. Having been an entrepreneur and business owner for more than 33 years, I’ve often been asked to speak about the following and today as independent PR firms pop up across the country… and world, it is a highly relevant subject to discuss. Below are excerpts from past interviews on this topic.
“What motivated you to start your own business?
- Probably more guts than brains. After leaving a job as an Assistant Director of Communications for a large community services organization I started freelancing and felt that I could earn more money in less time and be able to raise my young family.
- I also had some new found confidence – that came from single-handedly managing a huge event at the Montreal Forum, involving then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. The event was a success beyond my expectations. I literally felt I could do anything.
“What were the main challenges in starting your business?”
- I established my first company in the ‘80’s. At the time being taken seriously was a big challenge for me.
- You need to devote a lot of time to establish yourself. Growing a business is about finding, grinding and minding and when I first started out I had to do it all. That in itself was demanding. I didn’t have an infrastructure.
- Being able to combine business with family – I don’t think the term “work/life balance” had been coined. This was especially challenging and I don’t think this has changed at all.
“If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently, if anything?”
- I would have taken an MBA or law degree. Financial and legal knowledge is valuable in running a business.
- I would have been less conservative. You have to take calculated risks, to invest in great people, in technology and in self-improvement.
“What are some of the lessons you learned along the way?”
- Never doubt yourself and never devalue what you do. Clients want to be associated with a winner. So whether you’ve had a bad stretch or haven’t earned a dime in months, you have to look great and be upbeat.
- Go above and beyond the call of duty. Giving your client or customer what they pay for is not enough – it’s what they expect. You need to look at how you can add value.
“What advice would you give an entrepreneur starting out today?
- Surround yourself with the best advisors. You will need financial, legal and marketing advice, not only as a sounding board but skilled professionals to guide you.
- Decide if what you’re doing is a business or more like a hobby or a stop gap to your next job. Growing a business is nothing like either of the later options. It is something that will consume you- be prepared for a super high level of commitment.
- Watch which corners you cut. Market research and marketing are critical. You might have the best product or service around, but if you don’t understand your market and if you can’t attract and retain customers, success will be hard to achieve.
- You need to have a strong stomach and good coping skills. Running a business is manic with extreme ups and downs. You need to be able to roll with the punches.
- Reputation is everything, but it can disappear in an instant – let this guide you in building relationships with employees, customers, suppliers, the bank, your landlord…. never, ever, burn a bridge.
Carol Levine (@Carol_levine) is co-founder and managing partner of energi PR, digital, communications, an award-winning independently owned Canadian PR consultancy established in 1990 with offices in Toronto and Montreal. energi PR is the Canadian affiliate of the Public Relations Global Network, providing expertise in consumer and healthcare public relations to national and multinational brands. Carol is the immediate past Chair of the Canadian Council of Public Relations firms and is a 2013 Inductee in the Canadian Healthcare Marketing Hall of Fame as well as a Fellow of the Canadian Public Relations Society.