Monday, June 23, 2008

You can go your own way

In 1999, I caught the entrepreneurial bug and started MAVERICK. In one of my earlier posts, I described myself as an accidental entrepreneur because I really didn’t have aspirations to have my own business until someone pointed out to me that I would be pretty good at it.

I’m writing this blog post for anyone who is perhaps thinking about starting up their own PR shop. I have loads of professional experience to share with you.

There are several ways to launch your own PR shop. First off, you can simply go freelance or contract. You are essentially a free-agent, picking up PR gigs here and there. You don’t need fancy schmancy office space (you can work out of your garage if you like) and you can hire independent contractors when you need more feet on the street. This can be a very sustainable business model provided you like to work alone most of the time, you are self-motivated and you like to be the accountant, the media pitcher, the sales guy, the creative, the writer and the dishwasher. You don’t need a lot of capital to start this kind of business and it’s a sensible way to migrate to a larger scale operation in the future. I thought about this model when I launched my own firm, but I had much loftier goals in mind from the start.

If you think you are ready for prime-time and want to launch a full service PR firm complete with full time staff, office space and a solid presence, then it takes a little more than a rolodex of prospects. If this sounds like more your vision, then read on.

First off, you need money and lots of it. Rent, salaries, phones, computers and coffee all cost money. I started with a $250,000 float to start MAVERICK. You can probably get away with less, but I rented very expensive space in downtown Toronto. I was always planning on hunting big game so I needed a posh address to show clients and potential employees that I was a serious player. And yes, a lot of prospects still want to see the space you operate out of. You can start your PR firm with a partner to share costs, but be prepared to be highly collaborative and have only a 50 per cent share of voice.

Next up, you better know how to sell and persuade because you’ll be doing that until you are blue in the face -- with suppliers, banks, clients etc. You’ll also need a healthy dose of sheer determination and a vision for your firm. Oh, and don’t forget, you need to love rejection too.

Finally, surround yourself with positive people who want to see you succeed. Nothing is more important than an encouraging atmosphere, whether it’s your family, friends or co-workers. I hate naysayers and pessimists. Get rid of people like that. I sound very Deepak right now, but I can’t stress how vital it is to have positive karma all around you - especially during a start-up phase. I worked with the four best guys in the biz when I started MAVERICK: Gerry, Stephen, Andre and Andrew. I was incredibly lucky to work with this line up of talent and inspiration.

Above all, be fearless. As an entrepreneur, all eyes are on you to steer the boat during good and bad times. It’s a huge responsibility when you have staff to take care of, but the payoff is worth all the sleepless nights. I promise.

So whether you’re launching a freelance career or a full service PR shop, just remember the words of the great Beverly Sills:
"You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try."


Gary Hilson said...

My aunt gave me a fridge magnet some years ago that reads: "Why go out on a limb? That's where all the fruit is."

Kattypants said...

I, too, have heard the same quotation as Gary and love it, and just wanted to pass along to you Julie that your post was eloquent, concise and motivational. Thank you very much :-)