Every so often I get asked about what it’s like to found and own a PR firm and how it differs from my years working for large multinational corporations and PR firms. Well, on the occasion of our firm’s 10th anniversary, here are a few observations:
- Faster decision making. At the big PR firms, we had to respond to nearly every RFP that came through the door. We couldn’t argue that we didn’t have a specific capability or didn’t have a legitimate “shot.” After all, RFPs were (and are) the source of most of big agency new business. As a boutique firm, we don’t receive a large volume of RFPs. When we do, we quickly dismiss the ones we don’t feel we have at least a 75-80% chance of winning. Otherwise, too much time is wasted responding to them. We’d rather spend it serving our clients or creating our own new business opportunities. We’re also able to make decisions a lot more quickly about clients we’ll agree to serve and people we’ll decide to hire. No “checking with New York.” If we want to do something, after considering it thoughtfully, we just do it.
Talent that’s equal or better. In my 29 years in this business on the client and agency side, I’ve been privileged to work with and learn from a lot of talented people. I’m struck by the fact that the kinds of people we’re able to attract to our firm are as good as and often even better than the caliber of talent I worked with previously. And there’s a little something “extra” in finding an employee who’s more attracted by the quality of the opportunity rather than the “prestige” of a big company/PR firm name.
- No “dead weight.” One of the unfortunate realities of many large employers is the fact that not everyone pulls their weight. Given the economic downturn, this happens less than it used to, but it still occurs. “Why are they there?” or “What are they doing?” are two refrains we never hear at Reputation Partners. Here, we make sure everyone is productive; everybody’s working.
- Great, big clients. When we left the world of big agencies, some speculated that we might be too small to serve some of the biggest companies in the world. Given that our first three clients were FedEx, GE and IBM, that notion was quickly put to rest. In the ten years since, we’ve worked with numerous blue chip companies. But, we’ve also worked with many smaller and mid-sized organizations – and have done some of our most interesting work for them.
- Financial controls equal better results. Running a PR firm well from a financial standpoint really isn’t hard. Budget engagements appropriately. Don’t overservice. Get written agreements from clients before starting work and at every step. Follow-up and collect on past due receivables. Don’t allow one client to become too big a percentage of your business. Having seen what to do and not do at the big shops, it was relatively easy to set Reputation Partners on a better path.
So, do I have any regrets? Well, as the old song goes, I’ve had a few. But, ten years in, I’m as ready for the next ten as I was for the first. Being an entrepreneur, having a great team, and the opportunities I see ahead are what get me up at 5:00 a.m. every day.
What motivates you?