First Four Years: The Journey. The Lessons.

It’s quite hard to believe this, but today marks our fourth year in business. It’s pretty remarkable how much has happened in four short years. By no means an expert in business ownership, here are just a few things I have learned along the way:

 

Hire people that are smarter than you.

 

I heard this from day one but never really knew what it meant until about two years ago when I hired my first “real” employee. She took her job seriously and made me do the same. I later realized that the first few people I hired, I was interviewing for friends – people who were the same as I am with the same strengths. Once I finally realized that I needed to hire people who were polar opposites of me, offering contrasting opinions, new ideas, different ways of doing the same things… we were bringing our clients much better results and ideas. Last week, I showed this TED video during our staff meeting and it truly embodies what I believe an organization should be all about – the collaboration of different people’s ideas always results in a better outcome.

 

Titles, hours, and all of the corporate bullsh*t doesn’t really matter.

 

Well, to me anyway. This has been a struggle for me actually… because as a young business owner, and a 20-something employee in today’s workforce, I have, like my employees, grown up in an environment where I can work on the go and I don’t want my vacation days counted. I have never cared about my titles in previous jobs or in this one, as I personally use the title that is needed at the moment from CEO to Founder to HR director to Business Development to… whatever.  So because of that, I didn’t institute titles at first, or any real policies. But it turned out that the team, as we grew, both needed and wanted this. So I really had to go outside of my comfort zone to accommodate this. I expect excellent work, and both employees and clients know that – and while I couldn’t care less where or how it happens, we now have a structured policy in place to accommodate their needs and wishes, ensure fairness and to keep the team on track. So that takes me to the next concept.

 

Accommodate your employees.

 

My business coach says that I do this too much, but I believe that this team that surrounds and supports me is the lifeblood of what makes Integrate Public Relations successful. I could never do what they do; they are much better at the day-to-day work than I am, more creative, more talented. And without them, Integrate Public Relations would be squat. So I am happy to make tweaks here or there, offer a “work from home in your pajamas day” or surprise everyone with custom Erin Condren notebooks, if it keeps them happy! I am incredibly open to feedback, and my team knows this and shares it with me often. This open environment is what really allows us to accommodate each other’s needs on a daily basis.

 

Develop a mission statement, and stick to it.

 

We’ve grown a lot in four years. We’ve doubled in revenue every year since starting, doubling the team year over year, as well. With this, our culture has shifted from Jenny and me yelling to each other from behind our computers on the status of a project, to an organized Evernote document created each Sunday with the action items for each account executive for their respective clients for the week, management structure, offices, and all that comes with growth. We have had great people leave the organization during this growth, as we were figuring things out, and have lost clients due to our shifts in the way we do things and my lack of involvement. But through all of the changes, all of the internal and client shifting, I have always tried to keep our mission statement top of mind:

 

 

To produce game changing results for clients,

using cutting edge techniques

and a passionate and committed team

in a creative, collaborative environment.

 

 

How do we do this? Well…

 

    • Through our monthly measurement reports to our clients, we ensure that the results we are getting through our PR and social media efforts are changing the trajectory of their business (in the right direction).

 

    • By attending countless conferences, keeping up with technology and industry blogs, and schmoozing with industry influencers over Twitter, text message or the occasional glass of wine, we are up-to-date on the latest technologies and tools to use.

 

    • We have a three-step process when hiring each team member from managers to interns, to make sure that they not only have the skills needed for their job, but also are a good culture fit with the team.

 

    • We know that this group of 10 spends more time together than they do with their loved ones. Working in a quite open work environment, it is pretty important that everyone enjoys working together. To ensure this, we do monthly off-campus events from happy hours, to a scavenger hunt, lunches, and more, keeping this team close-knit.

 

    • We keep the workplace a fun place to be. With music and the TV playing throughout the day, an inspiration wall, unlimited coffee and snacks for everyone to enjoy, BEER:30 on Fridays, we keep our brains sharp and constantly developing creative concepts for our clients.

 

Embrace the crazy.

 

If you know me, you know that just like any entrepreneur, I work a ton and this business is always on my brain. My husband and I, both entrepreneurs, have designated date nights where we promise to not talk about work (and second bottle of wine in, that never works out… ) Honestly, thank god I have him and we get each other and are both passionate supporters of each other’s craziness. I know that it’s this support from my friends and family, that has gotten Integrate Public Relations to where we are today.

 

Thank your clients.

 

We are passionate supporters of our clients’ businesses, missions, objectives and goals. We work our tails off for them, but often do not take the time to thank them for their continued business with Integrate Public Relations, allowing us to do what we love, everyday.  If any of our clients are reading this now, please know that we LOVE the work that we do with you and are so grateful for the relationship!

 

 

So four years in… I am no business expert. Not at all. But I learn new lessons literally every day and, I wake up each morning wanting to learn more. I am so proud of where this team has taken this company in four years and look forward to forty more.