Houstonians brainstorming about PR and Digital Marketing

5 Lessons Learned from a Decade in Business

 

Celebrating 10 Years of Integrating PR, Social Media and Digital Marketing

 

 

E.B. White, the great American author of revered classics such as Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web, once wrote:

 

 

“[New York] can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill him, depending a good deal on luck. No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.”

 

 

I decided to test my luck in 2007. I scored an assistant account executive role at Quinn & Co. Public Relations, a luxury real estate PR firm in New York City. Here’s the catch: A few months later New York’s real estate market was beginning to crash, and soon with it, Quinn’s clientele. Suddenly, people weren’t buying, reporters weren’t writing, and my New York luck was drying up quicker than I could manage.

 

It was only a couple years later that I realized my luck didn’t actually run dry at all. In fact, it was in the midst of the housing market’s unfortunate crash and burn where I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug that led to the establishment of Integrate in ’09.

 

5 Lessons Learned from a Decade in Business | Integrate Agency Blog

 

10 years later, a lot has changed: We cut “PR” from our name (but not our services) to better reflect our full array of expertise in 2014; merged with another agency in 2018, doubling our staff to more than 30 (and counting); and witnessed the PR and digital marketing industries undergo a complete transformation. Today, leading this evolution still invigorates me and Integrate’s employees alike, and was the premise in which I founded the company.

 

Another reason I embrace change is so I can learn and grow, and I’ve learned a lot over the past decade to say the least – about business, but most importantly, about people. Here are five of those lessons (and what the next 10 years of Integrate may look like).

 

 

1. Titles and Corporate Bullsh*t Still Don’t Matter

 

Six years ago, I found this to be true, and I still find it true today. Neither Robbie nor I have ever cared about titles – a great idea can come from anyone, whether they’re in the C suite or an intern just starting their career. Because of this, I didn’t actually have titles, or any policies really, when I started out. However, the more Integrate grew, I realized that while the lack of structure promoted creativity and diversity of thought, it wasn’t really sustainable.

 

Today, because we have more employees and offer more services than ever, I’ve learned the structure, processes and an employee handbook are necessary to deliver great work from great people – with my only rule being it doesn’t hinder collaboration, creativity and excellent work for clients.

 

5 Lessons Learned from a Decade in Business | Integrate Agency Blog

 

 

2. Recognize When You’re Not the Smartest Person in the Room and Shut Up

 

At the end of the day, Integrate exists to deliver innovative solutions that go beyond convention for businesses of all sizes and stages. This means we do whatever is necessary to get them the answers they’re seeking. And if I cannot answer those answers, I’ve learned to find someone who does know, to keep quiet and to listen – whether that includes bringing in more leadership to the company, hiring more subject matter experts, merging with a digital agency or even referring businesses elsewhere.

 

This is one area I’ve learned it’s better to not fake it until you make it – because you simply won’t arrive. Don’t be that gal or guy – figure out who can solve the problem and get it done.

 

 

3. Make Time to Work on the Business, Not in It

 

No, this isn’t grammar class – but there is a clear difference between working on a business and working in a business. Here’s what I mean.

 

Like all startups out there, employees must wear a lot of different hats – from HR Manager and CEO to Accountant, Digital Analyst and Executive Assistant. And for several years, I was running the show on my own. Now, it’s a bit like a full-fledged circus troupe with more than 30 employees! So, while I still love to be “in the weeds” hashing out ideas with teams, Robbie and I understand that in order to sustain and continue Integrate’s strong growth, we must take time to work in the business (detailed work for clients) as well as on the business (new business opportunities, marketing Integrate itself (like this blog), thinking about and planning for growth, etc.).

 

A startup woman at heart, I quickly realized the transition from a doer and manager to an executive is easier said than done. But, as you know by now, we don’t play by the rules – the idea that a person in an organization is either a leader or a doer is an archaic way of conducting business.

 

While Robbie and I must take time to nurture Integrate, we also must prioritize the personal and professional growth of our staff and clients – to succeed, you’ve got to do both.

 

5 Lessons Learned from a Decade in Business | Integrate Agency Blog

 

4. Not Calls but Rather Conversations Face-to-face Make a Difference

 

While you can virtually disappear from a phone meeting by simply pressing the mute button, you can’t mute your face during a video call or an in-person chat. With offices in Houston and Austin and clients all over the US, we can’t always have those tougher conversations in person – that’s why we love Zoom technology!

 

Whether we’re calling a client or a fellow employee, phone calls pale in comparison to talking to someone and looking them in the eye to clear up any miscommunication – it both helps to understand how the other person is hearing whatever you are saying and shows how you feel about it.

 

We may be living in a digital world, but that will never mean we don’t value a face-to-face conversation.

 

5 Lessons Learned from a Decade in Business | Integrate Agency Blog

 

5. Always Thank Your Clients and Employees

 

Last but absolutely not least – in fact, it’s arguably the most important lesson – is to give thanks. Always. Without our clients and employees, Integrate would cease to exist. As our company has grown, so has our expertise; I could never do what our developers or marketers accomplish for our clients on a daily basis – and I love that about them! They know their stuff and work their tails off for our clients, and, for that, I couldn’t be happier.

 

If you’re a client and have made it all the way down this blog post – you are golden! Without your confidence in our services, we couldn’t do what we love. Words aren’t sufficient to express Robbie and I’s gratitude, but we become more thankful for our partnership each day, and it’s safe to say, from all Integrate employees, we look forward to continue providing value to your business – however that may look.

 

5 Lessons Learned from a Decade in Business | Integrate Agency Blog

 

 

What’s on the Horizon for Integrate?

 

So, what will the next 10 years at Integrate look like? Considering that 10 years ago, Sony was still making floppy disks, I truly can’t say. Who knows – Twitter, or even Facebook, may be long gone by the time 2029 rolls around. Just last month, Instagram announced it’s testing out a ban on likes to “remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love.” But what we can promise, is that we’ll continue to evolve with the digital and traditional marketing worlds, developing our own unique methods to achieve real business results for our clients. And we’ll keep learning some valuable business lessons throughout. In 10 years, we’ve figured a lot out, but not all of it.

 

For that, I couldn’t be prouder of Integrate. I’d like to thank all former and current employees for giving your all and shaping this business into what it is today. Stay tuned – this ride has just begun!