Wishes, Hopes and Dreams Are Not Strategy: How I Made it to Ten Years
All month long we are celebrating! Ten years ago, shortly after graduating from college, I started a public relations company, MEPR Agency. We’ve evolved quite a bit since then: adopted a new set of philosophies, catered to a very different roster of clients, and nurtured off-the-charts growth. However, there are some things that have remained the same. This last decade has been committed to working with hundreds of campaigns in an effort to capture and share the core of their organization and its story. Additionally, from day one, I have been a strong believer in ensuring we are ethical and excellent without compromise. And lastly, we have remained disruptive — we don’t believe in communicating the same type of way for every audience and as a matter of fact, we rarely write press releases. To most of our colleagues we are different, and that is okay with me.
But how have we gotten to ten years? With a lot of meditation (lol). But seriously, the reality is that my development as a business owner came long before 2006. What most people don’t know is that I truly consider myself a born entrepreneur. I started my first “business” in second grade selling jewelry at the local community center and it was there I learned the value of supply and demand. I remember the Center contacting my parents to tell them I needed to stop selling to the other kids because I was taking their lunch money. It was at that point I realized the adrenaline associated with being a risk taker; I continued selling, just quietly. Fast forward to college: I owned a residential cleaning company and even had an office on Belmont University’s campus – and won my first entrepreneurial award with a marketing company I started with my best friend. Needless to say, I had tried and tried, fallen and failed over and over again before carving my own space in this industry and career.
Throughout this journey there have been some constants. It’s hard work. It’s often lonely work. It’s undervalued work. And it’s tiring work. However, I’ve learned enough through all of that to share with others how I took a dream and made it a sustainable reality.
Dream with your eyes open. Recently my dad and I were talking and he said “it’s okay to dream but don’t fall asleep.” When you wake up from a dream, you often find that it's hard to remember very much. As a matter of fact, in this life you have more dreams than you will ever be able to capture. So if you are dreaming of building a business, you must stay present. Dream, and then do. Dream some more, and do some more. You get the idea.
Passion alone won’t carry you. This is a hard one for most to understand. You love something and want to make money from it, but here are three truths you need to hear:
1) Passion alone won’t pay the bills. Starting a business requires discipline, dedication, and burning desire. Your passion can and will waiver. I’m passionate about shoes but that doesn’t mean I should create a business out of that passion alone; there must be a demand to accompany that passion. There must be a greater need for me to stay committed, even when I don’t want to.
2) Passion must align with your calling (I have a workshop around this topic — email email@example.com to learn more). Passion is what excites you but calling is what awakens you. It’s what keeps you up at night or wakes you up in the middle of the night. It provides the “why” when you can’t seem to figure it out after a long day. My calling, for as long as I can remember – and it’s even documented in a 2002 news article, has been to inspire people to action. At every step that’s been my mission. As a matter of fact, in my home cleaning business my tagline was “organizing your life one room at a time.” That was pushing people to take an action. I continue to have that same calling.
3) People will piss you off, causing you to lose your passion. The reality is that people can down right stink sometimes. Passion is fleeting when someone says something out of line or fails to pay on time.
You need more than a vision — you need execution. You can spend most of your (business) life planning to plan what you’re planning to do. But you must do. My rule is, "let’s get it to 80% and press send." While that is relative and changes based on the situation, client and opportunity, what is true is that I believe in getting things done. We can have every type of vision board possible but if you don’t get up and begin putting things in order to get the tangibles on that board, you are no further than before you mapped it all out.
Do it for more than the optics. I once heard a podcaster say, “I wonder if people would actually do most of the things they do if social media wasn’t around?” It was a finger snap reminder that the work has to be for more than a social post. And while I love the ‘gram or Facebook, I want to be known above all for the quality of work and not just the amount of posts I make.
People can get paid for doing bad business. I say this all the time. There are people who are in your industry who don’t do good business and never will. So how do you compete? You don’t. I refuse to even acknowledge that we operate in the same space. I only want to work with people who value our work and value it being done exceptionally well. And you should to.
Being a small business owner is extremely rigorous but equally or more rewarding. I consider myself unemployable, so I couldn’t imagine not being my own boss. I’m sure if you are reading this and have committed to your business you feel the same way.
I leave you with this. Good ideas don’t make a profit — having a life calling, solid plan, execution, and delivering at the highest level does.
Kia Jarmon is creator of brand depth + facilitator of ideas + curator of conversation + sculptor of stories at boutique PR and brand strategy firm MEPR Agency. She also loves connecting businesses & people to their heartbeat and coaches them through a Brand Mapping program, where they navigate their brand compass. Kia is a 27-year lifetime member of Girl Scouts and daily she lives by the promise "on my honor I will try…to help people at all times". You can find more at www.MEPRagency.com or www.KiaJarmon.com.