Things were a little different 10 years ago.
It was 2006, and…
George W. Bush was president.
The RAZR was still the world’s best-selling phone, and the iPhone was just a twinkle in Apple’s eye.
Pluto ruined childhood mnemonic devices everywhere and lost its status as a planet.
Twitter came chirping into our lives—and we had only just been invited to Facebook!
Crash won best motion picture—and if you haven’t seen it, Netflix has it on DVD.
Steve Irwin, the “Crocodile Hunter,” sadly died on the job from being stung in the chest by a stingray.
The Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews—a major win for Chicago.
The TSA banned liquids and gels from air travel—a major loss for just about everyone who flies. Not that we don’t appreciate the extra safety I suppose.
Alysse and I started our senior year in high school—a year before we met at Drake. We still loved Seventeen magazine, not even imagining that we’d someday have friends who worked there.
And Kimberly Eberl started her PR company, Motion PR, 10 years ago to this day. As one of the first to join our Panache family back in 2013, at the time I interviewed her, she had 6 employees; now, she has 19! And of course, a brand new office to accommodate everyone. In honor of her 10th year in business, we asked for Kimberly’s top 10 lessons learned.
People with Panache: Kimberly, what is your secret sauce for success? How did you make it 10 years and going strong?
- Take calculated risks. For the first couple of years, I was very comfortable with my work/life balance, probably a little too comfortable, and I just didn’t really go forward. Also, I was afraid of even moving to an office—and what would happen if things didn’t work out well.
- Hire slow; fire fast. A few years ago, I learned my lesson by hiring someone who wasn’t a fit because I needed someone right away, and it definitely came back to haunt me later on.
- Never take your eye off the ball. Every now and then, when I assume things are going well, I uncover that I overlooked things.
- Keep up with trends and industry moves. Pay attention to people who have changed positions or left jobs, any acquisitions that have taken place. Know the scene; stay informed.
- Do PR for yourself. I own a PR firm, but I still try to do PR for myself. It works—any business owner should try to get themselves out there. It’s important to promote yourself in any industry—and any position. I remember when I worked at a big firm, I wasn’t speaking up enough, and I got lost in the shuffle. The dog that barks gets the most treats, right?
- Be a good role model for your employees. When I started adding staff, I realized how much people listen and look to you, so I always try to carry myself like a role model for others. Have an awareness that others see you as setting the example, and never lose sight of that.
- Hire more senior leadership. For the longest time, I had a huge junior staff, but when I started adding more senior leadership, it really paid off. That was a risk to take because they have bigger salaries, but once I started doing that, my business really turned a corner. It just took me a long time to get there.
- Never take yourself too seriously. I don’t want my staff to lose track of the importance of their jobs, but at the end of the day, it is just a job, and you should be able to separate yourself and realize life will go on. I think that’s a good one.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s meeting a new person or switching up what you do day to day, do something that isn’t so familiar. As my own boss, I don’t have anyone telling me what to do. If I was my boss, what would I say to myself? Probably like, Hey Kim, do something a little bit riskier or edgier here.
- Never sell yourself short. There were a couple of times when I won a piece of business, and I was surprised that I won it. But you shouldn’t second guess yourself. You’re smart and strong and any insecurities can come across in conversation or in meetings.
PWP: What’s different now? How has your business changed in the last 10 years?
KE: Every year we’ve added a big brand client. Red Bull has been our flagship brand for 7 years now, so in 2013, I decided we had to add more marquee brands to our portfolio. Now, we have Gladiator (a division of Whirlpool), Harkin Health, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Medieval Times, just a lot of fun, lifestyle type of brands, too. I think that’s the main change in addition to adding the staff. Also, our offerings have expanded: We used to do just traditional media relations, but now we’re doing more digital work, which a lot of our competitors are doing—mostly social media and some SEO, too.
PWP: Have some big plans for the future?
KE: Always. Just smart growth. I still love owning the business—I think there’s so much opportunity. I’ve seen agencies grow but then the bubble can burst just by the way they handle their business or the decisions they make.
PWP: What would you say is the No. 1 thing you did to get where you are today?
KE: Hustle. I’ve been fired before in my life, and I value business and the importance of keeping the lights on and business going. Being in business for 10 years, I think that’s the one thing that I’ve never stopped doing—hustling. There’s a million PR firms in Chicago alone, so to be able to stand out, still win clients and keep employees happy, you really have to never rest.
But remember to see Kim’s lesson No. 8 when you find yourself temporarily over-hustled.
Now we want to think about the top 10 things we’ve learned in the last 10 years! What’s one of yours? Please share in the comments. Bonus points for all 10!
[Photos by Kate.]
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