Over fifty people gathered at the modern, sleek Haworth showroom in downtown Washington, D.C. on February 17th to gain insight on how to successfully launch and manage a new business. Washington Women in Public Relations (WWPR) hosted a lunchtime discussion entitled “Starting, Growing, and Optimizing Your Business in 2011”. A panel of five women shared best practices, tips, resources, interesting, and times comical business stories.
The panel included a diverse group of business owners led by moderator, Kate Perrin of PRofessional Solutions. The audience attentively listened, took notes, and eagerly asked questions of the expert panel that included Holly Herman, Total Coaching and Consulting; Carrie Fox, C. Fox Communications and 2010 WWPR Emerging Leader; Gladys W. Kamau, DC Department of Small and Local Business Development; and Gale Curcio, Curcio Communications. In addition to sharing encouraging statistics about the increase of women and minority entrepreneurs; panelists also provided the following tips about jump starting a new business.
- Network, Network, Network!
- Distinguish yourself; and include what you do on your business card.
- Learn and grow with your business.
- Don’t wait! A recession can be a great time to start a business. During staff reductions companies often turn to consultants and freelancers.
- Never burn a bridge.
- Trust people around you.
- Remember 90% is who you are; 10% is what you do.
- Know if you’re really ready to start a business. One way to test yourself, says Holly Herman, is a willingness to send a resignation letter to your boss by a predetermined date.
- Learn from what others have already done.
- Protect yourself with business insurance.
- Plan for your new business by setting aside 3-6 months of living expenses. This reduces desperation and allows you to choose the “right” clients.
- Always be aware of your cash flow, advises Kate.
- Develop a business plan but don’t get caught up in the minutia. Use free business planning resources when possible.
- Do as much as possible in-house and only outsource when absolutely necessary.
- Think of a business plan as a point of focus.
- Record your ideas in an “idea folder “advises Holly. This way you regularly review and develop good ideas.
- Plan ahead for future business goals.
- Prove yourself to potential customers by showcasing your work with testimonials, a professional portfolio, case studies, and support from an advisory board.
- Surround yourself with supporters and winners. Oftentimes, co-workers are not supporters, cautions Holly.
- Avoid naysayers.
- Establish mutually beneficial partnerships.
- Don’t let age stop you. Young business owners have some key advantages including little to no responsibilities; and the ability to quickly change course if needed, says Gale.
- Remember, your business should solve a problem. Tell prospective customer what problem your business will solve. Sell yourself, advises Gladys. And , don’t’ let lack of experience hold you back.
- Do what you love and find someone else to do everything else, says Holly.
- Work with others but don’t relinquish control of your business to anyone, cautions Carrie. Stay involved.
- Gladys: Take classes in business planning, invest in marketing software, go to the business resources section of dc.gov. Network, join an association/professional group, and keep learning.
- Gale: Try Constant Contact database management, develop an online newsletter, try Logo Tournament for about $300, and barter services/products.
- Kate: Read everything, go for solo contracts, and reach out directly to prospects.
- Carrie: Establish a separate credit and checking account.
- Read “The New Marketing & PR Rule” by David Meerman Scott.