I always knew I wanted to be a business owner, and in college, I realized that I wanted to be a PR agency owner. I did not want to open my agency until I felt ready and knowledgeable in all aspects of the business and roles. After 13 years working in various PR roles at agencies and in-house, I knew I needed to create a PR agency that pushed the industry forward. My vision was to create an agency that was unlike any other existing agency. While I was ready and was prepared, there are always lessons that will be learned the hard way. If through these six tips, I can save any readers from pitfalls, then I will be glad to be paying it forward for the mentoring I have received through the years.
1. You might not be taken seriously
Unfortunately, stereotypes do exist and they are generally not kind. Both men and women may tell you that something is not appropriate for a certain gender. Early in my career, I was criticized for being an enthusiastic woman who also dress well and takes care with her appearance. The criticism came mostly from women, and from men who would not take me seriously, because I was “too pretty to be smart.” In meetings, I brought my A-game because I wanted to be taken seriously and to earn the respect of men and women who were themselves respected in industry and would learn to respect my expertise as I proved myself. Don’t let societal stigmas stop you from going after what you want.
2. Don’t let mom (or dad) guilt stand in your way
Many people have preconceived notions that as a CEO, I can’t make time for my daughter or be an efficient mother. I incorporate my child into what I do. My daughter sees how hard I work and she has come to appreciate my dedication. I would tell other moms and dads out there that you don’t have to make sacrifices when it comes to being both a CEO and a parent. You can do both and teach your kids a lot of great skills through it. There will be times when being the CEO has to be the priority and there are times when being a parent is the priority. The key is to assure that your children understand what you do at work. I teach my daughter skills she won’t learn in school, and because of that, I have a daughter who has her own jewelry company and earns her own money. I’ve also learned to turn guilt about working around to a positive motivator. As a mom, I put myself out there as a CEO knowing that if something didn’t go as expected or there were challenges with this business, it wasn’t just my livelihood at stake, but my daughter’s well-being for which I was responsible and this propels me to work harder.
3. Don’t rush things
When starting a business or beginning a job as a CEO, you will be excited and have loads of ideas. While you can do anything you set our mind to do, you need to prioritize and set your goals. Don’t try to do everything at once. Everything will take longer than you expect so you need to work hard and you will reach your goals. Appreciate your mentors and spend time perfecting your skills. You’ve got a long road ahead of you so don’t be discouraged that the journey isn’t happening overnight. It’s not supposed to. Anything worth having is worth waiting for. Success is not going to land on your doorstep, you have to work for it and that takes time and effort.
4. Be proud
It’s not uncommon for people to be shy about sharing their success, but there is a gracious way to celebrate yourself and accomplishments. If you are trying to attract investors or customers, you need to be able to talk about what differentiates your product and your expertise. You need to exude confidence in yourself and what you can accomplish. You should feel free to be proud that you are a rainmaker; that you are trying to make changes in your industry. You have a mission that you are determined to accomplish! Don’t feel egotistical or too loud about it. Be extremely proud that, if you are doing something you believe in, you are already a role model. CEOs cannot be humble.
5. Don’t say yes to everything
Reaching business goals and keeping existing clients happy is the most important thing for me. While it is easy to say yes to clients, it is also not always the right thing to do. Clients hire my firm for advice and guidance and cannot always be agreement on everything they do and we have to offer an opinion. It is also important to set boundaries on the scope of work you will provide and on your time. Start setting boundaries on items such as when you will take business calls. Because I love my clients and teammates, I found myself always saying “yes” to everything and my schedule was just getting too packed that I barely had time to breathe. Now I have an executive assistant who owns my calendar so that I can fit in things like eating!
6. Running a business is not always fun
While clients can be demanding and I understand that because my company is my child, a reflection of me and how I make my livelihood, employees can be equally trying at times. I do not tolerate laziness and appreciate employees who view the agency as their own child and want to work hard to make it succeed. What is frustrating is when I am training employees to follow procedures that I know to be tried and true and employees try to reinvent the wheel. I am certainly open to new ideas, but entry-level employees need to respect my expertise.
Let’s face it: Being a CEO can be hard. Really hard. There are long days, your fair share of stress, and plenty of obstacles. When you’re discouraged, that’s when it’s time to look to your support system, your motivation and keep your eye on the prize. Not every company succeeds, but with hard work and expertise, you can be on the winning side of the equation.
About Nicole Rodrigues