By Chris Kuban, Chemistry PR and Multimedia
I am a Public Relations professional with 25 years of experience. My 9-year entrepreneurial journey in PR has taken me from a sole proprietorship to a virtual agency, to now focusing on growing a more traditional agency. Trusting my gut in this most recent expansion has been more challenging due to the higher risks involved.
I continuously have questions about growing and managing my agency and have always sought friends and advisors for support.
Do I buy a building? Do I lease? At what gross revenue levels do I hire more staff? Should I bring in a partner? Do I attempt to hire clones of me or completely different types of PR pros? Since I am located in St. Louis, Missouri, I initially approached SCORE, a local organization that matches businesses with accredited mentors for this type of support. I felt, however, that no one was able to advise me effectively. They didn’t really understand my world or my challenges.
I even started a small mastermind group of St. Louis independent agency owners looking to grow their businesses. However, they all intended to stay independent or feared sharing information for competitive reasons. These are just a few of the typical roadblocks I’ve run into.
Next, I debated the time commitment, overall cost and potential lost revenue for attending the Counselors Academy Spring Conference. I kept coming up with reasons why I couldn’t go. Finally, at the behest of a semi-retired but long-time APR colleague who suggested joining Counselors Academy, I committed. He said that “it could be the single best thing you do as an agency owner.” I should note that this same colleague had gotten the single largest piece of business he ever earned from another Counselors Academy member many years ago. That client was Phillip Morris, which he proceeded to retain for more than 18 years. At my friend Ron’s nudging, I committed and attended my first Counselors Academy Spring Conference last year in Seattle.
If I had to sum up the conference on first impressions, in a nutshell, I’d say it was “the biggest and most needed kick in the butt – in a good way.” Everything from the initial Pre-Con session which dove into financials, outlining of the strengths and weaknesses of successfully operating PR agencies, to networking with successful agency owners, the conference delivered exactly what I needed. In these initial sessions, I truly valued the open sharing of successes and failures by agency owners. In particular, I realized the one area where I had been hurting my company – over-servicing clients.
Attending the Counselors Academy’s Spring Conference gave me the tools I needed to more easily assess my agency’s (as well as my own) strengths and weaknesses, understand the dynamics of a healthy agency, focus on growth while not over-servicing, and implement dramatic changes that have made a significant difference in the management of my company.
After returning from the CA Spring Conference, I implemented dozens of new practices to streamline, strengthen, and financially build my firm’s basic foundation. For example, I implemented a time tracking and billing system to evaluate the actual hours being worked for each client. In addition, we found a project management software solution that effectively assists the fulfillment of deliverables to our clients.
Of course, I haven’t completely revolutionized my business, but I have implemented changes to better it as a whole. Now, I have a much clearer direction and when I feel stuck, I can reach out to a committed network of leaders who have been there and are happy to support my success.
You truly get out of the Counselors Academy what you put into it. As an example, I did some homework prior to going like researching and connecting with speakers that were lined up to present. By introducing myself and getting connected prior to the conference, I had already made friends of known mentors I knew I wanted to spend time with at the conference. I was invited to several dinners because of my assertiveness. By networking effectively in Seattle, I have built valuable friendships and gained a network of advisors.
I’m looking forward to the 2018 CA Spring Conference in Toronto, and to building more relationships with key allies, sharing successes and failures, and assisting each other in the positive growth of our companies. I hope to see you there!
Chemistry PR and Multimedia is a St. Louis based, full-service Public Relations and multimedia firm founded in 2009 by Chris Kuban with the vision that brands require a formula of multiple messages in multiple media thus creating a successful return on investment. Chris and his team specialize in media relations and PR, event management centered around high-profile media events, video production and social branding campaigns.