It’s Patriots Day here in Massachusetts, a state holiday that marks the anniversary of the Revolutionary War battles of Lexington and Concord, as well as this year’s 121st running of the Boston Marathon. As a kid growing up in the Boston area, I’ve enjoyed watching this marathon spectacle, taking my place among throngs of fans along the route. If you haven’t seen it in person, it’s truly awe-inspiring to observe the physical prowess and mental toughness of the tens of thousands of athletes who lace up for this incredibly grueling test of endurance and strength. Today’s forecast is sunny and a bit warm, sure to bring out even more crowds than usual, but possibly creating some challenges for the athletes who prefer their marathon weather cool and damp.
I’ve never run a marathon, but I’m no stranger to long-distance athletic events. The closest comparison I can make would be my participation in numerous 3-day cancer fundraising walks, the first one back in May 2000. Walking has always come easily to me. The tougher part is sleeping in tents, showering in the back of a tractor-trailer truck and suffering through three days of port-a-potties. Suffice it to say, I’ve never been much of a camper.
Over the past few years, I’ve added another endurance feat to my portfolio: I’ve launched a small business. Among the many obvious connections between owning and operating a small firm and long-distance running (or walking) there are a few qualities that winning athletes and entrepreneurial types share. Achieving success over the long-term in business, sports, (or life for that matter) requires certain characteristics.
Not everyone is well suited for running a business, much less running a marathon. I have people tell me all the time that they don’t know how I do this on my own. I respond by saying I don’t feel alone. A strong competitive instinct, sense of curiosity, perseverance, tolerance for risk and plain old luck sit across the desk from me every day. These inner attributes and a solid network of industry associates have led me to where I am today, somewhere along my own marathon route to success, the finish line still nowhere in sight.
January symbolizes fresh starts and new beginnings. Like many business owners, I’m excited to flip to a new page, eagerly anticipating the clean slate that lays before me, ready to fill it with projects, plans and new adventures. Now that I’m through the holiday rush, I’m trying to give myself a short break to reflect upon what went well and what didn’t (and why) over the past year, and indulge in a bit of quiet contemplation and goal-setting for the year ahead. I feel I’ve more than earned it.
Here at RMG, the New Year also marks a time for assessment and re-evaluation on both sides of the client-agency fence. I welcome this cyclical tallying up of successes and failures as a natural and healthy part of doing business. It’s important for my clients and for me, in my role as their agency partner, to consider the pros and cons of continuing to work together and for us to share our future intentions. Going through this process may be a bit cumbersome, but ultimately should result in a better outcome for each of us.
The investments we make in building trusting and productive partnerships with our existing clients can come at a huge cost to our ongoing lead generation and new business efforts.
Annual contract negotiations can be stressful in any industry, but for small marketing firms like mine, losing one large contract can be devastating. No business owner intends to get into the situation where she is overly dependent on a single client, but it’s very easy for that dynamic to happen. We, small shop owners tend to run lean in almost every area: staffing, supplies, infrastructure, and our greatest resource of all, time. The investment of time and energy we need to make to build trusting and productive partnerships with our existing clients can come at a huge cost to our ongoing lead generation and new business efforts.
Let’s say for the purpose of this article you’re fortunate to have some client relationships that you'd like to re-sign for another year. Here are five tips to remember as you seek the contract renewal win-win:
As unpleasant as it is to lose an account, the truth is, even when you do absolutely everything you can, some degree of client attrition comes with the territory. The more you can prepare yourself financially and emotionally ahead of time, the quicker you’ll rebound from a non-renewal.
Here’s to a successful contract renewal season and a prosperous and creative 2017 for all!
A collection of muddy cleats, old shin guards and slightly deflated soccer balls has filled our mudroom for the past decade or so. We’ve logged thousands of hours with drop-offs and pick-ups, fundraisers, equipment purchases, summer camps, physical therapy sessions, pep talks, spaghetti dinners, loads of laundry, not to mention a plethora of thrilling wins and disappointing losses. My daughter started playing soccer back in kindergarten, kicking daisies around the field with her friends, and has grown into a smart and talented offensive player. Last night marked the bittersweet but hard-fought conclusion to her soccer career.
My daughter has always had a keen sense of where she fits into the world around her. A senior in high school now, she’s acutely aware of the finality of certain things, along with the possibilities that lie ahead. She is poised on the brink of a new stage of her life post-high school, entering college and moving away from home, a transition that’s both awesome and humbling to contemplate. This soccer season, which ended on a dramatic note at the semi-finals of the state tourney, with a 2 -1 loss to the top seeded team in the southern division, was one of those milestone moments. Her team made it farther into the playoffs than any other high school soccer team in our town’s history, and we are over the moon proud of all of them for their accomplishments both on and off the field.
Of all the teams my daughter has played on, this one seemed extra special from the start. While many of the girls had played together before, in different combinations across a series of town, school and regional leagues, this particular group had a terrific chemistry. It wasn’t about their individual talents or the resources they were given by their coaches and parents. What made this team exceptional was how they figured out so early on in the season that they had a choice. Either they were going to do this together or not do it at all. As a team, they chose to work harder than ever, creating a beautiful web of their unique talents, bringing the energy, spirit and collective determination they needed to earn the playoff berth and stand on the cusp of the state championship platform.
My daughter and the other seniors took their status very seriously. While not a captain, she was one of seven elder players who modeled team play, enthusiasm and persistence throughout the season. Not that the underclassmen girls needed much encouragement! Watching one of their recent games, you would not have known anyone’s rank in school, because they performed seamlessly as a fully-coordinated unit, each one picking up what the other put down, covering for each other, giving and accepting support in a series of intuitive actions that led to those much-coveted post-season wins. From the sidelines, it was a beautiful sight to behold.
The team's decision to focus on mutual respect and collaboration over individual glory has reinforced my own priorities as a female business owner. Every day, I think about what will help me to grow my company and improve my services. Just like the soccer players, I believe it all comes down to developing a well-orchestrated team, with a common goal. Since starting my business, I’ve been fortunate to connect with a variety of independent contractors and other small-to-medium size companies who offer services that dovetail with my own skill set. Some of these relationships have evolved into long-term partnerships, while others haven’t lasted but I’ve benefited from every interaction, even the less successful ones.
Here are six (6) things I’ve learned from watching my daughter’s soccer team that are relevant to my life in business:
1. It’s impossible to do everything by yourself. Teams are just that, groups of people working together. Nothing spells B-U-R-N-O-U-T quicker than telling yourself that you don’t need help. Whether it’s mentorship, financial advice, marketing expertise or a million other roles, it’s important to be open to outside support.
2. Listen to your inner voice. Just like an athlete must to keep tabs on her physical and emotional condition in order to play most effectively, we, business owners need to keep our finger on the pulse of our business’ health at all times.
3. Set your goal. A soccer game’s objective is to get the ball into the net. Everyone connected to the game understands that singular goal and works to achieve it. In business, it’s just as important to state your company’s objectives up front. Explicitly communicating your company’s purpose is an essential step towards accomplishing your goals.
4. Practice, practice, practice. That old saying is true, and it applies to many endeavors, not just sports and business. An athlete wouldn’t think of competing without training hard, and a business owner needs to continually sharpen her skills and knowledge, staying ahead of the latest research and technology to earn her customers’ trust.
5. Everybody loses, once in a while. It’s an awful feeling to lose, especially when you played your heart out but it’s going to happen to all of us, at some point or another along the way. It’s HOW we lose and what we learn from the loss that matters.
6. Have fun! Yes, competition can be a grind. It’s exhausting, repetitive and sometimes even painful. Despite all that, the girls’ team found creative ways to enjoy the experience, sharing meals together, dressing up in costumes, making posters, and often sending funny or inspirational group messages to each other, all in the name of fun. The fun helped them weather the tougher parts of the season.
I have my share of grueling days, when I log into my laptop before dawn and leave the office feeling spent way after dark. But I’m trying to have some fun, too. Setting up coffee dates or drinks with colleagues, participating in a charity event, taking a walk with a fellow working mom who understands the challenges we all face in today’s multitasking world. Sometimes it’s as simple as a quick text exchange with a friend during a hectic day that can boost me up a bit. Whatever it takes, making it fun can sustain even the most ambitious business owner.
Note: This blog post is dedicated to the Amesbury High School Girls Varsity Soccer team who recently earned the 2016 MIAA Division 4 title.
Congratulations on your stellar season! Your determination to succeed and your collaborative spirit is an inspiration to us all. In many ways, you’ve brought our entire community together, as only young people can do. It’s been an honor to cheer you on!
Media planners see the world through a uniquely filtered lens. We are a separate breed, fluent in the language of impression delivery, engagement rates and target audiences, always hyper-vigilant, seeking evidence of media consumption habits and trending consumer behaviors. We enjoy dismantling a strategy just to figure out how different internal and external market factors will affect the outcome of a campaign. We question everything, base our recommendations on real-time data and benefit from growing digital technologies that allow us to optimize our plans almost immediately. There's a sense of collaboration and creativity to this side of the advertising business that brings together clients, vendors and planners.
Since George Washington reluctantly ran (unopposed) for president in our nation’s first election in 1789, candidates have battled for the highest office every four years. Even in earlier times, the press played a huge role in forming public perceptions of party representatives. Delivery mechanisms were admittedly less robust in those days, with stump speeches and printed pamphlets serving the purpose that TV ads and social media shares accomplish today. Present day elections have seen an enormous increase in media investment, as candidates crave more and more media exposure earlier than ever in the campaign. Countless millions are spent on election ads that dominate new and traditional media “airwaves.” So far, Hilary Clinton has spent around $61 million on general election campaign ads. Her rival, Donald Trump, has relied less on paid media and more on free social media exposure so far, but pundits suspect that his team may pull the trigger on a larger paid spend in the weeks and months ahead. There’s no doubt, money talks in politics.
So where does that leave regular businesses that want to keep selling their widgets and promoting their brands within a designated market area during an election? How do these typical advertisers compete for available impressions when they are clearly outspent? Media buying experts say it is possible to keep your local message alive, even with many major media outlets submerged under the weight of large-scale election media spending. The key is to consider alternatives to more traditional media vehicles, and to think creatively about how to share your message on a combination of paid and unpaid media platforms.
Here are some options to consider as we head into the final months of the 2016 presidential campaign:
A smart and seasoned media planning agent like Richardson Media Group will help you to uncover these and other alternative methods to reach your target audience during this crowded election season and beyond. Creative and affordable media possibilities do exist, even with the paid media marketplace saturated with campaign ads.
Contact us to get started.
This time of year is all about transition. The kids head back to school and the rest of us business types attempt to regain our equilibrium after a hectic summer of trying to squeeze in those half-day Fridays and answer emails from a variety of out of office locations, sketchy wi-fi signals adding to the fun.
When I was a teacher, this final week of August always brought with it a complicated mixture of anticipation and anxiety. “What challenges will this new academic year bring?” “How will I be tested and what will be the outcome?” were just a few of the questions I used to ask myself. The art of readying for the school year takes on a special meaning when you are an educator. Sure, there are the practical preparations such as filling supply orders and organizing welcome packets, but for me, it was always more of an emotional production. Before I met my new group of charges, I made sure I was rested, restored, and my spiritual gas tank was full. Experience had taught me that I would require every last drop of patience, inspiration and determination in order to make it through the required 181 days.
Even though I’m no longer a classroom teacher, I still feel nostalgia for back to school season. From my current vantage point, it seemed so much simpler then. When I was teaching, I willingly submitted myself to the school calendar, allowing its pre-defined structure to gauge my workflow and my expectations. I knew when I needed to push and when I could let off the pedal a bit. My students and I moved through the curriculum with a collective understanding that we’d start with Topic A and move on to Topic B and so on and so forth until we reached our end goal together. There was something extremely satisfying and supportive about working within such a well-constructed environment.
Now that I’ve become a business owner, the security of the academic calendar’s carefully orchestrated gridwork is gone. This past summer, I’ve worked steadily, shattering all the rules on work-life balance and healthy lifestyle along the way. Some may caution me to be more careful; that I might burn out if I keep up this pace too long. Others may tell me that this period of growth is only temporary, so I should make as much of it as I can while it lasts. And then there will be those who remind me, with an ‘I told you so’ tone to their voice that I’m getting what I asked for: the life of an entrepreneur infused with all the sacrifices and rewards that go along with it. I know there’s truth in all of those statements.
Controlling how often and where I work is my decision, based on many factors related to overall workflow, project timelines and interpersonal relationships. It’s what I love about being my own boss, although it’s not without a price to pay. I look forward to future summers, when I am not so “new” to this game, when I may be able to enjoy a full week of rest and play with family and friends without interruption. As I build my company’s internal support structure in the form of new hires and stronger vendor partnerships, I hope that I will be able to get away once in awhile and maybe even leave my laptop at home.
However, running a business means there is no off switch. I will probably find myself torn between work and play forever, as long as I’m the master of my own destiny. I say, that’s ok. I’m content with this arrangement and wouldn’t trade it for all the snow days or field trips in the world.
It’s where I belong and where I plan to stay.