I’m not sure I realized I was on the cusp of a trend when I started my own public relations firm more than 25 years ago.
Like any entrepreneur, I was focused on my own goals those first few years — getting established and growing the business — so the fact that the number of businesses owned by women was about to hit a period of dramatic growth wasn’t my major concern.
But it seems hard to ignore these days. More than 9 million businesses in the United States are owned by women, and a recent survey shows that the growth of women-owned businesses over the last 15 to 20 years has been outpacing business growth in general by a wide margin.
I’d like to share my response when someone asked me recently what one piece of advice I would give entrepreneurs (male or female) who are on the verge of launching a business.
I thought that was a great question, but pardon me while I cheat a little on the answer. As I mulled the possibilities, I decided I couldn’t stick to just one piece of advice, so here are three:
• Network the old-fashioned way. Get word out about your plans as much as possible. This is no time to keep a secret. Share the great news! Attend any business-oriented meetings you can find in your area. Join networking groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce. Schedule speaking engagements. Make a list of all your contacts — friends, relatives, former business associates — who might want to know. Don’t qualify who you are telling. Tell the world! Business opportunities can appear in the most surprising ways, so don’t place any limitations on how far and wide you blast the news.
• Network the new-fashioned way. When I started EMSI Public Relations, social media didn’t exist. No Facebook. No Twitter. No LinkedIn. I know. It’s a world that’s hard to imagine. But if social media had been around a quarter-century ago, you can bet I would have put it to use spreading the news about my fledgling business. In addition to making your Facebook friends and your Twitter followers aware of what’s happening, you can use social media to reach groups that might have an interest in your product or service.
• But first, get yourself ready. Before the world starts beating a path to your door, you want to make sure you have the appropriate welcome mats laid out nicely so that the world thinks well of you. Remember the adage about never getting a second chance to make a first impression. Your website should be up and running, and look professional. It should reflect the quality and professionalism you plan to provide. You are now a business owner, so you want to dress the part, both literally and figuratively.
Let me add one final piece of advice. “I’m going into business for myself” is a bold statement. As you share your exciting news with the world, make sure you do it in a gracious manner.
Be confident, but not arrogant or cocky. You want to come across as credible and dignified, a person worthy of the trust you are asking customers and clients to give you.
Marsha Friedman is a public relations expert with 25 years’ experience developing publicity strategies for celebrities, corporations and media newcomers alike. Using the proprietary system she created as founder and CEO of EMSI Public Relations, an award-winning national agency, she secures thousands of top-tier media placements annually for her clients. The former senior vice president for marketing at the American Economic Council, Marsha is a sought-after advisor on PR issues and strategies. She shares her knowledge in her Amazon best-selling book, Celebritize Yourself, and as a popular speaker at organizations around the country. www.emsincorporated.com