On Wednesday, Aug. 1, 1990, I took the plunge and opened Westcott Communications.
I had a few years of nonprofit and hospital marketing experience under my belt. I’d worked with advertising agencies and hired independent graphic artists, photographers and writers for smaller projects.
But the very next day, Iraq invaded Kuwait and the Persian Gulf War began. Soon “Scud missile” entered the national vocabulary. Before August 1990 was over, it was clear the U.S. had entered into a recession, too.
“Oh dear, what have I done?” I wondered.
30 Years Later
I’ve been lucky to work with some wonderful clients and colleagues, many of whom have become lifelong friends. I am forever grateful to the many who helped me along the way with mentoring advice and support.
In that same spirit, I’m sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past 30 years that I hope will be helpful to you regardless of profession. I cannot help but notice parallels between 1990 and some of the uncertainty we all face today.
Please note: The following list assumes you are already a self-motivated professional with a great product or service and excellent customer relations. You’ve determined your:
- Potential clients’ wants or needs
- Unique selling propositions (USPs)
- Other key business elements
If not, work on that first. And if you need help, contact the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for free tools, resources and mentoring. In my area, the SBA has been offering excellent professional “how to” webinars in recent months. I encourage you to get on the mailing list of your local SBA District Office.
And What I’ve Learned
#1. Do the things that scare you the right way. When an opportunity comes along and that little voice inside says to do it, trust yourself. Do your research or get some extra training if necessary. Push through the obstacles and just go forward.
#2. Invest in good tools and equipment. If it saves time and makes your life easier, get it. Back in the day, that meant my very own fax machine. Now it means buying upgraded versions of free apps when I need to. Spend money wisely in the right places.
#3. Build a great team. No one can do it all. Choose professionals who share your work ethic and deliver quality work. Tell them what you need, then stand back and let them do their jobs. For content or writing projects such as a newsletters, quarterly magazines or annual reports, that may involve bringing in a graphic artist, photographer, researcher or additional writer. A good accountant, attorney, computer tech and plumber keep your business humming smoothly, too.
#4. Listen to your gut. It is okay to turn down business. If an opportunity does not feel quite right, politely step away. Better yet—refer the person to someone in your network who may be a closer fit.
#5. Hire a cleaning service. Look at your hourly rate and do the math. You could be spending that time doing more productive things or enjoying some well-earned relaxation. Unless, of course, you enjoy housework. Are there other time-devouring chores it makes sense to off-load? Note: You may be more comfortable bringing in outside services after the pandemic.
#6. Schedule down time. Since you probably enjoy what you do, it is easy to go, go, go and. . . burn out. Of course, there will be times when you must work evenings and weekends. But down time recharges your mental and creative batteries.
#7. Invest in your professional development. This is a little challenging right now as many in-person conferences, workshops and networking activities are cancelled until 2021. But check out educational webinars and virtual networking sessions offered by professional organizations, industry groups and trade publications. There are a lot of excellent programs out there right now and many of them are free.
#8. Be flexible, persistent and patient with yourself. Things are changing quickly in marketing and probably in your field, too. At times it may seem impossible to keep up with it all. But maybe you don’t have to know it all right now. When faced with something new and challenging, take a deep breath. Then figure out where to find help.
#9. Pay it Forward. Volunteer with your professional organization. Do pro bono work for a worthy charity. Mentor a young professional just starting out. It feels good, and you’ll probably meet some wonderful people.
After 30 years, I am still fascinated by medicine and grateful for the kind of work I get to do. I’ve interviewed inspiring doctors, nurses, patients and families for stories I’ll certainly never forget.
And now, I’ve experienced health care from a more personal perspective. Working in the health care field has given me invaluable insights that have been helpful in dealing with life’s inevitable challenges.
I love supporting the important work our medical and health care professionals do every single day. And especially, now during COVID-19, I admire their commitment, courage and heroism.
I look forward to telling more of their stories.