Running a healthy small business is no easy feat. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 50% of U.S. businesses fail in their first five years, while 65% go under within ten years. That said, most people go into business with a positive mindset. So how do you know if you’re set up for success? When a writer for the American Express Business Trends and Insights blog asked for comments for an article she was writing, it got me thinking back about my 30 year journey as founder and CEO of Impact Communications.
Excerpt from American Express Business Class article
Tip #4: Clients find you
It's a big moment for your business when clients you've never contacted start finding you. It means what you're doing is working, and your company is displaying healthy signs of growth.
"Clients started coming to us on a consistent basis due to them 'seeing us everywhere' - online, in print, and in person - in addition to steady referrals from strategic partners and happy existing clients," explains Marie Swift, president and CEO of Impact Communications, Inc.
That consistent flow of new clients helped Swift hire more staff, add new leaders, and reserve liquid capital to prepare for future revenue fluctuations.
Beyond the short comment that was included in the Business Class article linked above, here are some additional reflections as I look back on 30 years well spent, working deep in the trenches as founder and CEO of Impact Communications.
I knew my family-owned and operated PR and marketing agency was a success when:
1. Clients started coming to us on a consistent basis due to them “seeing us everywhere” (both online/in print and in person) in addition to steady referrals from strategic partners and happy existing clients and our strong reputation for delivering value for our two niches, independent financial advisors, and allied institutions.
2. We started winning bigger retainer fees and business projects, even when we were in competition with larger agencies because our origin story and “why we do what we do” resonated better and was more authentic.
3. We had to hire more staff to align with the demand.
4. We started adding layers of leadership to reduce the amount of time the principals needed to spend managing teams.
5. We quit worrying about the bank balance because we had plenty of liquid capital on reserve in case of revenue fluctuations or a market downturn.
6. We developed an internal succession plan to keep the business in the family versus an external exit, which would’ve been more lucrative.
7. Media outlets began to contact us frequently for comments from our internal leadership team, and/or our clients.
8. Clients began treating us like friends and family. We were more than just a vendor to them. I actually had one long-time client -- a CMO at a large financial services firm -- get emotional and teary-eyed when she called to say that due to the new parent company's restructuring plan, that our retainer relationship would be ending after more than 6 consecutive years.
9. We began to receive unsolicited kudos and "atta team" notes from our clients. One even sent a VERY nice unsolicited bonus check to thank us for going above and beyond the required service plan.
It’s a beautiful life! Something I would’ve never dreamed of when I started the company 30 years ago in August 1993 as a sole proprietor.
What started off as "me, myself, and I" has become a real business -- one that will live on without me. Just like my family and my kids, Impact Communications is a great source of pride and joy for me. In fact, we like to say at Impact Communications, family is more than just bloodlines: it's the culture we live.
Where the heart is...
Here are just a few of the things that makes Impact Communications special:
1. We truly enjoy our daily conversations, share stories, celebrate wins and, occasionally, commiserate over losses.
We use Skype Instant Messenger and Video Chat services to brainstorm, problem solve for our clients, provide what we call "teamly" support, and generate ideas.
2. We give people the flexibility to care for their family and personal health, the freedom to work from wherever they need to be, some leeway on dress, self-expression, authenticity, and even embrace the occasional use of colorful language.
3. One of our mottos is "family first." But when we are working we embrace our 3-D Framework: "Dedicated. Discerning. Driven." As founder, my personal mission statement includes the phrase "bright spirits, nurtured, empowered by leadership, love, and commitment."
4. We were virtual before virtual was cool. Not only has that totally worked for us, but we have continually enjoyed a competitive advantage thanks to our nimble, scrappy team and their can-do spirit.
So if you think you'd fit in, please consider joining us as either a client or a team member. We’re always looking for smart, talented "family members" and love doing meaningful work for purpose-driven leaders in the financial planning profession and financial services industry.
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