Arment Dietrich

Austerity Measures and Raising the Bar Do Not Mix

By: Arment Dietrich | February 22, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Lisa Gerber.

I’ll never forget the day the Counselors Academy brochure arrived in the mail.

It was Jan 2009, and my PR business was almost five years old. I had been growing it every year in double digits and had added an employee in 2008.

And then it all hit the fan, and I lost about 40 percent of my business in one fell swoop, and let my one employee go.

It felt like I was back to square one.

I realized at the time, I knew a lot about PR, but I didn’t have a clue on running a PR business.

That’s when I opened the Counselors Academy brochure – a conference for agency CEOs and leaders about the business side of the agency.  I thought long and hard about it. At a time when I was to be implementing austerity measures, I was contemplating a fairly significant expense.

There are two reasons for this post:

  1. I have drunk the Kool-Aid that is Counselors Academy and want to pass the glass around; and
  2. Whether Counselors is for you or not, the idea of taking a risk, and investing in yourself and/or your business is an important one.

I carried that brochure around for four months before I finally registered. I knew it was exactly what I needed to do to bring my business to the next level but I was deeply concerned about seeing a return on the expense.

Well, it ended up being the smartest professional decision in my life.

Suddenly, I had access to agency leaders like I couldn’t imagine. I met smart PR pros who were more than happy to open their books, so to speak, and show me how to run a financially healthy firm. They shared percentage of billable hours, revenue per employee, and other things I was never exposed to.

And you know what? That’s outside of the actual sessions.

Agency coaches, attorneys in the creative industries, and other agency leaders all come to present and share expertise on stuff such as contracts, human resources, and how they grew their agency.

Here’s what really made a difference. I went in to this thinking everyone would wonder what little old me was doing there with my solo practice based in a small town in the mountains.

It turned out, people really loved what I was doing. You may not think you’re interesting or that you have a good story to tell, but you do. Sometimes you just need to pull yourself out of your element to find it.

Back to my points:

  1. If you have an agency of one, 10, or 500, I can’t recommend Counselors Academy enough. I’ve met my closest friends and trusted advisors here, and can’t wait to return year after year. Registration is open now. It’s May 6-8 in New Orleans. In fact, Gini Dietrich and Jay Baer are co-keynoting the opening session. And…I get no benefit from sharing this with you, other than your eventual adulation.
  2. Maybe Counselors isn’t for you, but something else is: Something you’ve been wanting to do and have held back. I wanted to raise the bar, and you can’t do that when you’re too focused on austerity measures.

The funny thing is, I met Gini on the first day of the first year I attended. She wrote about that here. I was very jealous because she had planned ahead and had had a road bike delivered to her hotel room.

A few years later, here I am, working with her as chief content officer. My long-range plan didn’t go as intended, but I got a better offer along the way – one I could not refuse.

And that is why, sometimes, you just have to go for it.

So? What are you sitting on? How do you want to raise the bar?

  • As a fellow Counselors Academy member, let me tell any prospective first-timers this: Go. Go sign up. Go sign up now. Professionally, it’ll be one of the best and smartest investments you’ll make in your career and in yourself.

    • @BobReed And share a cab with Bob from airport to the hotel!! He’ll introduce you to everyone. 🙂

      • ginidietrich

        @Lisa Gerber @BobReed I was going to say, didn’t you share a cab with Bob and he was having drinks with Ben Wheatley and me and invited you over? #BFFSFOREVER

        • @ginidietrich@BobReed YES!! I was sitting by myself at the next table, and I didn’t want to intrude uninvited and then my phone rang, and it was BOB!!! and I said, “I’m right behind you.” 🙂 and you guys yelled at me to “get over here!” I was so happy.

  • ginidietrich

    My favorite memory of that trip is you, sitting behind me in the bus, saying to whomever was sitting next to you, “Is Gini on Facebook?” And then you friended me right then and there.

    The next year we went hiking. And the rest, as they say, is history.

    You never know what kinds of things you can share with your supposed competitors until you have an organization like this. Even though many of our friends could very well be competitors, we share business back and forth and look for ways to work together. It’s a really great thing to be involved with.

    • @ginidietrich Because I thought you were the cooooooolest!

      • @ginidietrich It sure is quiet here today.

      • ginidietrich

        @Lisa Gerber “were”????

        • Dana Hughens

          @ginidietrich @Lisa Gerber Then she met me the next day. 🙂

  • KellyeCrane

    @KristK Are you going to Counselors Academy? #solopr

    • KristK

      @KellyeCrane @lisagerber #caprsa conference is tempting. Bonus: I think that’s the last weekend of #jazzfest too. Goal is to stay #solopr

      • lisagerber

        @kristk @KellyeCrane Yep – it starts the final day of Jazzfest!

    • blah2voila

      @kellyecrane @KristK I hope to see you both there!

  • lisagerber

    @kristk are you going?

  • John_Trader1

    I wonder if Greece can derive any benefit from the theme of this post? We could all use a little encouragement on raising the bar. Thanks Lisa.

    • @John_Trader1 I sent runs to my people in Greece, John. We’ll see if it helps.

  • Great post, Lisa. You’ve really captured the essence of Counselors and what it does and means to so many of us. I think we all have our own version of your story, how CA has helped us professionally and enriched our friendships and community. Counselors is my one essential PR event of the year and, full-disclosure, it’s meant so much that I’m chairing this year’s conference, along withdana hughens . Hope to see all the Spin Sucks readers there…OK, at least some of you!

    • Dana Hughens

      @martinwaxman You are a great chair, Martin! I hope I can meet the high standards you have set this year in 2013!

    • @martinwaxman @dana hughens The Spin Sucks Crazies!

  • Dana Hughens

    I love this post. I will never forget standing in Elise’s suite and you telling me your story which I thought was AMAZING and still do! It made me cry. Then I think you cried. 🙂 A year later, you were one of the people who helped me take my big leap, and I will always appreciate that. Go Counselors Academy! I love all y’all. (Yes, that was for Ken.)

    • @Dana Hughens I remember that WELL. we were sitting with @mattklink, in fact! Whatever happened to him? My iPad won’t tag him sadly.

  • lisagerber

    @martinwaxman @AbbieF Hi you two. Thanks for sharing that post. 🙂

  • kwprkaren

    @KerseyKnowsBest good thought

  • lisagerber

    @bret_werner Hi Bret! And thanks!

  • lisagerber

    @actsofbalance 🙂

  • lisagerber

    @DebWeinstein see you indeed. 🙂

  • dcaplick

    @DebWeinstein Need? Yes! Going to be able to make it? Probably not – and not happy about it!

  • Pingback: The Importance of Making it REAL at Counselors Academy | PRBreakfastClub()

  • Pingback: Counselors Academy: a double major in business and PR | MY PALETTE()

  • Pingback: #FollowFriday: Heather Tweedy | Spin Sucks()

  • Pingback: Where Big Ideas Come From « MindCorp | Newsfeed()

  • Pingback: #FollowFriday: Heather Tweedy « MindCorp | Newsfeed()