A couple of weeks ago, Elizabeth Sosnow, a managing director with BlissPR, a B2B-based public relations firm in New York and Chicago, wrote on PR Breakfast Club, The Secret Worries of a PR Firm Boss.
In her post, her worries include: Positioning more broadly, employee turnover and cultural changes, divvying up the profits, employees who don’t like one another, and loss of clients. She and I bantered a little bit over Twitter and she asked me what I would add to the list.
It’s funny that Elizabeth’s worries are not my own; I don’t even worry about loss of clients (anymore). Each firm is unique, with its own culture and own set of challenges. Following is what keeps me up at night:
1. It was October 13, 2008 and I got the dreaded phone call from the bank. Our line of credit had been cut off. Payroll was due in two days and none of our clients had paid their invoices for September. I remember handling that phone call extremely unprofessionally. I even cried. I did manage to talk them into covering payroll for us, until clients paid their invoices. So began 15 months of worrying every single month whether or not we were going to make the payroll that was due on the 15th. April 2010 (yes, just a few months ago) was the first month we were cash flow positive and I’m happy to report I no longer lie in bed, awake in the middle of the night, wondering if we are going to make payroll. But I still worry that it’s going to happen again and that is not a position I ever want to experience again.
2. Are we delivering above and beyond what our clients expect? I’ve always been a go the extra mile person, and it was great when I was executing myself. But now that I have a team of experts, who are all great at what they do, I only hear from clients when they’re upset or angry. Even though it’s not often, it’s not a fun job. I don’t like it much. In fact, I pretty much hate it. So I worry about how to create a culture where my team can read the red flags and they aren’t afraid to tell me there is a problem…before the client calls me.
3. Just a little more than a year ago, I took over this blog and began writing consistently. It started out as three days a week, then four, and now we’re up to five days (and multiple times a day is coming)! But now I worry about whether or not I’m providing value not only to you, but whether or not it’s valuable enough to get prospective clients to call us. Now that Dan is here, we hope to provide an even higher level of value that is targeted directly to your specific needs and grants you exclusivity. But I sometimes lie awake at night and worry we won’t be able to pull it off.
4. This one is going to sound weird, but I worry whether or not our new business proposals are too much. We’re smart. We have a great team. We drive superior results that actually affect revenue. But I don’t think that comes across in our new business proposals. Get us in front of the prospect and we win nearly every time. But if we have to send an RFP, a PowerPoint document, or a description of what we do, we almost never win. We had a managing director who used to say, “To know us is to love us.” I worry about how to get prospects to know us without having met us.
5. And, last but not least, the one thing I spend a ton of time worrying about is my own coaching and leadership skills. I’m busy. Aren’t we all? But I travel quite a bit, I’m rarely in the office five days a week, and when I am, I spend most of my time on conference calls and with clients. My team gets me for an hour every Monday, but that’s the only scheduled time. I worry that I’m not available enough to coach them, to provide them advice that advances their careers, and that they have great ideas, but they flounder because I’m not around to give them the nod. I work with Randy Hall at least once a month on how to better myself in this arena, but I always worry it’s not enough.
What about you? Even if you don’t run a PR firm, what keeps you up at night? What are some of your own worries?
Photo credit: Libsyn