Feb. 1 marks one year since Green Light Communications officially opened its “doors.” (I spend my work hours divided between an amazing co-working space full of super inspiring boss babes, the Locality, and this other place that has the actual most adorable dog on the planet named William Sampson aka my house.) I have so.many.feelings (on brand for me) about my first year of business ownership, but I’ve tried to narrow it down to the biggies.
1. Owning a business is seriously hard work. I started Green Light in the incredibly fortunate position of already having several clients that I’d worked with in the past. The fact that they trusted me enough to go along on this journey is something I’ll never ever take for granted. The fact that they’re still with me is something for which I’m eternally grateful. I know most people starting a business don’t have the luxury of built-in clients. Since I knew my clients and knew the kind of work I’d be doing, I think I underestimated the rest of the job. Making my clients’ stories known is the job I spend 40+ hours a week doing. That part I LOVE. But I didn’t realize how much time I’d spend: invoicing, balancing books, categorizing expenses, filling out tax forms, renewing software, backing up computers, attending events, going to the bank, finding time to do my own company’s publicity (still working on this one), preparing new business presentations, getting hacked (that one was especially fun!!) and so many more admin/backend tasks.
2. I’m more energized about my work than ever. I remember getting my first official PR job and being in awe of the fact that I was being paid to work with companies that I’d known and loved since I was a kid growing up in North Carolina. How in the world was I getting a paycheck to brag about jewelry and clothes and restaurants and all the things that have made me stay in this state my entire life? That in awe feeling… it’s never gone away. In fact, it’s only gotten stronger now that I’m at the helm. I’ve always been a good executioner of ideas, but this year I’ve been able to really put on my strategist hat and it is the best feeling ever. To be able to come up with ideas to present to your clients that they love for the businesses that are so near and dear to their hearts is an honor and a privilege and gets me so.dang.excited every day.
3. I’ve never appreciated my support system more. If you want to be brought down to earth, own a business. Being your own boss is incredible, but it also means everything comes down to you. Every idea suggested to a client, every piece of writing that goes out, every statement submitted to the press. I am ultimately responsible for everything that Green Light’s name is attached to and while I LOVE IT, it can feel a little heavy at times. Enter my support system. My family and friends, my ride-or-dies, who have listened to rant after rant about things they know zero about, watched me stress over big events, and perhaps more importantly than any of those, given me a pass when I’ve been consumed by this company and not as present with them as I should be. They are angels on earth and GLC would not be where it is without them.
4. Make friends with fellow business owners. Bonus points if they’re in your industry. I can’t stress this one enough. My friends and family are the best people on the planet, but they understand the stresses of their own jobs, not those of being the owner of a PR agency (just like I have no clue what it’s like to be the VP of a bank, a lawyer or a manager in an insurance agency). My saving grace this year has been connecting with a few other owners in this biz and shamelessly making them my best friends. In the beginning they helped answer ALL the logistical questions. “Do you have a good accountant you would recommend? Does this count as a business expense? Wait, I’m supposed to be tracking my mileage?” While the answers provided to those questions were essential, what I value the most from these relationships is being able to get together for a glass of wine after work and have someone who just gets it. Someone who reassures you that you aren’t crazy. Someone who knows this business (which is constantly listed as the #1 most stressful job) is insane and that everything that happens – the good, the bad and the ugly – is all a part of the gig and to take it all in the stride.
5. PR is changing more than ever. PR used to mean traditional public relations: pitching the media, crisis communications, etc. Now it means anything and everything. In addition to classic media relations, in the last year I’ve: played model in photoshoots, attended a biscuit making competition, pretended to be a receptionist for a client video, shot hoops with a former NBA All-Star, hosted an awards banquet, chatted with a talking Christmas tree and so many other strange and magical things. PR is beyond definition now and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
6. One thing that that has remained constant, however, is that PR is always about people. I got into this business for two reasons: I love words and I love people. I grew up shy (weird job choice, I know), but have always been fascinated by people’s stories. Writing words allowed me to tell those stories when I was too quiet to speak them. I eventually grew out of the shy thing, but loving people’s stories never changed. One thing I always tell students or junior publicists is to seek out stories. But not just the obvious ones. Get to know your clients. Find out about their kids and where they go on vacation and what they do when they aren’t busy building their empires. There may be a PR angle there, there may not. But those personal things are one of the best parts of this business. I have clients that text me “good luck” when I’m about to run a half marathon or tease me when their team beats my Heels (we’ll be back next year, y’all). I have met some of the smartest, kindest, most inspiring people through this business that I’ll be friends with for life. It’s important to remember people have lives after 5 p.m. and before 9 a.m. and that that’s where the trust is built.
7. It is the best decision I’ve ever made. Yes, it’s hard as hell and there have been plenty of tears, but making the decision to start Green Light was the best thing I’ve done in my 33 years on this earth (except maybe get Willie Dog, but let’s go with it). All the things you hear are great about being a business owner are true: the ability to create your own hours, the fact that you can make all the decisions, that sometimes you can work in your pajamas. But, more than anything, having the privilege of being able to help shape others’ businesses that they pour their hearts into daily (and in turn, help shape LIVES!) is the biggest honor I can imagine.
When I graduated college in 2008, I made a vision board of what I thought my future would look like. It had a ton of stuff on it (I think I was supposed to be married to a former Carolina football player by now…oops!), but one thing I remember specifically was a fake business card I made (probably in Microsoft Publisher). Under my name it said, “Public Relations Agency, President + Owner.” The fact that I can claim that as my reality is mind-blowing, humbling and just overall, really, really cool. Here’s to many more years and many more successes. Happy One Year, GLC!