Four keys to success for accidental entrepreneurs

Charlie Price and Emily Lang, Price Lang Consulting

Let’s be honest: there are a lot of entrepreneurs who don’t start out with the intention of becoming business owners. Life circumstances change; opportunity knocks, and people who went to college to study an industry so they can work in that industry suddenly find themselves launching a business.

That’s our story anyway. When we launched our public relations firm in January 2011, both of us had worked in politics for well over a decade. When our boss left office, so did we.

We had lots of experience in writing, advocacy, political campaigns, and graphic design for publications. Plus we had great media relationships all over the state. What we didn’t have was a background in business. So, we rolled up our sleeves, read everything we could gets our hands on, and met with people who kindly told us about the challenges that would surely befall our paths.

People were generous with their time and their advice. Here are four of the key components that have boosted our success.

Component 1: Pick and choose, even when you’re not sure you can

We launched Price Lang Consulting in 2011 with the two of us as the only employees. From the very beginning, we had in-depth conversations about the type of clients we wanted to work with—and the ones we didn’t. We both knew there were some industries and some people we couldn’t work for, and that’s important to identify in your business.

Yes, you want to make money in your business and you need to feed your family, but you also need to sleep at night. We were strategic about expanding to new industries just as we were strategic about what business we turned down.

Component 2: Put your plan in writing

Part of strategic business growth is writing down your plan. When we identified a new industry we wanted to work in, we would brainstorm people we knew in that industry and plan out exactly how we were going to contact them and the conversation we would have. Having that written plan holds everyone accountable to the goal.

Component 3: Plow the ground continuously

There have been some times in our business when we’ve grown to a good size and found solid footing. The temptation is to sit back and relax a bit. You’ve made it, after all! But the truth is, if you aren’t constantly building your business pipeline, there will come a time when a client will leave for whatever reason, and you’ll find yourself in a world of hurt.

Business development is an ongoing effort, so be sure you’re plowing the ground even in good times.

Component 4: Quality should be consistent, even if the size of the client is not

We work with clients that range from a global telecommunications company to teeny tiny nonprofits. And we work with all those clients the same way. We find the person on our team who is best suited to handle the task they need and give them our best effort.

Every client we work with gets a customized plan because every client is different. Their goals are different, their stories are different, and the channels we’re going to use are different. But each one gets our best effort every time.

These four things have been instrumental to our success, and they can be applied to any business venture.

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