I was 25 years old when I founded MassMedia in 1997 alone in a rented cubicle. I was determined to drive the company forward with pure grit by being self-motivated, hard-working and optimistic for all that was yet to come. I found myself being very creative and resourceful with many aspects of the company. This was especially true when it came to company expenditures in those early days.
Instead of meeting clients and prospective clients for fancy lunch and dinners, I arranged coffee meetings. When it came to the financial affairs of my company, I downloaded and taught myself QuickBooks. I handled new business development, did all the client work and then I did my own errand running and meeting scheduling. Hell, I even answered my own phone and cleaned my workspace.
As the company grew through the years, things really changed for the better. With nearly 50 employees and more than $10 million in annual revenues, my agency prospered. This meant I could move away from being a scrappy entrepreneur.
I hired an experienced and expensive in-house financial team and a personal assistant. I had a big budget for discretionary spending, including gifts for clients, employee lunches and the latest fancy equipment and software. I had large fancy offices and a budget line item for continuing education, travel and retirement matches. I found myself taking big risks, being very generous and fearless.
I have been through a lot of challenging times in the last 23 years. Most etched in my memory were the business implications to 9/11, then the Great Recession of 2008 and now the COVID-19 virus. As the leader of the company, I often had to make hard decisions. I was always determined to steer the ship into calm waters and ensure its safety so when the storm passed, we could resume.
As scrappy entrepreneurs, we need to tap into our origins to find a way to move our businesses forward in the toughest of conditions.
Here is what gets me through:
Mindset- During uncertainty, I have always demanded myself to focus on what could be done and push fear as far away as possible. If fear started to creep in on how I would make payroll or pay my building mortgage, I would immediately change my thinking and place my energy on finding new ways to generate money to meet each of those obligations. I refused to spend time in self-wallow or anxiety. Instead, I was determined to rise to every occasion and attack every obstacle with fearless ambition. With the goal being to never let the company fail.
Innovation- When things change, it has always been important for me to be creative and innovative. When revenue plummets and you’re forced to cut costs and labor, entrepreneurs can benefit from being open-minded to finding new, efficient ways of doing things. During these times, I often looked for new partnerships, software or vendors to deliver on services. I was quick to pivot and turned to new, thriving industries to pitch my services. I survived by being relentless and seeing things for what they were and being determined to find a new solution.
Hard work- I have always been a hard worker and passionate about growing my company. When times are good, however, I bask in amazing vacations and take personal time off to serve my family and myself. But when a crisis hits, my entrepreneurial spirit kicks into overdrive and I’m determined to avoid failure at all costs. During times of uncertainty, I find working harder and smarter is essential to survival. I remain very consistent in working every day. It takes a lot of extra work to review budgets and expenses and find ways to cut. It takes extra time and attention to coach your staff and point them in a direction that will steer the ship right. It takes sinful amounts of energy and time to think through obstacles, connect with clients and find solutions.
One thing is certain, this is not the last crisis or time of uncertainty I or my company will endure. But at my disposable I have a spirit I can tap into, to pull me through.