There was a great article in the American Marketing Association’s Marketing News Magazine this month talking to and interviewing marketers who have gone solo in their careers. It inspired me to write a blog post interviewing our very own Megan Salch (who did just that) on her journey to independence. This is a great way for our customers to not only get to know the owner and the company as a whole but what we at Tell Your Tale stand for. Venturing out and becoming an independent business owner can have its challenges but it can be rewarding as well.
Here’s how Megan’s journey to independence began:
Why did you start your own business?
When I had my first child in 2005, I realized my former marketing job was still going to require 60+ hours a week for me to fulfill that job. I decided that if I was going to work that many hours for someone else, I might as well do it for myself. So, I talked to my former employer and explained my situation and then decided to open my own company. In the beginning, I started out almost as a freelancer working out of our house and had very little overhead. But, I saw that the more I put into it, the more I got out of it. It was a pretty easy transition, and I loved that I could manage my schedule a little bit more than a traditional 8 am- 5 pm and still have more time with my kids. That’s really why I did it.
How was starting your own business at the beginning? How long did it take to get the hang of it?
I don’t think you ever really get the hang of it if you’re always challenging yourself to be better and do things differently. Even in marketing, you’re always looking for ways to innovate and differentiate yourself. In some ways in the beginning, it was easier because from a business standpoint, I didn’t have the overhead, it was just me. Then, I slowly started working with different contractors and I have employees, I have to look at the business side quite a bit differently. From a marketing standpoint, I had to market myself and my business as much as I was marketing other people’s businesses. We started out doing a lot of the same things we do today and now, we have more people doing it and we are growing the business.
What’s the biggest advantage you’ve found in independence?
I think it gets back to a more flexible schedule that allows me to spend more time with my family. I know that I can look ahead and say I’m going to take these two days off to go on a vacation with my husband and kids. So, I am able to plan the beginning of the week and put in longer hours upfront so that I can do that time at the end of the week. I do not think this works for everyone, but it does for me. A lot of people need more structure. I like the independence of knowing that I can pick up my child and take her to cheer or to a volleyball game or get my little one to a doctor’s appointment. That’s the reason I went into business on my own, I wanted that independence. Since I am already a structured person, I know that I am going to put in more than the required number of hours. Not everyone can do that but, if you can, then you can reap the benefits of more independence.
Do you have any advice for marketers looking to go solo?
Again, I would make sure you have the personality where you can structure your schedule so that you’re still going to be working hard. It’s easy for some people to say “my schedule is kind of light today, I’ll just hang out by the pool all day”. Those people don’t have the personality to be able to stick to their own schedule and I’ve seen that a lot. When it’s your business, you have to put in more time. When you go out on your own a lot of the times people think that you’re going to have all this free time, but not really. You may structure your day differently but you’re not going to have all kinds of free time. Not when you’re prospecting because you have to prospect all the time. I would also say, make sure that you have a really good network of other business owners. I think if you’re a woman, its extra important to know other women business owners. There is a great organization called The Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance (WBEA) that does a lot of mentoring for women business owners connecting each other. Also, other industry organizations like the American Marketing Association (AMA) are great. Those are two that I definitely recommend looking into. Look into your local Chamber of Commerce as well. The good ones really work to help you grow your business. Make sure that you have networking opportunities but also look for the mentoring opportunities because there is always someone out there that knows something that you don’t. It is important to be able to share ideas especially when you’re first starting your own business.
Knowing what you know now, would you have done anything differently?
I think that my expectations would have been a little bit different in the beginning. I would have been willing to take more risks early on. I am a very measured person. But, when you own your own business, you have to take risks. I would have taken more risks faster. Which kind of sounds funny, I know, but, every day that you’re a business owner, there’s a risk. There are also a lot of rewards that come along with it, too. I think when you’re an employee and not a business owner, you don’t see that side of things where in the back of your mind you know that I’ve got to pay x amount in insurance, I’ve got to pay this amount for HR and I’ve got to pay staff. A single practitioner doesn’t have to worry about nearly as much. There is a big difference between a freelancer, a single practitioner who works out of their home, and a business owner who has an office and employees. The risks are much greater. I think both of those situations appeal to different people and sometimes at different stages in your life. I did freelancing earlier in my life and then it just became apparent that I wanted to own a bigger business.
Do you believe that being a woman-owned company sets Tell Your Tale apart from other marketing firms in the area? How so?
I do think it is a strong differentiator because I know a lot of large corporations have supplier diversity programs where they want to work with minority-owned or women-owned businesses. So, because we are good at what we do and we are a certified woman-owned business, we’re able to secure some of those jobs. I think a lot of women want to do business with other women because there is somewhat of a trust factor there. So, I do believe that is a strong differentiator for us. I also believe it’s important to bring everybody together, so that’s why we employ women and men with different backgrounds. I think that a culturally diverse company strengthens all the people that work within it. You’re also able to provide your clients with a stronger marketing campaign or website because you have different types of people looking at it and putting in their ideas. I think that’s really important.
Now that you’ve run an independent business for 11 years, what have you learned about yourself and this business that you wouldn’t have otherwise?
I am passionate about marketing and helping clients figure out the best way to get their message to the right audience at the right time and in the right ways. I love that! If you wake up every morning, even when you’re tired because you put in a 12-hour day yesterday and have a family to take care of, and you’re still passionate about what you do, that is evident in the work that you deliver. If I had not started my own business, I don’t think I would be as happy as I am today. I like to push myself and I am always going to push myself harder than any boss would. I’ve actually had former bosses tell me that I was pushing myself too hard and I had to tell them that I have very high expectations, and to me, if I want to get ahead, this is what I need to do. So, that is kind of looking at that question from a business owner’s standpoint. From a marketing standpoint, I really can’t imagine doing anything else. My husband and I have talked about it before that if I inherited a crazy amount of money where I didn’t even have to work, what would I do? I would end up doing something with marketing, it might be for a non-profit organization or for causes that I am very passionate about, but that is how my brain works. I am not someone who can sit back and be idle so I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Here is the link if you would like to read the AMA Marketing News Article.