You know that saying ‘cliches are cliche because they’re true’?
Well, you know that one about the grass always being greener on the other side? That one is true. The grass is always fucking greener.
I started Sprocket Communications, the PR agency I’ve owned for 11 years, after working at a high-stress Denver PR agency. It was the kind of job where the Sunday Scaries started around noon on Saturday. There was immense pressure to land clients in major outlets; coverage in the Wall Street Journal or CNN on a weekly basis. Much of what I did was in my control, but a lot of it wasn’t, and a huge news day could unravel weeks’ worth of my pitching when a breaking story knocked my client’s piece off the roster.
I struck out on my own for the same reasons that most entrepreneurs do: because I believed that I could do the work differently and better. I worked as a solo freelancer for a few years. Then I added an employee. Then another. Soon I was overseeing a team of one full-time employee and more than twenty contractors. Business was booming, and I was barely sleeping.
What no one told me about starting and growing a business is the immense sense of responsibility for my team and how much I found I genuinely cared about the success of our clients. Unbeknownst to me, I’d signed up for being responsible for the people who worked with me, whose rent and kid’s college funds depended on my ability to retain clients and bring on new work.
There are days when I look longingly at the people working in the Gap, passing their days folding sweaters and rearranging shelves. Surely there is more to it than that — dealing with managers and customers is bound to be exhausting, and isn’t retail suffering big time thanks to our pal Jeff Bezos? But the thought of leaving work and not being kept up at night by concerns about the fate of my business, the stability (or, sometimes, the lack thereof) that I could provide for myself and my team, or the challenges my business faced daily? To simply grab my purse at the end of a sweater-folding shift and GTFO with a clear brain — not bogged down with anything but my grocery list and A Tribe Called Quest lyrics floating around in there? That seemed like the ultimate freedom.
But over the last 11-plus years, I’ve learned a few ways to stay invested in my PR agency — even on those days where I wish I could leave it all at the office.
First, get an intern. Someone young and enthusiastic will bring a new energy to the team, and although you will have to spend some time teaching them how to do things your way, their fresh perspective will boost your creativity and help remind you why you started in the first place.
Delegate. There is most definitely stuff you’re doing that takes up some of your precious time that someone else could do. As the President/CEO, you shouldn’t be worrying about the low-level HR stuff (for example). There’s someone else in your office — your new intern, perhaps? — who can take over setting up new team members in the HR interface and inputting new clients’ info into the back end. Your time is best used for strategy and selling your capabilities to prospects — not dealing with the everyday sludge orf the backend of Google.
JoinBuild a community of business leaders. I turned to Entrepreneurs Organization, a global organization exclusively for entrepreneurs. The events and small group meetings allowed me to learn from others who have been in my shoes directly, and to bounce ideas off of them. It allowed for a kind of camaraderie amongst others who get that sense of doubt and stress that comes with leading a company.
Stop hitting the office vending machine. Hide your phone. Get up from your desk once in awhile and walk around the block. We all know that it’s healthier to not overload on the cornucopia of Girl Scout cookies in the break room and that we probably shouldn’t be spending our entire lunch break at our desks scrolling through instagram. We still do it, obviously, but I’ve found that in making the choice to look away from the screen and, like, eat a vegetable, my mind is functioning better than it was before. I’m able to wade through the brain fog and knock some items off of my to-do list. This is sort of obvious stuff, but it isn’t stuff we do enough. Hashtag selfcare.
Is this rocket science? It sure isn’t. But in our hyper digitized, data-driven world — a world I dive into daily in measuring outcomes for public relations and social media campaigns — the simplest things can fall by the wayside. And surrounding yourself with people instead of just screens can bring inspiration that you haven’t experienced in ages.
This piece originally ran on Medium.