As a parent of three kids, I’ve spent a good deal of time trying to teach them how to prepare for their next steps in life. Turns out our children teach us too, and their life lessons have powerful applications at work. Here’s what I learned from my eldest, Savannah (“Savy”), during her recent high school graduation hoopla and how it applies to running a PR agency and frankly, a life. (Savy, you’re light years ahead of me at 18 – I am incredibly proud of you.)
Be a loyal friend
A fiercely loyal friend – one who assumes good intent, believes in you, cheers you on and looks for ways to help you meet your goals – is a friend to keep. The same is true in business. Who are the colleagues or clients we would follow, no matter what industry or company they choose, because we admire their ethics, brains or the way they treat their teams? Those are the clients and business associates we keep for a long time, the ones who inevitably will get our very best work because they inspire us, teach us and thank us. Our greatest friends do the same. It begins with looking way beyond a checklist to see how we can cheer that friend or client on to the next milestone. And before you know it, you have a solid friendship –and a solid business.
Know Who You Are
My daughter is exceptionally good at this – far outshining her mom as a teenager. She does what she believes in, and doesn’t waste her time doing what she doesn’t. (She still has to clean her room.) Savy has chosen true friends and wastes no time pretending to be something she’s not. Peer pressure has been almost a non-issue for her. What? A teenager with little peer pressure? That’s because she knows what’s right for her and she sticks to it – life is just simpler that way.
Our “No Jerk” policy at SPM applies that same wisdom. It’s a policy of respecting and appreciating individuals, including ourselves. The agency business has a reputation at times for being cutthroat, but because we value collaboration, fairness and mutual respect, we choose to spend our (sometimes long!) days with clients, company leaders and team members who feel the same way. It’s simple, and has offered long-term stability to our team and our client roster.
If you know my daughter, you may be laughing. Change and adventure are not at the top of her priority list. But she’s wise enough to know that change will be her greatest gift at a time like this. It’s hard to change but there is always a reward – one that widens our eyes and expands our minds.
An important lesson for me, too, as we rethink the way we do some things at SPM as our agency grows. To me, this concept boils down to figuring out how you preserve yourself and do what is true for you without missing the big, bright and interesting things that are happening all around. Turn it upside down. Strip away the bias. Know who you are and assume that something great is around the corner.
Be a loyal friend, know who you are and embrace change – three great lessons. I’m going to print this out and plaster it to the car windshield so I can remind myself (between sobs) of all the wonderful things that change brings as my husband Steve and I pull away from Savy’s new dorm this August.
Because this is certainly the beginning of great things. My (latest) mantra: Know who you are as you embrace change and your loyal friends and clients will join you.