What I've Learned In Business: Follow Your Bliss
Four years ago, I learned that my firm, Phillips Media Relations, was about to lose its biggest client.
We had been managing media relations for that client, a nonprofit, for six years, but they never fully recovered from the recession and couldn’t afford our services any longer.
I knew we would suffer a big economic blow without them, and I was nervous (“freaked out” might be a more accurate descriptor). I spent many nights crunching the numbers, trying to figure out how to keep my business growing despite the huge setback of losing a high-value client.
Still, by that point one thing was clear to me: I no longer enjoyed doing media relations. I had been writing press releases and pitching stories for a decade, and I dreaded the days I had to engage in one of those activities. It was also clear to me that the other part of our business—preparing for and leading customized media and presentation training workshops—felt enormously gratifying.
But the numbers weren’t there. Focusing solely on media and presentation training—and refusing future media relations work—would mean a huge drop in revenue. I faced a decision about whether to do the “safe” thing by continuing to market a profitable service I didn’t enjoy, or to do something riskier by pursuing my passion.
I chose the latter. That’s about the time I started this blog, began writing my book, and dropped media relations from our offerings.
It worked. Every year, the business has continued to grow; the risky decision panned out to be the right one. That’s not intended to sound boastful—the past four years have had their fair share of anxiety, stress, and 60-hour workweeks. And the workload too often comes at the high cost of family time, something I’m trying to improve upon.
But I’m happier and more professionally satisfied than ever, and it’s easy to see myself doing this for the rest of my life. All of this reinforces a lesson that I’ve always believed in and only recently relied upon: If you follow your bliss, success—however you define it—will follow.
This article is part of an occasional series about what I’ve learned from running a business. You can read other articles in this series here.
Ya know what else? You are probably a much better and well-respected firm because you chose to focus, rather than chase a bunch of ancillary money-making ventures that would dilute your mission. I see sooooooo many agencies put down a veritable menu of services on their websites, and what that tells me is that they are willing to say, “Sure, we’ll take your money–whatever you want us to do is fine.” That’s not what I look for in a third-party partner. I want someone with focus and expertise. By following your bliss, you also chose to specialize. That makes you different, and has likely contributed to your success.
John and Art —
Thank you both for your comments! When I was in journalism, I always felt like I hadn’t quite found my home. I loved parts of it, but didn’t love it overall. On the other hand, I LOVE conducting media and presentation training workshops. It feels like the little corner of the world that makes sense for me, and it’s easy to imagine I’ll be doing this for the rest of my career.
And great point about specializing, Art. I’m glad to hear there are people out there who value the role of specialists, something Walmart and Amazon haven’t figured out how to mass produce (yet).
Congratulations, Brad. Frightening as it may sometimes be, I can tell you are in your zone; plus you are an excellent teacher, which feeds right into your work. Good job!