Carefully Crafted on December 01

One Year Later: My "Make Yourself" Recipe

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Geben Communication (and me as an entrepreneur!), so this post seems especially fitting. It’s a bit longer than what I normally write, but I hope you’ll indulge me just a bit.

When Nike Women asked me to participate in their Make Yourself Movement, I jumped at the chance. Apparently, I jumped in before thinking about what I’d actually contribute! I don’t have a life-altering story  … or a motivational phrase that drives me. However, I do have a recipe; and, like all good recipes, I’m happy to share it.

No, it’s not the recipe for a “real” prTini, a concoction that many people have suggested I create (shaken, not stirred, of course!). It’s the recipe I follow to help me get to where I’m going. My basic ingredients are below. Feel free to add a “pinch of this” or a “handful of that” to make it your own.

Ingredient #1: Thirst for Knowledge

My parents taught me the importance of an education — a lesson that guides me to this day. Even though I’m not participating in classroom-style education anymore, I’m always learning. From mentors. From my peers who are doing amazing work. From clients and partners. From my own experiments. Just when you think you know it all, that’s precisely when you should double down and work harder to learn more.

Ingredient #2: Commitment to Hard Work

At  my first post-college job, I worked on a number of political campaigns. Politics is anything but a 9-5 gig. In fact, the “winner” is often the person who outworks the competition. My willingness to jump in and get my hands dirty — even if it meant debate prep at night, writing speeches on the weekend, stuffing envelopes Saturday mornings, or organizing and attending evening fundraisers — opened doors, and I happily seized these new opportunities. People notice hard workers. That’s who you want on your team.

Geben Communication began last year as I was transitioning out of my full-time agency job. I’d work full-time (and then some!) just to come home to work hours each night on the new venture. But, the crazy hours didn’t bother me, because I knew I was building something from scratch that would change my life — a company that would give me the freedom and flexibility to work with clients, causes and people I believe in.

Hard work? Bring. It. On.

Ingredients #3 and 4: Collaboration with a dash of Competition

I’m a competitive person by nature. I hate losing. Pretty sure I’ve even cheated in a game or two of Scrabble (whatever it takes to beat my brother, right?!). As a campaign staffer, my early career was based on winning and losing. While I no longer dabble in politics, this competitive approach still drives me to take calculated risks …  work harder … think bigger. How can I “win?” How can I help my clients “win?”

That said, as much as I believe in competition, I couldn’t do what I do without collaboration. I view clients as partners. I’m on their team, and we work together to develop effective strategies. The belief in collaboration extends beyond client work. This summer, I helped organize a virtual grassroots movement to honor the military, called Why We Celebrate. It turned into a collaborative project, with people from all walks of life participating. As a result, the VFW Foundation asked us to partner on a campaign to honor veterans in November. With smart execution, collaboration produces win-win situations — a positive outcome for someone hates to lose.

Ingredient #4: Social Good

The name of my company, Geben, means “to give” in German. I love working with nonprofits and helping them connect with the right people. Add in some social media? Even better! As a business-owner, I know that I can’t give away all my time, but I do value the time that I can spend offering pro bono services, volunteering on committees and helping do some good in my community (both online and in-person).

Ingredient #5: Community

Speaking of community, that’s the final ingredient in this recipe. Before launching my own company, I spent a considerable amount of time connecting with people online. Entrepreneurs. Creatives. Out-of-the-box thinkers. Political pundits. Journalists and bloggers. Other PR and social media consultants. The idea was to build a network of people who I could learn from … and who would be interested in learning from me. Now, I get about two-thirds of my business from these connections initially forged via social media. One of my favorite online communities is #pr20chat. I co-moderate PR 2.0 chat every Tuesday evening (#pr20chat on Twitter, Tuesdays from 8-9pm ET). Justin, the other moderator, works for a global PR agency. We host an online gathering designed to spark conversation and help participants connect with helpful tools, resources and each other.

Whether it’s online or offline, community is key. Just as I like getting to know my neighbors and participating in block parties and other gatherings, I love creating an online “neighborhood” of friends and contacts. Community fuels my business, but more importantly, it keeps me energized and motivated.

Here’s the thing: I’m off to a good start, but I’m not done “making” myself … at least not yet. So, I want to hear your input. What’s your “make yourself” recipe? How do you get where you’re going?

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Thanks to Nike Women for including me in the Make Yourself Movement.

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