Every now and then a homeless person will stop me for change and, as I'm fishing for a quarter, will ask the three best business decisions I've ever made. The first one is easy: starting my own firm. The second one is also a snap: naming my firm after my dog (I can't tell you how many times that's made a subtle, but meaningful, difference in new business presentations).
My third answer may seem a bit more obtuse, though: joining the PRSA's Counselor Academy and attending the annual Spring Conference.
My membership hasn't just provided a solid cost-benefit ratio. It's turned out to be priceless.
– When I attended my first Spring Conference in 1992, I'd just joined the now defunct Earle Palmer Brown and knew next to no one in the industry. I met top PR professionals at that first session who remain trusted confidants and good friends to this day. Talk about an annuity!
– At those early spring conferences, I listened intently as the more accomplished counselors let down their hair and explained exactly how they'd become successful and built great firms. Kathy Cripps will never know how important her Sciens presentation (circa 1997) was to Peppercom's eventual success.
– As I moved up the Academy's food chain, I ended up planning one of the Spring Conferences and was later named chairman. There's no doubt both experiences made me a better professional and person.
If you manage an agency, I urge you to consider attending the upcoming Spring conference. You'll meet, and engage with, the best and the brightest of today. You'll also interact with some of the smartest undergrads in the nation: students from The College of Charleston, who attend our annual event and cover it as reporters would. Oh, and you'll have a blast the entire time.
One final point: I'd estimate that, over the years, Peppercom has raked in more than $1 million in new business fees as a direct result of my PRSA Counselor's Academy membership. When you toss that cold, hard fact in alongside the warm and fuzzy ones, you come out with one word to describe the Counselor's Spring Conference: priceless!