In 2018, I made the fateful decision to leave my comfortable, stable position as a Creative Services Director at a national healthcare provider to go out on my own as a solopreneur.
Shortly before my departure, I announced to my team and expressed the excited nervousness about my plan. “Leap and the net will appear,” said one witty copywriter who had a knack for finding the right words for every occasion. This quote from John Burroughs was no exception. Her words rang true for me as I had been preparing for nearly a year to leave full-time employment to pursue my dream of entrepreneurship.
While the decision to turn the page in my career had taken years, I had spent the previous months preparing to make the leap. Here are some of the most important lessons I learned in making the leap from full-time employee to entrepreneur.
Take time to reflect
For several years, I served as the Creative Services Director for Laser Spine Institute, a national spine surgery provider. The mission of the company- to help as many patients as possible- inspired me to put forth my absolute best work each day. Taking time to reflect on my accomplishments over the past few years helped me to define my own brand value as a marketer.
In five short years, our marketing team helped to raise the bar for other health care providers’ marketing programs, in a landscape where direct marketing seemed taboo. We produced multiple omni-channel marketing campaigns with television, digital, email, and print creative. We opened four new surgery centers across the U.S. and launched local creative campaigns for each center. We produced hundreds of video assets, including captivating patient testimonial stories that garnered thousands of impressions. We launched a championship-level partnership with a leading NHL team and simultaneously created a food truck in support of charitable efforts to feed kids in the local community. We also won two local Tampa Bay Addy awards for creative projects.
Personally, I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone to keep up with the warp-speed pace of growth that the company and its young leaders experienced. I was awarded a coveted spot in the Executive-in-Training program where I shadowed C-suite executives for an entire year. During that time, I led a presentation on the organization’s marketing program to a standing-room-only crowd at , a national healthcare conference. And I was voted the department’s MVP, one of my favorite achievements. Becker’s ASC
As I reminisce about all the achievements we’ve shared, I am forever grateful for the amazingly talented team I had the great fortune to work with.
Get advice from those who have been there
Starting a marketing consulting business has been a dream I’ve carried for years because I love working side-by-side with entrepreneurs to make their goals a reality. I’ve had the privilege of being employed by some very driven and successful business owners who have helped to shape my goals and aspirations. I also have friends that have inspired me with their own entrepreneurial ventures. They’ve taught me that drive and tenacity will get you far, but you’ve also got to be able to accept that things will not always go as planned.
One of my favorite people and mentors, A.D. “Sandy” MacKinnon, a successful Tampa Bay entrepreneur and philanthropist, taught me that if you work hard and stay true to yourself you can accomplish anything. In the 1980’s, MacKinnon purchased an industrial equipment business with his life savings and turned it into a thriving multimillion-dollar dealership with a stellar reputation. Despite being turned down by multiple banks to lend him money to purchase the company, he leveraged his relationships in the industry to buy the once failing business and make it profitable in a matter of months.
I was fortunate enough to work as MacKinnon’s Vice President of Marketing. He entrusted me to help rebrand the company to take on his name and carry on his legacy. After 30 years in business, rebranding the dealership was a challenging feat but proved to be the right move for the company. MacKinnon had built a strong name in the community and his customers and employees knew him for always doing what was right and fair. His brand and values reflected that promise.
Never stop learning
Another important lesson I learned in launching my marketing consulting firm is that it is impossible to know everything about everything. I’ve learned to rely on subject matter experts that I’ve worked with over the years. Partnering with other marketing and business professionals who have experience in web development or content marketing not only allows me to assist clients with additional projects, but also helps me identify areas where I can enhance my skillset. Oftentimes, collaborating with other service providers has benefited my business because I’m able to help them expand their client list and they reciprocate by referring clients to me for branding and marketing strategy.
As I closed one door, another one swung wide open- full of possibilities, expectations and the unknown. I knew it wouldn’t be easy and there would be much uncertainty, but I remain committed to putting my best foot forward for myself and for each of my clients. Particularly, those small business owners who have taken the same leap I’m taking.
If you need marketing help to achieve your business goals, to create a marketing strategy that drives results for your company. Heart & Hustle works as an outsourced marketing team for businesses without a full-time marketing professional or who need help defining their contact us . brand strategy
Stacey Harrison is the lead brand strategist and designer at Heart & Hustle Brands and has provided creative direction for healthcare, industrial, and financial services brands for 20 years. She started Heart & Hustle Brands in 2017 to serve businesses that need a professional brand image on a budget.