Don’t sweat the small stuff. I recognize it’s hard to know what’s small when you are just starting out in your career though.
Laura Gross is president and founder of Scott Circle Communications.
She is an award-winning public relations expert with over 20 years of experience in communications and media relations. Her career has focused on working with organizations and individuals that are fighting to make a difference. As a small business owner for 12 years, she supervises a team at Scott Circle Communications focused on public relations work for nonprofits, associations, advocacy organizations and government agencies. Her past experience includes work with The White House, U.S. Agency for International Development, NPR, Gov. Howard Dean and several presidential campaigns.
Laura holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from The University of Georgia.
Where did the idea for Scott Circle come from?
I was living in my small condo in Washington, D.C. The address was One Scott Circle, NW. I was speaking with my friend, Maryellen McQuade, one time and she asked me about my future career plans. I was gainfully employed at the time, but told her that one day I might want to be a consultant. She jokingly said: You could call it Scott Circle Communications. That night, I went home and bought the domain ScottCircle.com. Three years later, I got laid off from my job, started consulting just to pay the bills then actually took the jump to open my own firm.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Three days a week, I’m up at 5:15 a.m. and to go to my Pure Barre class. I start looking at email as soon as I wake up. Then it’s a race to go back home, get ready for work and drop my kids off at school. I try not to schedule anything before 9:30 – so once I get to my desk, I answer emails, read morning newsletters from media organizations impacting our clients and PR trade publications. My day is filled with various internal meetings with senior team members, clients and potential new clients. This past year, I hired a new senior vice president to manage our team and clients, so I have recently shifted my focus to business development. Of course I still work with clients that have been with us almost since our inception – I still like to get my hands dirty with actual PR work. The other day, I got my client an interview with The New York Times – having a success like that is still exciting.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I am someone who likes to talk through ideas with colleagues. I will often come out of my office to ask people their opinion or brainstorm how to write something.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I know everyone says that media is changing – which of course impacts my firm. It is changing – but, I think it’s changing for the better – subscriptions at major publications like the New York Times and Washington Post are up, more people are tuning into cable news and there are more opportunities to create content and distribute on your own.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I do not press send on emails late at night (unless it’s urgent and time sensitive). I’ve learned the later it gets, the more I do not think clearly, or make good decisions – I also have typos too. It’s always good to save everything as a draft and re-read it in the morning, then press send.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. I recognize it’s hard to know what’s small when you are just starting out in your career though. I wish I knew that my bosses didn’t even think twice about a mistake I made. They just moved on and I made sure not to make that mistake again.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
I still try to use AP style when writing documents. I seem to be losing on that front with clients, staff and others. It seems to be too formal for everyone. I still say: better safe than sorry. And we often write for the media, so we should follow their rules – we will appear more professional.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
This might seem basic – but, it is one thing that helps our PR firm stand out – return phone calls and emails. We are all busy – I get it. But, if you do not respond, it shows you do not have respect for the other person who took time out of their day to contact you. Oftentimes, I respond to emails at night and save in my draft mailbox and just press send the next day. Yes, we all forget to answer things every once in a while – but, if you make a good effort to respond, it makes a difference.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Asking for help and learning from others. As a PR firm owner, I started consulting based on my knowledge of PR. As the business has organically grown, I needed to grow my business skills. I rely on experts like other PR firm owners, other women business owners, a consultant that specializes in HR, a lawyer specializing in small businesses and a coach to help me with new challenges. It’s o.k. not to know everything – just know when to ask for help.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I have not always hired the right people. I have been rushed to fill positions and made some decisions too quickly. The motto of “hire slow, fire fast” is right! I learned from mistakes though. And, for senior jobs, I have worked with a HR consultant who knows our firm well to help screen candidates.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I want a machine that will put away clean dishes. And also another machine that will put away clean clothes exactly how I want them in my dresser and closet.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Headphones for my desk phone. Yes – I’m still a bit old school and like a good old landline. So I bought headset to use so I can take notes, but still sound professional while not putting the phone on speaker and annoying all my colleagues.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Slack. My team did have to convince me to try it at first though – I just didn’t want more thing to keep up with and feel like I have to answer all the time.
My team was right – those email chains that go on and on are so not productive. Now we do screen shares and voice call over Slack when we all aren’t in the office together. We now even have started working with our clients on Slack so we can collaborate more too.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Customer, LLC: The Small Business Guide to Customer Engagement and Marketing by Hillary Berman. We have worked with Hillary to help brand/position our firm – she knows her stuff.
What is your favorite quote?
It’s not business related – I hope that’s o.k. I used to work at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights and this has always been one of my favorites from Robert Kennedy.
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
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