Always be learning — A huge victory or a devastating setback are both an opportunity to learn and grow as an entrepreneur. Taking the lessons available during the ups and downs can build resiliency and open the doors to growing your business further. Remember that everything of that moment belongs right there and that there will always be the next steps to take.
Being a founder, entrepreneur, or business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Bob Bradley.
Bob has spent the past 14 years as a public relations and marketing professional, telling the stories of hundreds of clients in multiple industries. He has owned and been aligned with multiple growth phase startups, in addition to working for established brands and agencies.
Bob has developed a focus on storytelling, helping clients push their key offerings to the media and locking critical press to help their business thrive. As a marketing partner, he offers clients a broad range of services including press releases, copywriting, marketing strategy and so much more.
He spent many years touring full-time in the band Scars of Tomorrow signed to Victory Records and currently plays for the Southern California band Fake Figures.
Bob also recently released his first book ‘Public Relations for Musicians’ on Amazon, Audible and is available via student libraries around the country.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My work in the PR world started around 2007 when I had just ended my career as a full-time touring musician and was floating around trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. Work in mortgage? Join another band? I ended up taking a cool job at a big music media company based out of Boston, and when asked to relocate there I declined and ended up getting a gig with Fearless Records here in Orange County (where I currently live). I was assigned the role of “new media,” which is essentially PR but for stuff on the internet haha.
Fast forward a few years, jobs and startups later I ended up going solo and freelancing as a publicist for artists and other types of clients that fit within my wheelhouse. The career was really a mix of things falling into place and my pursuit of working in a creative environment while still being able to pay the bills. If it wasn’t for the touring experience and early interest in marketing and networking as a fledgling artist, I probably wouldn’t have ended up in a career like this.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I was actually working for a good friend of mine’s record label at the time, and we started diving into offering marketing services a-la-carte for those in entertainment/music who didn’t want a record deal. They were seeking the marketing benefits without the commitment and were willing to pay good money for the work. That eventually led to me going freelance after that job ended, so I have to credit my friend Scott for the “Aha Moment” haha. If anything, once I left that company I quickly realized I can continue to source quality clients while improving my skill sets in marketing and PR long term.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
My friend who I worked for at the time Scott Austin. At that time (2006–2007ish) I didn’t really know anyone in entertainment that wasn’t a musician or industry employee. He also worked for other labels but was living proof that you can start your own company/business and figure it out. 99% of the people I knew at that point worked for someone else in their given industry, so it was cool to see someone forging their own path and not being part of a corporate hierarchy. I think many can agree that some things seem out of reach until you see the proof right in front of you. Then there’s no excuse!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Many of the clients I have had since day one have been at the early stages of their careers or business, which honestly takes more work and grit to get those results. It does get easier over time, but I think being the hardest working in the room has helped keep me progressing and growing my business over the years. Relationships and knowing how to open doors is also crucial, and somehow I’ve managed to get good at that haha. I know there are a ton of great agencies out there, and it’s really about timing and synergy between myself and the client. My agency is far from the cheapest, but I know we are also not as expensive as say a big city agency that charges jaw-dropping rates.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Being an empathetic listener, staying creative and having a sense of humor. When I speak with prospective clients it’s like meeting a new friend, and thankfully I don’t have the need to say yes to everyone who walks through the door. I think success comes from being genuinely interested in people, their goals, challenges and who they are as a business and as a group of individuals. Longterm, clients remember how someone made them feel, in addition to noting the great results they achieved.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
I’m pretty sure someone told me to invest in Bitcoin when it was dirt cheap. Seriously though, I do remember a distinct time when I was freelancing and having a bad streak financially. I took the easy way out by taking a job, but was told by successful friends to not do that, as I would regret it and leave eventually. They were right, and I was in a bad position of disappointing that company and potentially wasted time on my entrepreneurial journey.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
It’s important to create a work culture that has a balance of respect for authority while keeping an open door to hear out the needs and wants of your employees. The US is chalk full of workaholics who are afraid to disappoint management if they don’t work 3000 hours a day, on weekends and somehow checking email every five seconds. This fear is typically artificial and in the minds of the employee, but the ideology has spread and trendy thought leaders (typically male) have reinforced these work patterns and habits.
I don’t place fault on leadership, but they should be aware of these patterns and should basically force their employees to take well-deserved breaks, vacations and create team-building exercises to develop better vulnerability and communication. Leadership and business owners have a different vested interest in their company, but they should not expect their employees to behave or work at the same level of intensity.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Develop a communications strategy that is consistent, vulnerable and timely. To be an authority in a given industry goes beyond having the best product or service, it’s now about the people behind the curtain and their purpose. The strategy will be different for each company, but I challenge you to assess what drives the business often. Go beyond the numbers, because if the purpose is injected into the business with intention, the numbers will climb regardless.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
This is what the consumer demands, whether they know it or not. For many entrepreneurs and startups, this will be a critical ingredient to your success. Some may have success regardless, but intentional efforts to build and maintain trust is not optional long term. It’s a do-or-die scenario without a doubt.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
The CEO or founder either has zero presence online and in communications. Or, they start off strong with social media and PR-focused efforts and go off the radar after a few months. This is an ongoing effort, which is monthly, weekly and even daily. The CEO leads the team vision and inspires/drives the communication that goes to the public, B2B partners and of course the media.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
Humans thrive on and crave certainty. It’s what we are born to seek, and we find comfort in knowing that tomorrow can hold the same patterns as we experience today. For someone with a “regular job”, there is a built in set of standards that shouts certainty from the rooftops. A set amount of salary, hours, vacation days, lunch breaks and holiday parties. I’m not bashing this at all, and if anything entrepreneurs, especially small business owners forget to build some sort of structure into their operations to thrive without melting down. As entrepreneurs, we often have no ceiling and don’t know where the top is. No matter where you are, there will be someone more successful than you doing their thing differently, which leads to questioning your position and working style. So no matter where you are financially or on that success level as a business, you will find that highs and lows affect you the same regardless of where you are at.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
I landed a dream client years back and it came out of a place of “just giving it a shot”. I had no expectations and was probably in a carefree mood that day when I sent that pitch to open up conversations about PR. When they responded and wanted to set up a discovery call, I was floored and it gave me a big ego boost at that moment. One great call led to another and I ended up landing the client. I think if I was trying too hard or went into it with a fear mindset, it just wouldn’t have panned out the same way.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
I believe that no matter the level of business, there will always be peaks and valleys. I distinctly remember a month where business was slower due to a few campaigns ending as scheduled and I was feeling challenged to find new clients. The imposter syndrome started to kick in and there are certain days where you may question your own authority or status in the industry. Fortunately, things like that are temporary and you get shifted back into gear before you go further down that rabbit hole. Many entrepreneurs love to brag about wins and lifestyle shifts (cars, clients, vacations, you name it) but almost none of them talk about the bad times. Most are afraid to be vulnerable as they think it will chase away clients or business, which isn’t always the case.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
I changed my perspective and environment while allowing myself to experience the disappointment and emotion associated with the moment. The point is to know that feeling exists, but then to intentionally let it go and do what’s needed to bounce back. Is that a day off? A meditation session? That will vary based on many factors, but I personally take a step back and allow myself to experience the moment before grabbing a cup of coffee and pushing forward. Maybe some need a stronger cup than others.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
1 Assess your social media relationship — When things don’t go the way you expected, it’s often wise to unplug from social media and do the self-work required to regain confidence and energy. The last thing one needs in vulnerable positions is to see the continued parade of victories and “humble brags” from those they know on Instagram, Facebook and even Tik-Tok. Go sit on that mountain, go on a walk or even take the afternoon, day or even week away to re-energize. Also, when things are going great, it’s wise to celebrate those wins so you can keep positive momentum in your business. Go beyond posting about it on social media, and get out into the world and do something with your leadership team or even friends/family.
2 Get a coach — No, I’m not talking about your casual friend who says they are a life coach. This person would be an experienced, certified coach with a focus that speaks to you and will make a world of difference. The right business or personal growth coach can help refine your focus and drive, building resiliency to handle both the ups and downs of growing your business. Getting out of your own way is not always something you have to do by yourself.
3 Know that peaks and valleys are normal — Often the temporary “defeat” or feeling of doubts can manifest for longer periods of time if one doesn’t stop to accept it’s existence, let it go and move forward. As they say “time heals all wounds’’, and being an entrepreneur can be your own personal battlefield. With those successes though, be sure to take the time to celebrate that moment and share it as a memory with your company, family or even others on social channels in a tasteful way. This will boost your confidence and build the armor needed to quickly heal when inevitably, a roadblock gets in the way.
4 Confront Imposter syndrome — Regardless of success level, all entrepreneurs experience those periods of anxiety, doubt and even bouts of imposter syndrome. These things are inevitable, especially for those who put themselves out into the world and take risks in business. Know that if you experience these feelings, that they happen but are not the
5 Always be learning — A huge victory or a devastating setback are both an opportunity to learn and grow as an entrepreneur. Taking the lessons available during the ups and downs can build resiliency and open the doors to growing your business further. Remember that everything of that moment belongs right there and that there will always be the next steps to take.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
While there are moments when the universe tells you to straight-up stop what you are doing and move on, most of the time people are hoping that whatever is challenging them will soon pass. Most enjoy what they do and want to succeed, but often the pressure or challenges presented can be too much to handle. Resilience as an entrepreneur is being able to take those punches, learn from them and simply keep moving forward. Sure, it will potentially take some evolution and changeups in strategy, but it’s the forward momentum despite all odds that makes someone resilient.
We are all facing unique challenges brought on by a pandemic that has crushed some and posted roadblocks for so many others. In this instance, it may be the very first challenge for an entrepreneur who started a business in 2020, and for others, it’s just an added challenge that happened to occur in tandem with the pandemic. Resiliency is needed more than ever, to realize when to be vulnerable, get help, ask for advice and even pivot where needed. In the context of business, it’s just about not giving up and figuring out what works best for you during these times. It has led some to completely changing business models, staff roles, inventory strategy, remote vs. in-person working and so much more. I do believe for most there are options, and to be resilient is to acknowledge, learn and seek the best option to push forward.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
My father spent his career in sales as an engineer, even though I didn’t know it at the time he likely faced rejection daily or weekly. He taught me to roll up my sleeves, not take things personally and know that rejection is just a part of life and can create obvious personal growth. I’ve taken so many risks and seen so many failures that I accept now that it’s part of the process. Sure, in the moment I may think it’s the end of the world, but you brush it off and just keep moving.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
I try my best, but usually I take a step back and access the situation for what it is. I tend to be neutral and figure out what happened so it can be avoided in the future. I think this comes with time and experience, but when you realize the world is so big and vast you realize that whatever difficult situation you have isn’t that big of a deal. I try and go easy on myself and realize we are doing the best we can in that situation. I then get busy finding solutions to make the best of whatever situation we are in.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
The energy transfer in attitude and communication is a very real thing. Imagine hitting turbulence on a plane and having the pilots come on the speaker freaking out about the situation. Instead, they remain calm, professional and may even crack a joke (unless it’s really bad). 99.9% of the time, everything will be okay long term and a leader should immediately set the tone while putting out positive energy to clients and team members. During challenging times, great leadership can win the confidence of others around you who may be experiencing uncertainty and doubt.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
I’m not a huge quote guy, but I’ll keep it simple here. ‘Just do it’
Haha I don’t work for Nike, but I do know that if you want to get something done or break through barriers, you have to take steps and begin the process.
How can our readers further follow you online?
@MrBobBradley on social media and my LinkedIn is — https://www.linkedin.com/in/mrbobbradley/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!