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“Why you are the last to get paid if you are the founder” with Jennifer Kaplan

You are the last to get paid — This is a funny one to me. I see many company owners buy extravagant things and make poor financial decisions. I would rather give the money to my team and to my business before myself. I am nothing without my team, and they need to be rewarded. When I […]



You are the last to get paid — This is a funny one to me. I see many company owners buy extravagant things and make poor financial decisions. I would rather give the money to my team and to my business before myself. I am nothing without my team, and they need to be rewarded. When I started my first business, I saw money go out the door and that’s why I am so conservative today. My greatest fear is making poor financial decisions that can negatively affect the bottom line!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Kaplan, owner and founder of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Evolve Public Relations and Marketing. Kaplan was a co-founder and principal of PRIME 3, LLC until she started her own PR firm in 2010. She now serves clients ranging from restaurants, retail, entertainment, real estate, technology, medical, legal, global and international companies, and nonprofit organizations. She is a native of Phoenix and prides herself on knowing and understanding the dynamics of the Valley of the Sun and the deep-rooted relationships she has established. Connecting with her clients and the ability to understand their needs has led to her success. One of the philosophies she has is to be an extension of her clients’ teams, in order to create the ownership and passion they expect from Evolve.
 
 As an Arizona State University graduate, she is always cheering on the Sun Devils, enjoys spending time with her family, finding various ways to engage with and support the community, working out and traveling (when her schedule allows).


Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My family would tell you that I was born doing PR. With a gift of gab at an early age and love to connect and help people, PR was a natural fit for me from the beginning. I studied communications at Arizona State University, with an emphasis in public relations, knowing my path was going to lead me where I am today. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, and launching my own business was a great way to incorporate my passion with something I was familiar with. I deviated in my mid-20s into a sales position, while exploring the right jobs and opportunities. At 30 years old, I decided to formally launch on my own and explore being an entrepreneur. I never looked back and continue to grow my company, validating the decision I made not only in the industry but also in starting my own firm.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

I decided to exit my business partnership after five years and start a different PR firm on my own. It was the biggest turning point in my career and a great risk at the time. I learned so much about myself, my friends and my clients, and I forever will be impacted by the experience. I think about it every single day, as I take the journey of running my business on my own. It was the best decision I made and I have no regrets!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I try to laugh at myself as much as I can, not taking things too seriously.

How did you scale your business to profitability? How long did it take? Please share the steps you took.

Scaling the business to being profitable was nothing more than growing the client base. To me, it is a simple formula when you are in the service industry — whether you do PR, are a lawyer, accountant, etc. Once you reach a turning point where your client list grows, you can add more people and assets to your company. Over time, it also had me evaluating what additional services we could offer to enhance and add value to our existing clients. Since I had a small list of clients from my prior firm, I was able to open my doors with some revenue. However, it took about two and a half years after starting before I was able to hire beyond the first two employees I had and to truly see that I had a business that could succeed. We continued to build our reputation and deliverables to our clients, allowing us to grow.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

To be honest, I truly love each and every client and feel that each of their projects is exciting. There are some who are outside of the box and/or are disrupting their space and industry, which is fun to be a part of. However, when I sit with each client and discuss their business, their ROI, their messaging and how our support can impact them, I love being part of that growth and evolution for them. To say that each client is interesting and exciting to me is purely from the standpoint of being part of their business and as an extension of the team. We are making a difference in their business and that is interesting and exciting to me!

Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?

I look at this question as if I were to give myself advice now. I would say to anyone looking to get into PR, make sure you are passionate about it. PR takes a lot of time, energy and effort. When you provide a service to someone, you are there for their needs, to listen and to accommodate them. We provide our expertise and guidance, but it is their business we are supporting. If you aren’t passionate about what you do, no matter what line of work it is, you won’t be able to succeed. I tell young professionals all the time, just do what you are excited and passionate about and you will be successful! If a young person is looking to get into PR, I say go for it! I love what I do and am excited to go to work every single day. PR is an ever-changing industry, with technology and other noise disrupting our space. As long as you stay up on being innovative, you will remain relevant.

You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?

Connect with people, which is the number one thing! People do business with people they like and people they trust. If you can’t connect with people, you can’t network. Networking is all about connecting with people, understanding them and knowing them. Once you establish that, you have their loyalty and when you call on them or vice versa, which is networking, they will be there for you. Know a few things about them to let them know you care, ask questions about their family, kids, job, travels, etc. to show them you remember and are thinking about them. A small effort can go a long way!

Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?

I read/listen to books, but I get more from talking and listening to people. I have many strong mentors in my life that I called on when I was starting my business and still do to this day. I am more about the tangible examples — watching people who are doing things that I want to do and asking them how they achieved it, how they dealt with a struggle or challenge, how they earned the respect of their peers, etc. Those are the ways I learned and grew in my business. I have so many references of sayings, conversations, advice, and support from very well respected individuals in the community that I will forever take with me on my journey.

Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

There are so many causes and people I would want to help in the world. If I can take a slice of that and do something truly impactful in my bubble, I would want to help people with developmental challenges. I have always had a passion for those with special needs. Perhaps we can make it a requirement that all companies have to hire someone with developmental challenges and give them a chance, just like someone gave them a chance.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

Make sure to incorporate balance — I have been mostly all work and no play until the last few years, which is why I say “work hard play hard.” I wish someone told me before I started how much work it would take. It wouldn’t have changed my decision. I just would have created more balance sooner in my career.

I mentioned this earlier, but I wish someone told me more about having a business partner and if that is something you need in starting a business.

It is OK to make mistakes — When starting my business, I was afraid of making mistakes without realizing it is the best way to learn. Over the last few years, I became more at peace with making mistakes, recovering and learning from them so I don’t do it again.

People are watching — I get in my bubble and world and don’t realize that when you launch a business and build a company, people are watching. Some will support you and some will try to be negative. I try not to focus on my competitors and what others are doing. I haven’t had anything hateful or hurtful happen, but I am aware more than ever that people can do things to influence others when you are building and riding your way to success and achievements. Always surround yourself with people who support and encourage you.

You are the last to get paid — This is a funny one to me. I see many company owners buy extravagant things and make poor financial decisions. I would rather give the money to my team and to my business before myself. I am nothing without my team, and they need to be rewarded. When I started my first business, I saw money go out the door and that’s why I am so conservative today. My greatest fear is making poor financial decisions that can negatively affect the bottom line!

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