When I started Aker Ink in July 2007, just months before the Great Recession rocked corporate America, I was dedicated to my independent practice and lifestyle. I didn’t have a long-term plan or vision for the company — just an ardent desire to perform at the highest level, empower others with my words and deliver exceptional PR and marketing services.
A lot can happen over 15 years, to which I know we can all attest. My commitment to quality has never wavered, but my independent lifestyle, views on team dynamics, passion for mentoring and vision for the company have evolved considerably.
Life will feed you lessons, whether you seek them out or not. You’ll encounter people, challenges and choices in everyday settings that can completely alter your perspectives and actions. I’m grateful that I turned many of these instances into growth opportunities, personally and professionally. Here, I’m sharing a few of the most pivotal insights as Aker Ink celebrates this milestone.
Sometimes You Just Have to Go for It
Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad Poor Dad, once said “Starting a business is like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. In midair, the entrepreneur begins building a parachute and hopes it opens before hitting the ground.”
Boy, did that resonate with me! In a field where planning and strategy are paramount, I also realize that entrepreneurs and other change agents don’t always have the luxury of careful preparation and total risk mitigation. You have to assemble the parachute as you go, otherwise you’ll never go anywhere. Adaptability and openness are fundamental, and equally uncompromisable, traits of any business leader committed to growth and success.
There is Opportunity in Crisis
Despite what it may seem like on your social media feeds, no one escapes life’s challenges and pitfalls. This is especially true when building a business. It’s not a matter of if, but when you will face a crisis. Crises come in all shapes and sizes — and so do the opportunities surrounding them.
Indeed, there are myriad things you can and should do to mitigate crises and their fallout (and we help our clients do that with strategic PR planning), but they still find a way to seep in no matter how diligently one prepares. (COVID, anyone?) The pandemic brought many lessons, and through each of them we learned how resilient and flexible we are as individuals and a society.
Knowing that a crisis will come, great business leaders seek to root out and seize the opportunity when it does. What lessons can be gleaned to improve the future? Is this path, really the right path? Should I be focused elsewhere? Is there a better, new or different product or service I should be offering? I’ve been dealt my fair share of challenges over the past 15 years, and with each transition I’m ultimately led down a path that’s a little brighter and a little greener. I strive to be the person who sees the opportunity rather than dwells on the challenge.
Friedrich Nietzsche was right. “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
Giving & Receiving: The Cycle of Mentorship
My path from an independent practitioner to leading an incredibly talented, award-winning team was long and slow. I was hellbent on maintaining certain professional and lifestyle choices that enabled me to maintain quality, but in-turn, I found they restricted my potential. My ideas could only be realized as far as I could personally take them. That was good enough for about a decade — until I shifted my mindset and found a new purpose in mentoring.
Winston Churchill summed up this lesson succinctly: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
I love what I do. I love getting my hands dirty, strategizing, writing, solving problems and helping leaders achieve new growth milestones. However, I’ve discovered over the last few years that I’m equally passionate about mentoring the next generation of leaders — and not just on their professional skills, processes and technologies, but in how to communicate effectively, relate to others, build relationships and think critically. It brings me great joy to see my teammates succeed and accomplish their personal goals.
This past year, I took a major step in furthering my own growth, too. I gained a mentor and team of advisors through Vistage where I am continually educated on my own weaknesses or blind spots and inspired to affect positive change with my business. It’s been an eye-opening experience to let down my guard and be vulnerable with what I need to improve upon. I find it important to push myself, just as I push others.
Taking Time to Celebrate Successes
As Aker Ink celebrates 15 years in business, I don’t want to let this opportunity pass without pausing to celebrate some of our recent successes:
- We were recognized. Landing Agency of the Year at the Public Relations Society of America Copper Anvils was a big one. We also held onto our reign as Ranking Arizona’s top PR firm, in addition to a slew of other awards for our strategies and tactics through PRSA, American Marketing Association and the Arizona Innovation Marketing Association.
- We gained bench strength. Daniel Ziffer, Bianca Martinez and Hannah Trull are all new bright spots on the team. Each brings different skill sets, strengths and backgrounds that make our team cohesive and high functioning.
- We brought on some incredible clients. Zoombang, Axis of Autism, American Public Works Association, AZP and DOCPROPERTIES are among them. We take great care to work with companies that have missions we can rally behind. It’s a pleasure and honor that these organizations have chosen Aker Ink as a growth partner.
Heading into our Sweet 16, I strive to grow as a leader, continue to build the team with the right people (we’re hiring!), execute wildly successful campaigns and challenge one another to think differently and bigger. It takes a village, and I couldn’t be prouder of the village we’ve created.