9 Essential Small Business Tips That Will Help You Launch Your Brand

small business tips

May 16, 2015 • Brandmakers, Business

When one door closes, another will open.

There’s this saying that made up that I think is important for anyone who wants to launch their own small business.

It is: Use other people’s experiences to help you craft your own unique story.

What does that mean? I’m not saying that you should try to copy or emulate someone else’s blueprint. However, I do believe there is power in learning about the challenges (and successes) that others who have come before you have endured.

Launching a business (or building a personal brand) can be an extremely daunting task, but understanding how others navigated those treacherous waters can serve as inspiration (and a guidance) for the less experienced.

In today’s post, I spoke with entrepreneur and marketing expert, Latoya Hurly, CEO and founder of Houston-based firm Innovating Marketing and Management. After working in the corporate world, Latoya decided to take a leap of faith and launch her own small business. Along the way she learned many things about being an entrepreneur, running a business, and building her personal brand.

LaToya hurley photo

In today’s BRANDMAKERS, you’ll learn 9 tips for launching a small business (which include):

  1. How bad things (like getting laid off) can be a blessing in disguise
  2. How you can get your business up and running even if you don’t know where to start
  3. Why having a “scope of work” will save you unneeded stress
  4. How to motivate yourself when it seems like nothing is going right….and more!

Check out the interview (and tips) below!

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What inspired you to go into PR and marketing and launch your own firm?

It was pretty accidental. When you are a teenager you are really trying to figure out who you are and find yourself.. When I originally started in college, I was in school for nursing. I started taking the classes and I realized that it was just not for me.Eventually I stopped going to school and moved to Texas. I started working at Waste Management. I went in as a contractor doing some database work for them and it just evolved into me being the liaison for their governmental accounts . That is where I came to find out I really enjoyed doing marketing, public relations,  and communicating with people.

In my mind I had that naïve thought pattern, “This will be the company that I work at forever. I am going to stay here and build my way up the corporate ladder.” In 2009, after the financial industry collapsed I got laid off. It was one of the hardest things that happened. However, it was one of the most inspirational things that happened. It was my motivation to go back to school and finish my degree. I ended up getting my Bachelor’s in Marketing. It also was the motivation for me to start my own business.  I came to realize is that I never wanted anybody to control my destiny again.

I never wanted anybody to control my destiny again.

TIP #1: Get started (even if you aren’t 100% sure how!)

I really didn’t know where to start. My brother works in the banking industry as a mortgage underwriter and he gave me direction as far as things I needed to do.  I had started helping some friends out with writing content, and he said “You should make this into a business. Quit doing this for free and start charging.” I came up with Innovating Marketing & Management and ever since then God has been blessing me.

I can’t say that there was one person who made it happen. It was just going in and making every job the “big deal.”  I have no problem helping. I enjoy wanting to be in every aspect and area so I can understand the logistics and be able to speak intelligently to people about things that are going on. I will be there picking up trash if that is what needs to be done to make sure the event is a success, I will get up on the podium and speak. I don’t have that “I can’t do this” syndrome. I am a “Let’s get this done” person. That attitude helped make me successful.

TIP #2: Put everything in writing.

My first client was a close friend of mine. She asked me to help her out with her business. She had launched an eye wear company. We began working on things such as revamping her website and pricing restructuring. The biggest thing that taught me was to make sure that you get everything in writing and maintain consistency. Sometimes you tend to skip over the things that are important due to relationships and friendships.

Consistency and documentation can help resolve issues later on. Having that piece of paper makes a huge difference. Sometimes things can get misinterpreted. What I may understand you to have told me versus what you understood could be two totally different things. It has taught me to make sure to ensure a contract or some document in place talking about our agreement. That first client made me better at business.

TIP #3: Protect yourself legally.

Have a scope of work. Outlining that in the contract to showcase what services you will be providing,  because there can be  a misunderstanding of what you are providing.  Sometimes people will ask you to go above and beyond the terms of the contract. Having that scope of work outlined gives you a point of reference to refer back to.

Terms and conditions are also very important. Designate a length of time or prescribe some sort of time frame in order for you to get the tasks done. If you get side tracked doing other tasks, the original agreement of a 1-2 month project can end up being longer.

Cancellation is important to know. How are we going to cancel? Is it 30 days in writing or is there some sort of written documentation that will need to be done?

Jurisdiction is what I learned from another client as well. If it ever comes down to a legal issue you want to make sure it is in your jurisdiction/state because it is very costly to pursue a client out-of-state. You may run into a situation that may not even be worth pursuing. You need to sure there are legal precautions that in case there was a situation that needed to be pursued you would know what those terms are.

how to build your small business latoya hurley

TIP #4: Hire the right team.

It is beyond hard. You find that you have a lot of sleepless nights. I am up at 4 am and I go to bed at about 12. On average, I get about 4 hours sleep. My weekends are about work also. You just find a happy balance.

One of the fundamental things is  putting together a team of people you can trust, are competent, and  have that good synergy. That has assisted me because no one person can do it all by themselves.

Why do you still keep your corporate job and still run the business at the same time?

I have two kids and am a single parent. With being laid off, it was definitely one of those times where I had exhausted all of my savings and gone through my 401 K. God just blessed me to be able to maintain. At the time I got laid off I had just bought a brand new house. I had bought a car as well.

I can honestly tell you there is a fear of “What if this doesn’t work?” I always tell myself that there has to be a backup plan. There has to be a secondary plan.  What motivates me is having that secondary plan and not being in a position where I am relying upon one thing to continue to keep me afloat.

My kids are also definitely another motivation. Being a single parent  brings a lot of challenges. I also was a young parent and sometimes you have a lot to prove. Statistics show that most young parents do not finish college or go on to be successful. I never wanted to fall into that bracket. I wanted to forge forward and let my kids know that you can do anything you want to do. You just have to put your mind to it.

At the end of the day I still have to provide for my kids, do my business, and still be able to do the things that they enjoy to do. I didn’t want them to ever be deprived. I wanted them to have the best of life and be able to spend time with them.

TIP #5: Don’t be afraid to fail. 

Sometimes you have to really walk out on faith. If you feel it in your gut and in your soul that this is what you are called to do then there are going to be some broke days and long nights. Everything that is worth having you have to work for. It doesn’t come easy. All you can do is fail and start over.

All you can do is fail and start over.

What are you most proud of that you have accomplished in these past few years?

The biggest thing for me was going back to school. I got laid off and really had to go back out there and find another job. I looked at myself and compared myself to a lot of the other professionals out there. They had these award-winning resumes with all of these degrees and I wanted to get that piece of paper.

Someone once told me it is not about that piece of paper or what school you went to but more about finishing. A lot of companies look at were you able to complete that because it talks about you as a professional. I was 25/26 when I went back to school.

Now, I want all the education that I can get in my free time.  I still try to continuously growing as a professional. Getting my Project Management certification is something on my list to do. Next year, I may choose to work on my Master’s degree.

freelancing tips - latoya hurley

TIP #6: Be consistent. Reputation is everything.

Be consistent as far as your logo and what people remember about you.

Reputation. People remember a bad experience. They will tell 6-10 people as opposed to a good experience where they won’t tell as many people. You need to make sure that you are just always on point and integrity is at the top of that list.

My work ethic has kept me moving. Find your niche and what your focus is. Stay true to what you set out to do. Sometimes you have to make adjustments but you don’t want to stray too far from what you originally set out to do. People look at me and they see marketing. I have been approached to do management because I work in entertainment. I said no, but can I do management? Yes. Is that my thing? No. I focus on what is my niche and continue that consistently. Those are the things I want people to remember about me.

Having a good reputation and a good brand will take you much further than anything else.

Having a good reputation and a good brand will take you much further than anything else. 

TIP #7: Own your niche. 

Be patient. When you are young that is really the time to figure out who you are and what it is you want to do. I can always remember thinking to myself “Wow, I can do that. Why am I not doing this or that?” Now in hindsight, I think to myself I should have been patient and taken in more information when I was young.

I wish I would have just absorbed more information and took in the knowledge that was spoken to me by the professionals that were around me. That is how I truly figured out what I truly wanted to do. If I had taken the time out to listen to the people around me I think I would have figured out sooner than I had that I wanted to do marketing.

TIP #8: Learn from your failures. 

I can honestly say no. Every failure made me a stronger person. Every accomplishment motivated me to keep going. Everything that has happened has happened for a reason. I have lived my life with no regrets. I may not always understand the initial reason, but eventually I came to the realization that it all comes together for a purpose.

What’s in the works for Innovating Marketing and Management?

I see the firm growing and branching out to other cities. Working with Alli Russo from AlliRussoPR.com has motivated me to move into the New York City market. Meeting Tracey Brown  has inspired me to branch out into the California market. Being receptive to change is one of the things that corporate America has taught me with all of the layoffs and all that I see at my office now. Keep up with the times. Accepting the market and staying ahead of it instead of behind it will help Innovating Marketing & Management sustain.

TIP #9: Don’t be afraid to say “no.”

When one door closes, another will open. Don’t dwell and cry over missed opportunities.

When one door closes, another will open. Don’t dwell and cry over missed opportunities.

Look at it as an opportunity for something new. Realize that everything is not always meant for you.

I can remember when I got laid off and was looking for a job. I had gotten one offer and I was waiting on the second opportunity. The first company had interviewed me and wanted a response before I had gotten an answer from the second company, which was the job that I really wanted. My mother kept saying, “A bird in the hand is better than one in the bush.”

I followed my heart and turned down the first job. The second job called me back and it was everything that I could have wanted and more. Sometimes it is scary but you have to follow your heart and your instincts. Not being afraid to say no is very scary.

What makes you shine? 

My best features are actually sometimes to my detriment because I am such a workaholic. Sometimes I expect the same from others. I have to realize sometimes that everyone is not me.

I am the type of person that if I don’t know it I will figure it out. I will educate myself and network with who is needed to help complete the task. Determination and drive are the best qualities of myself.

What’s the best business advice you ever received? Share your tips in the COMMENTS section below!

PS- If you found this article useful, please click the links below to share!

Connect with LaToya online:

Website: Innovatingmarketing.co
Facebook: Innovating Marketing & Management
Twitter: @LaToyaHurley
Instagram: @LaToyaHurley
Linkedin: LaToya Hurley



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Rana Campbell is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Ranacampbell.com, a site dedicated to personal branding and helping people learn how to SHINE in their personal and professional lives.

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