Reflection, Risk & Rewards

By Posted in - Owning a Business & Public Relations & Starting a business on August 4th, 2010

Seven months ago today — on January 4, 2010 — I walked in and resigned from my position as SVP at the world’s largest PR agency. With no staff, no clients, no office space and no financial backers, I suppose you could say I left to start the world’s smallest PR agency.


I’ve read many times that the definition of success for a small business in the start-up stage is simply survival. There are days when the A/C in our office (in a lovely historic building) isn’t working again, and I’m in the floor trying to put together a fan, cursing at the screws that seem to be too short, that seem like mere survival. But those are the exception. Most days, I feel on fire in a way that has nothing to do with the broken A/C.


A part of the Clairemont vision from the very beginning has been to blend traditional communications and social media as part of an overall strategy focused on the client’s objectives. As an early mark of success, all ongoing Clairemont accounts have a mix of traditional and social tactics in the plans we have built and are executing for them. We have also been selected for social media projects, including an in-depth social media audit for UNC Kenan-Flagler’s School of Business. (More on that soon.)


The Clairemont team continues to grow which is absolutely thrilling to me! We don’t plan to be a small agency forever! Our summer TLC (team, learning, career) interns are amazing & have formed a great team with each other, and I’m interviewing for full-time positions.


What I’ve learned in these seven months (in addition to things such as get business insurance before signing a lease, how not to pull my hair out while using QuickBooks and that I have no future as a fan assembler) is that when you own a business, you have to take risks every day. Each day. I guess I thought before that the leap in starting the business was the risk and then somehow, voila, all would fall into place. Nope. I’m also learning — through experience and with the help of my executive coach, when I put an analytical evaluation behind my intuition and gut instincts, most risks yield rewards.


Last week, an interview candidate asked me why she should consider leaving her steady job to join a new agency and how could I reassure her that Clairemont will survive. Great question. I’m not interested in how to survive. Only how to thrive. I changed my life because I know that Clairemont will be widely successful and will bring me and my team members much joy in the process. Otherwise, January 4 would have just been another day at the office.



(4) awesome comment(s)...

  • Harry Lundy - Reply

    August 6, 2010 at 3:05 am


    Congratulations on the first seven months and I wish you and your comapny many years of continued success.

  • Abbie S. Fink - Reply

    August 5, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Dana — you have much to be proud of in your first 7 months and many good things to come in the future.

  • Roger Friedensen - Reply

    August 5, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Bravo, Dana! I am right there with you, and I’m so happy for your success. I knew you’d be great (hmmm, I seem to remember a conversation or two along those lines at Shaba-Shabu and Starbucks, in fact . . .).

    The past seven months since founding Forge Communications have been exhilarating, exciting, energizing, exhausting and ever-so-educational. Wouldn’t trade it for anything. Like you, I am firmly convinced this endeavor will be wildly successful for me, my colleagues and, most of all, my clients. It’s been a great journey,thus far, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow in ways that I haven’t professionally for a long time. And I’m glad we’re able to travel this path together, Dana.

    Let’s rock and roll!


    • Dana Hughens - Reply

      August 6, 2010 at 11:59 am

      Thanks you, Roger, Abbie and Harry! A big part of my fear of leaving a big agency was losing a support system. That’s another thing I have learned. I still have a great support system, and it includes each of you. THANK YOU!

      And Roger, congrats to you, my friend. Knowing that you are on this path with me provides much comfort. I was thinking about the futures of our agencies last night. If for no other reason (and I’m certain there are LOTS of reasons), they will succeed because as the leaders we have both done and continue to love to do the “real work” of a PR agency. Rock and roll we shall!

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