Jennifer L. Horspool is a public relations and messaging expert, a global brand strategist, international speaker, and founder of Engagement PR & Marketing. As a business growth expert with three decades of building and protecting brands from start-ups to Fortune 500, Jennifer employs her skills in PR, marketing, media, and messaging to grow companies from vision to multi-million dollars and turn best-kept-secret brands into the Go-To Experts™ of their industries for media and target customers.
A graduate of California State University Fullerton, where she studied Communications, Public Relations, and Health Sciences, Jennifer’s vertical deep is in healthcare having brought new drugs, devices, and diagnostics to life, built brands for physician conglomerates, pharmaceutical/biotech, MedTech, and contract research organizations, to name a few. Jennifer also has a breadth of experience that reaches across nearly all industries from energy to mortgage to real estate to entertainers, healers, business coaches, and authors. Jennifer became an International Coaching Federation™ accredited Business Coach in 2005 and has been coaching, consulting, and elevating company and executive brands for companies and nonprofits of all sizes.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Jennifer L. Horspool: Hello everyone. I am Jennifer L. Horspool, I always say whether it’s my middle initial or my last name, please give me my L – it’s my most important letter! LOL. I love humor. Growing up with a last name like Horspool, I had to learn to laugh at myself and I often feel if you can’t laugh at yourself, you are allowed to laugh at (or with) anyone else either. Plus, Jennifer L. Horspool is good branding. If you hear that name, chances are, it’s me! I’ve been building and protecting brands for 30 years (even though I’m only 24 years old. I don’t worry about the math – I’m a words person ). I started my career in nonprofit (both gov’t funded and charity), transferred to corporate, a little bit of outside sales experience at Xerox and Pepsi, did a smidgeon of job recruiting, and have spent the majority of my career in corporate, agency, and now I’ve been running my PR, marketing and brand experience agency since 2015. I’ve grown companies from start-ups to $MM, and I’ve refreshed and turned around brands from old, stodgy, unknown, and unliked into the go-to resources of their industries. I’ve taken companies from zero media inclusion to hundreds of earned media stories a year, and I’ve coached business owners, marketing gurus, and PR teams to do the same for their companies. Three questions for everyone to consider when they’re first launching a brand: How do you want to be known? Who cares? So what?
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Jennifer L. Horspool: Interesting question. My answer is yes. Some people are born entrepreneurs. These are the non-rule followers. Often considered the bad kids growing up in school. They don’t fit in a box and they want to crawl out of their skin every time someone tries to put them in a box. They don’t obey because they see possibilities way beyond the status quo, beyond the norm, beyond other people’s ideas of the best way(s) to get something done. For the rest of us, we have to learn to become entrepreneurs. Born entrepreneurs are attracted to risk. But they don’t think of it as risk, they think of it as adventure, opportunity, excitement, possibility. The rest of us lean toward safety, rule-following, are risk-averse and crave predictability. If this is you to an extreme degree, entrepreneurship is going to be a lot more challenging because you have to get out of your comfort zone to live on the edge. Entrepreneurship lives on the edge. It teeters between safety and jumping off the cliff – out of the airplane – into the unknown. Even the best well-laid plans don’t always go as planned. As a business leader, you need to think quickly, see unforeseen opportunities, trends, and understand how what’s going on in the world is going to affect your market. It’s not for the lazy. It’s often said that entrepreneurs are the only ones who will work 80 hour work weeks just so they don’t have to work 40. Have a growth-oriented mindset. Be flexible and willing to try things. Entrepreneurialism is all about living on the wild side.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Jennifer L. Horspool: I’m the little engine that could. Sometimes I’m doing great and life is a breeze and other times it’s all uphill with no oil on the tracks to make it easy. But where I’m consistent is that I never stop trying. I never quit. I might take a break; enjoy some downtime, but I never quit. Even when I want to. I just pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep on keeping on. My go-to song for these occasions is Tubthumping by Chumbawamba (Lyrics: I get knocked down, but I get up again; you’re never gonna keep me down!).
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Jennifer L. Horspool: Engagement PR & Marketing is a lot like what it sounds: building brands into superstar status by getting them in the media, increasing engagement in social media, and creating compelling marketing that attracts ideal clients to the brand. We offer a combination of doing it for you, do it with you, and do it yourself programs to fit the myriad of clients we serve. We also often serve as a VP for hire for brands that need VP of Communications experience but can’t yet afford the VP price. We started as a VP for hire service and grew into a full-service PR, marketing, and brand experience agency and have now transitioned to include PR, marketing, and brand experience coaching to guide more entrepreneurs of all sizes to build their brands from best-kept secrets to the go-to experts of their industries.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Jennifer L. Horspool: No matter how unique your services are have competitors. Competitors for like products and services are the most common people think of; but there’s also competition for other ways people solve the problems you serve, and other ways they spend their money, time, and focus rather than on your solutions. There’s also opposition that new business owners often overlook: for example, people who don’t believe in your solutions, or believe that your types of solutions are better. Chiropractors dealt with this for decades. Organic foods and products deal with this. Expensive skincare lines. There are hundreds of ways people could spend their money, time, and focus that steal clients and potential clients from you. Part of your job in marketing is to share with them how much better their life will be with a solution like yours; the rest of it is sharing with them why you over all the other ways and all the other ones who appear similar. Competition is not just the obvious. It’s anything that distracts them from buying from you.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Jennifer L. Horspool: A common error among start-ups is believing “If you build it, they will come.” Mine is similar in that I believed that those who knew my quality of work would hire me immediately. What I didn’t take into account was the rest of their new team who had no clue as to my skills, knowledge, successes, and wins. I forgot that I still had to present myself as if they didn’t know me. I tend to lean more casual in my language and my approach. That doesn’t always work with investors and boards who are not familiar with me. I had to learn to level up quickly. I had to remember audience matters. I teach it. I preach it. I coach for it. But I forgot to live it.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Jennifer L. Horspool: Don’t be afraid to hire and grow your team. You can only work IN your business for so long before you burn out. Hire and train for the quality you want your brand to stand for. Create SOPs (standard operating procedures) based on your mission, vision, and values and hold your team accountable to them. Flying by the seat of your pants creates a chaotic culture. Remaining a solopreneur limits your growth and stretches your ability to serve your clients until one day, your excellence starts to wane. Hire people who are passionate about excellence in the same way you are and grow your team.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Jennifer L. Horspool: Don’t hire friends who are the same level as you to do the work of juniors. It sounds like a good idea. You want to hire the people you know who did a great job at the senior level but if you need lower skills for a job, remember, senior corporate people may have managed that skill, but likely haven’t done it in 10 or 20 years. Hire the right skill level for the work you need done and leave your friends for wine, cheese, and perhaps some brainstorming.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Jennifer L. Horspool: If you have a bricks-and-mortar business, the government can mandate a shutdown where you get no income but are still responsible for your lease. That was the biggest blunder of all. Perhaps write a stipulation into your contract that protects you. Also, consider other ways you can operate/serve your clientele than the traditional method. Understand the implications, materials and resources necessary, and laws that need consideration. Realize that even when it seems safe to you, it might not seem safe to your clients. Don’t just pivot to serve. Elevate. How can you meet their needs, address their fears, and become a vital part of their lives? What hasn’t changed is that people will always want to buy; you need to give them a reason.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Jennifer L. Horspool: That’s easy. That if you know your industry, you can run a business. It’s different than doing a job. Earning a dollar and making a dollar is nothing alike. To earn a dollar, you simply show up for work and try not to get fired. As long as you can do that successfully, you have a paycheck coming in. To earn a dollar, you have to attract it. Service it. Get reviews. Market. Know your numbers. Understand where your business comes from and how to get more. Understand why people buy from you and why they don’t. You have to know accounting, marketing, operations, messaging, how to hire, what the laws are, there’s a lot to juggle that has absolutely nothing to do with your sweet spot. My advice: hire to your weaknesses so you can excel in your strengths.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Jennifer L. Horspool: Tenacity, drive, a vision for what you want to create, and an idea of how you can get there. Understand who can be your allies and who will distract you from your achievements. Not everyone is rooting for you. Don’t worry about them. Focus on what you’re creating. Keep your head down and move forth anyway. If it was easy, everyone would own a business.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Jennifer L. Horspool: Inspiration is everywhere. Find a person or persons you admire and study them and their journey. Not just the successes that you see so often but the struggles along the way. It’s not all roses. There are so big thorns on the stems and the stem is the majority of the rose bush. For books: read them all, or at least listen to the audio versions. I’m a huge fan of The Power of the Subconscious Mind by Joseph D. Murphy, Ph.D., and Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill and produced together with Sharon Lechter. I also like Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation. But people are writing books daily. Absorb as much information as you can. Take what you want and leave the rest behind. Just because someone wrote it doesn’t mean you have to accept it as your truth. You’ll figure out who are your peers and who aren’t along the way.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Jennifer L. Horspool: As a child, I wanted to be an astronaut. After I graduated college in PR, I wanted to be a physical therapist. I think I would have made an excellent physician. I love the human body and all its wonders as well as the world, earth, and the universe. It’s all tied together and I find all of it fascinating
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Jennifer L. Horspool: My mom. She’s my real hero in life – to me and hundreds of others.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Jennifer L. Horspool for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Jennifer L. Horspool or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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