20 Lessons for 20 Years

Pushkin PR 20 Year Anniversary

This year Pushkin PR celebrates 20 years in business. It seems like yesterday that my wife led me by the hand into the deep end of the pool and gave me the encouragement I needed to leave the world of steady paychecks. I’m proud of how much I’ve accomplished and how much Pushkin PR has grown.

I’ve learned a lot more than 20 lessons in that time. But for the purpose of this blog, here are 20 lessons that really stand out.

Collaboration is cool.

A US Census Bureau survey recently confirmed that Colorado leads the nation in working from home. Like a lot of independent practitioners, I started in a home office. Flying solo is nice but I enjoy working in teams. I found that collaborating with creative people to deliver quality work is extremely rewarding. It allowed me to be a full-service firm without having to hire employees. Perfect.

Communications Problem? We can help

Partnerships are profitable.

It doesn’t have to be formal but partnering with talented specialists that I can rely on, learn from and trust helped me provide clients with an array of services such as video production, web design and graphic design that I could not offer on my own.

Keep it in perspective.

Someone told me when I first started that after five years I would learn to stop panicking if I lost a client. That’s bull. I still freak out. But at least now I know that I will find a new client or clients to replace the lost business and things may turn out better in the long run. Sometimes things happen for a reason.

Results matter.

If you are not producing results for your clients it won’t matter how great your team is or how cool your office is. It still comes down to delivering what you promise and meeting client expectations.

Respect goes both ways.

From day one I wanted clients I could work for with respect. I need to know that they are ethical people doing ethical business. What I’ve learned is that it’s just as important for the client to respect my accomplishments and trust my judgment. Without mutual respect the relationship is doomed.

Winning feels good.

You won’t find me spiking the ball or gloating, but I will admit that competing for a client’s business and winning the account feels good. Damn good.

Losing sucks.

There is a reason why most of us hate RFPs. They are a lot of work and when you lose it feels bad. Really bad.

Nice office.

It’s important to like where you work. I enjoyed my home office and the two offices I shared with a colleague. But I love my current office because it communicates what I hope Pushkin PR represents. It’s solid. It’s got some history. It’s unpretentious. It’s acoustic, not electric.

Communications Problem? We can help

Reputation means everything.

Nothing is more important to the health of your business than your reputation. That’s a lesson that guides every decision I make every day.

Relationships are meant to last.

Whether it’s with our clients, our team, our partners, or the media, public relations depends on long-term relationships. Make sure they are built to last. Base them on honesty, trust, and a solid ethical foundation.

Take time off.

Sometimes you need to put the closed sign on the door. Leave the office behind and enjoy some down time. Unwinding is good, especially for PR pros. We have a tendency to get a little wound up.

It’s OK to say no.

As a former working musician, I still have a hard time passing up a gig. But learning to say no when your plate is too full is OK.  And if the client relationship is not working, walk away.  Firing a client is better than the alternative.

It’s OK to say yes.

Just because your plate is full does not mean you are off the hook if a worthy cause really needs your help.  The public relations profession has a responsibility to further the public good. Sometimes we might even have to work pro bono.


This is not something you do at a convention. It means trusting your teammates. Make the extra pass. Even if you are the star player you don’t have to take every shot.

Be grateful.

I have so much to be grateful for. Ethical clients. A talented team. A cool office. A supportive wife. A solid reputation in the Denver public relations community.

Go the distance.

Sometimes the road is long and winding. Don’t be afraid to make a commitment to your clients, your business, your team members or your partners. There is no instant gratification. Be in it for the long haul.

One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.

I knew right away that being my own boss was the right fit for me. I was ready. But the uncertainty is way too scary for some people. Make sure it’s the right fit and the right timing before you dive in.

Baseball is a simple game.

This is my favorite line from Bull Durham. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains. It’s a good mantra for business owners. Keep it simple and don’t stress over what you can’t control. There is always another game tomorrow.

Communications Problem? We can help

Stand by your brand.

When your name is on the door, your reputation is on the line. What does your personal brand represent? Be ready to communicate it and to stand behind that brand promise.

Roll with the punches.

This one really wraps it up. It should really be lesson 1-20. Life is a series of humorous pitfalls. Your business will always throw you a curve. Be ready to foul it off until you get the pitch you are looking for. Always be ready to roll with the punches.

20 years ago I took a leap of faith 20 filled with excitement and trepidation. That’s still how I feel about my business today. I’m excited about the future but a little nervous about the uncertainty. Like a musician that hits the stage not knowing how the crowd will respond, running a business is like washing down a shot of stage fright with a pint of adrenaline. Sometimes it’s hard to swallow but I couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing.

Author: Jon Pushkin