In Conversation with Megan Driscoll of EvolveMKD
Describe your business in a few words?
EvolveMKD is a tight-knit collection of storytellers, brand builders and caretakers, data crunchers, media hounds, digital strategists, and collaborators. At EvolveMKD, our culture fosters creativity and curiosity, rewards passion with perks, and inspires new ways of thinking. Ultimately, we’re a creative crew who aren’t afraid to laugh in the office or lift each other up through hard times.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
At my last job before starting EvolveMKD, it became clear it wasn’t going to work out long-term. I was faced with a tough decision: look for a job at another public relations agency and possibly face the same issues or venture out and open an agency of my own. I decided to follow my gut and start my own business, EvolveMKD.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
At the University of Chicago, I studied Public Policy and was ready to tackle the world of finance until fate intervened. The economy fell precipitously during my senior year and those big banks were not handing out jobs to every U of C graduate, as they had seemed to do in the past. A boss from one of my former internships told me that I might have better luck in PR. I found an internship at the healthcare division of a major public relations firm and that was almost twenty years ago. Before founding EvolveMKD, I served as the President of Behrman Communications, managing agency operations, staff, and advising dozens of clients. I also held senior positions at Emanate, Lippe Taylor, Fleishman Hillard and Euro RSCG Life PR.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I never really dreamt about being an entrepreneur or starting my own company. When people used to ask me what I wanted to do when I graduated from college, my answer was “work with nice people.” I realize now that should have been a sign, as the only way to ensure you are working with nice people, is to create the company for them to work at.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
When I first launched my business, I didn’t really market it. I was so focused on delivering work for my clients and setting up the business infrastructure, that marketing took a backseat. I did start marketing the business through public relations, social media and thought leadership activities. We’ve ramped that up nicely over the last few years.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
The most challenging time in the business was when we decided to walk away from our largest client a few years ago. While it was the right values decision, it was challenging from a financial perspective. I had to make some tough choices, including cutting my own pay and several non-essential expenses. In the long-term, we ended up gaining a client that we couldn’t have taken and ended up being more lucrative financially. This taught me that when you make decisions that align with your values, it works out.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
I am most proud of the jobs I’ve created through starting EvolveMKD, and the money we’ve been able to donate to charity, which totals $617,583 to date.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
My go-to interview question is “do you love to win or hate to lose”. I love hearing from candidates how they work through that question and what sticks with them more – the winning or the losing. It helps me to see what drives them to be their best.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
We’ve seen how important communications are during Covid-19, whether they be via social media, virtually or in person. That has meant that our role has been even more critical in our client’s work. We’ve also had to pivot how we handle certain executions (like events) and really think through new and creative ways to touch our client’s stakeholders.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
What’s next is world domination 😊 You can expect to see EvolveMKD continuing to grow and (excuse the pun), evolve in terms of what we can offer and do for our clients. What won’t change is how much we care about each other, our clients and our communities.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
I learned to believe in myself more. 2020 was really the year I settled into being a CEO and a leader – having to manage a business and a team through a global pandemic taught me to trust in my decisions.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
There are so many things I wish I knew but I’d say for your business to grow, you have to keep growing, personally. Owning a business definitely pushes you to continue to evolve and grow personally, and I’ve seen that in order for your business to continue to grow and expand, you have to embrace that process and everything that comes with it.
I’d also say, don’t sacrifice your vacations, even in year 1 of your business. Seriously, your brain, heart and soul need a break from the intensity and pressure. Stepping back also gives you clarity and distance to “work on your business and not in it”.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
I’ve taken up journaling and meditation, plus I’ve continued to prioritize my exercise. And, a glass of wine helps too. 😊
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
- I do believe in work/life presence for yourself and your employees, no matter what the level of intensity is in your business at the moment, life is still happening around you. It’s important not to miss it and it’s important to give those moments in life their fair due. You also have to lead by example. Set the tone for all employees to follow, showing that you support them doing what they need to do to stay engaged with their families and friends, as well as take care of themselves. I like to ensure that everyone, including myself, understands they have the opportunity to celebrate or mourn life moments fully, and work will not collapse without them.
- Exercise, beyond the physical benefits, provides space away from the work and an opportunity to gain mental clarity. I make sure exercise happens by doing “appointment exercise” – I schedule all of my exercise for the month ahead and put it on my calendar. This way, I plan around my exercise and prioritize it.
- Seeking professional advice can be a game-changer. When we make our personal well-being our first priority, we can perform at our best mentally and physically. That fitness carries over into our ability to lead and provide for those who need us. I’ve seen firsthand that this investment in oneself leads to more financial and business success as well.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I’ve been every hair color in the book – black, brown, red and blonde. My favorite is my current strawberry blonde. I love changing up my looks and experimenting with new things.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- Take charge of your time. To be efficient, you got to know how to prioritize your time. I start my day by reviewing my calendar each morning and canceling my attendance in meetings where my presence isn’t mandatory. This leaves me with more focused time to think and work
- Self Care. Good physical and mental health contribute to a productive life. I now give my personal appointments the same priority as my business appointments. I schedule exercise, acupuncture, mentoring, meditation, and any other self-help activities the same way I would time for a new client.
- Organize by impact. I look daily at what’s going to have the most impact on our clients and position those items first. I also try to organize my day by when my energy tends to be best.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
I would say being an Entreprenista means being a part of this amazing network of powerful women that support each other during the tough times, help build each other up and most importantly celebrate all the good times!