In Conversation with Wendy Guarisco of The Guarisco Group
Describe The Guarisco Group in a few words?
We are a team of media insiders helping thought leaders, authors and subject matter experts raise their profile and grow their business with media strategy, placement and training.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
In 2001, I was at a point in my life where I had a very young child and very old parents and being in an office/newsroom 10+ hours a day just wasn’t working any more. I looked at everything on my plate and literally the only thing I could cut was my day job. A friend suggested I could use the skills I’d gained as a producer to help people get on TV news.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I had worked in advertising for 10 years before making the switch to journalism. I was at CNN for 12 years before ultimately landing in PR. Even though it wasn’t on purpose, that combination of marketing communications experience has been invaluable.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
While I was at CNN, my husband had his own business as a painting contractor. I was always envious of his independence and ability to make more money when he wanted to and to step back when he needed to.
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?
In the beginning most of my clients were people who had been my guests on CNN and wanted help getting back on. It was also a time where many people were leaving CNN to start new projects and they needed my help getting the word out. Referrals were also a huge source. Many came from producers who referred their guests to me. Eventually it became a word of mouth funnel, people would see our clients doing well and ask who was behind it.
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?
My biggest mistake was thinking that knowing how to be a good publicist was enough. I had never taken a business course and knew virtually nothing about running a business. A serendipitous conversation with another parent at my daughter’s volleyball game changed all that. That parent was a business advisor and has been shepherding my business ever since. I don’t think we’d have been nearly as successful without his guidance and insight.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Surviving and thriving for 20 years!! I’ve seen many people leave media and turn to PR and most have failed pretty quickly. A few stumbled along for a while but eventually went back to working for someone else. I am proud and grateful to have been my own boss for longer than I worked for other people. And I survived cancer – twice! – along the way.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
The first question is always “Are you comfortable in a virtual environment?” Then I like to ask “What skills are you working with now that you could apply to working here”? Also, “What kind of work is fun to you and what do you dread doing?”
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
My company has been virtual since 2001 so we didn’t miss a beat on that score. What changed dramatically was the type of expert that media needed, so our client roster did a full 180. Suddenly there wasn’t much call for lawyers or Russia experts on TV any more, but the need for doctors, mental health experts, business analysts and social justice advocates went through the roof! We were fortunate to have one of the country’s top infectious disease specialists on board already. We quickly added more experts to fill the growing need to help the country navigate the pandemic.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
More growth! 2020 was our best year yet and I want to keep that momentum going this year and beyond.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Never get comfortable where you are. Things could change drastically at any minute and you have to be ready to shift your focus at a moment’s notice.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Two things: first, I start each day with an hour of being unplugged. No TV, no phone. I had to break the cycle of being shot out of a cannon as soon as I opened my eyes. I also make sure to get outside every day, rain or shine.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
That’s a hard one, and really depends on the season of life. For me, it’s easier now because my daughter is grown up and my parents are gone. But even so, it’s often a challenge not to work around the clock and ignore my husband and my own self. Every day feels like it needs an extra 10 hours in it to get it all done. List-making helps. In the morning, I make a list of what HAS to be done for work and family, what would be great to get done, and what could slide to the next day if it has to.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m an introvert. I love putting other people in the spotlight but for me, I like being the wizard behind the curtain. People never believe this but I am actually very shy.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- Do the hardest thing on your list first.
- Schedule rewards for yourself – when I finish X task, I can do X fun thing.
- Picture yourself telling your client the BEST news ever, and use that feeling to get it done.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
For me it’s about having no limits. If you work for someone else you might be able to see yourself several positions ahead, but as your own boss, if you work hard enough, you can go anywhere you want.