Mrs. Mitchell goes to Washington

While most of the time we're focused on telling others' stories, occasionally we have the chance to tell our own.

While most of the time we're focused on telling others' stories, occasionally we have the chance to tell our own.

I found myself front and center recently with an unexpected opportunity to share the story of Mitchell Communications Group during a full Congressional hearing called by the US House Committee on Small Business titled “Tales of Resilience: Small Business Survival in the Recession.” 

Being called to testify is not always a good thing, but in this case it was. The invitation came through Women Impacting Public Policy, a national nonpartisan organization advocating on behalf of 1 million women-owned businesses nationwide. I serve on the organization's national board, and last year was the chair of the WIPP Small Business Saturday Coalition of 64 business organizations. The group was asked by the committee to suggest a company that had succeeded despite the challenging economy of the past few years. 

I was deeply honored when the committee formally invited me to come to Capitol Hill to share our story of growth at Mitchell Communications Group - and how we've done it. 

My testimony included: An overview of our firm and clients; how we have achieved growth; ways other companies can grow in spite of a still uncertain economy; and what Washington can do to help small businesses succeed.

I'm an avid motorcycle rider, and I couldn't resist using my favorite analogy of “looking through the turn” as a way to make my points. This is a fundamental principle of motorcycling that offers great insight. As you approach a turn, you must look where you want to go rather than fixating on potential hazards in the turn itself. The challenge comes in keeping your eyes focused on where you want to end up while using your instincts and experience to adjust within the turn — all at a moment's notice.

Inspired by this philosophy, I shared four ways we've applied these principles to our firm and how other companies can grow as well.

Stay nimble. When change happens like it did in the fall of 2008, you have to be ready to adapt and respond. We've developed a flexible business model that helps us scale up or down as clients' needs change and manage large-volume assignments, even at a moment's notice.

Know how to take risk. You must have the courage to lean in to opportunity even in an uncertain business environment. But you must also learn how to balance risk and discipline to yield solid results. This starts by having a clear understanding of your value proposition, and then knowing how to build upon that where it makes sense. 

Stand for something. During some of the darkest days of the recession, we came together as a company to write a common set of values: trust, open communication, service, results, and commitment. These values guided us when we needed them most and have helped us recruit talented employees since that time whose values align with ours.

Don't try to go it alone. The best leaders know the power of a team, and I've learned that “excellence attracts excellence.” Great people attract great clients; you can't have one without the other. It is my responsibility to continue creating a compelling culture so that exponential results happen when these two groups come together.

I also took a few moments to tell the committee members what Washington could do to make the roadway smoother rather than more hazardous for us. First, fully consider small businesses in rule-making. The decisions they make can have a huge impact on our ability to continue creating jobs and driving innovation. Second, facilitate greater access to capital for small businesses. Third, reduce taxes.

Before and after the hearing, I met with various representatives and shared highlights of my testimony with them. Without exception, I received tremendous support for our firm, for our industry, and for the important role the private sector plays in driving our economy forward. But the greatest benefit of testifying was the pride our firm's employees and clients felt by having their story told while all eyes were watching. 

There are many stories like ours in the PR industry, and it was an honor to bring positive recognition to our profession in this way. So next time you receive a letter asking you to testify, take a closer look. It just might be an invitation worth accepting.

Elise Mitchell is president and CEO of Mitchell Communications Group Inc. She can be reached via email at elise@mitchcommgroup.com or follow her on Twitter at @elisemitch.

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