Owning a business is likely the hardest thing you will ever do! The day job doesn’t end when the team goes home. Having your own business means it’s pretty rare to have much time off (even when you do have time off, it’s usually caught catching up or administrative tasks actually running of the business).
As a part of my series about the things you need to know to excel in the modern PR industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Durée Ross. She is a South Florida native, is president & CEO of award-winning South Florida and Aspen-based public relations, marketing and special events agency Durée & Company. Since incorporating in 1999 at the age of 24, the firm has consistently grown in size to handle a growing client roster. Durée is considered an industry veteran by her peers and employees, after years of establishing her brand of creative and strategic public relations. She is a PR entrepreneur with a broad spectrum of experience spanning the corporate, agency and nonprofit arenas for local, national and international clients. Durée’s awards include three Gold Coast PR Council Bernays Awards; six American Business Awards, also known as The Stevie® Awards; 2018 and 2017 Bulldog Stars of PR Award; 2018 Outstanding Small Corporation Award honoree, Association of Fundraising Professionals; 2016 PR News’ Top Women in PR, 2016 Women of Distinction Award from March of Dimes and 2015 Influential Business Women Award by SFBJ, to name just a few.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I fell in love with public relations at the age of 19 during a fated college internship. Originally a double major in broadcast journalism and sociology at the University of Miami, I found my place in the world of PR. After I finished working in-house at a nonprofit, word spread that I was available to do some freelance work and from there, by chance alone, my business was born. All the internships I had while in college were suddenly paying off for me at 24 years old. My phone started ringing off the hook for new business, and as a result, Durée & Company was established!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Here’s an interesting one that usually makes people laugh. I was in California at the Facebook headquarters and got stuck in an elevator for nearly 3 hours! Ironically, this is right when the Facebook live feature launched, so I was recording the whole thing. When the fire department arrived, they had to use the jaws of life to pry the elevator doors open. My live video was even shared with the news! There’s never a dull moment in or out of the office.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I was an intern, I made the mistake of calling a TV station’s assignment desk … while they were live on the air! When TV stations are live on the air, they have no interest in what you have to say and will hang up. When you make that mistake once, I can promise that you never make that mistake again. I learned to only call the stations during hours when they’re not broadcasting live.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Durée & Company recently opened a full-time office in Aspen, Colorado. It is a natural fit for us as many of our South Florida clients have business interests in Colorado, we have clients based in Colorado, and I have been a part-time Aspen resident for many years. Our expanded office gives us the opportunity to serve our clients in both destinations.
Our Colorado client base includes the growing CBD business ― a new vertical for the firm ― which has been extremely challenging and rewarding. The CBD business offers us the chance to learn and understand an exciting new realm of PR that is complex, different and changes hour to hour.
I truly love new challenges that push our team, as we always strive to make a difference for our clients. We definitely like to work hard and play hard!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. Intern as many times as you possibly can, as soon as you possibly can. Invest the time and do whatever it takes — a great work ethic and desire to learn (especially in our constantly evolving industry) are absolutely key.
2. Volunteer and donate your time! Give to give, don’t give to get. Donate your time just because; put it out there and don’t expect a return. All of our pro-bono work with nonprofit organizations is extremely rewarding. To see our work making a difference is a very special feeling, and we love to pay it forward. We were extremely honored to have won the 2018 Outstanding Small Corporation Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Broward–Fort Lauderdale chapter, as part of its National Philanthropy Day® Awards Luncheon.
3. Owning a business is likely the hardest thing you will ever do! The day job doesn’t end when the team goes home. Having your own business means it’s pretty rare to have much time off (even when you do have time off, it’s usually caught catching up or administrative tasks actually running of the business).
4. Do your homework! Do you want to be a business owner or work for one? Being a business owner involves working all hours of the day and night. As the CEO, I have learned quickly that the buck stops with me ― think twice before choosing a role that might involve emergency phone calls at 3 a.m.
5. Be flexible. At any given moment you could be a part of breaking news or have to take charge of crisis communications. It’s also important to have a great team that can help you put out fires when you’re needed in multiple places at once.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
At Durée & Company, we elevate our branding in every way, including our business cards. Mine is white, on thick cardstock, is letterpressed and features our signature colors, pink and brown. It’s a good conversation piece and it always stands out.
It’s also important to be punctual to a networking event, so you get the chance to engage one-on-one with a few attendees before all of the noise and activity sets in. Walking into a packed room can be overwhelming.
Follow up. I typically send an email or hand-written note within days reintroducing myself, asking for a formal meeting and give a few examples of why we may make a great team in the future. It’s amazing how small the world is and how many connections form, or make a great resource for our business even months later.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
We get involved in and sponsor as many events as possible. From chamber events to nonprofit galas, the events have led us to some of our longest and dearest clients. It’s rewarding and can be a mutual benefit all around. Another strategy I use is to speak at various industry and community events ― not only to share my knowledge but also to showcase what we do to potential clients.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I often listen to (and have been a guest on) the podcast Game 7: The Sports, Business & Lifestyle Podcast, hosted by lawyer, entrepreneur, and investor Michael Elkins. I am also a fan of Confessions of a Serial Salesman, which is hosted by author, entrepreneur, serial salesman, keynote speaker, sales trainer and social selling expert Steve Nudelberg. It’s a fun mix of interviews with like-minded entrepreneurs, authors, and athletes. I like to hear the successes of other business owners and maybe even take a few pointers.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Empowering women. Something I’ve noticed is that most women are bad at negotiating, myself included. It’s definitely something I am always working on and encourage others to work on as well! It’s so hard to get a seat at the table, sit on a board and break the glass ceiling, to begin with. We have to push ourselves and others around us. How do we get more women on boards? We have to support each other. We need more women at the head of companies. My advice is to learn to negotiate with yourself and not accept the first offer.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.