January 2015. It’s not only a New Year, but also a time when I can look back at 25 years of standing at the helm of Barfield Public Relations. I founded BPR on February 25, 1989, after decades of working in Corporate America at a national broadcast news organization and at a global public relations agency, where I managed one of the world’s most iconic brands. As a person of color, I climbed until I hit the proverbial glass ceiling. There was no place beyond that level for someone who looked like me, an African-American woman.

So, I started my own PR company. While I’ve experienced setbacks over the past quarter-century, I’ve also sustained by company, enjoying the many fruits of running a successful business. Like every small business owner, I’ve learned how satisfying it is to operate your own business, without the fear of ceilings or stereotypes blocking your progress.

Throughout this milestone anniversary year, I’ve not only shared my reflections about the PR industry in this blog, but I’ve met dozens of people of color who’ve asked me questions about PR and about running a business. Overwhelmingly, people want to know, “How’d you do it? How did you – an African-American woman — manage your own PR business for 25 years and counting?”

While the year is still new and fresh, I think now would be a good time to share my “5 Tips for a Successful Business.” My goal is to encourage other PR professionals of color to take that bold step and slide past that glass ceiling. Start your own business!

Five Tips for a Successful Business

  1. Know the business that you’re in
  • Make it your business to know your business
    • Read the trades, follow industry news and trends in major media, and join professional associations
    • Don’t be afraid to ask questions – or for advice
  1. Set goals and stay focused on your goals
    • Always know your destination
      • Set clear goals and a plan to achieve them
      • Re-visit your goals regularly, to keep your eyes on the prize
  1. Know your worth and believe in yourself
    • Self-confidence is key to success
      • Show courage by taking risks
      • Be willing to walk away from the table
  1. Learn how to negotiate
    • Winners know how to strategize
      • Understand that “compromise” is good
      • Aim for a “win-win” outcome
  1. Be open to new experiences and learn how to be trustworthy
    • Value new trends, new technologies, and new people
    • Keep your word. It’s the core of your company, your brand

Don’t let statistics or naysayers – or glass ceilings – stop you. I certainly didn’t. Instead, I began my business on my kitchen table. Today, 25 years later, Barfield PR is still thriving and looking forward to an even brighter future. You can own your business, too. Armed with these five simple steps, you can begin this New Year with focus, energy, and confidence. Now, get busy!