Jennifer Rock is an author and business communicator who lives in Minneapolis. Three years ago, she walked away from a successful corporate career to co-found a communications agency, ROCKdotVOSS. Her coauthored debut novel, B.S., Incorporated, has been called “a rich combination of comedy, ingenuity and sass.”
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
To be honest, I was completely burned out. I had spent my career working for corporations – the last being a Fortune 50 company to whom I’d given 12 years and more than 60 hours a week. And then the company changed around me: new leadership, new culture, new job expectations. I didn’t feel challenged or valued. I wanted to do work that mattered again. I wanted to feel excited to go to work. And I wanted time to pursue my lifelong dream of writing a book.
Tell us about your business.
ROCKdotVOSS is a two-person agency that specializes in communications strategy, employee communications and executive communications. Powered by Michael Voss’s and my combined 40+ years as communications leaders and advisors to CEOs and global corporations, we offer fresh ideas for how companies can inform and inspire their audiences.
Our novel, B.S., Incorporated (loosely based on some of our best and most ridiculous stories of working in Corporate America) has garnered widespread critical acclaim, including being named the Ten Best Business Books of the Year by WealthManagement.com. Midwest Book Review said it “stands with some of the best business novels in its genre.”
Where is your business based?
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
We had a strange start to our agency. We got our first client without officially being open for business! Then we backed into those mundane administrative tasks of setting up an LLC and getting a tax ID number. One of the most critical steps I found personally valuable was meeting with other entrepreneurs who had either succeeded or failed – to hear their stories and learn from their advice and experiences.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Without a doubt, it’s all about networking. Communications is a relationship-based business – especially when you are crafting a keynote speech in the voice of an executive or writing difficult news for employees about job losses or location closures. Often new clients and projects come from former colleagues who understand our capabilities and trust us to deliver.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
I find it challenging to not get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks of running a business. I have to remind myself that I formed my own career path so I could apply my time and expertise to help clients communicate with employees and customers (not so I could maintain QuickBooks!).
How did you overcome these challenges?
I hired experts to handle book publicity, business accounting, taxes, etc. – anything that isn’t directly related to our core business of working with clients.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
This is where having a business partner comes in handy. We joke that one of us is always in charge of our two-person company’s employee engagement. But it’s true. When I’m having a tough day, Mike takes charge of looking on the bright side. And vice versa.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Our agency has the in-depth expertise and experience of a huge, industry-leading communications company – but without the administrative overhead, bureaucracy and costs. We can give clients the same great results but with greater flexibility, value and one-on-one attention.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
In a rare moment of feeling overwhelmed, I asked a fellow entrepreneur for advice, and he said: “Stop. Breathe. List. Pace. Cadence. Wine. Deliver.”
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Find and lean on other entrepreneurs! Join a Meet-Up group in your area or an online community who you can tap for ideas and input.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
I’ll give you three:
- Twitter. It keeps me on top of business and industry news, and is a lifeline to the writing, communications and entrepreneur communities.
- The Notes tool on my iPhone. It’s where I jot down tons of ideas, character traits and dialog bits for our sequel novel to B.S., Incorporated.
- Wooden shims. Buy a 99-cent package of wood pieces at a hardware store and jam them under wobbly coffee-shop table legs. Seriously, it’s the best investment you’ll ever make.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
Anything on LongReads (on Twitter as @longreads). I started my career as a journalist, so I love well-crafted feature stories and long-form journalism – especially in this age of sound-bites and the mentality of “TL;DR” (too long; didn’t read).
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
We are wrapping up an 18-month contract with the biggest privately held company in the world, which will open up our time to take on new clients in 2018. We’re reaching out to our professional network to ramp up our business development efforts and looking forward to working with new companies.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
Balancing a business with writing a book is challenging. My goal is for ROCKdotVOSS to have strategized our annual business plan in the next month, and to be completing the first draft of the B.S., Incorporated sequel by early next year.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.