The evolution of IPSM with Olivia and Renee

Evolution of In Plain Sight Marketing

By Renee Plain

We recently hit our 11th anniversary as a company (September), which just feels crazy to me! That old cliché of “It seems like yesterday…” rings true in this instance.

Taking the stroll down memory lane of how we started and the journey along the way has me reminiscing on the agency’s humble beginnings and evolution.

Just a dream

Prior to starting IPSM, I primarily worked in advertising sales, both for a national trade magazine for after-market motorcycle and ATV products, as well as local newspapers serving our northern Nevada communities. One thing I noticed was the same at the three different publications I worked at my customers were overwhelmed and didn’t really have a partner on their side.

Sure, my larger clients had agencies they worked with, but I noticed they weren’t really that true partner…they were really just another vendor adding to the noise and finding ways to charge them for unnecessary items. Once I transitioned to local advertising, my clients were really struggling to manage all of the sales reps with “THE” advertising space that was going to help them coming in and selling them day in and day out – myself included.

I began dreaming of more than just selling products and wanted to work more on the side of solutions. That’s when I started what felt like a pipe dream of starting an agency that was FOR the client – a true partner in their success that was there to guide them through their options and be a brand and message guardian throughout their marketing and public relations.

After talking about it long enough, my husband (who, besides my business partner, is my biggest supporter and cheerleader), encouraged me to take the leap of faith. In September of 2011, I put together a business plan and registered my business with the State of Nevada.

Jumping into the deep end

When I registered the business, I was still working full-time in advertising sales. My business plan was set up in a way that I had services I could offer while still working that wouldn’t be conflict with my full-time job, and then all the other services I wanted to go into after I left sales.

It took me only three months before I made the jump into taking my marketing business full-time in January 2012. It was ABSOLUTELY terrifying…but also incredibly exhilarating! I was able to partner with some of my advertising clients to give them an overall strategy for their business, managed their social media presence (which back then, using it as a business was still fairly new), and assisted with media buys that made sense for them.

As time went on, I started getting calls for campaign management for local political candidates, website updates, and graphic design. And then all of sudden we were growing into public relations and the company was growing, adapting to our client’s needs and getting better. I started partnering with other vendors to manage what our clients needed, and that’s how my business partner (and mom), Kathie Taylor, APR, got involved.

Time to grow!

Kathie has always been one of the best writers I’ve ever known. We had always talked about starting the agency together, but when I was ready, she was still in the corporate hustle so I decided to make the jump solo.

About 3.5 years into the business, I brought on a large client needing assistance in public relations. I had some minor experience at this point but needed some big guns with this account. It was perfect timing because Kathie had just left corporate America to start her own PR consulting business and we began partnering our two businesses together on client work.

Before long, we decided to partner for good under the IPSM umbrella and haven’t looked back! Because of her expertise, we have been able to grow further into public relations and it has truly reshaped our business and how we work. It drives the structure behind what we do, how we do it, and how we continue to maintain brand and message consistency in all things we do for our clients.

So you want to start your own business?

Now that we’ve been at this for over 10 years, we have spent significant time learning how to run our business. It was never something I thought I would do when I was in college. I graduated with my Bachelor’s in English and a minor in Communications. I thought I was going to be a second-grade teacher until I found advertising, so I always joke about “Forrest Gumping” my way into owning a business.

When I was in advertising, I had a team to manage everything. I sold the ads, but someone booked them, did the creative, took care of the billing, and everything in between. All of a sudden, I was doing all the things myself, and it was a STEEP learning curve!

I had to learn how to make an invoice, contracts, graphic design, web design, run social media campaigns, taxes and everything else. Once we started adding employees, there was project management software, payroll, HR and employment laws to keep up with. It just kept going and it was really overwhelming.

Use the resources around you!

Running your own business will be one of the most challenging (and hopefully rewarding) things you can do. Most of us start a business because we have the knowledge, a service, or a product we’re passionate about, but most of us don’t know how to move from being the technician in our business and know how to run the business.

My biggest piece of advice is to look at your network and seek out free and low-cost resources that can help you learn the business side – they will help make your learning curve a little easier to manage. There are also some really great books on business (the best one Kathie and I ever read was E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber).

I leaned hard into my network of small business and agency owners to keep learning everything I could each time we were getting ready to grow. We ended up working with SCORE of Northern Nevada to help us learn more about our financials, we had coaches that helped us as we sought out different industries, we hired a bookkeeper and CPA to manage our books, invoicing and taxes, we brought on an awesome payroll company that manages EVERYTHING tied to that.

One of the best decisions I made was to apply for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. It was intense, but it was like a mini-MBA program that helped me create an amazing growth plan while learning an intense amount of knowledge I didn’t even know I didn’t know. I came away from the program with a great group of friends and resources that help us continue to push forward and recently participated in the 10KSB Small Business Summit in Washington, DC where I was able to advocate on behalf of small businesses in Nevada.

Another great resource, if you’re in northern Nevada, is the Adams Hub for Innovation located in Carson City. They offer educational opportunities for startups, expanding businesses and existing local businesses that need help. In fact, you’ll find me there almost every Monday offering free marketing mentorship.

How can we help you?

Thanks for reading about our journey into becoming a business. It’s been a wild ride for sure…full of highs, lows and everything in between.

If you are a business owner looking to take the next leap of growth in your business, we’d love to be there for you as a resource, a partner in success, or even just an ear to listen! If you’re in the northern Nevada area, sign up for a mentoring session at the Hub. You can also schedule a free consultation call with me any time or connect with me on LinkedIn! I’d love to hear your story and help you share it with the world.

Download the Evolution of In Plain Sight Marketing transcript here!