Small Business Interview: Nicole Rodrigues, CEO and founder of NRPR Group
Meet super driven Nicole Rodriques, CEO and founder of PR agency - NRPR Group - who had the idea for her business at age 19 and didn't deviate from her goal of becoming the CEO of her own Public Relations Agency. Nicole zeros in on how your employees and the talent within your business are just as important as your customers. She also provides some really awesome advice on managing your small business finances. Enjoy!
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business. What is it called and what services and/or products do you offer?
My name is Nicole Rodrigues and I'm the CEO and founder of NRPR Group. We’re the premier strategic positioning agency, headquartered in Beverly Hills. What we offer is strategic media relations, digital media, and social media strategies for clients in the digital entertainment, technology, consumer, and entertainment industries. Our capabilities include everything from traditional earned media to digital media to social media. We help companies position themselves by utilizing all these tools to ensure there's consistency and branding across the board.
Can you share a bit about how you choose this line of business? What transition did you make to owning your own business?
My major in college was Public Relations and as soon as I declared my major in sophomore year I knew I wanted to make a name for myself in the industry and one of the ways I wanted to accomplish this was by owning my own agency, so this was a goal that I had at 19. When I reached Vice President-level in the industry I felt I worked my way up the ladder and studied each level of the profession well enough so that I could coach and mentor all of my employees to be great at those levels. Coaching and mentoring my employees and upcoming public relations practitioners is something I take very seriously. As vice president of the large, well-known agency I was at, I knew my next role wasn't going to be president of someone else's agency, it was going to be CEO of my own.
Do you have any special training?
College and life experience, from junior high to high school I was developing my own campaigns running for student government. I was also marketing club president. I think for me strategic public relations is a natural thing that I've been doing since before college. I've been very fortunate to find my calling earlier in life.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a business owner?
Making it through the first year of business is the biggest accomplishment so far. It was probably one of the toughest things I've ever done and now we're looking at year two and seeing so much growth. I bootstrapped my business and grew from one employee to nine in one year which is definitely a big accomplishment. We've also managed to hold onto great clients since day one and have managed to hold onto that business because what we're doing is working and it ’s a huge affirmation when our clients continue to send us more clients to keep doing great work.
What mistakes have you made with your business? What did you learn from the experience and how did you bounce back?
The biggest mistakes are usually in chances that you take with employees and I think often times we have high hopes for people that we know in our gut aren't the right fit. At the same time the hardest part has been finding the right people to give my energy to. I'm a giver and care about personal growth, but it's hard when people don't care about their own and aren't coachable, you have to really trust your gut. The one thing about me is I don't dwell on mistakes or people who I know who are not a fit, so I've had zero problems letting go of talent that just didn't bring the right positive energy and work ethic into my company, because I look at my company as building a team. Like a football team, I'm a recruiting coach looking for all-stars and when you bring in the right people and coach the right people you retain the talent.
What do you consider the most important elements of running a successful small business?
Your accountability to your employees period. So many business owners make the mistake of just making their clients their only number one priority. Believe me, my clients are a priority and the way I show that is by making my employees a priority. When my employees are happy, they're producing their best work, and their best work translates into great work for clients. Great work for clients translates into more business.
Do you have any start-up advice you can share with women reading this who would like to launch their own businesses?
Don't be afraid, that's the first thing. I think the thing that held me back so long was my own personal fear and self-doubt but once you get over that hurdle the next thing is that you make sure money and finances are not running your decision making. You have to be willing to take risks and spend money on your own marketing and you have to be willing to make sacrifices in the time that you do things and sacrifices in not spending all your capital decisions and where to spend your money because there will be rainy days. There will be days’ payroll will be hard to make. Moral: Don't let money stand in your way and don't let greed guide you. You've got to make money retain and let your money make it over again.
Do you have any advice on managing your small business finances?
If you can't do it, learn from someone else and have them do it, but watch them and learn along the way. Ask questions, never let someone run the money side of your business without fully educating yourself, that is everything. If you are not good with money, right away have someone to help you balance your books and manage input and output like bills vs what comes in. Know what your strengths and weaknesses are; if you don't know how to balance books, don't try it's not for you, go do things like building your business.
How do you balance work and life owning a small business?
There wasn't much balance in the beginning and I think I just accepted it. Now, I'm mindful of that time, even if I'm working a lot. I'll have my assistant schedule time. I'll put time on my calendar to make time a priority. The same thing with significant others and family make it a priority by adding it to your schedule. Adding in recreational activities like golf and gym time helps with creativity so you don't get burned out.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself and NRPR Group winning awards and being recognized for being a really awesome team. I wouldn’t have started a company if I didn't want to be one of the best. I definitely want to be well recognized in our market and want us to have a strong marketing strategy going. I also want to have a few books out and be speaking to up-and-coming professionals and coaching CEOs on understanding the importance of what we do, because often times I find that it's not up-and-coming PR people that need to learn more about PR. It's our clients.
Please share a fun fact about yourself
I was an NFL cheerleader spending many years cheering for the famed Oakland Raiders. Now I cheer on my “new team” at NRPR Group.
Thanks so much for this wonderful interview Nicole!
You can get in touch with Nicole and her team at [email protected] and @NRPRgroup across all platforms.