After owning JDG Communications for 30 years, Len Johnson sold it to Sage Communications in 2009. During the transaction, he benefited from the advice of a SCORE volunteer mentor from the Washington, D.C., chapter who helped review the financial earn-out potential of the deal. On the advice of his mentor, he closed on the sale and stayed with Sage for five years until he retired in 2014.
Having benefited from the advice he received from his SCORE mentor, Johnson decided to join the organization as a volunteer in October 2014 to help other entrepreneurs realize the “American Dream.” In addition to his weekly mentoring appointments, he also serves as the chapter’s marketing chair. His wife teases him that he’s working harder now than when he owned his own firm. The fact is, he said, he finds volunteer mentoring more rewarding than winning Silver Inkwells and Addys.
Johnson especially enjoys sharing his experience with young graphic designers who are starting their own business. Recently, he mentored Clarise Frechette, owner of Clarise Frechette Design, LLC, who started as a home-based business in 2013. In 2014, she moved her business to a co-working space called MakeOffices in Dupont Circle where she now rents a private office. Frechette found some of her greatest clients to be other entrepreneurs whom she met through the co-working space community. However, she is continually interested in exploring different avenues for building new partnerships and sought some advice.
Frechette scheduled a mentoring appointment with Johnson, and wanted their session to focus on how she could build her professional network aside from attending MeetUp events, which she often felt lacked a consistent stream of opportunities to cultivate meaningful relationships. The advice Johnson provided was based on his experience growing a three-person graphic design company to become an award-winning marketing communications firm with 15 employees.
During the mentoring session, he logged on to the Capitol Communicator website to show her the calendar of great professional networking events held by advertising, marketing and public relations associations. He suggested that she select two or three events for organizations that aligned with her interests and had a membership base of individuals whose organization hired small design firms. Then, he said, join the association and become active on a committee where she could work closely with others who share her commitment. By donating her graphic design services on a few projects, she would build respect and confidence for her skills and commitment. This visibility can lead to new business opportunities from clients she wants to work with. By participating in associations’ awards competitions, Johnson built a reputation as an award-winning firm that did quality work. He also encouraged her to submit her best work to awards competitions.
Johnson said that a key to growing his business was his memberships in local chapters of the International Association of Business Communicators, American Marketing Association and Public Relations Society of America. These relationships continue to pay dividends as they have resulted in life-long friendships.
(Photo above is of Johnson and Frechette.)
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