From Teaching to Franchise Owner: 4 Pieces of Advice When Starting Up

Stacy ParkelA former teacher, today Stacy Parkelj is co-owner of a Tutor Doctor franchise in Dallas. She shares 4 wise lessons she has learned in starting her own business.

The journey towards doing what you love and being able to support yourself and your family is often fraught with obstacles, confusion, and innumerable questions. I myself have gone through several different eras of work, from being a teacher, operating a web design company, to managing a large sales team before returning to the classroom. It wasn’t until I returned to my love of teaching that I realized my passion for education could fit perfectly with my entrepreneurial spirit through opening a tutoring business.

Four long years ago, I took a leap of faith and opened my small business, a Tutor Doctor franchise location in the Dallas Ft. Worth area with the help of my father as a business partner. Since then, I’ve learned hard life and business lessons and have grown my business to support local community families. It is such a powerful blessing and gift to be able to do what I love every day, and I believe that everyone should be able to say the same for themselves.

Whether you’re going it alone, or entering business with a partner, it’s important to go into business with your eyes open and a set plan. Once you have the road map laid out and set the plan into motion, everything will fall into place with a little hard work and dedication.

Here are some pieces of advice that have helped me through the launch and growth of my business.

Be open to making sacrifices early on

Launching a successful business requires so much more than just a financial investment. Especially in the first few years, entrepreneurs should expect to invest a significant amount of time into their business, putting processes and systems in place to accelerate growth and move towards self-sufficiency. Because of this hard truth, dedication to launching a successful business forces you to shift priorities towards the business. Be prepared to miss sleep and events, and have a plan in place to help manage and care for your children.

Make Wise Hiring Choices

The employees you hire are unquestionably some of the greatest investments you’ll make into your business. It’s important to make strategic hiring decisions for the business, especially while the business is still being established. As much as it is possible, seek employees that bring more to the table than the skill sets required by their positions, and employees who compliment the business model and team members. Selecting employees who meet your criteria will create a synergy in your company that will drive it to successful heights.

Stacy Parkel
Stacy and her father and business partner

Seek out a support system

Business ownership can be a very lonely journey. As stress mounts and weighs on your shoulders, having a support system can mean a huge difference in your attitude, pool of resources and references and the future of your business. Finding a support system that will understand every inch of what you’re experiencing is crucial and sometimes requires reaching outside of your traditional circles. While your friends and family might be supportive and excellent listeners, unless they’re also business owners they may not completely understand your situation and not be able to offer helpful business advice. Finding a business-minded mentor will not only give your business the powerful resource of someone who has been through it all, but also an outside perspective.

Set a routine 

Without a doubt, the first few years of business ownership is punctuated by long hours, hard decisions and balancing the world on your shoulders. Thankfully, this phase of startup and extreme productivity doesn’t last forever. Once the dust has settled and the business is up and running, it’s vital to establish a proper schedule and routine. For me, that means that from nine to five o’clock every day I go into my home office and close the door. Simulating a real-world work environment while working from home establishes necessary boundaries for myself and my family and ensures that I can maximize my time. Even if you aren’t working from home, it’s important to find a way to end your work day and “turn off” your business brain.

Whether you’re going it alone, or entering business with a partner, it’s important to go into business with your eyes open and a set plan. Once you have the road map laid out and set the plan into motion, everything will fall into place with a little hard work and dedication.


How To Get Publicity By Thinking Like A Journalist

Marsha FriedmanMarsha Friedman is a PR expert with 25 years’ experience developing publicity strategies for celebrities, corporations, and media newcomers alike. In this feature, she shares tips for promoting your brand to the media.

Capturing the attention of the news media is a great way to promote your brand and get your name or your business’ name in front of the masses.

The trick, of course, is to convince print publications or radio and TV stations that they should pay you any mind.

Many small business owners have a hard time envisioning what they can offer the news media, beyond stories that are all about their business, practice, product – or themselves.

That kind of coverage is terrific, of course, but having owned a public relations firm for 25 years I can tell you it’s not easy to get and it’s impossible to sustain. And sustainability is crucial. To stand out in a crowded marketplace, you can’t be a one-hit wonder. You’ve got to stay in front of your audience.

So how do you get journalists and talk show hosts to tell people how incredibly awesome you, your business, your products and your brand are?

It’s simple. You don’t.

Publicity is about getting visibility, credibility and exposure – it’s not about selling. Don’t think in terms of what the news media can do for you. Figure out what you can do for them.

You gain publicity by looking for ways to provide useful, valuable content for the media that is, ideally, tied to something in the news. In other words, you need to think like a journalist, who has no interest in promoting your business or anyone else’s, but is looking for information that would be important, useful or interesting to readers.

That’s where you come in. Are you a financial advisor who can offer TV viewers tips for reducing the amount they pay the IRS? Are you a bakery owner who can provide newspaper readers with recipes for low-calorie desserts during the holidays?

See? In each of those cases, you aren’t selling something. You are offering something.

Let me give you some recent examples of how my public relations firm got publicity for some of our clients.

  • Nearly universal advice. A marriage counselor wanted to bring attention to her practice and Marsha Friedmanher new book. We intrigued the news media with topics such as “Why Are Many Marriages Built for Failure?” and “Why Communication Is the Oxygen that Keeps Relationships Alive,” with her as the expert ready with comments and advice. Since many of their readers, listeners, and viewers are married or planning to marry, she offered the media something they saw as worthwhile. Note that we did not promote her by saying things such as, “Marriage Counselor Wants to Expand Practice.”
  • Bad breath, good angle. A dentist who specializes in diagnosing and treating halitosis has developed a number of products to address that problem. We’ve helped him stay in front of audiences for years with radio and TV talk segment angles such as “How Those Weird Carnival Foods Lead to Foul Breath” and “Will Your Breath Make Cupid Faint this Valentine’s Day?” For all these segments, the dentist is named, his website publicized and occasionally, one of his products is mentioned.
  • Being there for breaking news. The CEO of a company that specializes in cybersecurity wanted exposure in all types of media – print, TV and radio. He turned out to be the right client at the right time. It seemed like every time we checked the news, a private company or government agency was being hacked and personal information about millions of ordinary citizens was being compromised. We scheduled numerous interviews where the CEO commented on why all the cyber information was vulnerable and what could be done about it. We also wrote articles picked up by print and online publications that featured his tips for protecting yourself from hackers. He racked up an amazing amount of exposure for his company.

If you want valuable publicity for your business or product, remember, you need to offer something valuable in return. For TV and radio talk shows, that’s an informative and entertaining interview that will engage the audience. If you do a great job as a guest, the host will have no problem promoting your company and product or service in return. And you can casually work in some mention during your interview as well.

In print, experts are usually identified by their claim to fame, so you may be quoted as Gertrude Smith, owner of Aunt Gertrude’s Pet Sitting Service, and there may even be a reference to your website. Write an article for a publication and it will likely include a bio about you.

All of this will provide more visibility and credibility for you and your product or service while building a brand consumers can fall in love with.

About Marsha Friedman

Marsha Friedman is a public relations expert with 25 years’ experience developing publicity strategies for celebrities, corporations and media newcomers alike. Using the proprietary system she created as founder and CEO of EMSI Public Relations, an award-winning national agency, she secures thousands of top-tier media placements annually for her clients. The former senior vice president for marketing at the American Economic Council, Marsha is a sought-after advisor on PR issues and strategies. She shares her knowledge in her Amazon best-selling book, Celebritize Yourself, and as a popular speaker at organizations around the country.



Ten Ways to Make Your Passion Happen

KathyBrunnerAlthough some people may tell you it takes years to discover your passion, I think it really only takes enough time to develop the strategies to get you on your way. That does not necessarily mean several years getting a degree or half a lifetime learning wisdom.

Here are ten suggestions you can implement NOW towards making today the one that make your passion happen. (more…)

Is It Time For A Professional Make-Over When…

kathy6-300x2231Do you really know when it’s time for a professional make-over? It’s not when you notice too much grey, sagging skin or even a washed out appearance. I’m not talking about the kind of make-over that changes your physical appearance.

I’m talking about a professional make-over resulting in an over-haul of your career or professional life.

Too many people stay in stagnant or dead-end careers for so long, they don’t even believe it’s possible to change anything. Let’s look at some of the signs YOU are ready for a professional make-over. (more…)

Marcia Reynolds: Whose Life are You Living?

Reynolds lightThe day the doctors told my father he could no longer work was the day he accepted his death sentence. He was only 59. He had gone deaf due to a growing brain tumor. Yet the doctors said the tumor was operable. There was even a possibility that he could hear again, but they insisted he stop working. No matter how I tried to convince him that he still had a good life left to live, I failed to convince him. Two weeks later, he passed away.

The crazy thing is that I missed the lesson in my father’s passing. My father could not free himself from the identity of being a successful businessman. When he could no longer hold on to that identity, he quit living. All he knew about life was working hard and being the best. He packed his free time with tasks. When he had to give up his addiction to achievement, he gave up his will to survive.

I didn’t see how much I was like him. The obsession I inherited helped me to be successful and almost killed me too. I worked the night after his funeral, thinking that was what he would have wanted me to do. He wanted me to thrive through my achievements at work. I proceeded to be successful partly for myself and partly in honor of his dreams for me. (more…)

Rethinking Careers: Get off the Ladder and Go on a Journey

Contributed by Mark Bonchek and Jacqueline Jones

Jacqueline Jones_Kaplan

While the speed of change and innovation in our world is in unprecedented overdrive, our notion of careers has been stuck in first gear. We need to update our thinking and use new tools to better meet the needs of employees and employers.

The dominant mental model for careers is a ladder. New graduates gain entry level positions, then steadily climb their way up the ladder of their chosen profession. At each rung, they gain skills and experience. And with each promotion, they step up to take on greater responsibilities and higher pay.

The goal on the career ladder is simple: keep moving higher. The risks are clear. Miss a step or overreach and we risk falling back down. Too much time on the same rung and we start to wonder if there is something wrong.

The ladder model of careers infuses our approach to career planning. We choose a ladder (a profession), figure out what rung we are on (assess our skills) and how high we can go (assess our potential), and then keep looking and reaching for the next rung (finding a job and getting a promotion).

The problem with the career ladder is that it isn’t working for employees and employers.  As Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha point out in their book “The Alliance,” companies simply can’t promise the stability required for the career ladder to succeed.

The world of work has become full of broken ladders.

Mark Bonchek - photo - Print (2) (1)According to Gallup’s latest study on the State of the Global Workplace, only 13% of employees worldwide are truly engaged at work. In other words, only about one in eight workers — roughly 180 million employees in the countries studied — are psychologically committed to their jobs and likely to be making positive contributions to their organizations.

The bulk of employees worldwide — 63% — are “not engaged,” meaning they lack motivation and are less likely to invest discretionary effort in organizational goals or outcomes. And 24% are “actively disengaged,” indicating they are unhappy and unproductive at work and liable to spread negativity to coworkers. In rough numbers, this translates into 900 million workers not engaged with 340 million actively disengaged around the globe.

On the career ladder, engagement comes from knowing that your effort on this rung will get you to the next. But on a broken ladder, you can’t go up and you don’t want to go down.

People are increasingly fearful, frustrated, and disappointed in their careers. They don’t know if they are on the right ladder; if they are learning the right skills; if they will be recognized and rewarded for their contributions and accomplishments; and if the next rung will even be there when they are ready to take the next step. No wonder more than 60% of Baby Boomers feel they need new skills to advance their careers.

Inventing a new definition for “Careers”

If you look up the word “career” in the dictionary you will find two definitions. One is a noun and the other a verb. The noun is the familiar efinition of “time spent in a profession.”

But the verb also seems apt. In this other definition, “to career” is “to move in an uncontrolled way” as in a car on a road. “Uncontrolled” unfortunately describes many people’s work experiences and career planning all too well.

In different ways, both of us have spent the last decade exploring this new definition of work, both personally and professionally. We have seen the changing nature of work, the skills and mindset required to succeed in the digital age, and the strategies that can help people be more successful and fulfilled.

Our conclusion is that a new definition of career is needed–one that is more active than just “time spent in a profession” and also less random and chaotic. This new definition needs to give people a greater sense of purpose and a higher level of engagement. We can’t keep pretending that the world is predictable, or that job satisfaction will come from merely looking up and reaching for the next rung on the ladder. A new mindset and model is needed that sets aside the ladders and focuses on something else—the journey.

We believe your career is not a ladder but a journey.

Where ladders are about steady climbs, journeys are about unpredictable adventures.  Where ladders are about taking careful steps, journeys Career Journey (1)are about seizing spontaneous opportunities. Where ladders are about sacrificing today for a better tomorrow, journeys are about enjoying the experience in the moment.

Ladders are linear and directed at goals. Journeys are multi-dimensional and infused with a purpose.

If the old world of work was about ambition, the new world of work is about intention. Discovering one’s purpose gives rise to intention and opportunity. The opportunities give rise to a sense of appreciation and generosity, which attracts people around one’s intention. By staying true to your purpose, you remain on track and open to new opportunities, enjoying new roles along the way.

The world of work may too unpredictable to have an itinerary for your career journey, but it is well suited to a never-ending adventure.

We recognize that people aren’t accustomed to thinking about careers as a journey. As one career professional told us, “careers are just a sequence of jobs.” But our own experience suggests that careers can be an opportunity to contribute one’s unique talents, express oneself, forge meaningful relationships, and discover a greater purpose. But like journeys in the physical world, we need the right tools.

Before the smartphone, travel guides and agents were the secret to successful journeys. Today we use tools like Google Maps, Yelp and TripAdvisor to discover what’s around us or set new destinations as circumstances change. Then we go to OpenTable or Expedia to book our actual reservations.

In the world of careers, today we are too focused on the job and not the journey. It’s as if we had Expedia (which books our trips) but not TripAdvisor (to help us know where to go).

We need tools that help us discover our purpose. Identity our strengths. Acquire new skills. Explore opportunities. And even reinvent ourselves. It’s the reason Kaplan has collaborated with LinkedIn, Gallup and the Chopra Center to create Career Journey, a free online resource to help students and professionals map their career journey and navigate the changing world of work.

We live in a time of accelerating and unpredictable change. The ground beneath our feet is constantly moving. It’s not safe to be climbing ladders. We need to think of careers as opportunities to contribute our talents purposefully. It’s time to shift our thinking from ladders to journeys.

Mark Bonchek is the founder of SHIFT Academy (, an unlearning organization updating leaders’ thinking for a digital age. @MarkBonchek

Jacqueline Jones is the executive director of strategic partnerships and innovation at Kaplan University (

Elizabeth Ghaffari: Lessons in Mentorship

EG_ext_2012 (2)You may be a mid-career woman wondering “how” you might find a mentor. Are you any different from a younger generation woman trying to climb the early stages of the career ladder? Is the challenge of finding a mentor different if you are older, perhaps closer to leaving the corporate world to start your own business or pursue a corporate board role? What are the key elements in any search for a mentor? Is it different for women as compared to men?

These are a few of the issues and discussions explored in my new book, Tapping the Wisdom that Surrounds You: Mentorship and Women (Praeger: September 2014).  I want women at all stages of their careers to begin asking these questions about who they want to mentor them, why they want a mentor, what they want a mentor to do, and what they want as a result of a mentor-mentee relationship. (more…)

Rebecca Dallek: Some Advice on Making a Change

Rebecca Dallek

  • When you are focusing more on fixing your “weaknesses” to meet the needs of your job instead of working to your strengths, it  could be time for a change.
  • When you were a child, you were encouraged to be creative. Open up that space, go back and try to remember those gems.
  • Don’t feel bad that you waited so long to change. There is no time like the present.
  • Fear of failure is a self-inflicted hurdle. Stop making arbitrary rules for yourself!
  • Take the time to reflect, think about what you enjoy at work and at home.  Where do things feel easy and follow that trail.
  • Misery can be a great motivator, when you have a soul-crushing job, the balance has to tip
  • Having a hectic work–schedule can make it difficult to reflect. Be realistic and honest with respect to your resources.  At the same time, career change is work and you need to carve out time for it.
  • Be sure to understand your values and priorities and let these guide your decision-making.
  • Try to avoid the “shiny object syndrome” criteria for decision-making. Let’s face it, most of us will not open a B&B in the South of France. Instead look at the appeal of it and apply it to the career choices in front of you.
  • Talk to as many people as possible about your plans for change, get it out there that you are looking to change and turn the plans into a reality.
  • Don’t let inertia stop you, overcome your fears and move forward.
  • You don’t have to jump off the cliff … You are allowed to take baby steps to reduce the risk.
  • You might need to shift to good before you get to great.  As long as you stay on the road to great, you will get there.
  • Be willing to fail and have the grit to stand back up and try again.

Rebecca Dallek is a Career and Leadership Coach based in Washington D.C.