Women in Business

Meet Woman in Business Patty McDonough Kennedy

Meet Patty McDonough Kennedy, CEO, Kennedy Spencer Marketing Communication

T"Meet Woman in Business Patty McDonough Kennedy"ell us about your business. Kennedy Spencer is a marketing and communication and speaker training company.  I started the company in 2005 with one client, a beat-up laptop and about $500 in my pocket.  Today, we have offices in New York and Vienna, Austria, and service clients across the world.

Please tell us what being a business owner means to you and why you became an entrepreneur in the first place?  To me, being a business owner means independence, creativity, the ability to make ideas happen and most importantly, do good work.  Stealing a good quote from Milton Berle on this one, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”  That’s what being a business owner allows you to do – create opportunities, build doors, for yourself and your customers.

How Did You Became an Entrepreneur?  Honestly, I’d love to tell you a nice story about how it all came together in a very strategic way.  But the truth is,  I was in a senior-level communications job at a big agency, and that particular agency wasn’t the right fit for me.  After a year of stress, I finally quit – though I still needed to make money. One of the clients I had worked for approached me a month later. He wasn’t happy and wanted me to consult him –  which was fine, because his business was considered “too small” by the agency.  The agency’s viewpoint always struck me as strange.  Wasn’t the purpose of marketing and communication to help clients grow? Anyway, I took my one very small client, did the best I could, and grew my business from there.  To this day, that client is still one of my best clients and friends.  He’s also referred me more business than anyone else.

However, I think it’s even more challenging to stay an entrepreneur – see your business, clients and employees through the tough times and make it work.  After a while, it’s not just your business anymore – its success or failure affects many people.   To stay successful, you have to understand your mission – the bigger purpose of your business – and see that through.

What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?

I have a lot of mentors, colleagues, even friends who have inspired me to start a business and/or keep it going when the going got tough.  My father, for instance, started his own law firm when I was young, so I grew up with an entrepreneur. He and my mother both worked very hard – and were still able to spend a lot of time with their six kids – so hard work and integrating family and business all seemed very normal to me. They are true inspirations.

However, I would have to say, the greatest influences on my business are my husband and two sons. The support my husband provides – emotional and practical – makes it possible to do what I do.  He always understood that being an entrepreneur is who I am and has never given up on me, even when I’m discouraged.  My sons are a huge influence because they are what drive me – to be a better person, better mom, better business owner. And everyone – my clients, employees, even some vendors, knows my kids.  It’s sometimes comical how involved they are with my business.   The other day my 8-year old son said to me, “Mom, I saw this cool website and I think you should do this for one of your clients!”

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date? 

I have special circumstances where I spend 80% of my time in Vienna, Austria and 20% of my time in New York.  Certainly starting a business – and keeping that business going – given my circumstances, and especially as a mother of two young children, is very challenging.  It doesn’t work perfectly every day, but I’m proud – and my family is proud of me – for my ability to make it work. But, I’m most proud that I’ve created a business and life that works together and makes my family, my clients and me, happy.

A more specific example, not long after I graduated college, I worked for a great company that sent me to work in Ukraine and thereafter, Uganda, on public education and market reform programs.. I was 25, didn’t speak the language, and was one of few women working on the projects (in Kampala, I was one of maybe 5 foreign women working in city). To say I was out of my comfort zone would be a massive understatement. They were both two of the most successful programs I have ever worked on.  I was incredibly proud to be part of both programs and that team. A truly incredible team of people led by probably one of the smartest (as well as nicest and most inspiring) man, I know.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

It is fairly easy to re-build anything in your business except your reputation.

What has been the most effective marketing initiatives or programs you have used to promote your business?

Kennedy Spencer has gotten 90% of our clients through word-of-mouth – which makes sense because we’re a consulting business. People depend on others to provide trustworthy recommendations. This is also true for social media.  My blog has generated a good amount of interest in and business for our company.  However, I should note I don’t write the blog to build business.  I genuinely write it to help inspire and empower people – particularly women, share the lessons I’ve learned or funny stories that hopefully inspire people, at work and in life.

What one thing have you learned as a small business owner that has served you well over the years?

My very first lesson is still perhaps my most important. All it took was one client for me to create a business. Focus first on the business at hand.  Do your job extremely well – better than anyone else.  Be passionate and stay passionate about your customers’ success. If you do that, the business and money will follow.

Are there any resources or tools you’d like to share with other small business owners that have helped you run your business?

Kennedy Spencer has used a number of tools and resources – on behalf of clients and our business – since its inception.  What I find more important than the products themselves, is the people behind them.  Particularly at the beginning, when you don’t have – nor can afford – a full-time staff, you really need to find and develop relationships with the right people who can help you build and grow your business – accountants, lawyers, business counselors, insurance agents, IT providers and contractors.  While there are certainly some great tools and resources out there, much depends on your industry.  In general, I think having the right people around you is more important than having the “next-new” product.

Do you have any new projects coming up? If so, please tell us about it.

We do.  We recently started working for a new client called Baton Investing – a financial app that has beaten the market by 300% since 2012.  It was initially only available for very wealthy people, and now is available to the public.  I personally became an investor and was so impressed with the results, I asked to work with them.  In addition to empowering “regular” people to become better investors, and garner higher returns – we are especially focusing on engaging women, inspiring and empowering them to become better investors, more involved in investing, better meet their needs today and retire comfortably.   I think this is critical area.  Women have achieved so much in so many areas of their lives, but investing and financial independence are still a challenge. The statistics about women who end up in poverty or facing really difficult financial situations are frightening. We simply must help each other with this.

What do you do for fun/relaxation?  I spend time with my kids and husband. We bike ride a lot. I have a glass of wine (or two) with my girlfriends.  I read. I write.  Honestly, I’ve been very fortunate to be able to travel and see a lot of the world – for work or pleasure, and life can be pretty full, so in my relaxation time, I prefer to be off.  I try to take at least 3 hours one day a week where I can sit and just read a book I’ve been meaning to read, write with no specific purpose, or go to see an art exhibit by myself. I think it’s important to stay inspired. My children, great literature, art, or music all do that for me.

What is Number One Business Goal you plan to accomplish over the next year?

To expand my blog ((Laugh Lines)) to inspire and empower women.

You want to write a book on … Earning Your Laugh Lines

I started my blog – Earning Your Laugh Lines which is kind a personal, humorous and sometimes serious perspective on the messy mix of women’s lives – including motherhood, business, money & life.  I purposefully designed it this way because I think as women we tend to categorize ourselves: mom, working mom, wife, friend, sister, business owner. We kind of accept all these “roles” – many of which, besides motherhood, can be fleeting.  But the truth is, all of it – all of our stories – are part of the whole.  They make up who we are.  Certainly many of those stories also have given us a good line or two on our faces– stress, worry, laughs, aging, whatever.  But they were all earned, in some way. And I think the more we can gracefully accept, laugh about, learn from and make the best from those stories (and lines!), the more we gracefully embrace all parts of our lives, the happier we will be.

At some point, I want to put the best of my own blog posts – as well as those others have contributed – and form it into a book.  I think we can all benefit from hearing each other’s mix of messy, inspirational, funny stories.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?  Yes.  Start a business. Especially if you’re a woman. If you talk to most business owners, they’ll probably tell you it’s the best thing they’ve done.  For women, I personally believe having your own business is more conducive to being a mom. Also what you both model and learn about life, other people and yourself is beyond compare. You never stop learning with your own business. It keeps you young.

What’s the best way for the readers of WE Magazine for Women to connect with you?  pkennedy (at) kennedyspencer.net  Also, my blog can be found at www.humanworks.guru/writing

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