Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jan Enns, Owner of Jan Enns Communications, located in Kelowna, BC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
When was the last time you felt excited, or even truly informed, about something your local government was doing? The truth is that our local governments do a lot of good for our communities—but what they don’t always do is properly communicate about the good that they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and why the public should care.
I help local governments in Canada boost awareness and community support for their projects and programs with communications consulting and tailor-made training. But really, it’s more like a mission to me. A mission to help local government and public sector professionals become confident communicators. I equip them with the skills and tools they need to tell their story and engage their communities, so they can get things done, save time and money, and build trust and reputation along the way.
Tell us about yourself
As a trainer, speaker and consultant, I’ve spent most of my career working with local government staff and elected officials to implement vital public programs, from recycling to referendums – especially those programs that not everyone in a community may want – or want to pay for. I worked for the City of Kelowna and surrounding areas in BC, Canada, for 10 years, looking after all the waste and recycling programs, including managing the administration like the waste collection contracts. What I learned is that we can have the best garbage collection contracts in the world, but if our residents don’t know what’s being done and why and what they need to do, it really doesn’t matter.
It all came down to communications. That was my turning point – where I shifted my career from local government admin to communications. I went back to school to do a Masters in Communications, started my local government communications training and consulting firm 17 years ago (www.janenns.com), and never looked back. That’s why I’m so passionate about helping public sector professionals boost their ability to better inform and engage their communities on decisions that matter. Together I help them connect and consult with citizens, manage those issues, achieve their goals, and enjoy the journey along the way.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My success is measured by the successes of my local government clients. For example, launching a new recycling program, winning a successful fire hall referendum, helping my clients better prepare for a grueling media interview, or managing social media controversy. Over the 17 years, I have helped hundreds of local government and public sector agencies help make the world a better place with their projects and programs.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Hands down, it is about how to carve time to work on your business vs. in your business. As a solo consultant, I spend a lot of time working on projects for my clients. What I find challenging is making time to do the administrative and marketing work that keeps my own business thriving. You need to schedule time to get these done – and stick to it. I’m also making my training more accessible by providing online and on-demand courses for local government professionals so I can be available as a resource when needed.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Build a team - I made the decision early on not to start a boutique agency. I wanted to stay small and nimble. But that doesn’t mean having to do everything yourself. Building a team of reliable, trusted colleagues provides you with the support you need so you can deliver what you do best. On top of tech solutions, my virtual team consists of a virtual assistant, a social media expert for my clients and me, a graphic designer, a bookkeeper, and an accountant. I also have a roster of other communications consultants I can draw on to help with the project workload.
- Inspect what you expect - As a solo consultant or trainer, it’s on us to make sure things are done as they should be. Nothing is ‘set and forget.’ We are the ones ultimately responsible, and our rep is on the line. Double check instructions, check in to ensure things are happening as planned, and be ready to troubleshoot if not. This motto has saved me more than a few times on tasks such as print jobs and hotel bookings.
- Stay current - This is probably three tips in one.
Stay current by being front and centre—volunteer in your industry. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to serve on faculty for BC’s Municipal Administrative Training Institute, putting my name out there as a thought leader in local government communications. And I have the distinct pleasure of working directly with local government professionals to share my 30 years of experience—and learn from theirs as well.
Stay current by being a student. I constantly listen to podcasts and take webinars and other courses to stay fresh. To be a leader in your field, you need to read and watch what can be of service to your clients.
Stay current by being connected. Networking, whether in-person or online, is key. I am constantly looking for opportunities to connect with clients and be of service, from sending a simple check-in email to attending an online or in-person conference social. You need to maintain your network and be useful, so you become the go-to person when they have a question about your specialty.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Communication is so much more than a news release or a social media post. It’s a strategic business process, like risk management or budget forecasting. As the public’s demand to be informed and consulted continues to grow, communication is the salve that will ensure you truly get the important things done on time, on budget, and build your reputation and your community along the way.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.