My Biggest Mistake

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When I was growing up my mom always told me that I was priceless. I believed her, but when it came to owning my own business, I underestimated my worth. Sorry, mom.


Before starting my career consulting company, JobBound, I worked as the recruiting director at the Leo Burnett advertising agency. While in charge of the agency’s hiring I reviewed more than 10,000 resumes, interviewed more than 1,000 college students, and hired hundreds of entry-level candidates. Quite simply, I was amazed with all the mistakes that students didn’t even know they were making.


The sorry state of resumes, interviewing skills, and business etiquette was the inspiration for my business. Recognizing the tremendous need for job search expertise, I started JobBound to offer those misguided job seekers specialized services in resume writing, mock interviews and job preparation.


When I began JobBound I had a difficult time assigning a number and value to my company’s services. My biggest mistake was failing to capitalize on a lucrative market from the start by undervaluing my “intellectual content.” I was actually giving away my main moneymaker for free.


In my original plan I projected that my big business would be in resume writing for college students. I saw a lot of entry-level resumes at Leo Burnett and, trust me, college students were in dire need of my help. I priced student resume revamps at $99–seemed like a steal to me.


As a means to generate publicity and resume writing business I arranged free speaking engagements at nearby colleges and universities. In my presentation, “Confessions of a Recruiting Director,” I gave students the inside scoop on resume writing and interviewing.


After my presentation students were more eager to bring me back for another presentation than to sign up for a resume writing service. I was crushed.


My vision for JobBound expanded when I realized my customers would pay for my company’s “free publicity.” Students wanted my advice and unique perspective, and campus organizations were willing to give big bucks to hear it. Now, it wasn’t easy to convince someone to pay for something that I had formerly given away for free. I learned it’s much easier to lower your prices than to raise them.


What started out as my give-away and simple public relations tactic ended up as a major revenue stream. My biggest mistake was underestimating my worth at the onset. I failed to recognize the value and price tag that I could put on my intellectual content.


Making the transition from free to priced presentations was a tricky move for both me and my customers. Fortunately, my past clients agreed that I should start charging for my content.


Currently, I deliver about 40 presentations a year to colleges, universities and student gatherings across the country. The presentation content inspired a book, “Confessions of a Recruiting Director: The Insider’s Guide to Landing Your First Job.” I also provide professional development and business etiquette workshops for companies.


It took flexibility to adapt my business plan and confidence to recognize and establish my worth and pricing structure. In business, underestimating or overestimating your prices can be deadly.

In the News
September 21, 2006