"An Invincible 'Army of Entrepreneurs:' A Student Reflection on the Counselors Academy Conference"
By Fábio Couto
When Counselors Academy Conference keynoter Jennifer Prosek started her first public relations job, her boss told her, “One day you are going to buy me out and run this on your own.” Back then she thought that remark was not only weird, since it came from her boss, but unlikely. Prosek was only 22 years-old, a young professional starting a career in the middle of a recession. Against all odds, the prediction turned out to be true. Today, she runs the award-winning CJP Communications, an agency of 75 employees with offices in New York, Connecticut and London.
What brought Prosek so far was her ability to inspire her team. When she started working in that first job, her boss told her she “treated the business like it was her own.” Several years later, after becoming a partner, earning her MBA and developing a good business network, she thought her company had stagnated.
She didn’t know what to do to make her business more dynamic, to push it forward, take it to the next level. That was when it hit her ― was it possible to make her employees truly engage and care for the company? Was there a way to make them treat her company “like it was their own?” Could entrepreneurs be made?
“People want to feel like entrepreneurs,” said Prosek. Research shows that 80 percent of Americans would rather run their own small business than be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Giving employees the tools to take initiative, think strategically, to act entrepreneurial will turn the team into an “army of entrepreneurs.” Prosek started leading in a different way. Her goal now was to inspire her team. “It is important to take down the walls and make the leadership accessible.” If the workforce is inspired and empowered, you have created a clear path to success.
Prosek’s objective was to make behaviors change. By giving the team all the information they need about the business and compensating them based on initiative, she stimulates employees to think and act like entrepreneurs. In 2006, Wilson Cleveland, who joined CJP five years earlier, came to Prosek and said, “There is this thing called social media . . .” Prosek encouraged him to research and educate the rest of the “army” about it. Today, CJP’s excellence in digital media initiatives have received awards and recognition.
When asked about anything she would have done differently, Prosek says she wishes she had thought bigger sometimes. She mentioned a few risks she wishes she had taken throughout the years, initiatives that would have made her go further. Today, after all the growth she has experienced, it has become clear that with the support of her invincible army, business just can’t be big enough.