What is your full name, title, and business name?
Catherine Lang-Cline, President/Co-Creator, Portfolio Creative
Give us a summary of your business in 200 words or less.
Portfolio Creative is a recruiting and staffing company that specializes in only the advertising and marketing industry. We place the perfect talent in any company that has a marketing or advertising need; temporary, temp-to-perm, projects, or direct hire.
How did the idea for your business come about?
The idea of our business came about because we identified a need in Columbus. My business partner, Kristen Harris, and I worked in the creative industry for many years before realizing that there had to be a better way to find talent and to find work as a freelancer.
What was the turning point for your business? Was there a moment you knew you had something special?
Our turning point was receiving the “Fast 50 Award” from Columbus Business First, given to the top 50 companies in the region with the most growth. To be recognized in that way meant that we were doing something right.
What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner?
To me, having always been an independent and creative individual, it seemed like the next logical step in my evolution to create a business. It also means that I need to keep learning and evolving, all of which I feel very hard-wired for. It also means owning a lot of the responsibility to the people I work with, both clients and talent. Success comes if I deliver them success in their work and careers. I also believe that with entrepreneurship comes responsibility to the community, as I believe that if a community believes in you, you must give back.
What does the city of Columbus mean to your business?
Everything. The city of Columbus has been an incredible partner and we could not be more grateful.
Are you from Columbus? If not, please explain what brought you to here and ultimately what made you stay.
I am not originally from Columbus, but I have been here for over 20 years. I started my life and career in the Chicago, Illinois area. I came to Columbus with an ex but quickly found work as a graphic designer. I moved on, met someone else, and started my business, which solidified me remaining here. Beyond that, Columbus has grown so much as a community in that time frame. It is a great place to live and start a business.
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business?
Starting a business is not just working on your favorite things. You have to start a business outlining all of the roles you will need; sales person, accountant, product maker, etc., and in the beginning, it will all be you. If you can handle all of that from the start, you will get a lot further. Then, as soon as you can, hire people and delegate so you can continue to grow.
What do you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before starting your business?
I wish that I knew sooner that I could ask for help. When you start a business, all of the responsibility of its success or failure is yours, but that does not mean you are completely alone. There are amazing people and groups in the community that are willing to share their story of success, point you in the right direction, or even instruct you how to do things.
What’s the most challenging part of your business (i.e, what keeps you up at night)?
The most challenging part of business is the constant juggling. Are the clients happy? Are the employees happy? Did we get paid? Did they sign the contract? What do you mean someone didn’t show up for work? It is a daily balance of issues that you really hope you are in control of. Some days it gets exhausting and some days you get to celebrate the wins.
Every business owner has a flaw. What’s yours?
My flaw is that I like direct conversations and emails, keep it to the point. If there is fluff, or if a long email has no bullet-points, you’ve lost me. I’ve had to revisit some of the things I send out because people think that I am angry with my word choices. However, that is far from the truth. My other flaw is that I can be too charitable. I give a lot of time and money to organizations that I believe in. I want to make a difference, even a small difference, so much so that people have to tell me to stop.
Why do you think most business owners fail? What has made you different?
I am really not the person to ask why most business owners fail because it could be for so many reasons. I can tell you that sold and marketed and provided top service to exhaustion. You have to be fueled with this passion to keep you going day after day. If you are employed by someone else, you can work on what you are best at, pick up the check, and go home. If you are running the show, it never stops but you are okay with it because you love it so much. What has made Portfolio Creative different may be relentlessness, drive, and responsibility to the people that were making a living by what we were doing. I got involved with the community and showed up to events to network and see how I could help. Also, continuously doing marketing and PR, because people can forget you quickly.
What was your biggest mistake and what did it cost you?
Having too much faith in a team member. It is hard to let go when you see so much potential. However, not acting quick enough cost us good employees, stress, and a client or two.
What tool has helped you the most for your business (invoicing, accounting, shipping, plugin for website, etc.)?
We have had the most success with the Entrepreneur Operating System (EOS). Having a great tool that runs your systems is wonderful, but if the people you have are not on the same page working with a great system than you are doing more work than you need to. EOS has delivered focus and greater accountability to our team. I recommend it to everyone.
When did you know it was time to expand your business, make your first hire, etc.?
Making your first hire is always scary, but so is not growing. A very wise advisor board member told us that in order to grow, I had to duplicate myself. I needed to work on only the things that I was good at. The first move we made was hiring an intern. That expanded and we hired part-time people that we could pay hourly as needed. Then, we hired a full-time person because they had a fantastic set of skills that we needed at the time. It allowed me to do exactly what I was advised to do and we have hired a lot more people since.
What is something that you did that was a game changer for your business?
Getting our first major client was a game changer. That company had a fantastic reputation in town, so we were able to gain more clients by telling people that we were working with them. It proved that we could successfully supply a large company that had high standards in staffing.
What was an idea that you spent a lot of time on or thought would make a big difference in your business that didn’t pan out.
We had the idea that we needed to segment our company by making divisions with specialized services. We thought that the customer might not understand that we placed all people that were creative, direct hire, temp, projects, etc. The style of the search is very different and it is common to do that in this industry. What ended up happening is that we just embraced our reputation and got a better message out about how we were experts in finding creative people. Period.
What is something that your business spends a lot of money on that’s worth it?
Investing in the EOS system was definitely worth it. Growth was happening so fast you would think that would make everyone happy. Growth sometimes makes you do whatever you can to make something work and the stress and pressure can kill your culture. EOS helped get accountability, the right people in seats, and a true plan for growth. Did I mention that I recommend this to everyone?
What is something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?
Right now, I am very excited about our podcast called “Illumination Bureau“. After being in actual creative roles for years and now having this business for about 14 years, Kristen and I have learned a lot of things along the way. It is our pleasure to share with people everything we have learned about career choices, preparing resumes, working with freelancers, asking for a raise, and a whole lot more. It is our hope that people will listen and share with others how to best navigate through their careers as well as navigate life in business.
What form of marketing is the most valuable for you?
Social media is the most valuable marketing for us. I wish this was available when we started the business. For us, most of our talent and clients are on some form of social media. We love it to not only sell what we do, but to also find talent to fill the open jobs. One of my favorite things is that we can also talk about our brand, our culture, and why we are different. A lot of people say that, but it is something that is in our fiber and we hire and fire based on our beliefs. It is those small things that bring value to our customers.
Who is your best Columbus resource (accountant, lawyer, marketer, etc.)?
Early on, we started working with Whalen & Company to handle our accounting. They have been outstanding to work with since we have been a start up. Our person there is Lisa Shuneson and not only does she make it easy for us, she really cares about us and our business.
The law firm that we have used for years is Ice Miller. We started with them when they were Schottenstein Zox & Dunn and continued on as the service remained outstanding. The lawyer that walked us in the door has moved on, but Randy Arndt saved us a lot of money and headache with our lease agreement. Miranda Morgan helped us put together a buyout agreement as well as our own personal trusts. Angela Courtwright works with us in keeping everything legal in staffing.
As far as marketing, we do it all ourselves. Kristen and I have a marketing background, but we also have a person on staff. I can recommend that you give us a call with any of your marketing needs and we will find you a great person to fill your need. It’s what we do!
Who do you vent to when you have a business problem?
I am lucky enough to have Kristen Harris, my business partner to vent to. Sometimes it goes beyond venting to problem solving, and if it is beyond our scope I reach out to mentors. I have some great mentors that I have met through NAWBO – National Association of Women Business Owners and WPO – Women Presidents Organization. I found that so many people are willing to help in this community, so if you get stuck you just need to ask.
Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?
I would like to see Portfolio Creative exist 10 years in the future with a bigger footprint. I’d like it to retain the same purpose and conscious that it has when it started; as a specialized service to help creative people find work. I would like it to stay pure, yet grow enough to help more and more individuals find work and find the perfect person for their team.
What is your revenue range?
When you’re stressed or overwhelmed, what do you do to overcome this feeling?
If that doesn’t work, I run in the outdoors. The exhaustion of that works out the stress while being in the open around nature helps to bring things into perspective. Removing myself from my work environment for a bit allows a little more clear thinking.
What’s one component of entrepreneurship that’s much different than what most people think?
People think that if you own a business that you are on Easy Street. Truth is, there is nothing easy about it. Banks are reluctant to lend money to entrepreneurs so, unless you have a lot of rich friends, the investment is all yours. We boot-strapped our business with our own money, factored invoices, and signed on loans and lines of credit that we are personally responsible for. You have to be 100% in, not just want to dabble with an idea. This is 24/7 and yet I still would not have it any other way. As they say, “The dream is free but the hustle is sold separately.”
What’s your end goal with the business? Is this something you want to pass down to your kids or would you like to eventually sell?
We have talked about our end goal, but currently it is just talk. We still love what we do so it is not a front-of-mind conversation. With that said, if a check was big enough, let’s just say we are not crazy.
How would your business fare if the economy hit a nasty downturn like it did in 2008? Have you prepared for this?
We survived through 2008, so I feel confident that we could do it again. It was tough and we would not like to repeat it, but it did give us an opportunity to help so many people that lost jobs to get back up and rethink their career or reintroduce them to the workforce. All free services, by the way. We thought of those as investment years.
What other entrepreneur do you look up to most?
Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, but who doesn’t? Unique product in a full market that is peppered with a purpose…and wins! Karen Hough of ImproveEdge, because she started a career in improve and turned that skill set into a business that helps other present. Matt Scantland of Cover My Meds. I am not sure how all that happened there, but WOW! There are so many others: Kara Trott – Quantum Health, Tara Abraham – Accel, Michelle Kerr – Lightwell, Greg Ubert – Crimson Cup.
I could go on and on as Columbus has so many talented people, so basically I admire anyone that starts with nothing but an idea and turn it into a great business. Because, I get it.
If you had to tell a visitor one thing to do/see/eat in Columbus, what would it be?
Go to the zoo, see the art museums or theaters, and eat at one of our many local eateries.