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Narrative: Pat Kahnert - Community Care

Pat Kahnert's Community Ties: To the Class of 2004 outlines his key principles for being a successful entrepreneur. As I read through them I realized they represented precisely how he ran his own independent business and that years of experience were authentically shining through. Recently, Pat also shared with me the text of an interview in which he was asked about his personal experiences as an entrepreneur. The interview was conducted by his daughter Meaghan as part of her work with the Shad Valley Motivational and Leadership Development Program. I asked Pat for persmission to re-print the interview here...

30 Tips For The Class Of 2004

A friend of mine, Pat Kahnert, recently wrote an insightful article called Community Ties: To the Class of 2004. I have a habit of reading things while actively looking for interesting ideas or perspectives on learning, and this article is exactly that. More importantly, having lived beside Pat for some three years, I know him beyond the writing on the screen as a neighbour. I know that what the writing communicates is precisely what Pat believes in and what he practices in business and in life.

From my perspective, this article not only lays down an excellent foundation for thinking about entrepreneurship and public relations, but also provides an excellent foundation for thinking about learning.

30 Tips for the Class of 2004 by Pat Kahnert

Here are some lessons and insights I am glad to share, especially with everyone who is setting out on a career in PR in May 2004:

  • Don’t let your age hold you back from being the best you can be. Age and experience are not guarantees of success. Your attitude, your effort and your talent are ageless keys to opening doors for you.

  • Be yourself. Strive to be the best you can be in everything you do. Associate with the best, think the best, and expect the best.

  • Plan your work, and work your plan. Make a plan for everything that matters to your career development. Write down your specific goals, keep focused on your goals, and be adept at managing your plan to reach them.

  • Do it your way, but make certain that your way is the right way for others too. Communicate with others using the media they prefer.

  • Write often. Grow confidence in your own writing style – which is a core competency for anyone aspiring to be a master of communications effectiveness. Study the styles of great writers.

  • Read as much as you can. Who you become in five years from now depends on what you read, who you spend your time with, and the choices you make.

  • Become the best facilitator and public speaker you can be. Be a good storyteller, always looking to involve your audience in the story, and talking about things that you know best. Study the masters -- some of the most effective of whom give free weekly examples of outstanding public speaking lessons in front of their congregations. (Ed. note: join Toastmasters too.)

  • Keep learning. You learn best by first being an effective listener. Go back to school, take courses, read, ask questions, and engage in conversations. Ask others for their help, and be sure to reciprocate.

  • Ask questions, clarify expectations and build understanding. You get paid more for coming up with the right question than you do for hurrying to utter the wrong answer. Build your competency for listening, understanding, and then responding.

  • Confident and competent people attract others to their work. Surround yourself with bright and intelligent people, and be a team player. Reach out to others; don’t wait for people to be nice to you first.

  • Be honest, upfront, reliable and ethical. Grow and protect your reputation and image. Integrity is your most important asset in attracting others to your work.

  • Respect the feelings of others. Treat everyone with dignity and respect. Deal with problems and misunderstandings with people effectively.

  • Remember names. Check and double-check the spelling of someone’s name.

  • Be candid and considerate when offering constructive criticism. Ask permission: May I speak freely?

  • Take responsibility for your actions. Admit mistakes, be accountable for righting them, and avoid making them again. Be part of the solution, not the problem. If you spot something that is broken, come up with a way to fix it.

  • Earn trust and confidence with others by first building trust in yourself. Give others a second chance, and seek out second chances for yourself.

  • Forgive people who sincerely seek your forgiveness. Let people know when they have offended you; don’t assume that they meant to harm you. We all make mistakes from time to time.

  • Manage by fact and learn to analyze data effectively, but enhance performance by raising the sights and the spirits of others.

  • Bring out the best in people. Enhance the clarity, the credibility and the impact of all of the work you support and all of the people you lead.

  • Add emotional commitment to your work. Caring about your work and its impact on others will enable you to go the extra mile – where there is little traffic.

  • Share the credit with everyone who deserves some. Show your appreciation by saying thanks – and meaning it.

  • Become adept at aligning your work with organizational strategies, priorities, objectives, vision, values and brand promises.

  • Don’t do the same things that other people do that annoy you. Remember what it feels like when someone ignores your overture. Answer calls, emails and letters – within 24 hours. Add a personal touch to your messages.

  • Don’t hide behind your title. Just because "communications" is in your title or your mandate, the title alone does not make you a good communicator. You will distinguish yourself as a proficient communicator by what you say, what you do and, especially, how you make people feel.

  • Do what you promise and do it exceedingly well. Two little words, "as promised", can build credibility and appreciation not only for what work you do, but for the way you do it. Add value to, and build value in everything you do.

  • Be enthusiastic, but pace yourself. Choose to accentuate the positives and the possibilities -- always.

  • Make new friends and expand your network, but keep in touch with people from your youth, your school years and your earlier career days. Give generously to community causes that help people build a better future for themselves, their families, their friends and their neighbours.

  • Never give up. Practice polite persistence. Invite yourself to meetings, but don’t be too pushy or intrusive.

  • Don’t let others distract you from pursuing your dreams. Never apologize for being the best you can be, and for finding a better way.

  • View the world -- and your age -- as your oyster. If someone you respect offers to help you, or mentor you along the way, be sure to take the up on that offer. Also, mentor aspiring public relations practitioners as they map their career development plans. Clearly, in this business, what goes around comes around.

You can read the complete article as well as obtain Pat's contact information at Community Ties: To the Class of 2004.

Meaghan Kahnert Interviews Marketing and Communications Consultant Pat Kahnert

This article was an advance assignment produced by Meaghan Kahnert, who attended the July 2002 Shad Valley Motivational and Leadership Development Program at University of Waterloo. The Shad Valley Motivational and Leadership Development Program is a summer motivational and leadership development program for top students in senior high school, who excel in mathematics and sciences. Unique among summer programs for youth, The Shad Valley Motivational and Leadership Development Program joins entrepreneurship with science and technology, giving future leaders a chance to learn about the disciplines that will give them an edge in the competitive, knowledge-based world of tomorrow.

What are the biggest challenges facing you, as an entrepreneur?: Running a corporate public relations and marketing communications consulting practice, as a sole practitioner, has its lonely moments. Keeping confident about my business idea, ensuring my value proposition is right for customers and prospects, keeping in touch with customers and their needs, plus trying to be positive at all times… can all represent challenges to my business, especially in trying economic times. Plus, marketing your business idea can be a tough thing to do for anyone.

How did you get started?: I researched my business idea for months and months. I checked out the competition and what they were doing, for what clients, at what price. I set up an informal advisory council of people I know and trust, and involved them all along the way. I attended “starting my own business” courses, and produced a comprehensive business plan; I shared my plan with my banker, accountant, lawyer and two confidants. I incorporated my business, produced a cash flow forecast for the first five years, set up a line a credit, and then started marketing myself, securing three one-year contracts at the outset, so I could get down to building my business by delighting customers. I measured customer satisfaction in everything I did, learning what clients liked and disliked about my value proposition and the way I served them. I saved enough money in the first six months to provide me with a five-month cushion in the event of a business downturn. I promoted my business by lining up keynote speeches, contributing articles to publications my prospects read, and sending regular PBK e-mail updates to a growing number of contacts. I produced weekly “business effectiveness” plans; I always delight in checking off things I’ve done and listing achievements, big and small, to celebrate. I thank the people who have given PBK a chance and who support my search to find better ways to grow my value proposition in the minds of customers.

What made you start your own business?: After 16 years of senior corporate and marketing communications experience with a major Canadian chartered bank, corporate downsizing gave the final impetus to make a dream come true of establishing a corporate communications consulting practice. Confidence in my business idea expressed by my former employer, colleagues and, above all, family and friends inspired me to move forward with my PBK idea.

If you could do it all over again… would you do? I would do everything I did upfront again – research, planning, promoting, learning, asking for help and insight, nurturing the support of my wife and children and my six brothers, and experimenting. My set-up was a terrific success, grabbing immediate interest of targeted corporate clientele. I involved my family members along the way, so they fully understood what I was up against. The biggest mistake I made in my first two years was not allowing enough time in each week to develop new business opportunities. So, when projects and contracts were over, I often scrambled to find replacement business. I learned the importance of balancing a commitment to ongoing, targeted business development with a sharp focus on proving timely quality of service. I tried to stagger project timeliness, and find time every week to develop new business ideas I can offer customers and prospects -- at the right time and at the right price for them. I also learned the importance of continuous networking, and maintaining a growing list of active contacts.

What advice would you give to me about starting a new business?: Be sure you are prepared for the good times and the not so good times. Entrepreneurs have to be prepared to stomach high levels of risk, hard work, and lifestyles that can become all-consuming, not just for business owners, but also for their families. Surround yourself with professional, trusting and positive advisors, friends and customers. Read what your customers read. Be very careful in your selection of customers. Get paid upfront whenever possible. Pay your bills promptly, as you would like clients to pay you quickly. Be passionate and committed to your business idea. Leave time in your day to create new ideas, plus keep fit and full of life. Keep in touch with the people who mean the most to you, and your business idea, using the communications vehicles they like to use. When using email, take the time to double check spelling (especially names) and be sure your message is clear and positive before sending an email. Never take trust and confidence for granted; it takes so long to build trust with someone, but it can be lost in a snap. A sign hangs in my home office and our kitchen; it’s applicable for both business and personal success: Who you will be in the next five years depends on three things -- the books you read, the people you meet, and the choices you make.

What are some of your best-kept secrets of success?: Learn how to be attractive to others – your customers, your employees, your suppliers, your advisors, your bankers, your friends, and your competitors. Business success is all about attracting, retaining and growing business opportunities. Someone who is bold, brave and confident is attractive to others. You have to be good to your business and be good to yourself. Even if you feel it, don’t look drained, afraid or beaten by the uncertainties that you will surely face. Be hungry for business, but don’t look desperate; a desperate look does not attract people. Intuition is fine, but take time to research and analyze data that can help you make intelligent decisions. The “gut feel” can lead you down the wrong path, whereas a clear and compelling business case based on facts will help you optimize the right business opportunities. Take responsibility for problems and correct them quickly; this can really “wow” a customer. Be careful whom you trust. Settle disputes honestly and swiftly. Protect your integrity and reputation. A positive attitude is as important as extra effort to your ability to make good things happen. Never stop marketing yourself. Thank people who give you a chance and help you. Plan your work, and work your plan. And remember, things turn out for the best for those who make the most of the way things turn out.

© Meaghan P. Kahnert and Patrick B. Kahnert, PBK & Associates Inc., 2002


  • Shad Valley Motivational and Leadership Development Program
  • Community Ties: To the Class of 2004
  • Charity Village: True caring in action
  • Brock University: Corporate and Social Responsibility
  • Pat Kahnert on Corporate Fundraising
  • Cut Home Heating Bills in Half Without A Furnace or Hot Water Tank
  • Furl - Pat Kahnert: Community Care

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