Easing the pressure helps small business owners plan ahead

Emily K. Howard, Founder/President of Cheetah Strategy. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Emily K. Howard had a lot to learn when she started her business consulting firm last year.

But the main lesson, to her surprise, is that you don’t have to know everything and you don’t have to be perfect.

“When I was working for other people, I put this pressure on myself,” says Howard of Cheetah Strategy. “I can’t say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I can’t do that.’

“But with my own business, I don’t have to be like that. I can say, ‘I really don’t know, but I’ll help you find out.’ or ‘I’m not the best person for that, but let me refer you to so-and-so.’ It is very free. “

A native of Howard, Albuquerque, she has spent her career in the world of marketing and advertising. In 1999, she joined DDB International in Dallas, one of the first internet marketing agencies.

In the year Howard is a vocal cheerleader for her hometown. She is the founder and host of the “Start Proud ABQ” podcast, whose mission is to encourage residents to talk about their city with pride.

Howard’s decision to set herself apart in the business world was not hindered. She started a marketing company in early 2013, but her children were young and “it was too much.

In its current iteration, Cheetah’s strategy is building a client network, and Howard is pleased with its success so far. Among her clients are the Hispano Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Forum and Jemez Pueblo.

But why “the cheetah?”

“I read a book somewhere that said if you name your family, it will bring them together, like the name of a sports team,” Howard said. “So my daughters and I became team cheetahs. When I launched a strategic planning business, I realized that cheetah hunting is very similar to strategic planning. Plan their approach before spring.

“I feel like marketing is a lot about integration and bringing people together.”

What is it like to have your own business?

“I just love meeting all these new people and learning about different businesses — getting in there and understanding what’s going on and how I can help them. It’s encouraging.”

Why did you decide to try again after your first attempt failed?

“A lot of reasons. One of them was having a better schedule with my kids and I think I had a little more control over my schedule. Another reason, really, was that I wanted to help more businesses. I love Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, but for me, it was a challenge to work with different companies. A lot of people. And only a lot of variety.

What was harder than you thought?

“Accounting. And I think the sales part is hard. I don’t like a lot of attention, so it’s a little harder for me to put myself out there. I feel like I’m having more fun and talking about it and not putting too much pressure on myself. Besides strategic planning[and]marketing, everything is hard. I think they are. Accounting, sales, mileage tracking, all those little things.

What was a difficult time for you?

“I got divorced from my first husband when my children were very young, and it was very difficult, although it was possible through communication. I was doing my (first) consulting job then. So it’s been a lot, but my family, my parents, my brother, they’re amazing. My friends were nice. Having a support system was huge back then. I think that’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever been through.”

What kind of splurge is that for you?

“Clothes not on sale. I got a bargain from my mom.

Do you have a hidden talent?

“Maybe tennis? I played until I was 12 and then I stopped. I tried out for the team in college (Texas Christian University) and made the team. I still play tennis pretty competitively. The US Tennis Association has teams, and I play in leagues for them. It’s probably more competitive than people think.”

What are you proud of?

“I think I’m most proud of raising my daughters to be kind people. We talk a lot about that – how they treat their friends at school and welcome each other to different types of people. They… notice a lot of things that maybe other kids don’t and they want to help others. I hope to take some credit for that.

Please describe your most embarrassing moment.

“Oh, where do I begin? I’m a giant klutz, so it involves falling or something. A few times, more than once, I’ve spilled my tea in a client meeting—like, all over the table. When I was in high school, I rolled the mops and flipped them onto the volleyball court. For a woman It’s a good story for my kids. I tell them, ‘Because this happened to your mom, you’ll get away with it.'”

What advice do you have for new business owners?

“Ask for help. Second, I think the key to success for me was knowing what to do in what order. Do you talk to an accountant first, or do you talk to an attorney first, or do you set up an LLC? How does that all fit together? So asking for help before you make any major decisions is very important.” I think it’s important. And make sure you understand what it takes to do that, because there’s a lot to think about.

What are your goals?

I want to continue to help as many companies as I can, and I think I can do that forever on my own or I have to bring in help. My company’s mission is to provide accessible strategic thinking. Accessibility is a big issue for me. That means it’s affordable[and]I’m when you call me. So I want to continue to stick to the mission. I’ll be happy this way for the next few years.

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