Updated: Jan 17, 2020
“It’s handled.” The famous quote of Olivia Pope is an everyday phrase for Veronica Jeon.
Known to her clients as a real-life Olivia Pope, Jeon is the CEO of VSJ, Inc., a full-service communications firm that specializes in strategic communications, public relations, crisis management, and more.
Today, Jeon is the CEO of a thriving communications firm, has an outstanding reputation in the DC Metropolitan Area, and has won numerous awards, including PR Person of the year. But, her journey to success did not come easy. In fact, while building her firm, Jeon overcame many trials, including homelessness. However, with perseverance, hard work, and positive affirmations—success was inevitable.
This month, we caught up with Veronica to talk about staying confident as a budding entrepreneur, what guides her when solving crisis situations, and healthy ways to look at failure.
Why do people refer to you as Olivia Pope?
V: Clients always call me when they need something fixed or handled. Besides the fact that Olivia Pope and I both own our own businesses and live in DC, we both practice Crisis Management though my firm is full service.
What were the most uncomfortable moments you faced while building V. Agency, Inc., now VSJ?
V: Some of the most uncomfortable moments include sleeping in my car and being up all night, worrying about cash flow. There were times I didn’t even have enough to make an ATM withdrawal.
Mentally, one of the more uncomfortable moments was looking at myself in the mirror and unpacking the baggage that I was carrying around. These unresolved issues became a barrier to success. So, I had to learn to unpack that baggage, be authentic, and own who I am to remove those barriers.
How did you remain optimistic and confident when building VSJ?
V: I am a product of entrepreneurial parents, and I’m a single mom. So, even though I wanted to give up, I knew giving up wasn’t an option.
I still have a stack of journals with the affirmations I would write every morning. Whatever I needed during that stage in my entrepreneurial journey, I would write down. To this day, I have an app on my phone where I write my affirmations. Also, at every stage of my journey, there was at least one person that I could talk to that encouraged me. Having that support system is critical for any professional, especially entrepreneurs.
What did you learn from watching your parents being entrepreneurs?
V: Hard work, perseverance, and faith. My parents moved from Korea to the US, and I watched them build from the ground up. My dad went from being an executive in Korea to mopping floors in the US. But, they saved up enough money to open their first restaurants and eventually expanded to multiple locations in the region.
Watching them, I learned nothing was impossible. You have to work hard; you have to have perseverance, and you have to have faith.
As someone who works in crisis and recovery, what advice would you give to a young professional on bouncing back from making a mistake at work?
V: First, breathe--and then own it.
You have to be proactive about the mistake by notifying your supervisor ASAP. BUT when you go to them, have 2-3 options that can be solutions to the mistake.
That would look like “Hi ____, I made a mistake doing X, Y, and Z. However, this can be resolved by A, B, or C. What are your thoughts?”
I’m very solution-oriented. Mistakes are inevitable- I tell my team that all the time. However, what I appreciate the most is when they come with a game plan on how to fix it.
What guides you?
V: Discernment and intuition. Most mornings, I wake up at 5:00 a.m. and the first thing I do is pray, meditate, and read my devotional. You can hear more when you are silent, and that is what guides me.
You often say, “Failure is your best friend.” Why?
V: Failure is where your wisdom comes from. I’ve learned my best lessons from falling flat on my face. Everybody falls, but what matters is how you look at it. Are you going to look at it as a failure and sulk? Or are you going to look at it as an opportunity to learn and bounce back? I guarantee those lessons that you learn from failure are needed to walk in your purpose.
You did not have a mentor while building your business; do you feel that had a positive or negative impact?
V: I do think if I did have a mentor, I would’ve gotten to where I am a little quicker.
However, I believe that everything happens for a reason. I’ve made every mistake you can make as an entrepreneur and have learned from them.
Now I am passionate about mentoring the next generation of leaders, especially minority women. If I can share the hard lessons I’ve learned to shorten someone else’s learning curve, then I’ve done my part.