Jan Sokoloff Harness

Owner and Chief Creative Instigator at Sokoloff Harness Communications LLC

Jan Sokoloff Harness, BJ '77

Degree(s): BJ '77 (Broadcast News)

Whereabouts: United States, Olathe, Kansas

Best professional lesson learned at the J-School?
“Never assume anything.” That line was repeated, over and over again on the cover of a handout we received the first week of school. I’ve found it to be a valuable lesson professionally and personally.

What is your favorite J-School memory?
After my first Broadcasting 101 assignment, Dave Dugan suggested I switch majors to something easy, like advertising, since I clearly didn’t have what it took to succeed in broadcasting. He made me so angry I switched my major from advertising to broadcasting. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. (This is really my second favorite J-School memory. The first would have to be a perfect kiss in the darkroom at KOMU. But that’s a completely different story.)

Describe your company and what you do?
Sokoloff Harness Communications provides creative, strategic communication services with an emphasis on writing, editing and executive coaching. One of our most popular and productive services is creativity training. I lead sessions often tied to brainstorming and team building. I also write the Creative Instigation blog and am author of the Creative Chai e-book. When I was first asked to describe Sokoloff Harness Communications, I called it a home-based business. I can now call it an international success: We have clients throughout the U.S. and we’re growing business with our European clientele. (This is part of my ease-into-retirement travel plan – business trips to Denver and Denmark.)

What made you decide to start your own business?
The desire for more independence was a driving factor in my decision. I recently introduced a client as “my boss,” and she laughed and said, “Jan, you have no boss.” My husband and kids also played a key role; balancing the kids’ schedules with ours was a huge deciding factor. Finally, after 25 years of working for other people, I wanted a more direct relationship between how hard I was working and how much I was earning.

What would be your best advice to current students?
Take advantage of internships and, while you’re interning, find a mentor. There are plenty of good reporters, writers and photographers out there, so solid professional relationships are beneficial.

What is your secret to success?
Help others succeed.

What is something about you that might surprise people?
Charlton Heston once terrified me – and I’m not talking about his politics. I was interviewing him years ago about a movie where he played a villain. During the interview, I challenged him to demonstrate the accent he used on screen. He instantly went into character and threatened my life. Gave me a whole new respect for gun-toting Republican actors.

What makes you good at your job?
Talent. I’m a fine, fast writer. I’m also an excellent listener – an essential skill for interviewing and writing.

What do you consider your greatest professional achievement?
I’m still friends with people from every job I’ve ever had – from radio days through agency life.

Who would you like to work with and why?
I’d like to work with a professional literary agent and have one of my two Great American Novels published. (This would, however, require me to finish the Great American Novels.)

Updated: November 7, 2011