What have I learned since Sexy Back?
Summer 2006. The Summer of Justin Timberlake’s Sexy Back, Pink’s Who Knew and my personal favourite, I Don’t Feel Like Dancing (always a toe tapper). Italy won the World Cup and Roger Federer and Amélie Mauresmo won at Wimbledon, while Team Europe won The Ryder Cup.
While these music and sporting legends were sweeping the boards, I was on my lonesome wondering how I was going to make a living having walked away from 15 years with blue chip brands. I had less than a year of consultancy experience – and that was back in the day – and thinking an alternative career in property development may be beckoning, had two mortgages to pay. It never seemed that hard for Sarah Beeny on Property Ladder.
With the property market crash looming I needed to spot a gap in the communications market. It was right under my nose. Having spent 15 years as a client myself I wondered why no one had thought to provide communications advice delivered only by expert specialists. Expert because they were experienced and so knew what they were talking about based on years of experience and specialist because they had in depth knowledge of a particular sector. I had worked with many agencies which had one or the other, but not both. Many consultants I worked with had never been clients themselves, so hadn’t ever seen things from the client side of the table. In my experience, all of this made for a long learning curve, a longer lead time for results and more than a few frustrations along the way.
So my vision for a communications consultancy which employed exclusively experienced expert consultants which specialised in just a few sectors was born. Another key difference is all of our team have all been clients themselves. 10 years on I’m amazed that this is still a unique approach but delighted that it has led to a thriving business which has won multiple awards.
So what have I learned along the way? Here’s my top 10 tips regardless of industry, sport or musical genre!
- Don’t be afraid to be different. Different is good and helps you stand out from competitors. When I think of great people in sport or music, it’s the ones that are different who spring to mind. Justin Timberlake doesn’t just sing and entertain, he can actually dance at the same time, very unusual for a man according to my husband.
- Ask for help. Let people know what you need. Our clients and contacts have been incredibly generous with their support over the years from honest advice to word of mouth recommendations. That means almost 100% of our business is generated by referrals from our clients.
- Tap into your network of contacts both face to face and by using free tools like LinkedIn and Twitter. These are very productive ways to build and reinforce relationships that lead to business in future.
- Believe in yourself. Remember what you have been through to get to this point and survived to tell the tale!
- Running a business is exhilarating and can be all consuming. Perceptive is a bit like my third child. Like kids it can be very challenging and can mean sleepless nights but there are also some great highs and brilliant fun along the way.
- Surround yourself with a great team. I am so lucky to have such a brilliant team whom I would trust with my life. I suppose indirectly I do.
- Treat your team well. As well as the usual employee rewards, make sure they know they are appreciated. I’ve heard “don’t sweat the small stuff” but to me it’s the small things that count.
- What seems impossible can be possible. I would never have dreamed of the great team and fantastic clients we have now. It takes time and you need to keep plugging away one step at a time. But as Gary Player (showing my age here!) once said, the more you practise the luckier you get.
- Consider how technology could help you and your team work more flexibly which for us means a more motivated and loyal team. Thanks to a top tip from one of our very first clients, Gordon Thomson of Cisco, we have taken a very flexible approach to how we work right from the start. Technology is what makes this possible. Ten years ago this was pretty radical but today it’s much easier to achieve.
- Have a very clear vision of what you want to achieve and make sure you communicate this with your team and with your target audience – and I might know a team that can help you with that!