Like all businesses it feels like quite a monumental achievement when you reach your 10th birthday and so it is with enormous pleasure that I pat myself on the back and say well done us. We are very much alive and kicking!
Of course, it’s not exactly been a smooth run, starting up, getting clients, managing clients and working what sometimes feels like 24/7 to service their accounts while being creative, efficient and using all your skills and expertise to deliver above and beyond what is expected.
I want to celebrate by passing on some of the main things I’ve learnt about running my business over the past decade. In no particular order they are:
Networking: essential and not only one of the best ways to promote yourself and your business but also a great route to making useful new contacts who will prove invaluable to you.
Social Media: Before I set up Pardell PR I was Head of Comms at Warner Leisure Hotels and way back then I was telling them they had to use social media much more. This fell on very deaf ears in 2009. As soon as I started my business I was lucky to meet a genuine social media expert, Adam Gray. I did a course of his and it transformed my knowledge of social media and its power.
It’s 2020 – you can’t ignore the power of social media platforms and there will be at least one that suits your business.
Prospective Clients: At first I spent hours creating numerous PR Strategies for people who I discovered were never going to hire me or even understand what I could do for them. I now charge for PR Strategies and any consultancy time. I habitually gave away ideas for free and now I just give a tempting teaser on what I know and what I can do for prospective clients
Actual clients: If a client knows you will answer emails at weekends, then some of them will contact you. Same for when you are on holiday – I was once woken up at 6am in the US to handle an opportunity for a legal client in the UK.
You have to set boundaries. I have had and still have some great long term clients, others on short term contracts and some whose paths I hope I never cross again. One of my former charismatic favourites turned out to be a wife beating drug addicted fraudulent liar whose business went under for £2million, owing me £10,000 and others much more. And so you move on
Crisis Management: It’s one of my PR services and having worked for 12 years at the BBC, where every day was a crisis, I’m very good at it. You have to be robust and good at crisis management in your own business. Never panic, stay calm (at least to the outside world) and keep going
Health and Wellbeing: I know this is now ‘a thing’ for companies and their employees but I’ve been health conscious for many years. You absolutely have to take care of yourself if you run your own business (and if you don’t of course), especially if other people, like employees and families depend on you. Exercise and good nutrition, say it like a mantra. Make time to walk to a meeting instead of taking the car or a taxi. Instead of collapsing every night in front of the TV use your gym membership or go cycling. Exercise can be a like a ‘zen process’ – when I swim (so boring, up and down an indoor pool) I just let my mind wander and get some very creative ideas. You have to take care of your mental health too, keep sane and calm even when you are up against it
Media: The landscape has changed phenomenally in the last ten years, with social media outperforming print media and the often worthy local newspapers now just a feed for press releases or threatened with extinction. However, print media still has power and while newspaper circulations are down, they still have a core of loyal readers.
Keep current: You have to know what’s going on in the world and not just your own industry. If you prefer to take your news online subscribe to reliable sources. If you like reading the newspaper, if only on a Sunday, take time out to read the business supplements, especially on the broadsheets. They have some great writers and business intelligence
Invest In A Good Accountant or FD: I have a great accountant (Derek Blair at Pinkham Blair) who is also an expert in business. Hire someone who will advise you and guide you while you must of course know your finances inside out, maintain your cash flow and PnL
Don’t Undervalue Yourself or Your Products: This is especially true for businesses in the services sector. I charged one of my first clients just £500 a month, got them well known in their industry, won them awards and got excellent results for them across the PR front. After a year when I proposed an increase to a still very undervalued £1,000 fee I had to jump through hoops. Of course you want the business but even if you negotiate a lower fee in my experience the client still expects a 100% service. One new client said they only wanted local press and in the first week rang me when I was on a course because their MD was in big trouble with the way a story related to him, as President of the Lawn Tennis Association, had been reported online across all the big papers and the Herts Advertiser. He was incredibly rude and they never paid me for my crisis management expertise. That marvellous phrase ‘knowledge is power’ is so true. Turn your knowledge into financial reward
Never Give Up: When I start a new PR campaign, or am working with a long term client there will always be challenges. Great media contacts move on, clients businesses change, new senior people come on board and throw their weight around. I know that nothing is ever guaranteed. The important thing is, when something is important to you, you must never give up. There will always be a way through it, even if it seems like you’ve hit a rocky patch. If you need more clients go out into the world (or use digital advertising and LinkedIn) to find them. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help from business acquaintances, friends or loved ones. Build a support group around you and your business, focus on what you do best and get professional help on the bits that you don’t do well.
It’s been a great ten years and I have now set up a London office in addition to my other base in Hertfordshire. Here’s to thriving (and surviving) in the next decade!