2022 saw Whistle PR celebrate a decade in business.
When I embarked on this journey, I didn’t really know what to expect. I’ll be honest, I had never really imagined running my own company and was never your stereotypical entrepreneur. Instead, I was lucky enough to be given a fantastic opportunity by some wonderful people who probably had more belief in me than I had in myself.
But here we are, ten years on, and still going strong! So, what advice would I give the 2012 version of me? Here’s just some of what I’ve learned along the way:
1. Trust your instincts
Whether it’s that niggling doubt when interviewing a new recruit, or a new client opportunity that just doesn’t feel quite right, go with your gut – it’s rarely wrong.
2. Don’t ride the rollercoaster
When I first started out in business, every success felt like we were on top of the world and every set back felt like the end of it! Navigating the highs and lows became exhausting. I soon learned the importance of accepting the natural ebb and flow of business and staying on a more even keel.
3. Ask for help
Swallow your pride and ask for help when you need it. We lost a big client last year and it was a huge blow both professionally and personally. I reached out to my network, saying we’d hit a rocky patch and would be grateful for new introductions and referrals. Turns out everyone has been there at one time or another and were more than happy to help.
4. Stay true to your vision
In the early days of business, it’s easy to gratefully accept any work going. I have expertise in a particular sector and could have filled by client portfolio with companies in the same industry. But I didn’t want Whistle to be pigeon-holed. Always keep your vision in mind and consider whether the work and clients you take on support your long-term goals.
5. Build a brilliant team
It’s an obvious one, but a crucial one. Hire the best people you can afford, train and develop them, and keep them for as long as you can. Build a strong network of freelancers, specialists and partners. Create a culture in which people can thrive and empower them to shape and influence the business as it grows.
6. Know your worth
When you work for someone else, you give little thought to the day rates that you are being charged to clients. But when you work for yourself, the dreaded imposter syndrome can start to creep in! Recognise the value of your experience and expertise, then charge appropriately for it. Most clients want the best, not the cheapest.
7. Make the difficult decisions
Running a business means making important decisions on a daily basis, and some of those decisions are tough. It never gets any easier, but when it comes to resigning a difficult or unprofitable client, making a significant investment or having to restructure the team, the sooner you take action the better.
8. Create a culture
One of the best things about running your own business is being able to create a company that you would want to work for yourself. Right from the start, we gave a lot of thought to the kind of business we wanted Whistle to be – flexible, trusting, open and supportive – and the kind of clients we wanted to work with – those that understand the value of PR and are looking for a trusted partner, not just a supplier. Your culture is the one thing that is truly unique to you, so invest in it.
9. Stay on top of the figures
Manage your company finances like a bigger business from day one. We have always done annual budgets, quarterly forecasts and detailed monthly management accounts. Starting with a best practice approach gives essential clarity on your financial performance in the early days and ensures you have the right processes in place as you grow.
10. Don’t take business too seriously
In the high-pressured world of agency life – and business in general – it’s important to keep things in perspective. ‘It’s PR, not ER’ someone once brilliantly put it. Let off steam, have a laugh, work with brands and people you love. Yes, we are here to make a profit, but make sure you have some fun along the way!