Tell us a bit about your business?
Agent99 Public Relations specialises in garnering exposure through media coverage for clients in the consumer products and services, or corporate space. We pride ourselves on securing results for our clients that make media and audiences sit up, take notice and act. Ultimately adding value to their marketing mix and bottom line.
Why did you start up your business?
I was working for a midsized PR firm and was ready for my boss’ job… which wasn’t going to happen given that she owned the business! I had many years of experience under my belt and the choice was either to go to a large firm and run a team as an Account Director, or start a business where I could really take all I had learned and shape a company according to my values. I opted for the latter six years ago and haven’t looked back since.
What are the major hurdles you experienced when starting up your business?
I must admit that it was smooth sailing from day one. One of my old project clients had heard that I started my own firm, so she literally called me on day one when I was sitting at my desk with no clients, and the rest is history! I picked up a new client once a month for the first six months, and towards the end of my first year I was literally working around the clock and knew it was time to hire my first employee. It was such an exciting time because it exceeded all my expectations and everything was so new! I would love to relive it again. But I have to admit that each year has brought its delights and challenges. But I have learned so much. I still absolutely love what I do and get excited when each New Year comes because I know we’re just going to get bigger and better.
What tips can you give other SavvySME members that are thinking or in the process of starting up their business?
I think there are some very key lessons for anyone starting up a business that have helped me:
1. You are going to face many challenges, so you have to believe in yourself and what you’re doing. If you don’t, no one else will either.
2. Surround yourself with great business advisors who can help you make key decisions. Mine have been a great accountant, a business coach who really helped me take the business to the next level, another friend who runs and agency of a similar size who I bounce things off, my dad who runs a national company and has an excellent business/financial mind, and my husband who is in strategy.
3. Your reputation is everything. Know what your values are and stick to them. They will guide each and every decision that you make in your business, and how you behave towards your key stakeholders.
4. Money is not everything. Happiness always matters, so make sure that you get the balance right. Spend time with family and friends and don’t stop doing the things that are important to you. I was working really hard in the first year of business, but still managed to run my first marathon because that was a personal dream I wanted to accomplish.
5. Select your staff carefully. You can’t do it alone, so go through rigorous procedures to make sure that you are working alongside the best. They ultimately represent your brand, so they have to believe in what you do and do the best for you.
What made you decide to take the jump and focus on your business?
I had been contemplating for about six months whether I should start my own PR Agency or not. I really loved my job, but was certainly ready for the next challenge. Making the decision was the scariest part, but once I did it, I really didn’t know what the fear was all about! My business has become my passion. I still get such a thrill when we secure an amazing piece of coverage for a client that I know will help them sell more, or will impact their brand awareness on a large scale.
How did your family and friends react?
My husband and mother in law were my biggest supporters and really pushed me in this direction. I am so thankful for their belief in me. The rest of my family and friends just went along with it, but I often get pats on the back for having done it. There have been no naysayers at all, which has been great.
How has your life changed?
It’s changed in many ways. I love what I do every day. I am always challenged. I have done better financially then I would have done working elsewhere. And I get excited about what the future will bring. My biggest challenge came this year when I had my first child! Wow, hats off to all the mums and business owners out there. I have new found respect for them. I had no idea how hard it was going to be. My staff really helped me pull through it, but it’s made me see things from a very different perspective.
What success have you experienced since starting your business?
We have grown to a staff of five since I started and have worked with close to 40 amazing clients on either a retainer or project basis. We were named Finalist in the Sydney Business Awards last year which was such a highlight. We have also been featured in countless industry magazines and outlets about the campaigns and work we have done on behalf of our clients. I’m very proud of what we have achieved to date.
What is the vision for your business going forward?
The vision for Agent99 PR (www.agent99pr.com) is for us to grow to a team of about 10 staff. I don’t want us to grow too big, because I believe that the services and values can be diluted. We are really strong in securing results for our clients and will focus our efforts on making that known and showcasing the work and innovation.
We have two areas in the business, and I see strong growth in both. One being our lifestyle and consumer offering, and the second is the B2B space. I believe that we will end up with two distinct teams managing clients in those spaces.
It’s a very exciting time!
What tips can you give other SavvySME about motivating yourself to push through the challenges that rise up while building your startup?
My tips for staying motivated and face challenges are:
1. Regonise issues and deal with them. Don’t sweep things under the carpet, it’s best to face them head on.
2. Learn from everything that you do, so that you don’t make the same mistake twice!
3. Be relentless. There is a way, no matter how hard it may be.
4. Don’t give up on yourself or the business. But also know when you’re flogging a dead donkey and be ready to change direction.
5. Respect other people’s opinions, but don’t get pulled in many directions. Know your own mind and be confident in making your own decisions – right or wrong.
6. Enjoy the ride and celebrate milestones. I have a photo of my first cheque. I was so excited! I also took my husband out to dinner after having a fabulous year, and we celebrated in style. It’s important to pat yourself on the back, as no one else will!