Pat McNamara’s session was titled Fuel your business: Strategies from one of Canada’s fastest growing companies. She did not disappoint as she delivered a fast-paced presentation chock full of wisdom and practical tips.
Highlights of her presentation:
One of the secrets of success is to get awards. And we have applied for almost all the awards we won.
The ‘Not so secret” ingredients of a successful, profitable PR business are
- The right people
- The right clients
- The right business
To be successful, you must have a passion both for PR and running a business. If you don’t have that passion, people will not want to work with you.
Pat is a fan of David Maister and she has put much of his advice into practice.
Getting hired is about earning and deserving trust. You need to earn trust. Be generous with your time and help. Show a good understanding of the situation.
The absolute number one key to success is having the right people and the right culture. Unfortunately, PR firms tend not to do a good job of communicating with their employees.
Culture must be consciously created.
- Reputation is key.
- Trust and empower your employees.
- Build a strong, talented management team.
- Ensure you have a leadership, not boss mentality.
- Have fun.
At Apex, Pat believes that “The company becomes strong one employee at a time.” Think of employees as individuals. Figure out what each one is good at and figure out how to make those strengths fit into your success formula. Constantly reward success and achievement – in ways that are meaningful to them. And surprise them. The unanticipated can delight.
Always do an employee survey. You cannot pay too much attention to what your employees are thinking.
“People leave managers, not companies.”
If you can keep your employee turnover low, your business will have a firm foundation for growth. Clients stay with businesses that have stable teams.
HumanResources.com has a list of the top 10 reasons people stay at a workplace. 46% is related to people. 18% is related to the job. 12% is pay related. 10% is related to the company.
Ensure that you have a leadership mentaility, not a boss mentality. The company is about the sum of its parts. Everyone should be encouraged to understand and believe that they can contribute.
Focus on ensuring that all people in a leadership position have strong leadership skills and an understanding of the importance of this role.
McNamara recommends Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, First Break All the Rules, as a source for the questions to ask in ensuring that employees are inspired.
To grow your business, you must:
- Hunt and acquire new prospects.
- Market to existing clients.
- Identify new sources of business.
Not all new business is good business. If you work with clients who are not very nice or whom you are not very passionate about, you’ll lose your people. Get the right kind of business, not more business.
Existing clients are the most likely sources of new business and the most profitable.
When deciding who to purse, start with an honest assessment of your capabilities. Do you have a chance of winning this business? To have a reasonable chance, you must have special expertise, the time and the resources to stand out from the crowd.
Find out as much as possible about the client. You must know them well in order to understand their needs.
Ensure that someone on your team is excited about working with the client. If people are not passionate about this, don’t pitch the business.
Stay away from strangers. Don’t pitch unless you can be in the room and present to the client in person. People choose other people, not paper proposals.
Create a very short list that is focused on your capabilities and ability to win (never pitch business that you don’t think you have at least a 50% chance of winning.)
Pursue opportunities by sending creative packages and look for opportunities to interact (e.g. a PR 101 presentation.)
Understand that most people have made up their mind about whether they like you or not within the first two minutes of meeting you. Make the most of this time.
One you’ve won the business, you must work hard to keep them happy. This should be your number one priority. Happy clients will be forgiving. They will take your advice. They will provide positive referrals.
Reasons clients leave firms:
- Failed to meet deadlines
- Did not meet budgets
- Lack of follow-through
- Did not keep the client informed of project status
- Poor or inconsistent quality
- Did not meet expectations
- Over-promised, under-delivered
- Lack of enthusiasm
- Order-takers vs. idea generators
- Lack of good chemistry or trust.
Ways to keep your clients:
- Ensure there is strong team chemistry
- Provide senior level involvement
- Under-promise and over-deliver
- Clients are no your friends; remind your staff
- Take a “no surprises” approach to budgets
- Set clear expectations; put them in writing
- Never miss a deadline; develop thorough, doable timelines
- Ask: what’s the best/worst thing we could do?
- Use their products
- Let your clients interact with each other
- Admit your mistakes
- Show your passion for their business
Listen to your clients
- Conduct a client survey
- Conduct internal reviews – be brutally honest in your assessment.
- Interact with your clients – walk the halls with them; attend sales meetings; introduce them to new ideas and services even if they are not your own.
Have regular conversations with the client:
- First week: conduct a client audit and organize an internal indoctrination on how we will work together.
- 30 days: conduct a review of how we are doing. Walk them through the first invoice
- 90 days: Ask for an assessment of performance and gauge performance against written expectations
- Six months: Do an activity recap and a planning session.
- One-year review: Conduct a written survey and establish new directions.
To grow existing business:
- Ensure you have multiple contacts
- Conduct/attend media/presentation training
- Attend marketing and sales meetings
- Interact with other suppliers
- Start an idea generator program
- Introduce alternate team members
- Invite them to other client events