People buy people. There’s no news in that, but it’s one of the things I’ve come to realise probably more than ever, in starting my own business.
I read an article the other day about the increase in the number of experienced comms professionals who were breaking away from agency ties and building their own client base, purely through personal recommendations and referrals. No competitive pitch processes, no tendering programmes and often collaborating through virtual support networks. It all sounded very familiar.
When I worked in agency I had many clients ask me if, following the pitch, I would be working on the account day to day. Of course my answer was yes, then I would quickly promote the credentials of the junior supporting team knowing that in reality, they’d be picking up most of the account handling work. This was often met with: “But we bought in to you!”
I’m not a PR agency and don’t claim to be. I’m me. I’m a limited company me but when I started out I thought I wouldn’t be able to consider taking on work which would seem more suited to a PR agency – i.e. a team of people with ranging expertise, contacts and support, coming up with big campaign ideas etc. But then, through the conversations I’ve been having and personal referrals I’ve been getting, not having that team there really doesn’t seem to matter. That’s because the leads I’ve been getting have largely been through people who know me and know how I work – and to that end, know if the brief demands it I’ll call on my own virtual support network to help out.
The article I mentioned also made me think about future trends in working practices. The phrase ‘work/life balance’ seems a bit cliché – for some reason not really resonating properly with how many people are or would like to work nowadays. I think it’s more intelligent than that. It’s thinking ‘outside the box’ (sorry), about how career ambitions can be achieved and for those of us who have chosen to work for ourselves, finding every opportunity to build your own personal referral network.
I suppose it all comes down to who to know (though a little bit of what you know is important too). I’m certainly enjoying catching up with people I’ve met over the years and meeting plenty of new faces along the way.