Ask The Expert

Sara Pearson: Building a Successful Business

BY SARA PEARSON – CEO at Spider PR

What is success?  It is very rarely in the moment.  Our own perception of success is often quite different from the opinion of others.  In my experience I rarely recognise it at the time, it is only a while later I realise something has been a success.  Looking back on my career I can now more easily spot those occasions.

PR as a career rather chose me – it was certainly not a suggestion made by the nun in charge of careers at my convent school.  Teacher, nurse, librarian or secretary was pretty much the only choice.  I fell on my feet by answering an ad to be a trainee journalist at the Sunday Telegraph and an extraordinary world beckoned.

From the Telegraph I went to the Jockey Club and found myself in the PR department.  A year later a PR agency offered me twice my modest salary to join them – I departed like butter off a hot knife! Three agencies later, by now a Board Director and a mother of 2 small children, I started my own business.

I would always recommend PR as a career as it can open any door you choose – whatever your passion, wherever you want, with whoever you fancy – PR can be the vehicle. For me I quickly learned the commercial imperatives for business success – but mostly for my clients.  It also exposed me to new concepts and I found I could spot opportunities, the challenge was being able to maximise them.

One such instant had the unpromising beginning of a trip to the dentist.  Sitting on the counter was a bottle of mouth-rinse with a rather dramatic two-tone appearance and a label in Hebrew.  I was told it was an extraordinary product supported by clinical trials proving it was better at delivering fresh breath than any of the well-known mouth-rinse brands. By shaking the bottle the oil and liquid solution when sloshed around the mouth lifted and separated the bacteria causing bad breath – so you could actually see the product working by the blobby bits going down the drain!

Rashly I said to the dentist we should market the product.  So a dentist, an accountant and a PR woman ended up owning the licence for a mouth-rinse which we named Dentyl Ph.  Suddenly, I had to become an expert in manufacturing, packaging, labelling, distribution and marketing of a brand trying to outsmart the behemoth that is Colgate Palmolive. But I did it.  When the brand became number two in the market with sales upwards of £15m we sold.

I think it is only now, 10 years later I recognise it was an extraordinary success. At the time there was always something I felt we should be doing or doing better.

The same goes for my PR consultancy, Spider PR, we have a proposition which is pretty hard to match – we guarantee our media coverage.  There are still many in the business that say it is not possible and even more who say we demean the service by doing so.  But I believe in deliverability.  Of course it is not the sole measurebut sure as hell it comforts client to know we too have skin in the game.  Clients as diverse as Tyrrells, FedEx, Saga, Virgin, Maldon Salt and Open University would all agree!

As to what is success, at this very moment, probably persuading the puppy that peeing in the garden is better than the kitchen! 

6 Tips For Business Success

  1. Do a daily list that way nothing gets forgotten
  2. Understand cash-flow – a contract won is often not money in bank for several months – cash is king
  3. Being able to ‘sell’ is one of the greatest assets for any business
  4. Knowing is always better than guessing – good news AND bad news
  5. Nurture your staff, hang on for dear life to the good ones
  6. Invest in good PR
Sara Pearson

Sara Pearson

Serial entrepreneur Sara Pearson is CEO at Spider PR, an independent public relations and digital agency based at London Bridge. After a stint as a journalist Sara moved into PR founding The SPA Way agency in 1990 which she later rebranded as Spider PR in 2011. Sara is passionate about building brands and specialises in delivering highly accountable media outcomes.  Spider PR was one of the first agencies – and still leads the field – in guaranteeing its media coverage.  In addition to running her PR consultancy she is also currently an active shareholder in building three new businesses in sectors as diverse as a retail coffee brand, pet food and sauces. Living in Chelsea she is the mother of 3 grown up children and 2 dogs and with her partner Alex is busy developing property near Granada in Spain. For more information visit www.spider-pr.com

 

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