What ignited the spark in you to start your business?I worked for other PR companies for around 5-6 years before I decided to go out on my own. While I enjoyed the last job I had, I found that it was not great for my health as PR agencies are often stressful environments and it made me feel as though I didn’t have that much freedom or control over my life or my earning potential, therefore I decided that I wanted to work for myself. I had the idea for Expert Hub, an online platform that connects experts directly with journalists for the fraction of the price of a PR campaign. It is essentially DIY PR. I loved the idea for a few reasons. For starters, the media often like expert led, non-branded content and as I had so many expert contacts who I was connecting with journalists anyway, it essentially allows me to automate the process and the journalists continue to like working with me because I save them time having to search for people. The second reason is because I have met so many experts who have amazing stories, tips and advice to share who just can’t afford a PR campaign, or they don’t need one as they have no more space to take on more clients. I was really excited about this idea, it’s now operating very well, but it took a long time to build the website and I had drama after drama with developers. In the meantime, my PR agency client base got bigger and bigger. Now I also have a PR agency with staff and that is the main business.
Was there a significant turning point when you decided to become an entrepreneur?There were several. As mentioned, before I never had any intention of directing a PR company, let alone managing staff. All of a sudden, I had so much work that I ended up having to hire 3 people in the space of a month. That was when I realized I will probably be doing this for a while so I started listening to every business book to see how to make it work and I got pretty excited about it. The second turning point was recently, when I realized that I have been working so hard for years, I was stressed and I was not enjoying myself. I kept reading all these books and listening to all of these podcasts telling you how to grow bigger and grow bigger which is what I was doing but it wasn’t making me happy. Right before Covid one of my amazing staff members moved interstate, so I decided not to replace her and instead scale back the business. Ironically the business is now more profitable and while I took on some more of the client work than I did before, I am not stressed at all. In fact, I am really enjoying it and find I am in much more of a creative space as a result. I guess there is a learning in that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Success for yourself is something you need to define for yourself.
Looking back is there a piece of advice you wish to pass onto someone starting out their entrepreneurial journey?
- Get a bookkeeper and an accountant as soon as you have staff. Always go by the book when it comes to salaries. Even if your staff member asks you nicely to do it a different way, just don’t.
- Be nice to everyone. The coordinators who I was nice to 10 years ago even though they were “just coordinators” are now the editors, or they have new roles elsewhere. Now they help me secure media coverage for my clients on the best pages and recommend me to new clients all the time.
- Have morals and standards that you stick by. I had one pretty high-profile client who wanted to come across as “exclusive” ask me to uninvite 4 x journalists to a party of 650 people once. They told me this on the day and I said absolutely not, if you need 4 spots myself and my team just won’t attend. While all of these journalists were big journalists so it would have ruined my relationships to uninvite them, my business does not outcast people or make them feel small. If someone is invited, they stay invited. I resigned from the account immediately. While it was a big account, I’m sure I have had a lot more opportunity as a result of getting rid of that client because people still like us.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?Be open to steering your business in the direction of what the people are asking for: While I set out for my business to be Expert Hub, Bennett PR is more in demand at the moment as a lot of businesses don’t want to do their own PR and would prefer we do it for them. Therefore, BPR is here to stay and we have created a few additionally offerings based on what people have asked for and what makes sense for us Hire a good team, don’t bring new people into the team who won’t get along with the existing people: While I have both senior and junior staff working for me, I now try very hard to hire people who not only have a good work ethic, but are good people. I have in the past had a few people who brought the vibe down, now I have a group of very nice girls working for me. I can teach people how to do PR, but I can’t teach people to be pleasant. Before I hire new people, I get the girls to meet them in advance to make sure they mesh well and the existing staff like them. While this hasn’t been an issue with my current team, I try to keep pointless negative talk out of the office too. In the past I have had a few people who would randomly speak badly of others for no reason ie. Paying out someone’s Instagram post in a mean way. I used to ignore it because I was busy but after a while it had created a lot of negative energy so now it is not allowed. Be prepared for anything: I took a few hits early on in the business, mainly because I wasn’t prepared to have a business, staff or a million things to do and think about all the time. I have since scouted out experts who can help me in any situation and who could answer every question. I have a few business leaders who I can ask for opinions when I need them, I have a creative who I can run new offering ideas by, I have a lawyer, book keeper, accounting, social media experts, web developers, photographers. My parents and my partner are also very helpful as they run businesses too. Like my never-ending expert list that I have for journalists, I now have a never-ending expert list that I have for both myself and clients for any situation. Please note, I always pay them for their time and advice as most of the time if you do contra one person gets less than the other. Additionally, I find people are more motivated when they are paid
Who do you look up to in business? Who inspires you?Ben Lucas from Flow Athletic. His business is amazing, his team is amazing, he hires well, his community is amazing. The way he handles Covid lockdowns as a gym showed me that anything is possible. From the “entrepreneurial figure” perspective, while I don’t have his ambition, I find Richard Branson to be fascinating. There is also an amazing entrepreneur called Cindy Whitehead. She sold her company for a billion dollars but ended up taking it back and keeping the money. Everyone should listen to her interview with Tim Ferris. Its fascinating
What was the best advice that you have been given?Do less, it was recent advice actually from my partner who helps businesses with their culture and stress reduction practices. He also owns the meditation platform SoulAlive.com.au When Bennett PR started, everyone around me was all about “the hustle” and “being busy”, which inspired me to start like 3-4 different business ideas- 3 of which I have invested in. I have now started 2 and a half, but I recently realised that I am spreading myself too thin, there is no way I can do an amazing job on all three, and having a million staff is the exact opposite of what I want in life (my girls now are amazing and I don’t want to change the dynamic) So, I cut off one of the ideas, I streamlined the other two and now the business is more profitable, I am happier and sometimes I have some free time to enjoy my life.
What do you think your key to success has been?Over delivering on my offering to clients. My business is very focused on service and our paying clients always come first, even over a new business meeting. This is because the majority of our Bennett PR clients have come through word of mouth and our reputation. It is very important that we not only achieve, but over achieve our KPIs to ensure we maintain that as not having to do any sales outreach is a huge blessing and a great place to be. Expert Hub on the other hand is a different business model and does require marketing, sales and PR. We are starting to get a lot more clients through word of mouth there now too due to us delivering what we promise.
How have you personally measured your success?A few ways, the quality of clients who come our way through word of mouth shows me that we are doing a great job and that we are getting noticed and making an impact even with some bigger brands. We even have a few massive UK clients which I was/ still am really excited about. The positive energy I feel within my company and with my staff. I have worked in a lot of negative environments; PR agencies can be very negative and I have made sure that culture is not welcomed at Bennett PR. I’m happy, hope my staff are too Being able to turn down work if I don’t want to do it Having low financial stress
Outsource the skill or learn the skill?Depends, if I somewhat understand the skill, but I’m not the best at it I outsource it. I have really struggled with web developers though. Really, Really struggled. I wouldn’t build another complicated website without learning at least some of the skill myself.
How do you generate new ideas?We do regular team brainstorms. Other than that, I find every 6 months or so I get really inspired and I listen to every business or inspo podcast I can find for around 4-6 weeks. Then I need a break and I don’t listen to any for a few months. Then I get a second wind again. I always get really inspired for months after I go through a podcast phase. I also find it easier to brainstorm with a pen and paper away from my laptop. All the emails popping up are very distracting
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?That I can work on the campaigns that I am interested in and turn down the ones that are not right for me. You can’t always do that if you are working for someone else That I can somewhat control the environment that I work in and the people in it That my earning potential is up to me That I can work from home with my dog.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?Soul Alive. They are a live stream meditation platform who help both individuals and corporates reduce stress. It’s a very important service always, but especially now. I have signed my team up and I have also brought memberships for a lot of my friends as gifts.
Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years?Business wise, I want a lot more experts on Expert Hub. However, I want to keep Bennett PR about the same size but we will have a few additionally offerings. Personally, my goal is a property portfolio, to do more animal rescue charity work. As for family and kids, we will see what happens J You can only orchestrate so much
Who are the women around you that allow you to thrive?
- My lovely staff members, Andonia and Georgie
- My bestie who is also a gun at market research Courtney Sullivan from Sullivan Dean
- My female clients, my book keeper and the ladies on my “go to” expert list who offer me advice from time to time, from last flat mate Georgie R.