What do you currently do?
I am the Founder and Managing Director of Curzon PR, a PR agency based in London with a unique focus on cross sector projects. We have international clients across a number of sectors, including government agencies, arts and culture and humanitarian initiatives. We believe in the importance of the interaction of these different areas as something that not only benefits our clients, but allows us to have a much more comprehensive and wider grasp of each industry on its own and how they work and interact with each other.
What is your inspiration in business?
My inspiration is to use my business as a vehicle to engage with people and sectors that interest me. I am very curious, which motivates me to navigate through a number of different sectors at ease – the prospect of constantly learning and being challenged, and ultimately growing and developing as both a person and a professional is the ultimate inspiration.
Who do you admire?
I admire Lady Thatcher for having a strong vision and executing her policies even with intense opposition; I admire her for changing the UK, ultimately for the better and not ever letting her gender or background undermine her self-confidence.
I also admire Michael Heseltine for both his business and political success, as well as his passion for horticulture. I admire his ability to transfer his skills between politics, business and horticulture and being a modern day renaissance man.
I admire my client Dr Mohammad Jawad, a plastic surgeon who used his annual leave to operate on acid burn victims in Pakistan, when they had no recourse to affordable medical care. His unbounded sense of duty to his fellow man, and his tireless sense of responsibility towards the unfortunate is admirable, and humbling, and his passion for humanity is infectious.
Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?
Yes, I would have recruited more carefully and hired employees who already had the competence, experience and knowledge required for their position, rather than looking at potential and building them into the role, as it becomes a drain on company resources and business is ultimately not a vocational college.
I would have turned away unsuitable clients whose PR budgets did not meet their PR expectations. They rapidly turn into a financial loss as one has to over-service their accounts to achieve their expectations. I was told it is cheaper to give them a cheque for £5,000 at the business development stage and direct them to a competitor, as it would be better for our bottom line and it is true!
Not all client leads should be taken up as clients; some are bad for business and a financial drain as well as lowering staff morale.
What defines your way of doing business?
I treat people the way I would like to be treated. I approach each person, client or employee with a sense of fairness and trust whilst ensuring our business interests are protected. I put myself in their position and think about their needs. Empathy is important in a business like PR where our assets are based on relationships.
I am a fan of contracts, not handshakes, as contracts eliminate ambiguity which is often the cause of deteriorating business relationships in the longer term.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
I would advise them to get on with it! Often people procrastinate at the early stage of planning a business start-up and end up in analysis paralysis.
Planning is important in terms of focusing on goals and direction, but you can never really plan 100% as life isn’t a business plan, and one has to be flexible and review plans regularly to take advantage of changing currents and opportunities.
I would also advise new start-ups to analyse the competitive landscape, research competitors, and figure out where your business lies in the competitive landscape. Be clear what your client proposition is. Why you and not your competitors? Who is your target market? What can you offer exceptionally?
Finally, I would not take the prospect of failure too seriously. What’s the worst that can happen? Failing in business can be a great learning curve and is the practical MBA one often needs to succeed next time round.