Getting To Know You: Ruth Shearn, Founder, RMS

Ruth Shearn

Ruth Shearn, founder of media agency RMS tells us what defines her way of doing business and why when starting out you shouldn’t be greedy.

What do you currently do at RMS?

Good question for reasons that will become clear.  After setting RMS up in my back bedroom, I’ve spent the intervening 28 years building it into a successful, much loved and respected creative communications agency. After appointing an MD 18 months ago, I’d stepped back from the day to day running of the agency and gone down to a 4-day week.  There was even talk of dropping to 3-days.

Then Covid happened! So, to answer the question, while my MD looks after the commercial and ‘business’ side of things – like negotiating contracts and ensuring we’re operating efficiently and profitably – I’m back at the coal face doing what I love – dealing with clients and being creative.

We have a really lovely mix of B2B, professional services and consumer accounts which means every day is different and stimulating.

By way of example, today I’ve participated in a brainstorm to come up with ideas to raise awareness and drive sales of a new peanut butter; set up an interview for a client with a journalist from The Wall Street Journal to discuss the impact of Covid on the global maritime industry; written the content for an infographic that one of my design team will make into something beautiful; and managed to persuade the partners at a large legal practice that making short films for social media will help drive enquiries to their private client team.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring!

What was the inspiration behind your business?

Honestly, it was launched as a kick against the politics in big agency land.  The advertising agency I’d previously worked at was wonderful but you needed sharp elbows to survive and get noticed.  That’s not my style.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was discovering that one of my colleagues had taken the credit for a rather brilliant proposal I’d written, even replacing my name with theirs on the document.  Then the agency was acquired, which led to a change in culture.

A client recognised I wasn’t my usual happy self and suggested I set up on my own, with the promise he’d move his account.  Before I knew it, I’d kitted my spare bedroom out in black ash, acquired a second hand golf ball typewriter and been lent a fax machine.

Since those early days, I’ve grown RMS slowly and steadily.  The team is now 20-strong and we have expertise covering PR, media relations, digital marketing, social media, web development, creative and design. As for the inspiration behind the business?

To create an agency where people wanted to work because of the culture and that clients wanted to appoint because of the quality of work and the fact they enjoyed dealing with us.

Who do you admire?

People who honour their promises.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

Lots. Appointed an MD sooner.  This would have saved me lots of self-criticism battling with things I wasn’t particularly good at and, therefore, didn’t enjoy (such as forecasting and new business – yuck!).

What defines your way of doing business?

Always giving best advice (even if it’s to our financial detriment); always delivering quality work; always honouring our promises and being 100% reliable. To get a more visceral feel for us, here’s our ‘corporate’ video!

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Don’t be greedy.  Have a plan but don’t let it restrict you – flexibility is essential for success.  And, you’ll probably have seen this coming, be decent in all you do, whether dealing with staff, clients or suppliers.  You’ll sleep at night and you never know when your paths will cross again.  Finally, be nice to strangers on trains …