Lisa Pearson is partner and founder of employer brand agency Chatter Communications, which she launched 10 years ago with two other partners. She saw the need for businesses to do more to attract, recruit and engage with the very best talent out there, by putting people first.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I’ve been in the communications industry now for nearly 32 years (!). I actually started way back when on the old YTS scheme, when my mum told me to get a job after I’d spent 3 years at school doing very little. I started working in a full-service agency in the very late 80s and fell into recruitment advertising during that time. I then moved on to work at Barkers, Work Comms and Penna before becoming increasingly frustrated by the industry, which seemed to be stripping out more and more resource from regional agencies in favour of a London centric approach. In the background I’d been chatting on and off to some colleagues about the idea of going it alone, and then one day, I just handed my notice in. I hadn’t planned to that day, but another conversation about yet more changes which didn’t make sense pushed me over the edge.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
I got to work ramping up those chats I’d been having with my now business partners Jon and Paul and luckily they were on board. Collectively we wanted to create a business which was centred around solutions and partnerships, working with nice people who wanted to do good stuff, and do it in a way which appealed to us with a set of values we could stand behind.
How did you achieve awareness?
We had built up some cracking relationships over our time in the agency, and we reached out to those people initially to test our proposition, to see if our elevator pitch ’stood up’ and to figure out whether people would buy us. We were heavily reliant on our reputations as individuals, our networks and also some goodwill and word of mouth from people who liked what we did.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
We started with £600 and a laptop nearly 11 years ago now. We took on very little debt at the outset and have kept that mindset throughout the years, leaning into invoice financing where required in the early days but with no external investment. The decision to build the business this way meant we didn’t grow as quickly as we could have, but we wanted to build a business we could be proud of and continue to be close to the client.
What are the key successes?
There’s so many! Getting the agency off the ground in the first place…
Bagging a RAD award for the work we did with O2 around Stores of the Future was another great highlight and then going on to win dozens of other industry awards.
Being here almost 11 years later and seeing some cracking young people who have joined us on our journey go on to develop their careers either with us or in other organisations.
The fact that as the three founding partners we haven’t properly fallen out in over a decade (although we’ve had our moments!) is pretty amazing too!
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Not having any money at the outset and mortgages to pay was a ‘hold your nerve’ couple of years, as it is for any new business.
More recently, Brexit and the uncertainty around budgets and investment from clients was on our mind for a while. But of course, Covid has been the biggie. As an agency we’ve always been cloud based so the switch to working from home wasn’t tough but the uncertainty and the disruption for our clients and therefore us was hard. But our people were phenomenal throughout and now we’re bigger, better and stronger.
What are your plans now/for the future?
Basically we want to do more good stuff with more good people. We want to continue to build the agency, build out our creative and digital functions more and do more in the employer brand consultancy space. Increasingly businesses are seeing the importance of having a strong employer brand and how it can help them recruit and retain the very best talent, so it’s an exciting time.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
I can’t imagine working for anyone else now. It can be tough though. You’re responsible for your people and their wellbeing. That’s one of the reasons you never really switch off. So go into it with your eyes open but enjoy it along the way because it’s a thrilling ride.
There’s so many ‘motivational’ quotes out there, most of which I don’t really connect with. Steven Bartlett has some belters, but I do like this one “Be undeniably good. No marketing effort or social media buzzword can be a substitute for that” Anthony Volodkin, Founder of Hype.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Treat people how you expect to be treated yourself. I think it’s important to be open and accessible. People spot rubbish and someone who doesn’t know their stuff a mile off, so authenticity and empathy are really important skills too.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
I don’t really have 5. I get inspired by people all of the time. Sports men and women inspire me, their commitment, dedication and team spirit is awesome. And I love sport, playing and watching so I get it. I often find that people who play sport make better leaders, because they’re about team (in the main) and not self. I also recently listened to Jimmy Carr on The Diary of a CEO, and Mark Cavendish on High Performance Podcast, both really inspiring stories.
Basically people who are committed, human, open, warm and friendly are inspiring to me. My mum is the one constant who inspired me from a young age. She was a working woman in a man’s world and took no nonsense. She gave me the skills to be who I am today.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
I’m not sure where it came from but I love ’Tough times don’t last. Tough people do’.
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
I have 2 Insta accounts – Lisap999 and allkillernofiller
LinkedIn – LisaPearson