Ruth Shearn set-up RMS Creative Communications in her back bedroom in 1991. Over the years, she has grown it into a successful agency that provides media relations, social media management, digital marketing and design support to businesses and brands of all sizes in a range of sectors.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
After graduating, I began my career at a company that was responsible for marketing the key arts venues in Cardiff, including Welsh National Opera and St. David’s Hall. Following that I moved to the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. Although I loved working in the arts, I was keen to broaden my horizons and my then boyfriend suggested I move into advertising agency land, which I did. It really was like Mad Men!
Working in both the public and private sectors couldn’t have been more different and provided me with extremely valuable experience and insights for the next phase of my career.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
There was no lightbulb moment. I worked my way up the ranks of the aforementioned advertising agency before it was bought by a huge conglomerate. The culture changed. My main client recognised they had become a minnow to the larger agency and also noticed I was unhappy. They suggested I set up on my own and that they’d move their account to me. The numbers stacked up so I handed in my notice and, true to their word, they appointed the newly formed RMS. They remained a loyal client for the next 16 years and I still see the people I dealt with socially to this day.
How did you achieve awareness?
Through word of mouth. The original client recommended us to another and so it went on. In fact, we once created a chart (a bit like Rock Family Trees – younger readers won’t know what I’m talking about there!) showing how one client had led to another to another to another.
Although most of our business still comes from recommendation, we do practice what we preach so have a well-designed website that’s well SEO’d. We also communicate regularly on social media and via newsletters and media relations.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
We have never received funding and have grown organically – weighing up when the time is right to expand with new team members has always been a balancing act!
What are the key successes?
Give best advice, even if it doesn’t benefit you. Always honour your promises. Trust your team to do great work and avoid micro-managing. Be honest and fair in all your dealings.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
The challenges have been and remain no different from those faced by other business owners … ensuring sufficient income to pay the salaries and bills; having a good pipeline of new business; recruiting the best people, keeping them engaged and happy; getting paid; and navigating the vagaries of the economy.
I set up RMS during a recession and have steered it through two further downturns, including lockdown. There have been many times I felt like giving up but a sense of duty to my team and clients kept me going. My own sense of pride played a huge part, too – not wanting to fail is a great motivator! Besides, I have a family to look after and mortgage to pay!
What are your plans now/for the future?
Cliched as it sounds, keep doing great work and ensuring we have happy clients and a happy team. At some point, I will want to slow down so am open to whatever opportunities present themselves.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Don’t overthink and don’t over plan. Just do it. Don’t look back on your life and wish you’d done something. The world is very different these days and much more accepting of entrepreneurialism (and failure should that befall you).
I never intended to run a business – circumstances presented themselves. Despite the occasional lows, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
- Get good advisers from the outset, especially an accountant.
- Always remember you have to pay tax so set money aside to cover that – I don’t know a single founder who got carried away with their income in the early days and forgot that some of it was the tax mans!
- Recruit good people – listen to your gut. Remember, technical skills can be taught but personality and character can’t – to me, the latter are far more important.
- Listen to your gut in all dealings – it is generally right (I have fallen foul of this).
- Don’t be greedy, be fair.
- Understand the financials.
- Business is about relationships – earn the trust of your clients, customers and colleagues by doing great work, honouring your promises and being fair in all your dealings.
- Don’t let the negative comments, views or opinions of others drag you down. You are stronger and more resilient than you realise.
- Have fun. It’s really important.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
This changes frequently. From the business world, it would have to be a chap called Steve Oliver who founded Music Magpie – he faced failure early in his career before brushing himself down and starting again. He has built and floated a hugely successful company but remains a truly lovely person. Outside business, I have been inspired by an amazing woman called Sophie L Morgan. I wasn’t aware of her until I heard her interviewed on the radio recently.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
Work hard and be nice to people.
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
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