Tracey Barrett, Managing Director of BlueSky PR explains why after working in recruitment and then PR she decided to merge the two skills together and start her own agency.
What do you currently do at BlueSky PR?
BlueSky is a specialist marcomms consultancy which focuses on the recruitment, HR, talent management and higher education sectors. I am the Managing Director and take responsibility for the strategic direction of the business as well as steering business development and marketing with the senior leadership team.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
I started life as a recruitment consultant over 30 years ago and ended up as their marketing manager (as I wasn’t a great recruiter!). I then ended up as Head of Comms for a large construction company, Balfour Beatty, and after I had my first child, I decided to go freelance. I knew PR and I knew recruitment and at that time (the mid-90s) recruitment firms were really bad at marketing themselves and using PR as a differentiator. I put the two together and BlueSky was born in a back bedroom. Fast forward to 2020 and we now have 21 members of staff.
Who do I admire?
Well – I am a fanatical Manchester City supporter so for me it would have to be Pep Guardiola – he has an innate skill of getting the best out of a team. You have no doubt that when those players go onto the pitch, they are playing for him with their heart and soul – getting that sort of commitment and loyalty is really impressive – and his results since he took over as Manager speak for themselves!
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
Definitely. We have made some pretty spectacular hiring mistakes by acting too hastily. It tends to happen when we have won a glut of new business and then suddenly have to get extra resource. This leads to decisions being made too quickly just to get a ‘bum on a seat’ – we have had our fingers burned on more than one occasion and have really learned from that mistake. Additionally, if I had my time over again, I would have hired a Marketing Manager much earlier as it has been a game changer.
It really was a case of physician heal thyself as we spent so much time telling our clients that marketing and communications were an essential part of the mix in order to attract new business but then didn’t do it ourselves!
What defines your way of doing business?
Our values drive the way we do business and are really important to us.
- We are quality driven and quality has to be at the heart of everything we do. Our clients’ reputations and our reputation with both journalists and clients depend on it.
- We are collaborative – not just with our clients but also internally and with partners and even competitors. Everyone’s ideas from the most junior member of the team upwards are welcome and it’s that which drives the quality of the work we do.
- Our third value is no bullshit – we don’t believe in talking around subjects and believe in getting straight to the point so that we get results. We’re brave enough to tell clients what won’t work (even if it has come from the CEO) as well as what will! In our experience it’s the only way to become a client’s trusted adviser– otherwise you just end up as a ‘yes man – or woman’
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
First of all – it may be a well-used adage but cash really is king. Credit control and getting clients and customers to pay you on time is crucial right from the get go. And while you may feel as though in the early days you want to try and do everything yourself, don’t spread yourself too thinly otherwise you end up as jack of all trades and master of none.
A good accountant is a must and I would begin with a forecast of income expenditure and cash and then monthly management accounts so that you can see how you are doing against that. That forecast will help pinpoint triggers for investment and growth. Don’t regard marketing as a discretionary spend – people need to know that you exist and social media is key so take advantage of the free training resources that platforms such as LinkedIn provide.
Check out free tools such as the HubSpot sales extension which allows you to track emails and see when they have been opened by the recipient (fantastic for proposals/quotes and timing the follow up calls just right!) Last but not least build your network of like-minded new business people so that you have someone to share the highs and the lows with – peer to peer networking on and offline is invaluable!