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The Best Things I’ve Learned: Sally-Anne Stevens, Founder and CEO of B Public Relations
January 23rd 2016
What are the most significant life lessons learned from a PR pro? We caught up with Sally-Anne Stevens, Founder and CEO of B Public Relations to find out
With over 18 years’ experience in PR and a successful agency of her own, at just 38, Sally-Anne Stevens has achieved the type of career that most in the industry aspire to.
As Founder and CEO of B Public Relations, she heads up a team of 30 highly experienced PRs to provide a global PR perspective for each of her brands - from digital to social media to editorial coverage to VIP outreach. Her extensive knowledge of fashion, beauty, health, retail and corporate PR and successful portfolio of clients, (including Ciate, Lipsy, Charles Worthington Salons and Fleur de Force to name but a few), has seen the company grow from strength to strength since its launch in 2004. We caught up with Sally-Anne to ask her to share her most important life lessons with us and provide some extremely useful career advice for anyone looking to break into public relations.
The best things I’ve learned about...
I've never had a fear of failure - I believe if you take a no fail approach to everything you tackle in life, then most times you will succeed. If things don't go quite as planned, then I wouldn't call it failure but learn from the mistakes made and ensure they are not to be repeated. Most importantly though, never view any kind of failure as a negative or to dwell upon it. Pick yourself up and move on quickly.
It's very easy to become work obsessed, particularly in this industry, and over the past 12 years I'm not sure I've ever really truly switched off. The digital age makes it even more difficult to switch off as there is always something to tap into - your social pages, an app, some online shopping, check how many steps you've walked that day etc. When you own a business, particularly in the early years, you can't just turn off the phone and be uncontactable to the office. However, B is now at a size, with the strength of team, that I'm lucky enough to be able to take time out when I need to. I do try to switch off when I go on holiday, which for me means checking my phone just once a day instead of every five minutes. During the working week, my daily time out away from the phone and two children is a bath and yoga where I can meditate and gather my thoughts.
Just roll with it! I'm 38 and so far I'm happy with what I've achieved, the places I've visited and the adventures I've completed. I'm excited about the future and I have so much more I want to achieve both in business and personally. The most important thing for me though is to keep healthy. Superficially of course I do my best to delay the signs of ageing with weekly beauty treatments. I have a secret weapon who goes by be name of Alina, she's an incredible physio and healer who I see every week for lymphatic deep tissue massage and general wellbeing.
It comes, it goes and it comes again...the most important thing in business isn't how much your company turns over but how profitable you are. However, even more important is the cash in the bank - the cash flow. Invest in your accountant and work with someone you really gel with and gets you and truly understands the business.
When I founded the company in 2003, I'd just left an agency where the boss was a bully and treated staff abysmally. Having been in that miserable position myself, I've always put my team first and always do my best to be fair and prevent a negative environment. I love people and talking...but one of the greatest things you can do for someone is to simply listen to them and let them unburden which I do daily with my team and friends and appreciate when they are there for me in return.
I think most business owners will express that one of the hardest and most time consuming areas of running a business is HR. We have an HR Director to support with all aspects of HR but when it comes to hiring I'm very hands on. I attend 90% of the staff interviews and I always meet a candidate who has made it to the final round of interviewing with us at B to make a decision. It's not just about experience; personality, confidence and common sense also really come into play.
Confidence at work
It's so important to be confident as a PR as you need to be able to translate your client’s brand messages across to press/influencers as if you were the CEO of that company. The brand founder has entrusted us with their brand and we need to know everything we can about it and talk with confidence, whether that's on the phone or face to face. If you're a confident person you will have faith in your own ability and take more risks too, if you are totally risk averse though it will take you longer to climb your career ladder.
A working wardrobe
If you walk into the B offices, you will meet a team of 40 eclectic personalities each wearing something that reflects their personality. For us, there isn't a working staple as such, it's driven by trends mostly with a mix of classics thrown in. Hair, nails and lip colours change on an almost weekly basis too.
I'm an organisation monster! My desk is totally clear most of the time and my cupboards are generally pretty neat. I'm obsessed with stationery and storage, if I can find an excuse to pop into Paperchase on Tottenham Court Road I will and I think I have enough notepads to last until 2020! One client, Charlotte Knight CEO of Ciate is just as crazy about stationery and we regularly post each other notepads...kind of weird but nothing like opening that first page and writing the to do list! Every night before I turn my phone off I check the next day’s calendar, check back through my flagged emails for the day and prepare my to do list for the next day so I can sleep soundly knowing I'm prepared for the morning.
The digital age
Be a part of it and read as much as possible to stay ahead. My husband works in tech and gives me updates about the latest start-ups emerging from Silicon Valley. The technology is mind blowing; apps simplifying our everything, security systems and social feeds connecting everything we do and view. At B we have an ever-growing social team and it’s where we are investing. I worked for a digital company back in 2002 and since launching B we have always been digitally in tune.
Don't get involved! We have a 95% female team and sometimes hormones do fly, but on the whole everyone gets on like one big family and in any family you have different characters. Treating others as you would like to be treated goes a long way in the workplace. If someone does want to be queen bee or the joker or just seems to be a little too sarcastic, then just ignore it and don't rise to it, or confront it with an honest smile and try to find some common ground to gel over. There just isn't time in the day or the need to be involved in office politics - it's a waste of everyone's energy. Hug it out instead!