This month our CEO and Founder, Lisa Morton, took to the stage at Manchester’s Bulletproof Agency Network event to discuss client retention and agency life.
The focus of the event was how to find and retain the best clients – those that challenge you creatively and believe in your values – and how to avoid those that drain your soul (and your profit!).
For ourselves, the best way to do this is by perfecting your own business model and creating a value system that not only inspires staff, but current and potential clients as well.
Here’s a breakdown of how the interview went.
Who is Roland Dransfield?
Roland Dransfield is my godfather - a massive inspiration in my life. He was charismatic, rags to relative riches – but ultimately, he was just a normal guy from Salford with a massive heart – and the first entrepreneur I knew.
He told me from a very early age that I should have my own business. When I was little, I was always coming up with ways to make money. I used to flog anything that wasn’t nailed down. I used to invite people to come and watch shows at my mum’s house and then make them pay for the privilege; I convinced my best friend’s dad to give me the reject lettuces he grew and then made lettuce butties to sell to the kids at school (we lived two doors from the gates).
One day Roland came round to our house with a bucket and sponge and said “You’ve got your own business now – go and clean some cars and pay me back for the bucket and sponge at the end of the day”. I was in profit day one and had that car washing round till I was 15 and discovered shoes so went to work in a shoe shop!
What does Purposeful Relationships mean to you and how important is it to the business?
In 1996 when I set Roland Dransfield PR up it was a traditional agency with media relations, events, newsletters, exhibitions etc. We had no internet! In the last recession, which was a huge challenge for the business for several years, I knew that we had to refocus and adapt to the changing industry – and digital was going to be at the centre of everything.
On a very tight budget I decided to go Boston to a Hubspot conference and had my mind blown by content marketing and realised that it was going to get us out of the recession – I realised that everything we do is about creating and strengthening relationships and that as a business we had been doing this for years. Because we had only had a fax and a phone in the early part of my career, I’d had to go out and speak to people, make friends, go for lunch, use shoe leather to get to see people so we’d put a lot of mileage in but now we could also engage with so many more people on our own – and clients’ own platforms.
So, the term public relations seemed quite antiquated and irrelevant and we changed PR to Purposeful Relationships, which is something that the whole team is passionate about and it’s what we do every day.
It’s what we’re known for and why new clients come to us. We’ve had a lot of traction with businesses moving into or investing in Manchester who need to build relationships with the city and its stakeholders, who need to understand the landscape and who the influencers are.
We have built up lots of very strong and loyal relationships in our 23 years. If there’s someone you need to meet to improve your business offering or get something done in the North West and further afield, in a diverse range of sectors, the chances are high that we can introduce you.
How important is it to be a Manchester agency to you?
It’s absolutely vital. I love this city - it makes me feel emotional just thinking about it. We’ve got such an amazing culture here, with our grit and determination: you can bottle that and take it anywhere. We have opened an office in London now and we’re making great headway with the same work ethic we’ve demonstrated here. We’ve also got real ambition to take it overseas too - it’s is an exportable set of skills and values that are truly embedded in our DNA.
Tell us about the Roland Dransfield Way and how you demonstrate that in what you do
At the beginning of September 2018 I came back from holiday and things just didn’t feel right for a number of reasons. It had been bothering me for a few months and I decided things needed to change. We needed to build back into Roland Dransfield the values that were important to me. At the same time I happened to meet Chris Brindley (Chair of Rugby League World Cup 2021) and he encouraged me to focus on what motivated me to set the business in the first place.
I read the book Legacy by James Kerr, which is the story of the All Blacks, and it’s been massively influential in crafting our unique company culture. Our first principle is ‘Sweep the Sheds’, which means no job is too small, and number 15 is ‘Plant Trees You’ll Never See’ - that’s about putting in more than we take out, and to create a legacy out of respect for those that follow. In the office these terms have literally become part of our vernacular.
These 15 principles have been printed on wallpaper and take up the whole of one side of our office and we know them by heart.
One of our other principles is no d*******s, and that’s very important to me – we play for the name on the front of the shirt, not the back, and that was quite a rallying cry for some people. The values came from who I am as a person and what I hold deeply, and I expect that from the Roland Dransfield team too.
I think The Roland Dransfield Way has changed our business because we all hold ourselves accountable to it now. We’ve got the best team we’ve ever had in the 23 years and it’s no coincidence - we’ve got the culture right, we’ve all bought into the values and live and breathe them every day.
How does this play into clients you attract and how would you describe the perfect client?
I guess I’m a strong believer in the law of attraction. If you want to be loved, love more and if you want to have more success, help other people have more success. I think when you state your value and state your purpose, you do attract the right people into your business and into your life. A perfect client is someone who will point you in the direction they want to go in and then let you do what you need to do to get them there. And most importantly, they hold the same values that you do.
Many thanks to Bulletproof Agency for having us!