Updated: Oct 21, 2018
This week's interview is with Anne Renshaw of Flamme Rouge Consulting. Anne talks about how she started Flamme Rouge (and why it's called Flamme Rouge!), some of the challenges of starting your own business, the value of referrer networks, tips on networking and her involvement in triathlons and Disability Challengers.
Summary Transcript of Anne's Interview
A summarised transcript of the interview is below. This is not a word for word transcription. Approximate timings of each topic are in brackets after the headings.
What do you do?
I do strategic marketing and business development for professional services companies. I've got a history of doing it. I set up on my own doing it last year, just to be able to go out and help some smaller firms like smaller accountants and solicitors and architects be able to compete with some of the bigger firms out there, smaller films that might not be able to have their own in-house capability because they haven't actually got the funds to be able to support somebody full time.
Why did you decide to call it Flamme Rouge?
When I decided to set the business up I had no idea what to call it despite being in marketing! I was brainstorming with my friend Thom, and he just said, write all the things down that are in your head at this moment. I wrote lots of things down.
It was during the Tour de France and I'd written the words Flamme Rouge down and Thom said, right. I really like that, what does it mean?
What does Flamme Rouge mean?
Flamme Rouge - when you're on a stage of something like the Tour de France, a kilometer from the end, there's a big kind of arc that goes over the race. It signals the last kilometre of the race.
It signals the fact that you've nearly got to the finish, it's time to give it one last push. It kind of signifies the end of where all the teamwork finishes and then people just kind of make a dash to the finish.
It was really appropriate because a lot of what I do is based around teamwork. It's about helping people within the businesses be the best of themselves through teamwork and achieving things through marketing and business development and effectively helping them achieve their Flamme Rouge - whatever that might be.
What types of companies do you support and how? (2:17)
Firms that know where their marketing is going but don't seem to be bringing the leads in.
I go in and do a review on what their business development processes are, assess their networking skills, provide training on networking, business development or sales training. I also review their pitch documents and presentations and advise them on what they need to generate leads.
Firms that are growing and want to build on that growth.
I work with them to establish who their key audiences are, what their USP (Unique Selling Point) is, what they're going to take to these audiences, what service lines are the most profitable, and what kind of client base is the most profitable. This allows them to move forward with a kind of a really good idea how to communicate to that market and what the best way of marketing is.
Firms with small budgets
For a lot of professional services firms, they don't have huge budgets to be able to spend on marketing, so it's working out what they can do that doesn't take a lot of investments such as key referrer networks where they can just kind of work out relationships moving forward and it doesn't take a lot of results in terms of money. It's just for their time and effort in focusing on building those moving forward.
Key Referrer Networks
Does a key referrer network work for everyone? (3:46)
I think to a certain extent referrals can work for any business. It's particularly important in professional services because a lot of work comes from referrers, and it's a really good channel to be able to convert them quite quickly because they were already warm and to have a higher conversion rate.
Why does referring to lots of companies often result in no reciprocation?
If you refer to multiple companies that provide the same service, you end up spreading your referrals thinly across those companies. As a result, you may not get the referrals back from those companies.
What is a key referrer network?
A small group of people that you establish a relationship with to enable referrals in both directions.
How do I set one up?
Go through the people and businesses that you do have referral relationships with and look at where the real opportunities lie, where there are people with a really great client bank and where there are people that you really get on with.
Bring your list of referrers to three or four key relationships that, if you give them five referrals, instead of the one, you're more likely to get them back.
Part of having referrer relationships is really getting to know the referrer. Having lines of communication so that it's as easy as possible for them to refer to you and indeed, for you to refer to them so that they then reciprocate. You can't do that with lots of referrers.
It's much easier just to have a small number of referrers that you can really get to know well and then the referrals will start coming through.
Do my referrers need to be professionals?
No - it can work across many industries. Seek the type of business where they are a good ambassador for you and have people in their network that can refer people to you.
Networking can be hard - how can I overcome my fears?
Are you able to give any tips on how to make networking less daunting? (6:56)
When you think, everyone else is great at networking and I'm not:-( Anne says... Remember at all times that probably 90 percent of the people in that room are feeling exactly the same way as you do. A lot of people feel quite worried about networking. Sometimes you can walk into that room feeling I'm the only person that feels this way and you're absolutely not.
When you think that you're really nervous about networking Anne says... I do a lot of networking, but I still get very nervous when I go into rooms. So I have what I call my little networking persona called Confident Anne, and I get to the door sometimes feeling very nervous but I become Confident Anne. I walk into the room and I put a big smile on my face. For the first five minutes, I go in and talk to people, force myself to look like this confident person. Once you've got over the first five minutes, you'll become that person anyway and you'll suddenly realize that it's really not that bad and that everyone was feeling that way and it will be a great experience.
When you say, I hate walking into a room full of people. Anne says... Go to a networking event early. It's so much easier to get there when there's only a few people. Then as people come in, you'll naturally be introduced to them. This is much easier than walking into a room full of people where there's already conversations in flow.
When you say, I am not interested in the questions I think I should ask. Anne says... Ask questions that you're actually interested in about that person. There is no point in asking them 'What do you think of the state of the economy?' if you're not really interested. It will show! There's nothing wrong with asking 'How's your year been so far in business?' or 'Have you got any holidays planned?'
When you wonder, what should I ask? Anne says... Ask them about themselves. Lots of people want to speak about themselves since to talk to people about themselves is the easiest thing you can do and really if you're the kind of person just to talk to people about not necessarily the nitty gritty of their business but stuff to do with them as well. It's quite a good place to start because you don't need to know what industry they're in and you don't need to know where they are in the company they are in. You are showing an interest an them as a person which is a good a thing to do.
How did you find the transition from working the corporate world to running Flamme Rouge? (10:26)
Wow, there are so many different things that I've experienced. Firstly being, owning your own business is just amazing in many, many ways. Every time you win a new client, you just, it's you and you're just so joyful that somebody has picked you and trusted you with their business and has trusted you to be able to help them take their business forward. And that's the fantastic aspect to it.
Even now when I win a new client, it's just a feeling like no other really.
Getting your people fix.
I think what I hadn't fully thought about is the fact that I'm quite a people person. There are some days, some days I go and work with clients on their premises and that's amazing. I love being part of their team, but there are other days that I'm working from home. It can get quite lonely and I miss those kind of water cooler moments where you can just have a chat with somebody about what you watched on telly last night or what they're doing for that holiday or anything like that.
So I think the people side of things I miss the most, just having a team around me. I've learned that just I can still do that. I've got a group of friends that I used to go to a networking event with who are really close friends now. I know that at any point I could pick up the phone to any one of them or just send them a message and they'd be able to help. They'd be able to just chat inanely with me about something.
Also I've just found a co-working space where I'm going to be based out of, a day or day and a half a week which has made a big difference. I've already made lots of friends there so going there kind of feels like going to an office.
I would say that anybody that was thinking about starting up their own business to build up a network of people around you that you can at least call or message is really important too because it can be quite lonely.
What would you advise others thinking of starting their own business to think about early on? (13:23)
I think it's to get into a routine of work in terms of getting. There was very much focused on I needed to be doing something on the business at all times and I needed to be busy and it didn't really matter what I was doing. As long as I was busy I felt like I was doing something on the business. But then that led me to be busy and I would just fill my time.
I'd get up at 6:00 in the morning and I'd start working straight away, get to about 2:00 in the afternoon and I'd realize I was still sitting here in my pajamas, actually eaten anything or done anything. Then just busily type away at whatever it was that I was doing and then I'd finish at kind of 7, 8 o'clock at night.
I think it's being very clear on what the priorities are and what is going to make the biggest difference to your business and kind of being very, especially in the first stages planning well on what is going to make a difference to your business, what you really need to get done and being honest with yourself about what you really need to get done. Because a lot of the time I would tell myself that I really, really needed to do my receipts in receipt bank and I needed to do them that day rather than do something that perhaps wasn't that, um you know it was that eat the frog moment and I didn't want to do it. But of course my receipts seemed really important to me at that point. So it is being honest with yourself and identifying what it is you really need to do that's going to move your business forward.
Disability Challengers, Triathlons (15:15)
Yes, I did my first triathlon for disability challenges down in Guildford in 2011. It was just a very short one. And absolutely loved kind of being part of their community, being able to help. They've got an amazing facility down there helping disabled children and their families. They're just a brilliant place to go and experience. I know that they are a lifeline for the children and their families. So I've tried to do something kind of every year or every other year since then. And particularly as Flamme Rouge, I've got involved in their business club, which is fantastic. We meet lots of other local businesses who are just as passionate about the charity and fundraising and making a difference in that community as I am.
I've always thought that for me, being in business, it's not just about the money. If it was about money, I'd go back and work in London earning a lot more than I do as my business! It's about being able to do some things with what I love doing as a business and to be able to make a difference to other people.
This year I'm doing another triathlon later in the year, which is an iron distance triathlon, but over three days, which will be a bit easier. For me it's great because it also adds something to my day that I need to exercise. Actually making the time to exercise during my day gives me that kind of clarity of thought. It's quite often that you'll be sitting kind of doing work and you're thinking, no, no, I don't have time to do any exercise. But on those days actually, if you don't exercise they're often the days where you by 2 o'clock in the afternoon, your brain will be just completely fried. So actually making the time to take that time out and go and do some exercise really does help with a - me, physically and mentally. But it also just really helps with my workload and it helps me kind of get some space and come back to what I'm doing. Thinking a lot clearer.
How did you get started running triathlons? (18:24)
At one point I was 20 stone and I decided that I needed to do something about it.
I needed to turn things around.
I didn't like myself very much and so I started doing a little bit of exercising on an exercise bike every day and I started losing weight.
Then I actually started doing a little bit of running and was doing quite well with the running. But I have something called hyper-mobility syndrome, which meant I really shouldn't be running very much, not as much as I was doing. I was getting injured a lot and I've had quite a few operations on my feet.
I happened to meet a lady - who I'm still in touch with now actually - who does triathlons. She said to me, well, why don't you try a triathlon because running is only one small part of the rest of it than cycling.
I had to get my first proper bike, which was a road bike, which I was scared of falling off constantly!
I found open water swimming, which I now absolutely love. I knew I needed something to keep me fit and I love exercise, but unless I've got a bit of a goal, I don't tend to prioritize it over other things. Which is why I always try and do one race per year that is my, they call it 'A' race, to get me out of bed in the morning.
Your top advice for others considering starting a business. (21:00)
It is hard setting up a business and I don't think sometimes you realize how hard it's going to be. I used to be a business coach but at that point I had no idea what it was actually like to run a business. I knew the processes behind it, the marketing, the operations, and I knew how to coach people into the doing of the business. But I didn't realize the kind of psychology and the issues that people face.
For me, when I first started, I used to wake up in the mornings and I used to think, how am I going to get more clients? But my God, I'm never going to get any more clients.
People aren't gonna like me and then I panic about how it's going to pay my rent and I'm not just as a business owner, your brain kind of plays tricks on you.