This week on our Founder Feature series we are talking to the co-founder of one of the UK’s fastest growing technology PR agencies, Clare George-Hilley, CEO of Centropy PR.
Since its launch in 2017, the agency has won a string of major clients, including FTSE 250 and Fortune 500 businesses, leading law firms, start-up companies and eye-catching clients such as The Shetland Space Centre and The British Interplanetary Society.
Q: Could you tell us about your company and what you’re striving to achieve?
A: We started Centropy as a challenger PR agency that could combine traditional technology PR with public affairs and policy expertise. The tech sector is growing rapidly, and the rise of social media and cyber-attacks means that many of these emerging technologies require some form of regulation.
There was a huge gap in the market for an agency that could offer faster, more informed, creative services and we knew it was time to take the plunge. We’re not trying to reinvent the industry per se, but we do hope to set a new standard of servicing that eludes our larger, more cumbersome competitors.
Q: What made you decide to take on the challenge of founding your business?
A: When you have children and a mortgage to pay, going out on your own can feel like a terrifying leap of faith. However, we had done our homework, developed our brand proposition and already identified anchor clients that would sign-up from day one, so we knew were going in with at least some revenue to pay the bills.
Launching your own business isn’t easy, you can face some big disappointments and unforeseen challenges in the first few months. Regardless of these pressures, it’s tremendously fulfilling to own your own company, set the culture and develop the business over time.
Q: What’s most exciting about your traction to date?
A: We’ve had some massive client wins in the last year and are now working with companies beyond our wildest dreams, including some of the bigger cyber players and space industry firms.
However, the best part for me has been working with and developing our team. We searched for a long time to find the best and brightest graduates and it’s been a joy to watch then grow in confidence as they developed their media relations, knowledge and presentation skills. Nothing quite beats the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped the next generation to reach their full potential, especially when they will be leading the company one day.
Q: What are your biggest threats?
A: Complacency is one. We work harder and more effectively than our competitors and have managed to keep client service standards at a very high level. We have an unwritten rule that no matter how much business we win, every single client counts and must be given our best efforts.
Q: What keeps you up at night/what are you paranoid about?
A: As a business owner, life is never easy. You worry about what the future holds, particularly with the Covid-19 pandemic forcing companies to cut budgets to stay afloat. You have a huge responsibility not just to your clients but to your employees, so looking after them and ensuring they are given your full support is critical.
Q: How many hours of sleep do you get and what is your morning/evening routine?
A: With kids, a single night of uninterrupted sleep is a rare thing. Usually, a good night is seven hours, a bad night can be four or less. They wake up early, which when you’re in the PR and media business isn’t such a bad thing! We spend the early mornings reading the newspapers, listening to the BBC’s Today programme and identifying interesting stories of relevance to our clients.
Q: What has surprised you in your journey so far?
A: People say that business can be brutal, but I must say I have been taken aback at how warm, accepting, and supportive our clients, partners and fellow entrepreneurs have been. For us, it’s been an incredibly exciting journey, made more enjoyable by the huge support we’ve received from former colleagues and industry watchers.
Q: What are your goals over the next 12 months?
A: We’ve already built an impressive portfolio of tech and fintech clients, the time has come to accelerate this growth and take the agency to the next level. We’re increasing investment in marketing, staff training and creating a new business plan to help us to reach new heights.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to budding entrepreneurs taking the same journey?
A: Believe in yourself and don’t ever let anyone put you down. It can be a rough ride going out on your own and there will be some disappointments along the way, but don’t get disheartened, put in the extra hours and the fruits of your efforts will soon show.