1. Why did you decide to start your business?
My business partner Aldagh and I had been in the corporate world for 15 years and wanted to create something that we could own and grow. When we came up with the idea of providing a way for clients to access great marketers in a flexible and alternative way, we decided to go for it.
2. What have been the biggest challenges and achievements for your business?
Definitely the economic downturn in 2008. A challenge to go through it and an achievement to survive it! We had a well run, award winning business, with a motivated team-but business just came to a halt as many businesses just stopped investing in marketing and cut back on marketing staff, consultants, training… our key services. Luckily we had a good cross sectoral spread of clients and a strong, trusted brand which helped us survive the worst of those years.
3. What are your plans for the future?
To double our business in 3 years-but won’t reveal our plans publicly 🙂
4. Who do you look up to in business?
Anyone who has taken the risk of going into business, who has worked relentlessly in the toughest of climates to create something that adds value to clients and that employs anybody at all. It’s risky and consumes so much of your time and your thoughts. So hats off to anyone who has done that.
5. What is your advice for other entrepreneurs?
Where to start?
Do what you’re passionate about.
Think big-you’ll put in so much effort and time anyhow you may as well think big, as think small.
Make sure you have the right team. It’s all in the team. Ensure you have good sales, finance and marketing expertise, as well as your technical expertise.
Don’t come with a product and just try and flog it. Think customers first and create from there.
Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity, but cashflow is the biggie-particularly today.
6. How are you gaining visibility and promoting the business? Do you use any Social Media?
We have worked hard to invest in our brand since 2000 and even when budgets were tight, we never stopped investing. We’ve developed the brand online, we’ve advertised, sponsored key community events, spoken at conferences, sent direct mails and e-zines. But as ours is a service business our brand lives or dies in the experience marketers have with us every day-and this has been a key focus for us.
More about Sandra
Sandra Lawler is Managing Director of Alternatives, the No 1 marketing talent business in Ireland, which she co-founded with Aldagh McDonogh in 2000. Alternatives specialises in interim and permanent marketing recruitment, marketing outsourcing, consulting, training and digital, helping companies successfully drive their market performance. Alternatives were finalists in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in 2006, won the Image/ Sunday Times Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2007 and the Chambers Ireland Best SME CSR Award.