Lizelle McDermott is the owner of niche ICT Communications Consultancy, McD Squared, a marketing, communications and digital agency specialising in IT, telecommunications and financial services.
1. Why did you decide to start your business?
There are a number of different things that contributed to my decision. I have always believed in doing things differently to traditional PR agencies and many of my clients have told me to consider going on my own to remove potential restrictions. I was at a point where I was working extremely long hours and not getting time to spend with my family. The long hours were also taking a toll on my health. So, after very careful consideration and consultation with my family, I decided to start my own agency to take back control of my life and spend more time with my family.
2. What impact has running a business had on you and the community in which you operate?
The past two years have been a major learning curve for me. I have had the opportunity to do freelance consulting for other agencies as well as work directly with my own clients, giving me exposure to different styles and industry areas. In doing this, I have been able to work with and mentor younger PR agents and consult to smaller organisations who would not necessarily be able to engage with or afford larger PR agencies.
It has also taught me a new appreciation for time – in my industry time is money, so I have to plan very carefully to ensure I deliver on my client requirements while still ensuring I spend more time with my family.
3. Would you say that your business is a success?
I think success is defined in different ways. I have survived the first two years of running my business and have some great clients on my books, so measured in that way I would say yes. Do I want more clients on the books though? Absolutely.
Over the past two years I have had to compete for business against larger local and international PR agencies and if you consider the clients I have on my books, then it’s a definite yes – but it’s still an ongoing journey.
4. What do you think are the top 5 most important qualities every entrepreneur should have?
I think tenacity is an important quality. I have won some and lost some, and the journey has by no means been easy. In my industry creativity is also very important – it’s so easy to just do the standard run-of-the-mill things and the only way to differentiate yourself is by coming up with creative new ways of communicating.
A solid network is also crucial – I have found that most of my business has come from previous employers, former clients and journalists within the industry that refer me. You cannot be afraid of taking well-calculated risks either. Finally, you need to know when to move on. If things are not working as expected you need to move on, even when business is limited.
5. Who is your role model?
I honestly can’t pinpoint one specific role model. Various people have taught me different things and I believe that every person I meet has a quality that can add value to my life and my career – even when they are just teaching you a lesson of some sorts.
6. Do you think it is important for entrepreneurs to have a mentor?
I think having a mentor could be very helpful. Being an entrepreneur can be very lonely and even if it’s not formalised mentorship, you have to have a network of people that you can bounce ideas off and ask for advice when needed. It also helps you broaden your thinking.
7. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
I think the key is to believe in yourself. When I decided to start my own agency, I was met with two very different reactions – one group saying that it’s about time and the other questioning whether I have lost my mind. When times are tough it becomes very easy to agree with the second group and give up. I have, however, been blessed with tremendous support from family, friends and colleagues and have managed to keep it going even when times were tough.
You also need to differentiate yourself – it’s pointless just providing the same service as your competitors.