16 July 2012

Peter Unsworth: Can you spot an opportunity?

Peter Unsworth, The PR Team
Photographer: Anthony Friend
Peter Unsworth has been successfully running his Cape Town-based public relations company, The PR Team, since 1998. He started the business on his own – with zero capital, a land-line and a laptop – out of a spare room in his home. Unsworth wasn’t a born entrepreneur; he just believed that he had the talent to spot an opportunity

What were you doing before starting your business?
I was in charge of a PR and marketing department for a tourism company, and was approached by a client to represent them, as they believed I “sold” their company better than they did. The retainer earned was large enough to more than cover my wages and expenses.

What kind of planning went into starting the venture? Is having a business plan vital?
Very little, to be honest. I was armed with a laptop and a fax machine/printer, and a great deal of drive and the energy of youth! I had no business plan at all, but had an overall idea of how to run a business, which I learnt from watching my parents in their businesses. I guess that it was subliminally engrained in me. I also believe that business today is very different to when my parents started their businesses and when I started The PR Team. I think if you’re looking for funding, a business plan pacifies the bank, but putting your vision down on paper is a solid idea, as it helps to clarify your own goals.

What advice did your parents give you?
I remember two pieces of advice my Mum gave me: “Don’t take a wage for at least six months,” and, “Call me in 10 years, once you’ve established yourself.” And she was absolutely right! My parents took their businesses from start-up to success by doing everything they could themselves and working around the clock their entire careers. They had one day off a year, which was Christmas Day.

What was your big dream for this venture?
There was no big dream at all. I just knew I wanted to offer a great, honest service to clients. My pitch was honesty.

How does a new entrepreneur find business leads and profit from them?
I’m a great believer that things come to you when they are meant to. For me, one client lead to the next, lead to the next, and this is how it’s been since day one.

How does a new entrepreneur figure out what makes them unique from everyone else in their market and how do they leverage that difference?
Naturally you have to do as much research as possible and see what others are doing, and how you can do it differently. I’d grown up in the hospitality industry and worked in it extensively worldwide, so I knew that not many PR companies had that full-on behind-the-scenes experience of how a hotel, lodge, wine estate actually ran. I believe that gave me an advantage. I could relate to the client’s needs and, from an operations perspective, I could see the feasibility of how the plan would – or wouldn’t – work out realistically for them.

What are the two biggest/most common mistakes that new entrepreneurs make in their first three years of business?
(a) Spending money before it’s in their account, and (b) going out and buying a brand new, high-end car!

How do you keep yourself motivated to continue?
By reminding myself that there are bills to pay and staff to keep employed.

How long does it take for a venture to get off the ground, in your experience? And if it’s not, when do you give up on a dream?
It really depends on the venture, there is nothing set in stone as to a timeframe. I think a wise businessperson knows when to continue and when to throw in the towel. Everything has a shelf-life. I do believe it’s alright to give up on a dream because you may have already lived it and found a new one.

If you could give yourself any advice back then, what are your top 5 wisdoms?
* I wish I’d concentrated more in maths class at school.
* Don’t spend the money before it’s in the bank account. Pay others before you pay yourself – you can never gain your reputation back.
* Only do something you are passionate about – that’s key! If you’re not having fun, don’t do it; life is too short.
* Expect to sacrifice personal time and investment, but under-promise and over-deliver.
* Remain honest and true to each and every client and in every business dealing, and answer communication within 24 hours.

Get in touch with Peter Unsworth from The PR Team via email: enquiries@theprteam.com, visit: http://www.theprteam.com, on Facebook: The PR Team or follow him on Twitter @prteamcapetown.

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