The Indie Series – Rachel McBryde, founder of McBryde & Co

Rachel McBryde, founder of communications agency McBryde & Co, discusses the most rewarding and challenging aspects of running a business in the North East, and her advice for anyone with a business idea

Tell us about McBryde & Co

We’re fresh and new – I founded the communications agency in autumn 2019 following a long and happy career in agency delivering mixed-media campaigns for clients including Venator, Northumberland National Park, Metro Tyne & Wear, Grand Central Rail and Northumbria University.

We’re an experienced collaboration of communications experts spanning different disciplines; we’ve got social media pros, videographers, media relations experts, audio and podcast producers, copywriters and SEO content specialists on our books. We collaborate and support clients in the professional services and manufacturing sectors, delivering the full mix of content marketing.

What is the most rewarding aspect of running an independent business in the region?

To say the North East is a village is a cliché, but there’s truth in clichés. In my case, the close-knit network of creatives I’ve built over 20 years has been a huge advantage in starting the business. It’s been rewarding because the collaborative and open-minded outlook of the community here has meant we’ve been able to gain traction quickly; all our work to date has been via referrals, and we work with some truly outstanding clients and partners. That willingness to collaborate has also meant I’ve met some new people too, for example, our audio producer and writer Bridget Hamilton, who we’ve been able to deliver new podcast projects alongside.

And the most challenging?

Making sure you look outside the region for inspiration as well as inside – and bringing that insight to bear through our work. I visited a client in Manchester recently, a place I hadn’t been to for 20 years. Our meeting was at Media City and it was inspiring to see the creative businesses booming there, the huge investment in infrastructure and connectivity.

I love to learn, so I mix it up to ensure we’re constantly exploring and understanding how the latest comms trends can influence our work and our ability to help customers create conversations with audiences. Some days I might join a webinar in San Francisco, others I’m talking to the digital community as part of my membership of the Digital Marketing Institute, other times I’m taking part in a CIPR North East event or meeting students at Northumbria University through my guest lecturing spot. I’m always exploring and learning.

What are the short and long-term plans for the business?

We’re focusing on growing our client base of professional service and manufacturing businesses in the next 12 months. I’ve been fortunate in my career to work with some outstanding multi-national manufacturers who are headquartered here in the region, but with a global reach, including Rayovac, Venator, Egger and Soil Machine Dynamics.

Engineering and manufacturing businesses operate in a unique market place and they need to partner with experts who understand how they function, and the value that communications can add to their efforts. In this region we have a rich history of engineering and manufacturing innovation – now as much as ever. We could shout more loudly about that.

There are also some first-class professional service businesses here, many who have been hit hard by coronavirus. But now is not the time to hide – you’ve got to let people know you’re still there, you’re still offering that same outstanding service, you’ve got to focus on creating conversations and demonstrating the value you can add, even in challenging times.

What advice would you give to anyone with a business idea?

Explore all the options. Talk to people you trust and respect. Get expert advice – and invest in it if you need to. Know your red lines – the things that you will and will not accept. Ask for recommendations.

Before I started the business, I took the time to talk to people from many different outlooks and backgrounds whose opinion I valued. I also sought recommendations for the very best accountants, design experts and business consultants. There is a lot of help out there, and I’ve learnt a lot from working with the team at the NatWest Accelerator Hub and RTC North. Foster your community and network and be prepared to give back to that community when they need your help too.

Once you’ve gathered all that intel, go for it. Be confident and considered in your abilities and your decisions. Have conviction and believe in yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will.

How has your business been affected by the coronavirus pandemic?

I originally set the business up to deliver big agency thinking through an experienced network of experts, whilst operating lean, because I believe that many clients want a truly flexible and dynamic marketing solution that they can plug in when they need it. For me, big doesn’t necessarily translate as smart. That strategy has helped us stay agile during this period; we’re not having to deal with many of the challenges that larger agencies are right now.

It’s easy to dwell on the negatives – coronavirus certainly wasn’t in my year one business plan. But if you get stuck in a negative place for any length of time it is paralysing. So in many ways, the pandemic has had a positive effect on the business. I’ve tapped into my growth mindset and had time to reflect after what felt like a whirlwind start to the business. And we’ve been fortunate to continue to deliver content for many of our existing clients as well as begin some really exciting new projects.

McBryde & Co