Giles Etherington: I […] Have the Ambition of Doing a Ted Talk. Exciting Times Ahead!

Giles Etherington of Brand Satellite.

Where in Scotland are you located?

Melrose, Scottish Borders

Tell us about yourself.

I am the founder of Brand Satellite, a brand consultancy based in Scotland that serves clients all over the UK. My career can be condensed into three stages.

The Corporate Creative: I spent 11 years at J. Walter Thompson in London (part of the world’s largest advertising network), creating famous and award-winning advertising campaigns for some of the UK’s best-loved brands, including Andrex, BT, Nestle, and Kellogg’s, before moving to JWT San Francisco during the height of the dot-com boom.

The Creative Nomad: Freelancing across Europe, with stints in London, Amsterdam, and Athens. Working with multi-national corporations such as Heineken, Mitsubishi, TDK, and Volvo.

I helped set up a new advertising, design, and marketing agency in Jersey and became Creative Director of an advertising and marketing agency in Edinburgh, which was part of Bob Geldof’s Ten Alps media empire. The Strategic Consultant: setting up his own brand consultancy to focus on his passion for brand creation, brand strategy, and branding.

Today, I use all his knowledge and experience working with some of the world’s most famous brands to help start-ups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses think, look, and act like big brands—through a three-stage process: brand creation; brand development; and brand communication.

What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?

The biggest lesson I have learned as an entrepreneur is that, however good you are at what you do, you will always have more to learn about running a business. Most people who start a new business have been really good at what they were previously employed to do. But there is so much more involved in running a business than doing the thing you do. I have also learned how to network successfully.

When I first started running my own business back in 2007, I had never networked before. As an employee, my role didn’t involve finding new business, so I had never attended a networking event. To be completely honest, I had never heard of networking.

So, when I started networking, I mistakenly thought I would go to a networking event and come away with a bit of business. I have since learned that networking is all about creating trust with other business people, so they will recommend you to their network.

If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Learn, learn, learn! There is always something new to learn. Be open to it. Never think you know everything. Be authentic. People buy from people. The more authentic and passionate you are, the more likely people will like and trust you.

My final piece of advice, as you would expect from a brand consultant, is to create a brand for your business as soon as possible.

Brands are not reserved for big businesses. Creating a successful brand is about creating an emotional connection with your customer. This is done by defining what your brand is.

The brand’s values, personality, and stories. Why spend all your time, money, and energy trying to sell stuff to someone when you could get them to fall in love with your brand?

That way, they will want to buy from you. They will want to buy from you again and again. They will be prepared to pay more for what you offer. They will get their friends to buy stuff from you, too.

A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?

Of course! But, I believe there are too many types of entrepreneurs.

Those that are all about finding new ways of making huge amounts of money from a new idea or disruptive way of changing an industry. And those who are extremely enthusiastic about what they do and how it can benefit others.

I fall into the latter category. I love what I do, and I am hugely passionate about how it can change the lives of my clients. So yes, it is really difficult to balance work and personal life. But my business is also like my hobby. I love doing it, and I don’t mind it encroaching into my private life.

Over time, you learn how to minimise the amount of tasks you don’t enjoy doing (admin and bookkeeping), and you get better at doing the stuff you love to do quicker. It has taken a while, but my work-life balance is better now than it has ever been.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

I spent 20+ years working with some of the world’s most famous brands. As my career progressed, I found myself moving to smaller and smaller companies so I could be more and more involved in the strategic direction of my clients.

By setting up my own brand consultancy, I was allowed to be more strategically and creatively involved in the direction my clients took their businesses.

There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the confidence of my clients grow as we create their brand and then seeing their business grow as they implement that brand and the key brand messages.

With over two decades of working with some of the world’s best-known brands, I have learned that there are lots of things small businesses can learn from big businesses. I apply this knowledge to start-ups and small businesses.

What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?

My experience

As mentioned before, I have 20+ years of experience working with some of the world’s most famous brands.

I have worked in different countries and different creative centers: London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, and Edinburgh. I have worked in pretty much every industry sector. The benefit of this is that you learn something from one sector, which you can apply to another sector.

I have worked in everything from global advertising agencies to running my own businesses. If a business is starting up, I think it is important that they work with someone who knows about starting up and growing a business.

How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you are just starting out?

I have set up and grown two businesses. Each year, my business has grown in sales. In my first business, I took it from start-up to revenue of £250,000 in five years.

My current business has grown every year since 2013.

One of the biggest lessons I can pass on to other founders in the same market is to understand the value of what you are providing. It is very easy to change jobs based on what you think your client can afford.

When you start pricing jobs on how much value you are adding to your clients, you will start to see your business grow.

Do what you do really well. I get more business from referrals from happy clients than I do from all other forms of marketing put together.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge I have faced and am still facing is getting clients to stop seeing a brand creation or branding job as a one-off project and start seeing it as a continuous, long-term investment in their business.

As for one-off projects, it means that I constantly have to find new clients, and more of my time is spent on new business.

Making clients realise it is a long-term investment means that I can retain existing clients, which means a) spending less time on new business, and b) my clients are benefiting from continual advice. I have managed to do this better by explaining what I do in three stages:

  1. Brand Creation: Creating the business’ brand, the DNA of the business. This is where you connect with your target audience.
  2. Branding: is everything visual, including the logo, colors, and fonts.This helps people recognise the brand.
  3. Brand Communication: This is your brand’s day-to-day communication. This helps persuade your target audience to buy from you.

I explain to clients that they need to do all three. Doing the first two stages is really, really important. But they are pointless to do if you don’t do stage three. That’s how I like to work with clients on a long-term basis.

What do you consider the main strengths of operating your business in Scotland?

My international experience is a benefit to me working in Scotland. I don’t think many of my Scottish competitors can match my wide range of experience.

I also believe that the Scottish business community is open to helping and promoting other Scottish businesses.

I am lucky to have created a network of supportive small businesses that will recommend me, and I will recommend them.

I think that Scotland is a very entrepreneurial country. I am constantly amazed by the innovation of small businesses I meet. I have been lucky enough to be in the RBS/NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator programme for the last eight months. So, I have been surrounded by inspiring new businesses.

What, if any, are the weaknesses of operating your business within Scotland?

I don’t think I have experienced any genuine weaknesses in operating my business in Scotland.

What influence does being part of the UK have on your business?

I have clients in different parts of the UK. That is because I don’t believe anyone in the UK sees working with a Scottish-based business as anything different from working with any business in any other part of the UK. I am not sure that will be the case if Scotland becomes independent.

I also believe that the rest of the world sees Scotland as part of the UK. Why create competition amongst us?

You can probably tell I am an Englishman in Scotland!

What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years with your business?

I am in the process of developing a new Brand Confidence Programme. This will give be a 4-week group version of my existing brand creation process. I have been against creating a group programme for a long time because creating a brand is a very individual process.

But, I am developing a programme that I believe will be a better version of my individual process because clients will actually get more 1-on-1 time with me, and they will get the feedback and ideas of other businesses at a similar stage of their business growth.

So, over the next few years, I hope this programme will take the growth of my business to the next level.

This, in turn, will lead to writing a book about the brand creation process and potential franchising of the process. I also have the ambition of doing a TED Talk. Excitable times ahead!

How has Brexit impacted your business (if at all)?

Brexit hasn’t affected my business, but I have seen it affect some of my clients. The export process seems to be much more complicated since we decided to step away from our biggest trading partners.

And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?

The first thing they should do is to drop me an email: [email protected] or arrange a call:

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