Episode 2: From global telecoms to boutique brand consultant – with Collette Philip Keen

Collette Philip Keen describes how she went from working for some of the largest brands on the planet to starting her own brand consultancy to help ambitious businesses build winning brands.

Today’s guest

Collette Philip Keen of Brand By Me

Website: Brand By Me

Facebook: Brand By Me

Twitter: @BrandByMeHQ

LinkedIn: Brand By Me

Contact: hello@brandbyme.co.uk

Collette started life out in advertising working at big London agencies such as Grey, Leo Burnett and Euro RSCG on household names such as Starburst, McDonald’s, Always and Clearasil.

Following stints at the UK’s biggest children’s charity and one of the UK’s largest telecommunications companies, Collette decided to start her own brand consultancy to help ambitious businesses build winning brands.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • The importance of work-life balance and how taking a career break can help you reset your focus.
  • What networking really means (and why it’s not as scary as everyone thinks)
  • Why you should take advice from the person you aspire to be and not necessarily those surrounding you.
  • Amateurs give advice, experts diagnose
  • Don’t doubt yourself just because it’s tough out there.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.

Episode 2: From global telecoms to boutique brand consultant - with Collette Philip Keen

Collette Philip
One of the other volunteers overheard somebody describing a brand challenge that she was really struggling with. And she was looking for someone, "I just need someone to help with the brand". And this volunteer was like, "Oh my, I know someone oh - one of the volunteers can help you!" and she literally grabbed me and ran me over to this lady and was like "You can help!"...

Jeremy Cline
This is Collette Philip explaining how networking landed one of her clients - her first clients - for her branding agency Brand By Me. Collette has always been in the marketing/branding space, but has been through quite an interesting career. You'll hear how she's worked for some big ad agencies. She's worked for some big companies. She's worked in the charity sector. And ultimately, she decided to open up her own brand agency and she talks about the challenges of starting your own business and how she's drawn on her previous experience. I think you're going to pick up an awful lot of stuff from this interview. So make sure you stick around to the end, and I will let you know where you can find the resources that Collette has mentioned.

I'm Jeremy Cline. And this is Change Work Life.

Hey, everybody, I'm really excited to welcome my first guest on this podcast. Yes, it's happening. This is my first interviewee. This is the amazing Collette Philip, Founder Owner of Brand By Me, which is a branding agency. She specialises in helping small businesses, charities, and individuals with their personal branding. We've got some amazing stuff. I mean, I couldn't have picked a better first interview. And so I'm really excited, to... Well, you know what, we're just going to dive right in. So enjoy.

Hi, Collette, welcome to the show.

Collette Philip
Hello.

Jeremy Cline
It's great to have you here. So first of all, can you tell us a bit about what it is that you now do for a living - your business and what you do?

Collette Philip
So I run a brand and strategy consultancy, called Brand By Me. And we work with organisations primarily, and individuals, to help them define and articulate brands that drive change, and drive sort of the delivery whether that's of an organisation - we work quite a lot with purpose led organisations like charities, social enterprises - or a small business. So we work with small business founders as well. That's what we do.

Jeremy Cline
Okay, so when you say branding, that's sort of communicating to the outside world what it is they do?

Collette Philip
Yeah, so maybe who they are, what they stand for, and how they do it. People find it quite easy to talk about what they do - kind of activities - but the stuff that's more compelling and maybe connects people to organisations and connects organisations to each other and connects people within an organisation to the organisation they work for, is maybe why you do what you do. And also then the how bit, which sort of makes sure that you're doing it in a way that's distinctive and stands out from everyone else.

Jeremy Cline
Okay, cool. And so your background's originally in advertising? That's right, isn't it? So what drew you to advertising in the first place? I mean, was that sort of - did you start university with a view to doing that? Was it something that you thought, no, I'll give it a go? How did you get into that?

Collette Philip
No I didn't, I definitely didn't start uni with a view... I did business at uni. And that was because - I did business and German - and I really wanted to do languages, but I didn't want to do lots of kind of classics and history and art history and all that. I was much more interested in something a bit more practical. So I chose business. And within my first year, it became really obvious to me that the marketing stuff was the stuff I love. And then it was only when I did work experience in my third year of uni, I went to Germany for a bit and then I also came back over here and did work experience at Sellotape as a marketing assistant, and that was where I think it was my boss at Sellotape who said to me - actually, I like more bits of marketing but not all of it - she suggested that I might like the advertising side, because I really liked working with the agency. And then that's what I did. I applied for lots of graduate roles. And I only got one interview but actually that was quite good, because it was the interview that I ended up getting the job for. So that's it.

Jeremy Cline
Cool. Okay, so you started working for an advertising agency. And how did that all go?

Collette Philip
I loved advertising, I loved it. I loved starting in the industry. I guess the big thing for me, even from early on, I really loved seeing the output of what I did in the outside world. So when you do ads - particularly, I mean, we're talking kind of big budget, major brands that everybody's heard of - so one of my first brands that I ever worked on was Starburst, the sweets just after they changed from Opal Fruit. So it's kind of a really big hot topic, something everyone was talking about. My first ad campaign was pretty much the campaign that explained the name change. So that was really big. And everyone was talking about it, and I love that tangibility of it. And I like working with creatives as well, I really liked working with the teams. In advertising it's quite fast paced, so there's a lot of variety. So at any given point I was working on three, four, even five different brands. So I mean I loved it, I loved my first agency particularly - I think there was a really good fit between myself and the agency and the culture. And I think also - looking back on it now - I think the agency had worked quite hard maybe in our graduate intake to maybe sort of increase the diversity of the hires they were taking in even then, just in terms of not, you know... in terms of diversity from all angles, so if there was a better male, female split in my graduate intake, there was well, ethnic diversity in terms of me - but also just in terms we were very different. And very different from maybe the kind of Oxbridge educated, kind of stereotypical 'ad man' as it is that was in the industry at that time. So all those things kind of really worked. And I just loved it - it sort of set my mind alight really with with just how great the industry and great the work was. And I guess it's set the expectation as well that I started a job where I actually loved what I did, and there wasn't really a massive separation between kind of job and meaning if that makes sense. And I think that set a very strong expectation that then I needed that to be the case throughout my career.

Jeremy Cline
Okay, so all going well. So what prompted a change because then you move to a charity, I think?

Collette Philip
I did. That was about eight years later. So I think and the industry, all the stuff I said at the beginning, it was really true. I think as well, I guess a couple of things prompted that... I think after eight years in advertising... I guess there were two things around it: I think I then went on to work at an agency where maybe there wasn't as strong a cultural fit. But I worked there for four years and I didn't really pick that up. I didn't really have that lens on. But I think that looking back, that was definitely the case. I definitely found barriers in terms of my - yeah - in terms of not being that face that fits, I found the more senior I get the tougher it got. But the big thing, I guess is that I could see... I got to the stage where I really - through my time in advertising - I really understood the power that brands could have for good. And I realised the importance of, you know, maybe working in a sphere that did more good than harm. And I think, and I always wanted to work on a charity advertising account. And those accounts were kind of saved for agency favourites, which I never was. So I knew I wanted to work in the charity space somehow and I thought it was charity advertising. So when I saw the role at Barnardos, which was the charity I went on to work for - the children's charity -and it was basically an advertising role at charity, and I was like, this just sounds perfect. At a point in my career that I was looking to change anyway. I was a bit sick of sort of banging my head against a brick wall trying to get ahead in advertising. I was really increasingly sort of getting very tired of the sort of burnout culture and the whole cliche - but absolutely true - which is that, you know, maybe as a woman of colour in that industry, you need to work harder and be better than everyone else. And I just got sick of that I was like, I'm happy to be great at what I do, and I am, but I don't understand why I need to be better than other people just to get to the same point. It's not really fair. And so Barnardos - the job just came at a brilliant time where I was totally almost burned out by the industry really looking for something different, looking for an area to make a difference. And I saw the job advertised in the Guardian and just sort of went for it.

Jeremy Cline
Okay, so had you been actively looking at other positions by that stage? Or was it just chance that you just happened to see that role and thought oh great, this looks good to me?

Collette Philip
I'd definitely been looking for a different direction and knew I wanted not to work in advertising agencies anymore. So I started looking at jobs brand side. I didn't like specifically look at charity sector at first I - I looked at jobs brand side with a strong advertising element as I knew that I'd want to work on the marketing side of things. But I knew from my background, they'd have to be somewhere where it was a role that involved a lot of doing advertising because that's what I'd come from. And I guess what I had even then - and I think this is right - and this is partly because of the way that I sort of left the industry in that my last job I left after a period of work-related stress. So I knew I had to do something different. So I did spend a bit of time thinking about what that different looked like, and maybe some criteria around things I really needed and things I just wouldn't want anymore. And so that sort of directed my then search for jobs, you know, looking at the Guardian, looking at Marketing Week, looking at trade press - but it sort of gave me a little bit of a filter. So I wasn't just looking for any job, I was a little bit strategic in the search - which helped, because actually when it was the Barnardos job, the title was Senior Marketing Manager and the job description was not that clear - but I could see when I read through it a number of the things that ticked the box on my list. So I think having that filter is really useful, because then it helps when people aren't explicit in maybe the job title or something like that - it can still help you see the value in a position.

Jeremy Cline
So that's really interesting, because I think a lot of people, they're in a job where you know, they don't enjoy it, or it's come to the end of its time. And they don't necessarily think so purposefully about where they're going to move to, you know they just go to, 'Oh, I don't know, I'm sick of this agency I'll go get a job with another agency', it's more running away from rather than necessarily thinking 'Okay, so what do I actually need out of the job?' So I'm really interested that you took that approach. Is that something that you you kind of did off your own bat? Or did you have any kind of career coaching or anything like that? How did you decide or come up with going for this very purposeful approach to changing job?

Collette Philip
To be honest I tried the non purposeful - just get a job at another agency - first, and I lasted a year, because exactly the same issues happened. I didn't get careers coaching as such. But actually, this is why I did through an ad agency wellbeing charity, which is called NABS, I managed to get some free life coaching. And that was really helpful just in maybe helping me with that shift. I think career coaching would have probably been more specific about the methodology and career change. The life coaching was more of a sort of helping you not be blocked, and maybe helping you think differently, which I then took and applied to the career stuff and could apply to my job whereas I think career coaching would probably be more direct and applicable there. And I also read quite a lot around just career change stuff. I just yeah, I read a little bit. And that was really helpful. And then also, because of what I did for a living, working in advertising I was on the account handling side, and as account handler you're the natural problem solver and the strategist as well. So I was a strategist as well. So you sort of took it, I took it as a bit of a brief, and I wrote my own brief for what I wanted the job to do - so all of those things kind of came together and really helped, but I definitely think that I needed that outside support. And I think that was really whether it's you know, outside resources or books or the life coach or whatever it was, I think it was useful to have an outside approach to it to avoid what you said - people just kind of running away from and running from job to job without really questioning kind of what it is that you need about it. And the other thing I guess around that is that it can be... and I was here as well, I was in this place where when you're - when you need to leave a job - even if, whether it's time to move on or you're just really bored of it or whatever, you'll be in quite a negative space - and then you tend to look at what I don't want without looking at what the value and the bits of your job you do need so without looking at those positives as well - and I think that was the thing that was really helpful for me - is rather than going 'Eurgh, advertising is all horrible and dreadful and I hate it' was like 'No I love advertising I probably just need to do it in a different environment that's maybe not agency for a while' and that was a really good decision to make.

Jeremy Cline
Yeah, I guess it's it's almost as simple as writing down what you like about a job but also what you dislike about the job and trying to trying to find the things that you like and find something that matches that.

Collette Philip
Yeah, and I think - and I'd agree - I would go further and go it's the stuff that you... I think I would go in the language of love and hate, because I think if it's like and dislike you'll end up with quite a big list and actually you need some something like and dislike you start with then you go okay of these maybe three, five things that I absolutely love and I won't be able to do without and three things that I just hate and must not have in a future job because then it - because obviously we all know that that sometimes that involves compromise, and that was certainly the case for Barnardos. So for example a really simple thing - if I've just had a list of loads of likes I'd have said like working in Soho because all the ad agencies I'd ever worked with were in Soho and it's brilliant and vibey, but actually, that was one that I compromised on and had to go and work in Ilford. And had an hour and a half commute to get to Barnardos, which I did for about four years. And I would never ever have put that on my list. And if someone asked me I'd have gone, 'No, no, no I'm always going to be central London, never commute'. But actually was that was the first thing to go because I though actually for this amazing job I can do it for a while and stick out that long commute. So that sort of thing is just helpful then to look at your kind of must haves and your must have nots.

Jeremy Cline
Okay, so then, having been through that process and ended up at Barnardos, clearly you took a very purposeful approach with that. And so presumably there was a similar purposeful approach to moving for your next move, which was to Everything Everywhere - which is sublime to the ridiculous. For those who don't know it I mean, this is Everything Everywhere, this is EE. This is one of the if not the largest telecommunications company in the UK, massive organisation. So how, how did you end up making that move?

Collette Philip
So you said, 'Oh, very purposeful move'. And it was - but actually it came from a space that maybe wasn't, in that when I think the move to Barnardos addressed some of the things that I needed from my career and work and maybe helped me understand a bit of who I was. But again, after this, it took longer. So I think about four years in, I got to the stage where I started to be limited in terms of my ability to move up within the organisation. An`d at that point, I was really just a bit burnt out. And I thought about actually I thought about leaving advertising, brand - everything - altogether. And actually, when I left Barnardos, I was saying to people, I'm going to go and retrain as a foreign language teacher for a while, you know, I'm going to do English teaching English as a foreign language - just completely out of the industry for a few years and then that's it. And it was only when I left - I think in my last week at Barnardos - I saw the job for Everything Everywhere. And because it was Everything Everywhere branded not Orange or T-Mobile branded at first I discounted it, and I went back to it and thought actually, this looks like a fab job. And quite specifically because it was a role that was doing brand strategy rather than - and my first commercial role doing brand strategy - and when I looked at it, I thought this would just be amazing. Like, it was like, my advertising strategy roles that I'd done, but working for a client. And actually I just saw the job in my last week. And then I was like, well I might as well go for it. I was still looking at foreign language courses as well, teaching English as a foreign language. And I thought I might as well just go for the interview and see what happens. And then when I went in, and we started talking about the role, and the guy that interviewed me - who's now I mean he's like uber Chief Marketing Officer at BT and Everything Everywhere but at the time he was Head of Brand Strategy - he said you'd just be a brilliant fit on T Mobile brand. And he was totally right and I was and I did that job. Yeah, and I loved that actually going into EE and having my first job as an actual brand strategist. It was really good. But yeah, it was, was it a purposeful move? I think there was a little bit of luck in there honestly. In terms of I again, I got quite good at knowing what buttons I need to push for my career at certain points, I had those in my head. But I think this time honestly I was kind of looking to just bolt out of the industry altogether, so it was kind of luck that I found the job and actually saw the job and sort of held my nerve a little bit and thought okay, let me just give this another try.

Jeremy Cline
So what was the clincher that made you think, yeah, let's give this another go because you've had your experience with the agencies, then you've had your experience with the charity, you're thinking at that point, you know, maybe this isn't where I see me going. So what was it that kind of made you go, actually, you know what, this is worth another shot?

Collette Philip
Yeah. I love brands. And I know that sounds weird but I love working with brands. And I think I was talking to someone about the teaching English as a foreign language, and they just were like to me, are you sure? Because you love brands and you like kind of using your brain... I like brand strategy, basically. And they were like, you seem to love it. And even though you know bits of your career might be kicking your bum at the moment. It's a bit like... it was someone said to me, 'Are you sure?' and then they were like, 'you're so good at it'. I thought about it and thought I really do. I do love brands. I just - maybe there's another way of doing it a little bit differently. And then that's where this job came in. So you know, it was really lovely at T Mobile and EE there were a lot of benefits. And so it was really nice from that point of view. I just moved to Hertfordshire where I live now when T Mobile was in Hertfordshire, so that kind of worked. It just yeah, it felt it was that thing of 'You really do love brand - are you sure you want to walk away from that, and all that kind of career and equity you built'?

Jeremy Cline
So you'd really identified that you loved certain aspects of the job. And it was, it was worth you finding another way to see if you could make that work for you - all the other stuff. So your next stage from that is to starting your own business, which...

Collette Philip
There was one step in between actually. Because I went back to the charity sector again, for about four years. So I was only at Everything Everywhere for about 18 months, actually. Although I loved the job, I got the opportunity that you can't turn down, which was the opportunity to rebrand a global animal charity. And so I joined as Assistant Director of Comms but then was Deputy Director of Comms, but effectively as Global Brand Director. And that was just something - the opportunity came up and I couldn't really turn it down.

Jeremy Cline
So what did that have going for it that hadn't been there when you left Barnardos?

Collette Philip
I think going into an organisation - going into a strong brand - and having the lead for brand strategy. So when it was T Mobile, and as we were developing the EE 4G network - like from scratch - I think I needed to go into a commercial organisation. Because I think at Barnardos, I learned on the job, a lot of my brand strategy stuff. So I needed to go into a commercial organisation and be surrounded by lots of people that really understood the power of a strong brand. And that also took the pressure off a little bit. And honestly, work life balance was way better. And I think I needed to do that and work somewhere, where I could address some of my challenges with work life balance, and sort of address and really define how I wanted to work, learn my kind of ups, you know, build my brand strategy skills. And then when this charity job came up, I knew that but when I was at EE and Everything Everywhere, after about eight months, I was sort of like I'm missing the charity space - I'm missing that sort of purpose led brand for good stuff, I'm just missing it, I'm missing it. And this job can't deliver that. And then that role just came up, and I was like actually this could be really good for me, because I think now I've got these brand skills, I've done a global - I've done a major rebrand. And not a major rebrand but creating a brand from scratch, like I'm part of a very small team of us that did that. I feel I have the confidence now to go on and go back into this charity sector space again, but maybe at a more senior level as yeah, and a more challenging role, I guess.

Jeremy Cline
Okay. So how did you get from there to actually, you know, what, I'm going to start my own business, because that's a scary step. I mean, lots of people start businesses. There'll be many people that say, 'Gosh starting your own business, you know, how many percent fail within a few years'. So when did you first think, actually, 'You know what, I could start working for myself, I could do this'?

Collette Philip
People have said it to me for a number of years, 'You should do this, you should just do this for yourself'. And like, you should just kind of work with brands, that's what you should do. And I always really resisted it. And then it got to a stage again - this has been my career - where I sort of wanted to move up, I'm very ambitious. And I wanted to come and take that step, maybe towards kind of executive team, C suite type level, and I was getting there. And then it was even I was applying both within the organisation was also applying for other roles, I was getting to the place where it wasn't even like I was part of final two, I'd literally be the last one there. And then they'd be like no, and go back out to recruitment or whatever. And I just was finding all these doors closing. And so I took a career break, actually, again, and that's one of the things I've done. Sometimes I think when you're in a role, you can't see it. So I think sometimes it's useful if you can - like I saved a bit of money and then I was like, you know what, I'm just gonna take a career break. I'm going to give myself three months, part of that would be to have some fun, do some travel. And then maybe I'll start looking at what I need to do next. And maybe I'll just get some clarity. And it was about three weeks into that career break that I suddenly... and it literally - this sounds like a story - but it is absolutely true that I woke up and I was like, I see it. I can see the kind of brand consultancy I'd do. And I can see where there's a gap for it. And I just woke up and was like, 'No, this is what I want to do'. And like it was like 5am in the morning. And I bought like the website URL. And I sort of, yeah, just was like 'this is the idea'. This is what it I want to call it. Let me just get the name, let me just get that. And then from about there, it probably took another maybe six weeks or something for me to sort of define the business and set up and actually over that time - sometimes when you're just about to make a decision like that - sort of the universe says to you 'Yes, this is the right thing', because I had two people that approached me to work on their brands - not knowing that I'd set up a business, they would just approach me they were like, are you working? I think one person knew that when I was at the charity I was working four days a week. And they were like, 'Do you fancy doing something with your fifth day for me?' and then another person was at a conference and I was like, 'I'm on a career break', and they were like 'I know you're on a career break, would you fancy just doing some bit of work if you need money' - work for a brand, as of now. And actually those two founder clients became the kind of two kinds of clients I really work with now, and we work with as a consultancy. So yeah that's sort of how it worked.

Jeremy Cline
So when had you worked for them in the past - how had you got to know them, and they'd got to know you?

Collette Philip
So there were two, founder clients and founder clients I had them within, as I said, over those sort of three to six weeks I was setting up. And the first one, so it was director of fundraising and marketing at an autism charity. And I'd worked with him at the animal charity. So he was senior to me, he was like my boss's boss. And he left about a year, 18 months before I did, and to go to this autism charity and spotted a brand challenge. And because we worked together on that brand challenge, he sort of was like actually I think this is something you can do. The other person - honestly, I was at a conference and I was volunteering at a conference just because it was it was a women's leadership conference what I actually wanted to do so I was volunteering and I think I'd been chatting to a couple of the volunteers about my career break, and sort of what we were doing in life generally. And one of the volunteers or one the other volunteers overheard somebody describing a brand challenge that she was really struggling with. And it was just she was looking for someone and she was like 'I just need someone to help with the brand'. And this volunteer was like, 'Oh I know someone! Oh, one of the volunteers can help you!' And she literally grabbed me and ran me over to this lady and was like 'You can help!' And that's how it worked. And that was my two first two clients really.

Jeremy Cline
I love that. And it's such an illustration of the power of networking, which I think is something that is underused and undervalued by everyone. Just the power of weak connections.

Collette Philip
Yeah.

Jeremy Cline
The 'Oh, hang on. I know someone who does that here. Let me introduce you'.

Collette Philip
And that's really important. I used to hate networking and find it really intimidating, even when I started the business. But I realised that it was partly how I was framing networking. And I think it's really useful to go, actually, it's just about meeting like-minded people that maybe you can help or you know, or someone that you know, might help. And that sort of 'someone who can help' thing is just a lovely way of looking at networking, because it's really opens it up, and then it takes away sort of that hard sell, very sort of pushy, 'talk at' people. And it starts becoming about conversation about 'Okay, so what do we need? How can we help each other' and that's just a really lovely space to be in.

Jeremy Cline
Yeah, I think people get put off networking, because they think they're expected to turn up to this event and sell themselves and their product and their business and whatever it is. But actually, that's completely ineffectual.

Collette Philip
Yeah.

Jeremy Cline
The value is meeting people, getting to know them, finding a bit about them, finding out what makes them tick, what they do, what their problems are, how you can help them. And I think what you've described is just an amazing illustration of exactly how that can work.

Collette Philip
And I think as one of the things around that - and I think this is really useful, particularly, even when you're career changing, you're looking at something - is if you then identify the spaces where you're going to feel most comfortable doing that. Not comfortable as in maybe too comfortable, like you know within your family, within your comfort zone, and people you know - that's not networking. Particularly when I set up the business, I had to think long and hard about - based on what we just said - the types of places where I think would work for me doing that. So I know there's some networks and networking events that are just quite transactional. And that's not gonna work from a brand strategy point of view, because the need is so specific. And it is so emotive that it's not the same thing as going to a networking event when people that kind of offer products or easy to buy services - plumbing - when they just need it. It's not the same kind of thing. So I realised that I had to do that. The other thing I realised is that I love connecting, we're talking to women, so I did quite a lot of women's only, and I love the space of women's empowerment. So I do quite a lot of stuff that's around that and diversity spaces too. But that's just my personal level, because I like that and I'm genuinely interested. And charity sector networking for obvious reasons, because that's my background. So I realised that if you, when you thought about networking, that 'how can you help' - putting yourself in places where you think you might be able to help more than other places - is going to be really useful.

Jeremy Cline
That's a fantastic takeaway. It's kind of like your ROI of networking, where are you going to get the biggest bang for your buck?

Collette Philip
Yes!

Jeremy Cline
Turning up to the opening of an envelope isn't necessarily going to work but if you put yourself in the right place amongst the right people that's where it can really pay dividends.

Collette Philip
And it's also really interesting because there are now - increasingly - there are some people that just really naturally good at this, there are some people there, you know - they're connectors, and I meet, I meet them kind of officially because those people tend to run networks. And they do run networking events because they like it, they're natural connectors, but they're equally just some people that are really good at that. And if you have a few of them in your network, they will also be able to help you sort of find those faces too. So 'Oh, yeah, you should come along to this'. I remember, I've done that a little bit but I've also had someone like, 'You totally just need to come to this next event'. And actually, in fact, all the networks that I love now have all been recommended to me, by people that go 'Actually based on what you said, I think you'd really like this event why don't you come along'. And it's always paid dividends.

Jeremy Cline
And it's what you've described there's - it's a snowball. So your networking has led you to meet people who have introduced you to other networks, which have enabled you to meet other right people and you've grown your network that way. I think that's actually fantastic.

Collette Philip
You can also use LinkedIn in the same way. Like I've had loads of things - some of my best sort of networking I got this this way. Some of my best professional relationships have started through LinkedIn, in that people have sort of connected with you or found you and gone actually 'can we connect', and then you've sort of maybe either gone to an event that they've done or explained a bit about what they do what you've engaged in some way or, and then actually, from there, I've gone actually, that's really good. They've then become either a client or referred me to a client. So as you said - that snowball thing works. And it doesn't have to be just in face to face, it can work on LinkedIn. And it's actually a really good non painful way of using LinkedIn. Because I think LinkedIn again, people can think it's about that sort of braggy, broadcasting, eurgh 'Let me sell myself really hard'. And actually, it doesn't need to be that. It's just a really useful way of keeping on top of the stuff that people you know and connected with - with a like mind - are doing, and then actually engaging with it. So commenting with people, because that's a really good way as well, I found that I've met some really good people - that I've made them met face to face - I've met them in the comments where we've commented on things, and then you've met people. That sort of thing. And seeing LinkedIn that way as kind of that conversation kick starter. Another nice way of doing it. And it takes that sort of painful awkwardness out of networking altogether, which can seem like a really scary, horrible thing, which I know because I used to hate networking. And I'd say 'I hate networking'. And then people look at me like, 'Are you mad, you would love you should love networking, it's exactly what you're really good at'. And it's because I thought something different was networking. So what I actually really like to do, which is chat to people to find out more about them.

Jeremy Cline
Okay, so you had your 5 am revelation. And then you had your six weeks to actually starting your business. Did you have any other 5 am moments during that six weeks, and I mean the sort of 5 am moment where you wake up in a cold sweat and think, 'Oh, my, what on earth am I doing? I must be mad.'

Collette Philip
I mean this is not unusual for businesses I think, that sort of moment. Because initially when you start up there's an excitement - a momentum - and I think that adrenaline sort of carries you through. Sometimes it does, I think for me it did for a while. And then maybe about seven or eight months in where the natural momentum of me starting my business and the few clients and stuff... I now know, you know, three years on, there's a kind of vibe and rhythm to my business. And I know kind of how it needs to work. And even now with the team, I know how it needs to work in terms of that kind of business development cycle. But I had no idea. So what happened and I also recognise now that it's really hard when you're doing the work to then make time to find the work. And I didn't really do that. So about seven months in I sort of finished my last client work and was like, 'Oh, wow, I need to go out and find some business' and I thought 'Argh, what have I done? This is really hard. I don't know if I can do this, I've got a mortgage to pay still, this is really stressful. Maybe I should just go back and freelance for a bit, get a temporary contract, maternity cover, something like that'. And yeah, I've had quite a few - that wasn't just one 5 am moment. So the inspiration moments tend to be one 5 am moment. The sort of worrying 'Oh am I doing the right thing?' tend to be weeks of sleeplessness. And that's just how it works. But inevitably, yeah, I had that and was like 'Why am I doing it?' And then it was funny, one of my best mates, I was WhatsApping her and she just went to me, 'You know what, I know it's hard, you just need to hold your nerve' because she'd done it, she'd moved - a completely different career change - she'd moved from being a buyer to acupuncture, and then she was setting up a gardening business. And so she was in a similar thing a bit ahead of me. And then she said 'You just need to hold your your nerve there for a little bit. And dig deep.'

Jeremy Cline
So okay, so you've got someone who's saying, actually, you know, this is this is normal, this is what happens in business, you'll get through this. Did you make any particular changes to what you were doing at that point? Or was it just a case of okay, right, I'm going to stop focusing on doing the work and actually focus more on finding the work.

Collette Philip
So it's a really good question. Because yes, I absolutely did focus on doing some things differently. And I think that's one of the biggest things when you're running a business or even before, when stuffs not working. Like it's really easy when things get difficult, you sort of start becoming a bit of a victim - 'Eugh it's not working' - and being quite passive in it. And I think you must recognise 'What can I do differently'. There's got to be something here, why has this happened. It's not just 'been done to me' - I've got some agency in this. So the three things: I got a business coach, which was brilliant - and bearing in mind I had no money. Business coaching - we had fortnightly sessions. And that's something I kick started because I just thought 'I need to think differently'. Actually, before I got the business coach, I actually reached out to somebody who had started a business maybe two or three years before I had, and sort of seemed to be at the phase of business that I was at, and where I wanted to be. So I emailed her - it was an old colleague - and I said I'd love to have coffee, but if you haven't got time if it's a really busy time, just tell me what did you do? How did you take that leap from being kind of a one man band person really struggling to be, as you said, 'doing the work and finding the work'? What did you do that was different, because I suddenly saw your business take off. And she was like, 'Okay, get a business coach, find some sort of mentors, allies, advisors, as well sponsors, mentors, that sort of thing'. And then also, and then she said, 'Try and work out what you can outsource', you know, whether it's your accounts - because at that time I was doing everything, even my own accounts - she was like, 'No, no, no - you need to find someone'. And that was just really good advice. So I did them in order. And first thing business coach, and then I did sort of look at what I can outsource when I built up a little bit of money. And then the mentor, sponsors, like-minded people a bit ahead of you is maybe taking a bit longer. And maybe it's been some time, but all those things are really good. The other thing very practically, is a friend of mine - because I knew the struggle was business development for me, and looking at strategically that - one of my friends recommended this absolutely amazing book which I totally recommend to anyone doing a consultancy practice, which is called Book Yourself Solid. It's by a guy called Michael Port, and I read that book, and literally, I used it as a workbook. And I worked through everything, and I did all the exercises and I applied it to the business. And that did, you know, having been doing my, having the business maybe eight or nine months, I knew enough to know what I was doing what worked. And that just gave a few really good filters. And that combined with sort of my brand understanding was just gold because he talks about sort of defining your products and, and your different strategies you use for getting yourself out there because everyone one has to get themself out there. So he talks about you know, there's he basically said there were like 12 things you can do, you need to do at least three of these concurrently, and you need to pick which ones according to what your great at. And he just works you through this whole process. And it's a brilliant book.

Jeremy Cline
Is this is something that anyone who is thinking of going into any kind of sort of consultancy, contracting - it can help them with that sort of transition?

Collette Philip
Yeah, I think it's really important. And this is something I feel strongly about - other people might have a different view - but I feel strongly about it. And I also come at it from, kind of see it in a brand lens, I think when you're self-employed - self-employed is quite a big word - you need to identify whether you are self-employed and running a business, meaning you are creating something even if it's under your own name where you are, you know, you're having lots of multiple clients and lots of kind of maybe short term or even longer term projects. But it's - you have to build a reputation or whether you're simply freelancing and reacting to getting contracts. Basically, you're doing what is effectively employed, just on a more short-term basis. So if you're somebody that is doing maternity covers in a certain industry, I'm going to argue that you're freelancing versus running a business. And it's not that there's anything wrong with that it's brilliant. It just requires you to probably see yourself and do a different job in terms of marketing stuff and how you need to see it, and you probably don't need to go to the effort of what you need to do to run a business. So the Book Yourself Solid stuff is really good if you are looking to - even if it's as a one man band - set up a consultancy/service business. So anybody that needs to basically book themselves solid with clients and multiple clients. It's probably is not for you, if you're just somebody that takes on contracts that are advertised on the normal job workshops, because that's effectively - you're just doing shorter term jobs and employed work. And that is interesting in itself and really good and lots of value in that. But it's different to running a business.

Jeremy Cline
Okay. Did you kind of understand that distinction when you first started Brand By Me?

Collette Philip
Yeah.

Jeremy Cline
Okay.

Collette Philip
I was really clear that I don't want to freelance because I was really clear that some of the value of being an - and I think, again, this is something I feel really strongly about particularly in the charity sector - is that consultancy is very lucrative. And there's a reason for that, it's because there's risk involved in consulting, so you have shorter term contracts, you don't have the overheads of like employee safety stuff, right. So you, there's no reason for that. But fundamentally, if you're going to be a consultant, it's not about taking on trying to do an employed full time job, and just get consultancy rates and doing so. That's not very ethical or fair. And there's quite a lot of people that will - not quite a lot - but there's a few bad consultants... there was even an article in Marketing Week about consultants that give consultancy a bad name, because they go in somewhere and just do it in terms of creating a job for themselves. And they end up just sort of taking, you know, two to three year very open-ended jobs where you're like actually, that's a job, that organisation just needs to recruit someone permanent now, not you. And they sort of create that and they sort of maintain that sort of status. So I haven't experienced that in organisations I've worked at like seen people come in and do that. I felt quite strongly. One I don't want to do that, two it's really important also for some of the barriers I was finding in terms of maybe delivery of my brand strategy - it's important that I can have my independent status as a consultancy, that the projects that I do are finite that I'm equipping and empowering clients to do this, not going in and doing it for them. Otherwise, I should just get a job there. So that distinction was very clear to me. So I was always in my head going it's about running a business, not being a freelancer. And I'm super clear about that. And that's what I wanted to do, and really setting myself up in that way. So that when setting myself up became setting us up in terms of Brand By Me, I've been able to transition from Brand By Me just being me to having my first full time employee and like three other part-time people all working under the same brand, doing the same thing.

Jeremy Cline
And was that something that you you knew when you started the business that you wanted to do, that you wanted to start employing and having more than just Collette on your own?

Collette Philip
I put it in my five year vision, and I did it in about 18 months. So I really I wanted to, I mean slightly differently. My five year vision of being a team of five, I had that in 18 months - at the time that was a freelance team, but still I had it and so yeah, it was definitely in there.

Jeremy Cline
So you've already mentioned that you had this sort of seven, eight month period where you started, you know, the doubt started creeping in and you were getting all this kind of stuff internally. What about externally? I mean, how how have friends, family reacted to what you've been doing? Has it all been 'Oh great Collette, go for it, this is all absolutely fantastic'. Or have there been people who've said, 'Now come on Collette, you know, you've had your bit of fun here, but this is the real world here, don't you think you should, you know, think about going back into employed or whatever'.

Collette Philip
No, but there's a specific reason I think, that I've not had but I've not had that from anyone in my immediate friends family network at all. But being honest, because I've done - you know, this is like third career change - I think I'd recognise and I think you're right to highlight that as an issue in that the people in your network can really impact on the decision you make. And so in maybe the first or second career change I got very good at sort of understanding the people that I need that I know are going to... it's not 'yes people' but the people that definitely have the positive energy that will support changes I need to make in the right way. And maybe the people that don't and I guess I think well I'm lucky in that in my family - which is kind of the relationship you can't pick - everyone has the right energy. So I don't have that, because I know some people who you know, in their immediate family have some very big naysayers, and that's just awful but I don't have that so I think that's lucky for me. The last thing, I think - my friends - I've cultivated friendships where I know now that those people, it's not that they're going to support everything, but they're not going to come into it with that 'Oh are you sure?' based on their own negatives and hang-ups. And that's really important. And I haven't had that. Where I did have actually was when I first started the business, I was maybe networking in some of the wrong places with some of the wrong people. And I've got a fair amount of 'Are you sure, do people actually pay for that?' sort of negativity stuff. And that was really hard. And actually, that sort of hit my first year in terms of my confidence quite hard. Because I sort of got these people giving me the perception that everything I was going through as a startup was completely wrong and they'd had smooth sailing and never had to go out for work - it was all on referral. And that's just nonsense. It just is nonsense. And when I looked at their businesses, there was some very specific reasons for why they were having a very different experience to me, but they weren't being honest about that. And so I stopped networking in those environments. And, as I said, really chatted to people that I could see, and then what I realise now I feel quite passionately about - which is why I spoke on something like this - is because I go, it's important for everybody to speak openly about the journey and recognise maybe some advantages they had that are not usual to normal business journeys. So for example, I met someone, they were like 'Oh I've never had to go out and get clients, business comes to me'. And I'm like, 'that's so strange, maybe my business isn't right' - then I find out this person had been made redundant from their job, their business wasn't actually a business: they'd been hired back by their old boss as a freelancer to do their old job. So that's not business. And then on top of that, when they started to move away from that - still - their old employer was finding them work because it was cheaper for them to do it that way. So it wasn't that what they said wasn't the truth - maybe they hadn't understood that it was a significant position of advantage they were in - but I think it's really important one to be real about your experiences, good and bad. And also, then, you know, make sure that you are surrounding yourself in places where people are genuinely doing that, and they're genuine about what they've done. Otherwise, you'll just get really discouraged.

Jeremy Cline
And I think that you've highlighted two fantastic takeaways there. One is - and I can't remember whose quote this is - but it was something like you are the average of the five people you spend most time with, which I think is so true, you know. You surround yourself by positive people, you become that positive person. You surrounding yourself with negative people, then you become negative. And also that you've got to find the balance between listening to what other people say and taking their advice, but also knowing what to filter out and trusting your own convictions and not necessarily taking everything that someone tells you on face value.

Collette Philip
Yeah, I'd agree with that. I think that. I mean, gosh, it's funny. So there's a really good quote, I read by this guy called Chris Dough, and he's on Instagram, he runs this business called 'The Future' which is all about designers. Interestingly I really liked him a lot at first and then when I scratched the surface of the brand strategy point of view not so much - but I do like some of the stuff he says and he said this: 'experts diagnose, amateurs give advice'. And it's so easy to just offer up unsolicited advice without knowing. And I think there's a real filter you have to have to recognise where someone is speaking just with well-meaning but unknowing advice. And whether this is actually a professional that is diagnosing an issue that you might have, and being able to sift this and the advice so you go 'Yeah, okay, I'll listen, because it's good to have that perspective. And then I'm going to decide what I want to do', and someone who's like, when it's diagnosis, like my business coach is like, 'This is what you need to do', because she's speaking from a position of knowledge and stuff. And I'll be like, 'Yes, I just need to follow these exactly, they are like the blueprint for what you need to do'. And it's not just individuals, but it's even my business coach, she'll be like 'This is advice I'm going to give you' because it's not based on anything, this is advice, or she'll be like, 'No, here's what you need, you know, these are the things you need to do - my professional, you know, sort of coaching mindset says that you've been blocked' or whatever it is, and - I also do the same thing actually with consultancy, because I guess over time - when you run your own business particularly when I work with small businesses - I run my own small business, so there's some stuff I can kind of see that it strays out of the realm of brand strategy, which is what professionally do, into just sort of good advice territory. So I'm very clear to mark the distinction. And I think sometimes people aren't, so you know, when you're in that small business space, people just offering up effectively what is just advice as sort of paid for services, and you have to differentiate, and you have to be really clear yourself in terms of hearing that and understanding where people are coming from, but I think in giving it too.

Jeremy Cline
Okay. So say you went back and met your, your self who had just come out of university, just beginning to start with the advertising agencies. Is there anything which you think 'I wish I'd known that at the time', or is this just you know what, this is the journey and anything that you kind of think, actually, if I'd known this - this one thing - at an earlier stage that it might have made all the difference?

Collette Philip
I think I'd have stuck at my first agency for longer - my very first agency that I just loved - because I moved because I wanted to work on better brands. But I think what I'd have known is - agencies - and that's a quite specific learning - that agencies can go out and win business very quickly. And the the agency, the culture, and the big accounts your agency has can change quite quickly. So moving for better work is not necessarily the best. It's not the only reason - the sole driver - for moving. Because I think you can... I think maybe maybe the bigger learning is making sure that you properly interrogate the value and benefits of where you are before you move. And I think I'd have done that... you know, I'm definitely not underestimating the importance of sync to your values and maybe cultural fit, and just not taking that for granted wherever you work. I think that's one. And I think the other one would probably be - I think maybe there's something around... it's going to be tough out there! But just because it's tough out there doesn't mean you need to doubt yourself and what you're good at. And I think there's something about that, too. So I think that would've been a really good lesson for me to hear, like going into this, at the beginning of my career, just hear it. They're the two things.

Jeremy Cline
And so what does the future hold for Colette and for Brand By Me? I know you're getting married soon, for which congratulations.

Collette Philip
Yeah, thank you! Yeah.

Jeremy Cline
What else? What else do you think is going to happen? What do you hope is going to happen?

Collette Philip
Well, it's really exciting. I think the honest answer is 'I don't know'. I mean, I really hope... but I think the business - three years on - I think the business is very is kind of sustainable now. I mean, I'm really hoping things like, I've got Danny on - my first employee - I'm hoping that won't be the last and I'm hoping to take on another employee over the next 18 months maybe. The business is growing. I think the other thing that I'm really excited about is maybe being able to - through the power of personal brand - is maybe looking at working with organisations and helping them sort of improve their diversity and inclusion on a very practical level. Because there's something about helping individuals within organisations understand their personal brand and how that fits. It works really well in terms of that kind of inclusion and making sure that if you have people that are a bit different, not that sort of stereotype, they don't get written off or feel that they have to conform. And there's something really interesting about that. And I've been, and I think that's going to be something that we'll be asked to do - more personal brand stuff, but in a corporate setting, - which is exciting. And yeah, I think beyond that... it's an interesting time, because I think, you know, we always hear the stats around businesses failing in the first year. I think people don't say this, but I read a lot that in the next three to five years is quite an interesting time as well - because you've run out of the natural momentum of your network. So then it comes down to how good your offer is, and how good you've been at kind of growing that network in the time since you set up the business. And that is the kind of stage we're into now. And that I think is going to be crunch time in terms of 'Is this sustainable?' Can we do it with a team rather than just being me, and that I think is gonna - as I'm hearing, I'm like, gah, it's really scary, it's probably going to be some 5am moments! But equally, I think it's really exciting.

Jeremy Cline
Fantastic. And so you mentioned Book Yourself Solid, are there any other books or resources, anything that you found particularly useful that you'd recommend people take a look at that's really helped you and might help other people?

Collette Philip
What I do, and this is a shameless plug, I'm not gonna lie, is the blog. Our blog is called brandby.me. What we do a lot of stuff that we've read and thought is helpful, both me and my team, we distil it and sort of put our learnings on there. And that is normally I think, I've heard it from people like not just from a brand point of view, but I guess, three areas. One is around values, I think some stuff around personal brand and then brand at the organisational level. That is useful I think. And we send out a monthly brand action plan. And lots of my old colleagues from kind of employed space email me going 'This is really good. We use this a lot, because it's just quite practical stuff'. And it's practical stuff and it's personal you know - a lot of the content we do is kind of driven by our journeys. And that's sort of what we just talked about - what I heard someone say, squiggly career journey -because that's our filter. Sometimes we use elements of brand in helping people within organisations so that's why I'd go 'Look, go to the blog, and maybe sign up, cause you probably get some useful stuff'. Because in the knowledge that you'll hear at least one article a month will be written by me and I've kind of been where people may be listening on this podcast are today.

Jeremy Cline
So that's brandby.me.

Collette Philip
Yeah.

Jeremy Cline
Fantastic. Okay, I'll link to that in the show notes. And if anyone wants to get in touch with you or find out a bit more about what you do, where's where's the best place to find you?

Collette Philip
I think yeah, there - or at hello@brandbyme.co.uk. And I think you know, LinkedIn, and I'm /brandbyCollette. I'm @brandbyCollette on Twitter as well.

Jeremy Cline
Okay, we'll put all that in the show notes. Colette, this has been absolutely amazing. So many takeaways for people wherever they are in their career. So thank you very much.

Collette Philip
Thank you.

Jeremy Cline
Okay. Well, I hope you enjoyed that interview with Collette. You know, one of the lessons that I picked up that I found the most heartening was that, you know, sometimes you need to make a change to work out what it is that you've actually lost, what's missing. You do something, then you change to something and then you realise actually, in whatever you were doing originally, that's what you enjoyed. And I think sometimes we just beat ourselves up over making changes and then losing something and making the wrong decision. But you know, what, that's how we learn. That's how we, how we realise things. It's how we learn about ourselves. And I think that's something that is really important for us to pick up. So I hope that was helpful for you. Loads of stuff there, loads of resources as well. So do visit the show notes page - changeworklife.com/2. So that's just /2 for Episode Two. You'll find a transcript of the interview there, you'll find links to all the resources. And yeah, come back for the next episode, where we've got another great interview, another load of interesting tips and more ways in which we can beat those Sunday evening blues. So I hope you enjoyed it. And I can't wait to see you in the next episode. Cheers. Bye.

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