I was lucky enough to moderate a panel at the recent London Enterprise Festival, an event that aims to help aspiring entrepreneurs get their business ideas off the ground.

This particular session focused on communications and featured the following executives:

  • Graham Goodkind, founder/chairman, Frank PR
  • Andrew McGuinness, founder of BMB, current CEO of Freuds
  • Nicola Green, director of communications and reputation, O2
  • Jim Hawker, co-founder and CEO, Threepipe
  • Richard Sunderland, founder/chairman Heavenly

With the exception of Green all of the panellists had successfully founded their own agencies. In no particular order, here were their tips for success:

"Just do it," said Goodkind. "There is no right time."

"The days of starting with a laptop and phone are gone", added Hawker, when discussing the low barriers to entry. "It's a really different business now."

"It's about not seeing the barriers," said McGuinness, pointing to an innate desire on the part of entrepreneuers to have their own business. However McGuinness also admitted that launching a business is not for everyone. "There's a pressure where lots of people feel the need to call themselves a founder."

"Comms isn't as trendy as it used to be," noted Green, discussing the talent required to make any communications business successful. "We do it through ongoing training and experience. We guarantee our people that when they move, they will be hired."

"The biggest risk factor is an over-reliance on one particular client" —  Goodkind.

"You can't lie anymore," said Sunderland, highlighting how communications has changed. "But you can make the truth interesting."

"The one thing holding agencies back is the structure on client side." With good reason, Hawker believes this is restricting real integration on the agency side.

"Never forget the value of mentors," a theme that all the panellists agreed with.

"Don't stress about the exit," added Goodkind, who knows a thing or two about how to sell an agency, after Frank PR's deal with Photon. "It's about when someone wants to buy it, not when you want to sell."

And finally, concluded Goodkind, "you've got to have fun, or there's not much point in doing anything".

[Image credit: Steven Depolo via Flickr]