Each week we catch up with a different entrepreneur to discover what makes them tick, their top tips and more. This week we spend five minutes with Ruth Simmons, CEO and founder of Soundlounge.
Hi Ruth, can you explain exactly what Soundlounge is?
Soundlounge is a dedicated music consultancy that I originally set up in 1980 with the ambition to find and secure music rights for advertising agencies who wanted to use popular music in their commercials. When I started it was the Wild West – no rules and no protocols. Nobody even knew how to define a sync license. Today we have moved from a straight ‘you want this track and I will handle all the negotiation and licensing for you’ to a company that adds a bit of science to the art of finding music, by measuring effectiveness, ROI and – although it sounds like an oxymoron – rationalising music choice with real data.
What time does your day usually start and end?
My day starts at 6:15am with a visit to the gym when I can, followed by a 20-minute meditation when I get back. Both actually do mentally and physically set me up for the day. I get my best ideas early in the morning. By 8:00pm I am done and make no excuses for setting down and watching TV. I do sneak a look at late night emails in before I go to bed- often not a good idea!
What inspired you to start your business?
With two young children back in the 80s I was restless to get back into the workplace. I was always coming up with ideas for one money-spinning idea or another, from importing party bits and pieces for children’s parties to designing programmes that would help shoppers navigate a store. Two ideas that were ahead of their day and both of which were based on personal needs and observations. I knew nothing about either. But I realised from the get go that being my own boss was the only way I could take control of my life and build the business at my pace.
What is your favourite part of your job and what is your least favourite part?
I love it when an idea comes together. It is an amazing feeling when we work with a brand to develop the creative brief, then all agree on the musical direction/execution, all the parties who have to give their permissions agree and then it scores well in research. It is a special moment when the sum of the parts becomes the whole idea and the client walks away happy.
The least favourite and the most frustrating is when we sense that the job is moving away from us and we can’t get someone to give us feedback so that we can put in place Plan B or C.
What has been the biggest challenge for your business?
Marketing and getting face to face with clients and prospective clients is the bane of my life. In today’s marketplace, with all this digital technology, its almost that people are scared to sit opposite someone. People simply don’t want to meet and talk. A text, email or a video conference doesn’t enable you to really get the nuances of what is needed for a project. I still believe in the old adage of ‘people do business with people they know’. The irony is that when we succeed in getting opposite a potential client, it is usually the start of a long relationship.
What do you feel are the biggest obstacles to growth for SMEs in the UK?
Same as it ever was. Understanding cash flow – running out of time and money.
Have you made any mistakes along the way and how did you learn from them?
Making mistakes is the only way to really learn. With my very first synch license came the first and only injunction in the history of British Advertising. It was scary but I gained a healthy respect for Intellectual Property. Today we debrief over every enquiry that has its twists and turns. We all have to learn that everyone makes mistakes. It is not making the same mistake that is important and also learning the humility to admit it and find ways to rebuild relationships.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to anyone looking to start their own business?
Be passionate about the product you want to develop or sell. Do market research. Who are your competitors? If the product is totally new, there may be a very good reason for that – i.e. there is actually no market for it! Be tenacious and believe in yourself – and make your bank manager your friend.
Do you manage to achieve a good work/life balance?
That’s the aim. Work should be enjoyable as it is more than half our lives. The rest of the time is about family and friends. Of course I do have days when everything seems to be getting too intense that I give myself the ‘Reginald Perrin’ talk – ‘Its only a plastic cowboy in a packet of cereal’ its not life and death, even though it feels like it.
What do you do to relax away from the hustle and bustle of work?
I love to be outside. I am lucky in that I have amazing parks and woodland near where I live. Nothing beats a great long walk with friends on a Sunday morning followed by an excellent pub lunch.