Name: Sandy Lindsay
Company: Tangerine PR/The Juice Academy
Role: Chair, Tangerine PR
Tell us about a usual working day?
There is no usual working day, and I love it this way! I get bored very quickly. You could say that, to some extent, boredom has driven my career: pushing me on to try new things and getting out there. Things change all the time at Tangerine – no day or hour is the same as the last – which keeps me on my toes!
I’m fortunate to have superb colleagues who help keep my exuberance balanced with good business practice. Running a successful business is not just about having good ideas – it’s important to get the right balance between creativity and pragmatism.
What’s Tangerine PR’s proudest achievement?
We were the first agency outside of London to be named PR Consultancy of the Year in the national Chartered Institute of PR’s Excellence Awards. Traditionally this award had always gone to one of the big London agencies, yet we achieved the accolade back when we had only 30 team members. We had a vision from the outset to be both the best and biggest (in that order) agency outside of London, and the award reinforced the belief that we were getting it right, even though it came three years before planned!
It wasn’t just the award itself: the reaction of the marketing and business community was fantastic! My phone literally died from the number of congratulatory messages I received! I think it confirmed what we’d always believed: that location is entirely unimportant to quality delivery.
Yet success is not just the fireworks that illuminate a business in the public eye, it is also achieved incrementally through hard work and delivering results for clients. I am as proud of this day-to-day success as I am of the awards and recognition.
Your website mentions a successful balancing act between ethics and profit. How have you ensured that one doesn’t subsume the other?
Achieving the balance between ethics and profit is the reason I set up Tangerine.
We’ve all worked for different companies that are run for different reasons and it’s obvious that one of the key marks of a successful business is profit but I don’t believe that this should be the core focus of a business.
I personally believe that if you concentrate on doing great work and treating people properly, then the money naturally follows. You make decent – in every sense of that word – business decisions and the money follows
These values have been tested on a number of occasions but we remained resolute in our aims, which we can see have served us well now that we are in the fortunate position of being able to look back on the journey.
In treating people well, we expect the same treatment in return, both from employees and clients. We see ourselves as true business advisors and partners to our clients and I believe that’s one of the reasons why we establish such long and mutually beneficial relationships and why, when clients move to pastures new they tend to take us with them.
Is it a case of training employees to embody Tangerine’s values of honesty, courtesy and respect, or do you find that it about finding the right characters?
It’s all about character. We want to work with people who feel the same way as we do, not just employees but, as I mentioned, also clients and other partners. It’s always satisfying when you hear that new clients chose to work with you because they are attracted by your philosophies. Yet it is even more satisfying when they share the same values.
What is the Juice Academy?
It is the UK’s first workplace-based social media apprenticeship. We’ve always run job creation programmes at Tangerine because we feel it is really important. I got a helping hand at the start of my career and I feel it is my responsibility to do the same for today’s new generations.
I don’t know an industry that isn’t suffering from a skills shortage and I hear from a lot of business leaders lamenting the fact that the deficit is stopping their business from growing, and yet right now there is a huge number of digital natives out of work. It seemed logical to join the dots.
The apprenticeship course allows recruits to learn skills directly from our experienced digital specialists. We don’t rely on external trainers, preferring to do everything ourselves, but we do bring in guest speakers who are also specialists in their fields, to give our apprentices real world examples. It makes a big difference, not only for our own autonomy but we are keen to ensure the course has a purposeful and real impact.
We also run corporate courses for anyone who’s been doing social media for a while and wants to take it to the next level.
Who is taking on the apprentices – big companies or SMEs?
So far we’ve trained in excess of 80 apprentices at some of the region’s leading businesses.
There are a lot of big companies, including the likes of J.W Lees and Pets at Home. We find it easy to sell the benefits into big companies and now have lots of case studies showing the various success stories.
What is the retention rate after the twelve month apprenticeship ends?
It is very high. Our first cohort graduated all with job offers and the ones since then have also been very sticky.
Taking on an apprentice is not a tokenistic CSR gesture; it’s a business decision and, fortunately, all of the companies who sign up realise this responsibility. Drop outs usually come from the apprentices who are young and making their way through life and not quite sure what or who they want to be yet.
It looks a big and exciting project that has been carefully planned (including government support). It doesn’t seem an obvious initiative for a PR company to undertake. What’s the motivation?
As well as the skills gap as mentioned above, there were two big motivations:
- I’ve always thought Tangerine should take responsibility for creating jobs for young people. It’s important we contribute this way and demonstrate the values that make us who we are, otherwise they would simply be hollow statements.
- The PR sector has been banging the drum of diversity for a long time now, and yet it remains an industry dominated by white, middle-class females. The Juice Academy opens up the industry to recruits from all backgrounds, bringing with them a wide variety of experiences. I’ve seen the difference it makes here at Tangerine. You should come to one of our meetings and witness the variety of ideas being thrown about.
Congratulations on your recent dual nomination for this year’s IoD NW Director of the Year finalists – Director of the Year (SME) and Director of the Year (Leadership and Corporate Responsibility). What’s your secret – what do you do to make the difference?
I’d never dream of entering myself but it was lovely of whoever it was to nominate me – of course I’m honoured by the nomination, but, to me, it’s all about the team.
The secret is plain and simple: hard work and determination, otherwise you’re in danger of being blown about like a leaf in a storm. It’s sticking to your beliefs and values, not just when times are good, but, more importantly, when the business is being tested. At Tangerine we are constantly checking ourselves to make sure were on course. We have a programme called ‘Freshly Squeezed’, which is all about looking at different parts and programmes within the business and having this considered and reflective approach in everything we do. It helps us retain authenticity.
Another key element is sharing everything – my husband calls Tangerine my ‘co-operative’ as we agree and discuss everything, with as many people as possible to ensure everyone has buy-in to our shared objectives – otherwise how can you get people excited about someone else’s vision?
What makes you optimistic?
I’m naturally optimistic! My business partner is a self-proclaimed natural pessimist (or maybe, more kindly, I’d say she’s a pragmatist), so it all balances out nicely!
The Tangerine journey has been a wonderful experience, from the early days of messing up pitches, drowning our sorrows, tears and tribulations, through to triumphs, successes and lots and lots of smiles (but I still don’t get everything right, of course!).
I’m as ambitious now as I was back then, and there’s always new things to do and learn and evolve. That’s what makes me optimistic.