Protect your cash flow and hire the right people. It sounds like simple advice, but Wendy Masters, founder of The Phoenix Partnership, says it’s difficult and important to achieve both.
“Six years ago I had a bookkeeper who embezzled a significant amount of money, paying herself instead of SARS,” she says.
“This resulted in penalties and interest for my small business which I had to repay. I was eight months pregnant at the time, but I simply worked until the day before my baby was born, and returned to the office a week later.”
Masters cut her teeth on crisis communication and lobbying as part of the team that bid for, and won, the SunWest Cape Metropole casino licence, after which she and her former partner, who has since moved abroad, launched their public relations and media liaison company in 2002 with the aim of providing communication services to tourism, large property developments and urban renewal projects.
“I’ve never borrowed money and have instead always maintained careful cash flow and ensured that our income meets or exceeds our expenditure,” says Masters. “The business has grown organically and I’ve taken on new staff as we’ve attracted new business.”
Her first clients were secured through word of mouth, with one successful project leading to the next. A highlight for Masters was the development of a communication plan for the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), which the company was involved in from inception to the sod-turning.
“We managed the coordination, media management and presidential protocol for 7 000 guests, including then-president Thabo Mbeki. We’ve recently been reappointed to handle the PR and communication for the CTICC expansion, which is enormously gratifying and exciting for us.”
As a Cape Town–based agency, the business has also helped grow the profile of organisations like Accelerate Cape Town and Wesgro, both of which aim to grow the Western Cape economy and attract more business and investment to the province.
“Choosing clients we have a passion for and whose businesses we have a natural match with has helped the business to stand out from the competition,” says Masters. “Focusing on great writing is imperative. Many of my staff have journalism backgrounds. The ability to see an angle and to provide journalists with what they want and can use has brought us great success. The media know they can rely on us for accurate, well-researched information.”
Masters says she buys into Sol Kerzner’s mantra, ‘Good enough never is’. “Our work is guided by this belief.”
Player: Wendy Masters
Company: The Phoenix Partnership
Contact: +27 (0)21 686 2331