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Rick Guttridge, former MD of Brazen cocks his Smoking Gun

Rick Guttridge, the former managing director of Brazen, answers a few questions about his departure and the rise of Smoking Gun, a consultancy he will head up alongside his wife, Vanessa.

Why did you chose to leave Brazen?

After five-and-a-half years and having been acting then 'full' MD for 16 months there wasn't anywhere else to go there. Nina (Webb) is 100% shareholder so the only possible stake in the business was B shares.

SO you have a choice, either stay where you are, look elsewhere or try your own business. I was fortunate enough to be offered a couple of big roles at other agencies which helped to clarify my thinking and I decided instead to try my hand at my own business. I've always been interested in the mechanics of the business as well as the actual PR delivery, so having been afforded a wonderful opportunity to run a successful agency like Brazen and enjoying that role, owning my own business was the natural next step. Whenever you work for some one else, no matter how democratic their style, the tone and style of the business ultimately descends from them. Creating something from scratch allows you that freedom to shape things how you want them and that's an incredibly exciting and liberating feeling.

Small businesses aren't having it easy at the moment - in setting up your own business what problems did you encounter?

To be honest it was fairly straightforward once we decided to go for it. The biggest battle we had to overcome was in our own minds about what scale of business we wanted to achieve.

We've not borrowed any money, we've self funded the start up, we've budgeted conservatively and we're keeping a tight control on costs. Knowing what areas to spend on up front and where to hold back is key.

Keeping cash flow moving is imperative and we're working hard on ensuring clients agree and sign up to our terms up front.

Choosing a location was also a big decision - in the end we opted for city centre as you just can't beat the buzz of being in town and we found we were always being asked to come into town for briefings and meetings anyway.

We know plenty of business owners in marketing and beyond so we've leaned on our contacts for advice and also just used common sense.

You're clearly going to continue in the PR field - just how tough an environment is that to break into with so many small consultancies and larger ones vying for as much business as they can get at the moment?

The PR market is competitive but no more so than any other business sector. If you don't believe you can do a good job and win contracts then don't bother starting up. It's a people business and we've got some firm relationships in place that will certainly help us in the long term.

Our experience of the sector during the recession was that London outfits were much harder hit than many northern firms, unless you were specialising in property or finance. Maybe that's because we're used to battling for every contract and there's not as many 'easy' contracts with inflated retainers as London seems to enjoy.

There's also increasing numbers of businesses turning to PR within their marketing mix and the exponential growth of social media is creating ever more revenue opportunities so it's a brilliant time to be entering the fray.

What are your main aims now and what challenges do you foresee?

Our initial aim is to win more long-term clients to create a platform for success in the first two years. We'll achieve this through delivering good quality work and working bloody hard! This will then enable the extra investments we've got planned in staffing, training and infrastructure.

Some of the main challenges will be creating sustainable growth and finding the right people to help us achieve that. Balancing our time between working on the business and working in the business will be crucial and is one of the hardest tasks facing small business owners.