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Financial crash paved way for north-east marketing and PR firm

Managing Director, Debbie Rennie, in support of The Federation of Small Businesses, responds to small business key questions with a focus on the company’s journey and the costs impacting supply chain and customers.

How and why did you start in business?

Following the financial crash of 2008 I was made redundant from my marketing role at a recruitment agency.

I was newly married, had no children and so thought “what the heck, let’s try going this alone”.

In July 2009 I became a freelance marketing and communications specialist. By 2015 it made sense to merge my business with my dad’s, so I became part of Innes Associates, which we then rebranded as Instinct Marketing + PR in 2021.

How did you get to where you are today?

Through a lot of hard work, determination, grit, belief and courage. I read Atomic Habits by James Clear, who shares his revolutionary system to get 1% better every day.

He highlights how tiny changes create “remarkable results” and this has definitely helped me.

Family, particularly my husband, and friends have been hugely supportive.

I’ve also received incredible support from clients, suppliers, employees and business connections.

In addition, I’ve worked with some fabulous mentors and coaches, without whom the rocky times would have been a lot rockier.

And I’ve had huge support from the Federation of Small Businesses and other organisations over the years. I appreciate the opportunities they offer to meet and connect with fellow business people.What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?

Two things that stand out are “your kids don’t stay young for long so cherish the time you have with them” and “you can’t always control what happens, but you can control how you respond and that’s what makes a difference”.

What is your biggest mistake?

I think I’ve made many mistakes, don’t we all?  But, ultimately, that’s a good thing because mistakes help us to become better versions of ourselves. I believe we learn more from them than from our successes.

Personally, I wish I hadn’t let my lack of confidence and self-belief hold me back for so long.

What is your greatest achievement?

Beyond having my kids, I think remaining resilient in business, facing challenges with a positive mindset and helping run the business my dad started into its 20th year of trading this year.

How are you managing rapidly rising costs and how could the government help?

We’re keeping close control of costs within the business, but we’re lucky because rising energy costs aren’t impacting us directly.

But other increasing costs are having an impact on our supply chain and customer base.

Support for micro-businesses with the potential to grow would be welcomed in terms of access to funding.

And also support with recruitment and resourcing to drive productivity and growth.

What do you still hope to achieve?

I’m passionate about running a business that not only cares about the success of our clients and our people, but also the wellbeing of the communities we live and work in, and the health of our planet.

We’re determined to make a positive impact on the world. I hope we can do that to the best of our abilities, while also becoming a certified B Corp.

What do you do to relax?

Out of work, you’ll mostly find me spending time with my family, preferably outdoors.

I go strength training at the gym with my sister, and enjoy walking or running – depending on my mood.

I like to spend time on my own when I need to reset and recharge, sometimes just curling up in a quiet, cosy corner and reading a book is the ideal retreat.

What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on TV?

I enjoy reading business, performance and autobiography books. Most recently, I finished reading Pig Wrestling by Pete Lindsay and Mark Bawden, and before that The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, both of which I loved.

Podcasts such as Diary of a CEO are my go-to when commuting or walking, but when I’m running there’s nothing better than turning up the music and just letting go.

What do you waste your money on?

My husband would probably say clothes. I’ve become a bit of a Vinted fanatic – both for the reuse and recycling benefits, as well as the bargains (Vinted is an online marketplace for buying, selling and exchanging new or secondhand items, mainly clothing and accessories).

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

Usually, I hug my five-year-old and once up the priority is to give him breakfast, as he’s always starving and not very patient.

What do you drive and dream of driving?

I drive a Nissan Qashqai, which I’ve owned for about a year.  Before having kids I owned a Mini, which I loved so might get another one.

I’d also love to have a campervan/motorhome so we could enjoy travelling more.