It’s 25 years to the day I sat at my dining room table all alone, staring at a computer that my husband Neil had set up for me along with a notebook, pen, fax machine and of course my landline, as we sure didn’t have mobile phones then! Nor did I have much of a plan. I just knew that after we’d spent a year travelling aged 31 that I never wanted to go back to working for anyone ever again! Neil was an accountant, so I had the luxury of not earning any money for a few months, which is exactly what happened. On 1 September 1995, I gave the agency my own surname, calling it “Eskenzi PR”, because I had noticed that most other PR agencies weirdly call themselves after their owners and quite frankly I just couldn’t think of anything else to call it. After three long lonely months and with winter hanging over me I still hadn’t won any work. I’d never felt so downbeat and worthless as I saw people going to Christmas parties and meeting friends after work in town whilst I was still banging the phone and posting letters every day to everyone I could think of that could do with a new enthusiastic PR pro in the “exhibition” space. Hallelujah! My big break came on 12th December 1995 when Andrea Johnson, an ex-colleague at News International exhibitions, called to say she’d moved to Reed Exhibitions to set up a brand new show called ‘Infosecurity’ and they needed some help to get its name out there. Another PR agency had been retained for 4 months, but had frankly been useless, and they knew I had experience of launching and creating buzz around brand new shows. She said “we need some of your magic”. The rest is history, and between me and Neil we ended up working on building up the Infosec brand over the course of the next 17 years! I never thought I’d end up in Cybersecurity; I love designing furniture and interiors and that’s a passion I’ve just had to indulge in our home and office. In the meantime, fate has drawn me into the world of IT security and embroiled my entire family into it, including Neil who left accountancy in 1997 to join me in the business. Somehow, together, we have forged an amazing life both living and working together and bringing up two wonderful daughters. In fact, it’s with enormous pride and joy that to the very day, 25 years after I started, that our youngest daughter Jade joins the firm. Weirdly, it was never planned this way but I couldn’t be a prouder.
So what have I learnt in my 25 years in business? That money isn’t the be all and end all – it’s not what gets me up in the morning. When I look back I realise it’s the people that I love, the friends I’ve made around the world, the freedom it’s given me to not be at the beck and call of an employer, the opportunity to take on a nervous grad and watch them blossom into a confident, competent PR professional and then move on and up. It’s the pleasure of dreaming up a project and having no-one stop me in case it fails, the fun in running an award that gives something back to those in our industry, the privilege of employing people just because I want to give them a chance, the luxury of knowing we can give money to charity and not worry it’s going to harm the business, the importance of letting go and delegating to others and most importantly having the time and wherewithal to bring our daughters up together so we could be there for them, take them to school and collect them, go to netball matches or drop everything to collect them for tummy aches. To learn that the business isn’t everything and that having time for family and friends and putting them first is actually what’s important in life, is the most valuable thing we’ve taken from our careers, not squeezing in another hour to satisfy a client who won’t necessarily be there in a year.
I’ve learnt that business comes and goes as clients can fire you at the flick of a switch after years of business and hard work, if a new marketing person comes on board and wants to take on their mates. It can be cruel and hurtful but there will always be a new client that comes along.
I’ve also learnt that you can invest in people, put your heart and soul into them and then they get a better job somewhere else just because they’re ready for a change. What I also know is that Neil and I have made sure that over our 25 years in business we have made integrity, grace and tolerance the core of everything we do, along with a damn good sense of fun and humour. We know that it’s the people around you that make a great business and to become a leader in your space you need great people. We’ve been blessed to have a loyal core of phenomenal people who have been by our side for years and without these great people we really couldn’t run this business. So our thanks goes to Lara, Lucy, Beth, Paula and Tila who have been in for the long haul and keep it going on this side of the water and in the US. Conor and Rohit, it’s been wonderful watching the two of you open up like huge great sunflowers and emerge as truly brilliant PR pros, and it’s been a joy too seeing Sabina, Joel and Nicole take the reins and become more confident season by season, doing us proud. Avery, we’ve watched you do a ridiculously brilliant job in the US and step into the huge shoes that your mother left for you to fill and we’re delighted that Suzanne and Kathy you’re also by our sides to help in the US. Of course without Dagmar who has headed up our German efforts for near on 10 years – we’d not be where we are today – you are a true powerhouse and we love you:)
Somehow, over these 25 years in business, we’ve built our small but treasured team of superb people who have embraced the Eskenzi spirit of smash it, go above and beyond, leave the client feeling charmed and ecstatic, proud and pleased and then leave your day, ready to start all over again the following morning with the buzz that makes us determined to do better than we did the day before!
We’ve realised too, that the journalists are our lifeblood and without them we’d be nothing, so treating them with the utmost respect and consideration has been key to our survival!
Finally, a business is not a business without clients and this is where I can say we have been truly blessed over the last 25 years with the most fabulous personalities and characters, even writing this now I can’t help smile at some of the wildest, craziest moments I’ve had with clients! Many of them are now our favourite and oldest friends based in Israel, America and Australia. So, looking back over the last 25 years I can truly say it’s been a privilege to have the freedom to build up something unique and truly special alongside my greatest ally and friend, Neil. This journey could never, ever have happened without him by my side, every day being my sounding board, listening to my crazy ideas and helping build the fabric and foundation that makes everything actually work smoothly here at Eskenzi.
So, as another generation joins the firm, it’s with delight, hope and pride we watch our daughter and the younger ones come up the ranks, to continue for another 25 years!