Monday, 16 December 2019

Let's Get Down to Business: Annie Hall, Phase Two

Let's Get Down to Business: Annie Hall, Phase Two

ANNIE HALL is the owner of brand design business Phase Two. Born and bred in Buckinghamshire, Annie didn’t enjoy school but did well in art and English. At age 16, she went to Amersham and Wycombe College to study art, design and graphics. After graduating, she worked for two advertising agencies, then teamed up with another designer before starting her own business in 1992. She runs Phase Two from her home in Witheridge Hill, where she lives with her husband and 18-year-old daughter and their English pointer Beau. Her daughter plans to take a textile degree course at university. Annie loves culture, cities, architecture, galleries and places with personality, Italy being a favourite.

Describe your business

Phase Two specialises in creating successful brand identities for ambitious start-ups, SMEs and B2B businesses. Nobody wants to look the same as everyone else. No matter what industry or sector I have worked with (from emerging science and manufacturing companies to florists and cake makers), they all have a strong sense of individuality. The lessons I’ve learned in my own business help me to understand the challenges my clients face.

How many people does it employ?

None. I produce all the design/artwork and project manage but use freelancers such as web developers, illustrators, animators, copywriters and photographers.

What did you do before you started the business?

After college I worked at a well-known advertising agency in London. I loved the agency, the people and the work but didn’t enjoy the daily commute so I went to work at a new agency in High Wycombe as a designer. There I worked with a freelance designer who asked me if I had thought about starting a business. I jumped at the chance. We began by canvassing companies, starting on the industrial estates in High Wycombe. Between us we had a portfolio of our previous work and lots of determination and optimism. We both worked from home and had a successful and lucrative partnership for 10 years. We parted amicably to follow our own paths. I moved to Henley and bought a house in Reading Road and set up Phase Two. I lived there for three years before we moved to Witheridge Hill.

What was your objective?

I had always liked the idea of working for myself, not “nine to five”. I love being able to be flexible and be there with my family. I also enjoy the variety of work and seeing my clients and their businesses flourish.

Who or what influenced you?

Some of my college lecturers were very influential in giving us live briefs and helping us to understand the world of work for a creative. It was also the era of Anita Roddick, James Dyson and all the advertising gurus and other entrepreneurs, so there was lots of inspiration.

What would you do differently if you could again?

I often wonder what my career route would have been had I stuck with the agency world and in London for longer. The biggest thing would be to understand how to run a business better from the start.

How is your business doing?

Well. I have worked with many of my clients for years.

How do you market your business/service?

Some networking. The Henley Business Partnership 3FM meetings are great. Referrals are a major source of new clients and I do some targeted direct mail. I’ve recently rebranded and launched a new website. Marketing yourself is continuous.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

Flexibility. Being able change my day or week to meet what is needed and not being stuck in a rut.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

Finding new clients while at the same time running the business.

Where is your business headed?

I want to make the website more effective in generating more branding business.

What would you advise someone starting a business?

To believe wholeheartedly that you can do it and to love what you do.

What three qualities are most important to success?

Loving what you do, being trusted and and buying in the services for those things you are not so good at.

What’s the secret of your success?

Being honest and sincere, being myself and listening to what my clients need.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

To listen carefully.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?

I wish I had started a family sooner.

How organised are you?

Quite well as I have to be to manage the other areas of my life too.

How are you planning for retirement?

To step up the business in the next few years before beginning to ease back. My husband and I want to spend more time in Italy and Europe, which we love.

How do you dress for work each day?

I like to be comfortable but also enjoy dressing for me.

What can’t you be without every day?

Coffee first thing.

Lunch at your desk or going out?

At my desk at home.

Do you continue to study?

Yes. When I have the time, art classes but also business-related courses. I’m doing courses on social media, strategy and certain industry software programmes which are always evolving.

What do you read?

Thrillers and crime novels. I’m also really keen on reading how we can help to conserve, restore and protect the environment.

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