Fantastic Females – Interview with Hannah Rowe, founder of Hannah Rowe Consulting

Hannah Rowe set up her business 7 years ago when her children were just aged 6 and 1. Hannah Rowe Consulting was established in 2013 and helps businesses and individuals to promote themselves more efficiently and effectively. Offering services in marketing, PR and event management, Hannah works with companies across the South West. She specialises in social care and hospitality, but is happy to talk to organisations in any sector!  

” I’d always wanted to run my own business as I come from a long line of people who did (dad was a builder, grandparents owned a Post Office, etc). As things were changing at my employer it seemed like a perfect time to do it!

I work more hours than I did but manage to fit it around the family – so I work 9-3, stop to pick the children up from school (although not at the moment!!) and then start again when I get home. Most clients are fab and if they accidentally ring me between 3 and 4 usually say ‘sorry –you’re on the school run!’ and ring off. But the trade-off is that they know they can talk to me at any time over evenings and weekends.

I find that my children appreciate what I do, even if they don’t always understand what I do. They see that mum works so that they get the nice holidays and live in a nice house, and I think that’s a good example to set them. I’ve also helped my son’s senior school with their media work, which seemed fair as I can’t bake so don’t contribute in that way at all!”

How did you balance being a mother and professional? 

I took very short maternity leaves – things move so fast in Marketing and PR that I thought a year out would be too long. Now I manage to juggle priorities in a different way, so I work 9-3, stop to go and collect the children, then start again when I get home. It is easier now that they are older (13 and 8), I remember a full potty being put on my laptop once, thankfully the right way up!

What have you sacrificed (both personally and professionally) at each stage of your career? 

Straight out of University it was quite easy as you can focus 100% on work, but to get my professional qualifications I had to sacrifice a social life – it was 3 hours a week, twice a week tutorials for a year, then weekends were spent studying for the exams. 

When I had children I had to sacrifice the next step on the career ladder, it isn’t possible to do the evening networking and working away with small children, especially not if your husband has a career too. I also sacrificed some family time to preserve my career in some way, as if I’d had a longer maternity leave I wouldn’t have had the leverage to negotiate slightly part-time hours. I know that ‘legally’ you can do it, but in reality it doesn’t always work that way.

When I finally went freelance I sacrificed the money (short-term) and stability to do what was right for my family. I didn’t want my children growing up with me never being there.

Who inspired you and why?

My (now deceased) father, who ran his own business. A photographer who freelanced for my previous employer – he also had the contract for one of the county cricket clubs, and I’d see him walk into my office during the summer months in his shorts, off to spend the day at the cricket ground. I loved that he had the freedom to make his own decisions about what he did and who he worked for. Finally, a manager I had almost 20 years ago, and whom I’m still in contact with – the most enthusiastic marketer I’ve ever met, and someone who taught me everything I know about branding.

What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?

Sadly the glass ceiling is still there – you have to be brighter than the men to get to the same level. Take every training opportunity which comes your way, and network like a demon – those contacts may come in handy in the future!  And to any young person (male or female) starting out, and who is ambitious, remember this: Be careful who you step over on the way up, as you will meet them on the way down.  This sounds really harsh, but I’ve seen it happen on numerous occasions in my 20+ years in marketing.

Do you think women feel intimidated in business?

It depends on the individual! I didn’t, but I’m quite a strong character.  I think anyone, male or female, has the potential to feel intimidated in business. But I’d give this advice: you won’t be the only one who feels that way, so just carry on and see where it leads you!

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?  

Having returned from a 4 mile run, probably tidying up before going to watch rugby in the afternoon (not at the moment obviously). Or sorting out my daughter’s hockey kit for a tournament, or her swimming kit for a gala. 

What do you love about your job?

I am at the stage (7 years in) where I only work with people I want to work with, and because I’m freelance I don’t have to deal with office politics. Every day is different, one day I’m talking to an MP about an opening event, the next I’m planning a PR campaign or proof-checking a website. I work with some amazing, creative, and downright crazy people, and I learn something from all of them!

What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made?

Joining my previous employers in 2004. I had the most amazing CEO who was very supportive of marketing and PR, and understood its importance. During my almost 9 years at the company I dealt with some high-profile issues, from which I learnt a lot, and also had some experiences which no-one else will ever have as they were one-off situations.  Also, it enabled me to specialise in a sector (social care) which I love, and where what I do can make a real difference.   

What’s the worst career decision you’ve ever made?

Not leaving my previous employer earlier than I did. 9 years is a LONG time in Marketing & PR. My old boss (one of my inspirations) used to say that Marketing years are like dog years!

What would you be doing if you were me now?

I’m not sure – it depends who you are! I would say that if you’re a mum thinking of going into business, then go for it – I went freelance during a recession, and I think (hope) that one of the outcomes of the pandemic will be a lot more appreciation for small businesses.  

How do you organise your time?

Like every member of my father’s family, I am queen of the list! I write a list every evening of things (professionally and personally) which I need to achieve the next day, and try to stick to it. I have the radio on during the day but never the TV as it’s distracting.

What do you think is your greatest strength?

I’m frequently told that I’m organised (see above!) and am good at getting things done.  

What do you think is your greatest weakness?

I’m too polite sometimes and don’t say ‘No’ when I should.  So I ended up getting stuck doing things I don’t want to.  I am trying to be better at that.

How do you make decisions?

Work-wise, I usually know what I’m doing – but sometimes I do a ‘pro’ and ‘con’ list (I told you I like a list!) or consult someone whose opinion I value – usually my husband or a close friend.

What do you read?

All sorts of things. I’ve just finished reading ‘Airhead’ by Emily Maitlis, and before that I read ‘The Vanity Fair Diaries’ by Tina Brown. Both of these are great memoirs by strong women in the media, and well worth a read! Fiction-wise I absolutely love Celia Imrie’s novels.   

What do you think are the secrets behind getting to where you’ve got to?

Hard work, constantly updating my skills, and networking. There’s been a little bit of luck in there too – I’ve been in the right place at the right time occasionally (or rather one of my contacts has!).