RD Consulting (Chamber Member Spotlight - December 2021)

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By Canberra Business Chamber posted 01-12-2021 10:18

  


RD Consulting started life as a dream. A dream to communicate more effectively, with greater client-centricity, and with bigger impact.

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RD Consulting’s CEO, Colin Anstie, has been passionate about business since his childhood. From collecting trolleys for 20 cent pieces to picking and selling daffodils on the side of the road, in many ways, Colin has been chasing his passion of providing people with services his whole life.

But he found his ‘why’ after working in private sector marketing during his early professional career at Telstra and Commonwealth Bank. Colin had grown frustrated with lengthy bureaucratic processes and believed marketing and communication could better embrace emerging technologies and the digital realm, tackle problems more creatively, centre the client and their vision, and could more meaningfully hit the right audiences, with the right messages, at the right time.

Knowing something could be done, but not knowing how to do it, Colin began a Master of Business Administration in 2008 to learn the ropes of running a business.

“It was a grueling, testing, and trialing experience for me and I learnt a lot from it. I had set up RD Consulting – then Raging Digital – at the same time, which meant the degree took me seven years to complete. I often got up at 2.00am or 3.00am, seven days a week, to complete coursework and assignments before the working day”, Colin said.

While RD Consulting started as one laptop, and one person, today the business has transformed into something far beyond what Colin could have imagined. With over 70 staff and 54 large Government projects, RD Consulting offers the full suite of communication services – including strategic communication, change management, Strategy Execution Offices, training and facilitation, graphic design, video, and workforce planning.

Getting there, however, did not happen overnight. And there were a number of lessons and realisations Colin came to along the way.

He sat down with the Canberra Business Chamber recently and shared some of these with us.

  1. Understand where your strengths lie.

As a business owner, you need to be good at – or have a good understanding of – many different disciplines of knowledge.

“Owning a business means knowing law, accounting, sales, marketing, and human resources. It means understanding where your skills are, and where they are not”, Colin said.

“RD Consulting, in its genesis, was a small group of marketers who – quite stereotypically – were not professional accountants. I had to quickly learn to accept this shortcoming and look for other ways to manage the financial side of the business. I looked at options to hire, buy in, or take a course. I eventually came to the conclusion that the best option for our particular model would be to outsource accounting and finance. I added an external Chief Financial Officer to the RD toolbelt”.

  1. Know your value in the market.

When RD Consulting first started competing for contracts – as is still the case now – Colin found that the business tended to be up against Big Four competitors.

“It was tempting, initially, to try and mold the business to what already existed in the market. But I came to understand that what makes you stand out is not where you are similar to bigger, more well-known businesses, but where you are different. It’s the quiet strength of a small business – the strength of what sets you apart”, Colin said.

Over the years, Colin has worked on developing the concept of a ‘small giant’ business. Small in the sense that RD Consulting plans to stay under 100 people to build strong internal relationships, experience, family culture, tenure and connectedness. And giant meaning it aims to be the number one choice for clients across the seven services offered.

“We have deliberately chosen to be great instead of big. We chase projects that our people are passionate about and motivated by – as opposed to chasing projects for profit or growth”, Colin said.

  1. Be Flexible and Embrace Challenge.

But Colin believes knowing where your business lies in the market is only one part of the equation. Understanding how to operate in it is another.

“Covid-19 was a challenge for all industries worldwide. And for me, it really highlighted the importance of being flexible in business”, Colin said. “Our period of rapid growth came when other businesses in the communication industry struggled to adapt to the pandemic’s challenges – in workforce operations and in service offerings.

“At the time, taking the foot off the pedal was not an option for RD Consulting, and we had to learn to rebuild how we operate and what we offer clients”.

RD Consulting had been previously focused on strategic communication and graphic design. But the pandemic offered an opportunity for expansion into other fields of communication that were increasing in demand.

“Lockdowns, social distancing, and travel restrictions radically forced businesses to change how they communicate with the public and with their workforce,” Colin said. “We observed a sharp incline in demand for video services, and decided to develop our capacity to offer services in this branch of communication, among others.

“It was an enormous success for us. So much so we are currently working to build an in-house film studio for our clients to be able to offer even greater flexibility on the client experience end.”

The pandemic also offered Colin an opportunity to tap into much of Canberra’s talented workforce who had been stood down during the initial wave of the pandemic.

Women were disproportionately affected in this area of economic security, making up the majority of those who either lost their jobs or reported large decreases in hours available to work.

Colin and his recruitment team set out looking for talented women who had been disadvantaged by Covid-19. Now, over a year later, RD Consulting proudly boasts having a workforce – and conversely, a leadership team – made up of approximately 70 per cent women.

  1. Understand that culture is everything.

Colin has also learnt that organisational culture is everything.

“Building a business is about balancing the need to surround yourself with people who share your values and who are like-minded with what the organisation needs and the sort of diverse thinking that helps it grow”, Colin said.

“Throughout my Master of Business Administration, in all the books I’ve read, and in conversations with leaders in the industry, company culture has been stressed as being central to the survivability of business. I know that everyone working for RD Consulting could be picked off by a competitor or another business. Which means you have to ask what will make people stay. Why do they want to be part of your collective unit? Why do they come in, hustle, and work hard for your business every day? It is all about culture”.

Colin believes that building a positive company culture is all about treating staff well and making sure leaders are actively showing their people that they are valued and appreciated. The business trades heavily on kindness.

  1. Utilise the Canberra Business Chamber.

Underpinning all this, according to Colin, was his membership and collaboration with the Canberra Business Chamber – which he credits with much of RD Consulting’s initial success.

“Canberra is a close-knit community, and when I moved here from Sydney to start my business, one of the initial challenges was understanding both the market and the who’s-who of the Canberra business industry,” Colin said.

“The Canberra Business Chamber was actually my very first contract when I came to Canberra. I worked on the organisation’s marketing strategy to help them plan how to attract new members. Through this experience, I built some incredible contacts and met some phenomenal people who really form the connective tissue of Canberra”.

Not only did Colin work for the Canberra Business Chamber, but he also both attended and ran workshops.

“The workshops, seminars and networking events run by the Canberra Business Chamber were instrumental in helping me refine my business offering and how to locate it in the market. It also connected me to government, other business professionals, and future clients,” Colin said.

Colin’s final piece of advice?

Dive in. “When it comes to starting a business, there is no replacement for just diving headfirst and making it happen,” Colin said. “You can read every book in the world, but the toughest lessons, the knowledge you gain, all comes once you start.”

@Colin Anstie
CEO
RD Consulting

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01-12-2021 10:27

Such an inspiring story, @Colin Anstie. It's always wonderful to hear from you. ​