Careers Advice

Ask the Expert with Claire Kinloch of Genoa Black

For our March Ask the Expert blog, ScotGrad's Shelley Morgan spoke to Claire Kinloch, Managing Director of Genoa Black. Entrepreneur and business owner, Claire noticed a need in the market and decided to invest in her own business.

Published: 01/03/2018

Claire Kinloch Genoa Black

Genoa Black deals in “breakthrough marketing”, it offers clients a straightforward, strategic approach to helping businesses understand their offering and using marketing effectively to ensure that challenges are overcome and potential is realised.

Claire has over 25 years of experience working for and with clients and agencies. Having spoken to business owners she realised that agency experiences are not always positive and can lack the commercial focus required to drive business growth. Claire and all her colleagues at Genoa Black put each business’ bottom line at the forefront of what they do, investing knowledge and advice into SMEs and larger companies alike. Staff at Genoa Black “use tried and tested business and marketing planning techniques and tools to really get under the skin of [the] business”.

Explaining her approach to supporting businesses with growth aspirations, she used the words “survive, thrive, and grow”, ideas fundamental to what makes Genoa Black unique in the market.

“We aim to educate clients and create a common language” to generate understanding of what marketing means and how it adds value, Claire explained. She continued that companies can be sceptical about investing in marketing and communications, even though investment in these areas is proven to lead the company to increased profit, brand awareness, and growth.

Deciding to set up her own business wasn’t a decision Claire took lightly. She had experienced positive and negative working environments and had a diverse range of experience in business leadership and management alongside her marketing and sales expertise. This experience led her to understand the culture she would like to create in a business for both herself and her future employees. Discussing this honestly, she mentioned that it was also a personal challenge she wanted to achieve. She said, “I wanted to see if I could do it”, but it was by no means an easy feat.

Claire shoulders a great deal of responsibility which she assured me was “hugely rewarding”, but also comes with constant pressure, including responsibility to her team of 16. “You’re only as strong as your weakest link” and you have to invest the time and energy into success including finding the right talent to join the team.

On average, Genoa Black has grown 68% year on year in the five years it has been up and running, and the market changes constantly. One of Claire’s key challenges was to find and define the business niche and then continue to articulate it effectively to clients. Another challenge, as we can all relate to, was and remains, money and resource. “The more money you have, the more you find to spend it on” and her investment into staff, while essential to grow the business, comes with its own challenges.

When offering advice to future graduates, Claire stresses that the pressure to find the right candidate is even more apparent for a small business:

  1. Invest time in understanding the commercial aspects of running a business – apply your theoretical knowledge to the real world situation
  2. Use your weekends and holidays wisely to gain experience
  3. Value your interviewer’s time and use that time wisely
  4. At interview, act and look like you really want the job – come well prepared, bring a list of questions about the company, sector, role, how the company is progressing
  5. Don’t assume the role isn’t as important as others in the business – in a team of 10, you are one tenth of the business and can make a substantial contribution

Claire summed it up perfectly, show “empathy and care for the business”, this is the owner’s baby and you have to show that you are “fit to look after it”.

Discussing how graduates progress in the business, Claire commented on the need for continuous professional development, “talent development has to be as much your own responsibility as the company’s, ask yourself, ‘what do I need to learn?’” Impress managers like Claire by doing your research and offering ideas for how you can address your areas of weakness if you don’t have evidence for everything on the job description.

Genoa Black contributes to the Klozers Sales and Marketing Academy available free to ScotGrads in the south of Scotland. Look out for our review of the training next week. In the Highlands & Islands, our grads take part in our business skills residential training course which incorporates many of the same topics.