Great Guns Marketing’s Liz Jackson: How I went blind the year I started my business

The Great Guns Marketing founder on why turning down two job offers was her best career move to date

Given the choice of two new jobs – both equally unappealing – or staying with your current company, which would you choose? For Liz Jackson the answer is neither – you set up your own multi-million pound marketing company of course.

Great Guns Marketing, founded in 1998 in Jackson’s living room in Basingstoke, is currently turning over £3m, in six UK branches with around 130 staff.

After starting out as an office junior at mergers and acquisitions company BCMS, Jackson worked her way up the firm, before looking for a change. She was offered two new jobs and spent a day with each company to decide between them – but neither appealed.

Instead, Jackson decided to give her own venture a go. “People had always told me I sounded natural on the phone. I was crap at the admin side but on the phone I was really confident.” So with the support of her boss, and the promise of a couple of days work a week from BCMS, she founded her telemarketing company.

After unsuccessfully pitching for a bank loan, Jackson presented her idea to the Prince’s Trust. She secured a £4,000 loan and further £1,000 grant.

Apart from the few days work from her old company Jackson spent the first few weeks cold calling potential clients. Great Guns would do all the sales appointment making for clients so their own sales staff didn’t have to waste time on the phone.

Jackson would do all the ringing around, filtering calling lists for customers that were actually interested in meeting the companies she worked for. Their own sales reps would then have meetings lined up by Great Guns with customers who were already interested in buying.

Jackson built the company up, moving from her lounge, to a converted garage, to the six regional offices around the country. An impressive feat on it its own, but even more inspiring given that a degenerate eyesight condition left her completely blind within her first year of business.

“Telemarketing depends on your ears and your mouth, so being blind hasn’t affected my role,” Jackson is keen to point out. “There have been much harder things to overcome. Not having much cash from the outset was really hard but it makes you more creative when you haven’t got a lot of resources.”

With clients such as Lloyds and PwC, the future looks bright for Great Guns. But despite recently being awarded an MBE Jackson is quick to dismiss the idea that it will make her act differently. “It’s nice to get that kind of recognition but it’s not the most exciting thing. Beating three competitors to win a client – that’s the kind of thing that gets you up in the morning.”

 

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