From London and the Midlands to the North Devon countryside
Living in the North Devon countryside with its gently rolling green hills, is certainly a far cry from either London or the Midlands, where Mark and I, Lisa originate from. Mark moved down to the county from London in the late 80’s, having previously worked in advertising as a media buyer and planner, to head up the market research arm of the South West advertising agency Bray Leino. I joined the agency in the early 90’s as a graduate research executive.
Having worked many years as part of a larger organisation, in 2005, we secured regional funding to conduct an MBO of Turquoise Thinking Ltd.
The joys of the morning commute
Living and working in North Devon certainly has its advantages over the city, with a far less stressful and more fulfilling commute to work. Mark certainly doesn’t miss the hour and half he used to spend travelling 5 miles to the tube, and I much prefer the North Devon link road compared to either the M42 or M6 gridlock. The only things us rural business owners have to contend with are the pot holes, constantly dirty cars from mud on the road and being held up by local farmer’s tractors and wandering sheep or cows on the country lanes!
Coming home to the boys
Life and work is stressful enough whatever your job, business or location, but what eases that stress for me is coming home to my pets and beautiful house. Who wouldn’t want to come home to these faces? Beyond the gorgeous countryside that surrounds us, we are also privy to the beautiful coastline that surrounds this county. Taking the dogs to Instow beach or the Northam Burrows after work is much better for the soul than battling the crowds or going to a bar. It’s also easier on the wallet!
What my morning looks like
It’s a real privilege to reside in a gorgeous property that is perched quite high up on what can frequently be a wet and windy hill. During my morning routine, which involves the feeding of two horses, you will often find me wheelbarrowing hay to them in the dark; wellies on, bobble hat pulled over my ears, miners lamp beaming, battling against the south westerly wind and having hay flying back in my face. A slightly different picture to what I hopefully portray when presenting research insights to the marketing director of a large pharmaceutical company a little later at 9am!
Choosing not to be bound by our rural location
As a national research agency, the majority of our clients are historically based in London, the north of the country and Europe, but we have always felt strongly that geography should not prevent our business growth as long as we didn’t make it an issue. Yes, there are often very early mornings but our philosophy is that if a client needs us to attend a meeting, we go whatever the weather or time.
Living in North Devon has not stopped us competing with the big London agencies. In fact, we have managed to successfully grow the business over the last 30 years, working with blue chip companies located the length and breadth of the UK, such as Proctor & Gamble, Scottish Water, Citroen, Roche Diabetes Care, and Muller Wiseman. We have proved that by being a lean market research company in North Devon, we can offer competitive pricing without the large overheads that our main competitors have. Equally, this has also enabled us to offer a value-added service to our clients as we do not charge for things that many of our London counterparts wouldn’t think twice about charging for. To us it’s all part of the Turquoise service.
Advice to businesses starting up in the South West
Owning a successful market research agency in North Devon has given us the best of both worlds, allowing us the benefits of being able to compete with larger national agencies whilst capitalising on a fantastic quality of life.
The advancement in connectivity has certainly made having a business down here easier in the last 30 years, but the region equally has an excellent transport network and talent pool with Exeter just down the road and London only 200 miles and a three hour drive away.
For anyone thinking about starting up a business who desires a work life balance, I can’t recommend the region more highly. Yes, you work very hard, but you also get to enjoy the wide open spaces and beauty that the area offers, with access to the coast, countryside and moorland, excellent local food and great cultural facilities.
Lisa Ollerenshaw, Joint Managing Director of Turquoise Thinking Ltd.
If you’d like to speak to us about how we can help your business through market research, or if you run, or are thinking of starting a business in a rural location and would like to hear more of our experiences, we’d love to hear from you and see where we can help. Get in touch here and continue to follow our story on social media by subscribing to our pages on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.