From cathartic cinema to the strategic benefits of a business development consultant


Having joined us earlier this year, Susanne Pugsley talks about how the lessons she learned as a member of the Territorial Army have informed the way she helps companies wiht business development today and why she’s is an avid lover of film…

How do you help professional services businesses?

It’s mostly about being a fresh pair of eyes for companies or situations, unconstrained by all the politics that people inside a company are often hampered by. As an outsider, I am able to see things that aren’t always obvious from the inside, and I am able to be a voice for those who feel they can’t say something because it may impact their job or the way they’re seen.

I found this when I was in the Territorial Army as well. Often people who were in the regular army would ask me ask the difficult questions that they didn’t feel able to bring up without potentially harming their long term career.

I know that sometimes partners like to get third party validation regarding something their CMO or Business Development Director has said about the market. That can be really difficult and often not seem fair to my contemporaries who work in-house, but it’s not a slight on them or a desire to undermine them it’s just the natural risk aversion of the professionals in the legal industry and need for reassurance.  When I was in-house, I often used to use the consultants whose opinion I trusted to validate decisions to the board.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

I am fascinated by intelligent people with incredible minds and abilities, but I also love seeing how our different brains are wired. You can be excellent as a lawyer but not understand how to market your profession. Working with truly intelligent people is wonderful because they are able to see that you’re bringing a different skill to the party. It’s the lightbulb moment, when they realise the value of what you’re bringing to a business, that is so rewarding, which is why I love doing what I do on a fractional basis so I can continually bring it to new groups of people.

Why do you think a gig approach works well in what you do?

It comes back to the outside perspective. I think particularly for my area, which is that mid market size firms that don’t have the budget for a full time CMO it is key for them to understand that they really don’t need one all the time.  However, there are points in their evolution where they need a senior person to set the strategy in order for them to move forward.

A lot of people think they need to hire me full time, and I know that within a year they won’t need me because I will have done what I need to do and they can hire a manager to execute it at a lower expense. That’s the best bang for your buck!

I think the great thing with this flexible revolution that’s occurring, is that it works for people who don’t want to be in an office every day and for companies that don’t need all their roles to be filled every day of the week.

Most businesses don’t need a senior strategy person all the time, but once a month, a quarter or even a year is a very good idea. It’s much more affordable and you get more value for your money.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a mentoring project with some partners and directors in an accountancy practice to help them identify how they can best create new pipelines of work for the business.

I do a lot of LinkedIn business training with a variety of law firms to help show how they can use the free platform to build a pipeline of work and use it to build the brand both as individuals and as a firm.

I am also consulting on a couple of CRM projects where my role is to show the board the business value that a good CRM will bring and why it’s essential.

What do you do when you’re not working?

Right now, my family and I are rehoming a cat. I spend lots of time with family and I am helping my daughter prepare for her 11+. There’s also talk about a camping trip going on.

Is there a particular book that changed the way you see the world?

I love to read and I have an audible account as well, so I listen to hundreds of books. I love Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, which I found fascinating because it’s a concept where every time her life goes wrong it resets and she goes back to the beginning. Then eventually memories started to merge. It was interesting to me that if you had unlimited options to go back and do things again, where would you end up?

I also adored M.M.K’s The Far Pavilions, which is all about India going through its separation from Pakistan and the Raj. It’s an epic novel, and I love epic novels. I studied that era at school so I think that gives it extra meaning for me.

That said, listening to crime dramas is my guilty pleasure. I think I’m a frustrated private detective at heart.

Do you have a favourite movie and why?

I love different films for different reasons. I love some terrible trashy films and I have seen Pretty Woman about 30 times.

Equally, Away We Go was a really interesting film about a couple discovering they were pregnant but are living in the middle of nowhere in Alaska. They decide they should move to be closer to people and go on a road trip to see different friends and family members to decide where to settle, and ultimately it shows many perspectives on what family and parenting means to different people. Maggie Gyllenhaal does a hysterical cameo as a woman who is a professor who over parents her child.

I am also a big fan of the Marvel films and I love children’s films like The Incredibles. I would happily go to see one of those alone without my kids.

For me, cinema has to be a full cathartic experience. I want to laugh and cry a lot.

Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you…

I think people think I am quite hard and a strong personality and don’t realise I am a huge softie and cry in films all the time. It’s why I don’t like bumping into people I know at the movies and I hate watching movies on planes – because I have to hold in my emotions.