Business Profile: Shirley Williams

Shirley Williams cropped
  1. What is the name of your business and what is your role? I am the owner of Shirley Williams Communications.
  2. Describe your business in two sentences. Shirley Williams Communications is an independent, Durban-based communications agency that helps streamline companies’ marketing and communications.  We start by analysing your business needs and, with your input, we prepare a communications strategy to maximise your visibility and expand your client base.
  3. How long have you been in business? 24 years
  4. How did you get into this business? As a single mom, I worked in several administrative positions to support myself while studying for my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Communications.   A year before I graduated, I obtained a position in the marketing department at Unilever.   While working with them, after graduation, I enrolled on their marketing course which added to my skills.   My time at Unilever gave me valuable experience and I went on to work in marketing at Rennies Shipping in Durban.  To augment my knowledge, I continued studying with UNISA to obtain a post-graduate strategic management diploma. These qualifications helped me gain a senior marketing & communications role with a JSE-listed company. Eventually, I decided to follow my entrepreneurial spirit and start my own business so I could better serve my clients. 
  5. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it? The global COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone. And due to the lockdown, I lost 90% of my revenue. Clients had also been impacted and the world was in a state of flux. I immediately took the opportunity to learn skills, in social media, and design, that I use to help my clients and their brands.
  6. What single trait/skill could you not have succeeded without? I’d have to say resilience. This is a stressful industry, it’s deadline-driven, and you’re often juggling several things simultaneously.  To succeed, you need the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult or frustrating situations. Being resilient has ensured I’ve managed to stay strong when things got tough, and I could not have succeeded without that strength.
  7. What is the best business advice you’ve received? “Get in the mind of your client”. I realise this sounds odd, but it’s the best business advice I’ve received. Obviously, we can’t reach other people’s minds, but when you get to know your clients, really get to know them, their likes and dislikes, you learn how to work better with them. A relationship of trust is built over time. When you’re able to successfully determine what your client will do next, you can be one step ahead. It makes the work easier for us, and smoother for them. 
  8. Your secret to business success is?  Learning from an early age that nothing is ever given to you. I’ve worked incredibly hard to get to where I am. You must keep at it with your head down until you achieve the success you envisioned.
  9. What is your business goal for 2022? I have two business goals for this year. The first is to regain lost revenue due to the pandemic and place more emphasis on new business development, and secondly to find my next passion project.  
  10. Tell us one thing that not many people know about you? Borne in the Eastern Cape, I have lived in Durban North since I was four years old, attending the local schools and when married also living in the area.  I returned to the house I grew up in when my parents passed on and now live in a Durban North lock-up and go that will allow me to travel.