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Business Development – Keeping it Real

Anouska Leon headshot

What did you want to be when you grew up?

For me, my first ambition was to be a lorry driver – I was painfully shy as a child and I knew that would mean lots of time without having to talk to anyone.  Then, there was hairdressing, next archaeology - until I was kicked out of the history class for being naughty.

Luckily, Romeo & Juliet had just come out at the cinema (remember them?), so I had a plan B.  I was going to become an actress. This new career path would increase my chances of meeting Leonardo di Caprio and, what’s more, I could spend my life pretending to be someone else. 

I actually ended up going on to drama school but needless to say, I didn’t meet Leo - or even make it onto the stage for that matter.

Where am I going with this?  Well, somewhere between drama school and my first real job, I’ve realised that talking to people isn’t that scary and in fact, most people are really quite nice – especially if you show an interest in them.   I’m no longer shy and through my interest in others, I’ve become one of those people who genuinely wants to get to know people and if I can, help them too. 

And that brings me to my job. Business development (or at least the sales element) has always been considered quite a shallow, opportunistic trade, and an unusual profession for someone like me.

But this is where everyone is wrong.  I love my job because I’m doing exactly what I love – finding out about people and helping them.

Discovering exciting new brands, new products (before anyone else) – and inspirational, talented people to work with.  Building proper relationships with them, getting under the skin of their businesses and careers – and ultimately providing them with a solution to whatever keeps them up at night. 

It helps our clients’ businesses grow – and our business too. It creates jobs, maintains jobs and, of course, builds the economy. I’ve been told I should have been a therapist by some clients or prospective clients, having helped them get out of their hellish job or get that promotion. I may have even saved the odd marriage.  

I ask a lot of questions when I meet a potential new client. I like to take a deep dive into their business and what makes them tick so that I am in a position to provide an honest, unfiltered, no BS solution.  Sometimes (something very rare for someone of my profession) I might tell them that Richmond & Towers isn’t the best fit for them, and my desire to genuinely help them leads me to put them in touch with someone else who I know really would be their perfect match. 

Other times, what they think they want for their business or careers, turns out not to be what they actually want, and having got to know them and their businesses, I’m able to make informed recommendations which will get them to exactly where they want to be. 

There is nothing more satisfying than catching up with a happy client who is enjoying the fruits of our labour – watching them and their businesses blossom, knowing that it all started with a coffee at an otherwise dry tradeshow, or a LinkedIn message.

So although I still watch Time Team, I really love playing with peoples’ hair and I wouldn’t pass up a date with Leo, business development honestly is the most rewarding and exciting role IMO.  

It’s a myth that a business relationship need be any different from a personal one. I’m fortunate enough to be part of a team that supports me to work in the way I like to work and who value the honest, genuine approach to BD - and live by the same values.  People buy people, after all. 

I’ve recently been invited to co-chair the PRCA Business Development Group and I’m thrilled to have been invited to take up the position during such an exciting period of change.  If you want to talk about the group business development, drop me a line at or via my LinkedIn.