Boosting business success: a CEO and founder’s guide

Published: 15-Mar-2024

Kath Darlington has curated significant business wisdom during the 27 years of the Scott Partnership, which she shares with Manufacturing Chemist

With strong competition and setbacks on every corner, maintaining a reputable and successful business can be challenging. Kath Darlington, a STEM business veteran and CEO of The Scott Partnership, knows this all too well. Annabel Kartal-Allen spoke to Kath about her experiences in the field of B2B science marketing and communications, how a successful business functions and the importance of strategy and communication. 

Communication is key

Service-based businesses have clients at their core and forming long-term relationships is highly beneficial for business prosperity. Kath explains: “When embarking on a relationship with a client, we've always approached it as a partnership, rather than a contractual relationship. Because of this, we have long-term client engagements, with some spanning more than 10 years. You become strongly invested in the business, its individuals and their success with time.”

Kath also stresses the importance of going above and beyond for clients: “We do a lot of unpaid networking for our clients, connecting them with individuals they may not know, which we think they need to. This can give people access to market insights and contracts that would otherwise be unattainable. It's win-win when clients are successful, as this benefits us too. We’re always connecting people, whether they are clients or not.”

She elaborates: “We were once faced with a large client in a strategic and leadership crisis. At the time, nobody took charge as the team was heavily focused on making internal strategic decisions about the direction the business wanted to take. This had the potential to negatively influence their perception by the market, which could tarnish their reputation and business.”

Enhancing company communication is particularly beneficial for smaller businesses who intend to grow their footprint and influence

“With the company’s agreement, we implemented an 18-month programme of external, high visibility, public-facing messaging to reassure customers that the company wasn’t having issues with communications, thereby salvaging its public persona and dispelling rumours before they began.”

Kath continues: “Our role was entirely external; we not only continued with a “business as usual” campaign, but a highly proactive approach to ensuring that the company’s social output was above average. The continuous communications programme globally ensured that the division remained active in the public eye. After the 18-month period, a new internal leadership team was appointed, and, externally, nobody was any the wiser. The company continues with a market leadership position to this day.”

Enhancing company communication is particularly beneficial for smaller businesses who intend to grow their footprint and influence, Kath explains: “Companies that use communication in a clever way can create an aura of being more dynamic, important and able to access technology than other, larger companies. If you don’t exhibit your assets, people won’t get that good impression. This can take small companies away from the crowd and enlarge their reach.”


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Strategy gives a business direction

Organisation can transform a business’ productivity, define attainable goals and help determine whether everything is running smoothly. Kath believes strategies are crucial when it comes to the functioning of any business: “You need to know what you're doing from day to day and if you’ll make a profit or not. We can generally predict what's going to happen and, if it doesn't go according to plan, we regroup, assess and change our approach.”

Flexibility allows companies to thrive

Although there has to be some strategy in business, Kath believes that flexibility is another crucial factor in terms of making a business successful. “When we first started The Scott Partnership, we were just a general B2B PR agency; we definitely weren't working in science. When we began working with a client in this industry, we ended up acquiring more jobs through this. We had a serendipitous transition into science — that was the obvious next step as we were pursuing a niche that benefited us as an organisation. 

You have to consciously follow the trends that appear in business

With seeds planted firmly in STEM, The Scott Partnership developed its strategy. However, with time, this approach would be optimised to coincide with changes in the market, such as the Brexit agreement: “There has been a significant increase in our workflow within the EU since Brexit. Because of this, we’re looking to exploit that market further. It's never been part of our strategy, but you have to consciously follow the trends that appear in business. You have to keep an eye on them, and follow where the money goes.”

Sometimes, internal disagreements between key committee members can cause unnecessary dissonance within a company, which could divert focus away from enhancing operations. Kath knows this all too well; so, The Scott Partnership encourages healthy business relationships and endeavours to allow all voices to be heard.

“In the past, one of our customers had just won a new order from a customer (a global CR) The beneficiary of the new order was one of the decision makers in this company. He was against the final selection of our client and was overruled by his corporate colleagues in America.”

“Not only was he being required to reject a supplier he had a good relationship with, but he was also required to forge a new association with a vendor he didn’t want to engage with and install an undesired new product in his GMP analytical lab. Our customer was the new replacement vendor and recognised that they had a challenge on their hands.”

Kath Darlington, CEO at The Scott Partnership and export champion for Northern Powerhouse with the Department of Trade and Industry

Kath Darlington, CEO at The Scott Partnership and export champion for Northern Powerhouse with the Department of Trade and Industry

“The company asked us to work with the decision maker to help him understand the positive changes that the novel supplier could bring. We spent a significant amount of time working with him to determine what he viewed as challenges … and to ensure the vendor would address them all while also giving him a voice.”

“Although initially resistant, he welcomed having the opportunity to articulate his opinions. We built an entire programme around him to improve his relationship with the vendor, not only creating materials bylined and authored by him but giving him KOL speaker opportunities at conferences and bolstering his profile.”

Overall, owning a business is a dynamic affair, so companies in the pharmaceutical industry must do everything they can to optimise their processes, follow the industry trends and changes that occur, whilst also endeavouring to form solid connections on a global scale. Decisions must be made on what’s important and what isn’t, where priorities lie when considering growth and how this may reflect long-term. 

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