ImagiNation with Anna Ruth Williams


Anna Ruth Williams

Founder + CEO of ARPR

Occupation: Anna Ruth Williams, Founder + CEO of ARPR

Favorite Productivity Tool: Basecamp

Most Recommended App: Acorns

Last Thing You Read: Radical Candor by Kim Scott


Twitter handle@annaruth

Instagram handle: @anna_ruth

Tell us about your journey? Right after college, I jumped into political communications. It was an amazing experience because I built comms plans from scratch, managed huge PR events, participated in the emergence of brand social media, served as a press secretary in a top 10 market, and learned crisis communications from a fire hose. At that time, the political climate was tough since we were in the recession. Much of my job was focused on crafting messages for candidates about their platforms, which focused on “high tech, high wage jobs of the future.” This is when I first learned about angel investing, toured my first startup incubator, and was getting hooked. By my late twenties, I was at a PR firm and I was fortunate to have two global B2B technology brands fall in my lap. I immediately fell in love with tech PR, but was stifled by how “unimaginative” that agency was. To make a long story short, I ended up asking my parents for my wedding fund and hanging my shingle in 2012.

What's your favorite part of your day? The evening. If I’m in town and don’t have evening events, I typically take a break at 5pm and spend time with my dog, work out, make dinner, watch evening news and settle into my home before picking my laptop back up around 8pm. It’s a great brain break and gives me energy to finish the day.

When do you feel most successful? The best feeling is when my team tells me something crazy successful that they did for a client. This happens throughout the month; for example, we have a “Belt Competition” where colleagues fight for ownership of a heavy-weight belt. It’s awarded based on Tier I result criteria, and I love seeing those results. I’m also totally enthused when I see our monthly Influence & Impact reports, which are our proprietary analytics decks that we send to each client. It’s so rewarding to read each one of them, and realize that we’ve built a very different kind of PR agency that makes a quantifiable impact on each of our tech clients’ businesses. Of course, it also makes me very proud of each and every one of our team members. ☺

What do you do to recharge when you’re feeling drained? I was born to CREATE. As a kid I was constantly creating crafts, games, stories, etc. I’ve learned that it’s really important for me to continually fuel that natural desire to create as an adult. So, if I have a week that drains me via administrative work, finances, HR/client management, etc. – I give myself time to create. This can be gardening, home decorating, baking, crafting, etc. It always recharges me.

What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur? I could answer this question with lots of tactical answers about business operations, finances, HR best practices, etc. But the reality is that I’m so glad I didn’t have textbooks and templates for all of these things, because I’ve been able to learn them via experience, I’ve been able to take risks, and I’ve been able to create new models for success.

For example, ARPR has been able to buck the PR agency billability model in many ways. The average agency has a billability of 85.5% and a (dropping) profit margin of ~15%. At ARPR, we’ve been able to achieve a better margin with a much lower billability average. If I had been the VP of a large agency previously in my career, I might not have been naïve enough to model ARPR’s business the way I did.

How do you optimize your day? I wish I had a profound answer to this question. But as the owner of a faced-paced professional service firm, I do whatever needs to be done and I start each morning with zero expectations about how the day will go. Sure there’s a plan and goals for each day, but I don’t let them “own” me.

Who is the person/people who allowed you to imagine more? My dad. He raised me to believe that I could do anything – and even do it better than the boys. My dad was also an early adopter of technology and would let me try gadgets and software programs before they were mainstream, which fueled much imagination in our home. Above all else, he was passionately curious and he loved the big picture as much as he loved the little details. I’m eternally grateful that he instilled these qualities in me.  Unfortunately, he is no longer on earth, but his memory continues to push me to imagine more so that I can keep living for both of us.

What does imagining more mean to you and your story? We can always imagine more. Just when something becomes commonplace or boring – it’s probably time to “break it.” I take this approach with everything we do at ARPR, but I also try to apply it to my life. Decades from now, I want to look back and be happy knowing that each chapter of my story was exciting, fulfilling and new.

If you could do more of one thing every day what would it be? Yoga! I go to the studio (Sacred Thread, which is also owned by a young female entrepreneur) 4 times a week, and I look forward to practicing twice a day when I retire. ;)