Inspirational Women: Liane Sayer-Roberts
Each week, SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.
Name and role
Liane Sayer-Roberts and I’m the founder and Director of Sauce Communications, an independent full-service and multi-award-winning public relations and events agency based in Leeton in rural New South Wales.
Tell us about your role? What is it? What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
No two days are ever the same in my role, but every day starts – without fail – with a very strong caffeine hit and then a 9:08am stand-up meeting to check in with our team of 11 across our Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Riverina offices. Depending on our clients’ needs, I might be involved in preparing a communications strategy on a change based project, writing a speech for a CEO or Chairperson or partnering a client on a high stakes issue. I also travel – a lot (!) – to meet existing and new clients or just to support our team. It’s not unusual to clock 4000km in a month.
How/when did you know this is what you wanted to do as a career?
I have always loved to write, even when I was considering a career in the police force! I originally trained in journalism (where I got to cover the police round) before taking on a role in PR at a university and retraining in communications management. I loved the variety and complexity of some of the projects I had access to from the start. Eighteen years on, there is very little I haven’t done, from international product launches and social change programs, to Government mergers and crisis communications, and I love it all!
Your profession is often associated with big cities and bright lights, how did you find starting your business, Sauce Communications, in rural NSW?
Sauce Communications was borne out of an unwillingness to abandon my career following a tree change from Sydney to the Riverina region of NSW in 2004. I’ll admit the change in pace going from a city-based location to a rural town was challenging at first, but sometimes success comes from the most unexpected sources. What started out as a short-term tree change has changed the direction of my life – and the life of our family – because of the incredible opportunities that have opened up. On moving to Leeton, I started Sauce Communications to “tide me over” until I resumed a career in the city. Today, more than a decade later, sauce and our family remains proudly headquartered in Leeton. Leeton has been incredibly kind to us – we’ve built a business from scratch, made wonderful friends, found great coffee and care for our two small boys, aged three and seven. Also, you can’t beat the house prices and the two minute commute to work! We came to Leeton for my husband’s career, but we’ve stayed for mine and the lifestyle it affords our young family.
Sauce Communications is now over 10 years old, congratulations! How has the business developed over time? Where do you see Sauce Communications in 10 years?
I’m incredibly proud to have developed Sauce from sole trader status in 2004 (read: me and my laptop) to a national PR agency that was named the 2015 CommsCon Mid-Size Agency of the Year! We’ve just entered our 11th consecutive year of revenue growth and are proud to have leading PR guns on our team working with some of the largest agribusinesses in this country. Sauce specialises in working with medium to large organisations that are based in, represent or need to reach rural and regional audiences. We have a very strong position in this niche and are targeting further growth. If our achievements over the last 10 years are anything to go by, in 2025 the only thing that will change is the numbers – namely the number of staff, clients, offices and awards!
What are the key challenges/hurdles that have been critical to your success?
People often assume that our geographical location is a challenge especially with our metropolitan-based clients. That couldn’t be any further from the truth, even with offices in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney, Sauce’s HQ in rural Australia is our point of difference and an advantage that’s been crucial to our success as a business.
How did you overcome these?
Today’s world is so connected. In one sense how we operate is no different to city-based businesses that have offices across the country or around the world. To stay connected, we use teleconferences and Skype for regular meetings, while the Skype Business instant messenger tool enables Sauce’s consultants to interact and work as a team no matter where they are based. We use cloud-based applications to support much of our day-to-day work, and I for one would be lost without my iPhone, iPad and social media platforms.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find inspiration in my family, in my talented team of employees and in my surroundings – whether that’s looking out a plane window at Sydney at dusk, driving those long stretches on the Jerilderie Plains, or watching my two boys play cricket in the back yard. Inspiration is everywhere if you have the right attitude and an open mind.
Did you have a mentor? Who/what helped you to get your career of the ground?
One of my favourite quotes is from Kevin Spacey is: “If you’re lucky enough to do well, it’s your responsibility to send the elevator back down.” This is so true – there are incredible women and men everywhere who want to help one-another! In my 18 year career path I’ve had a number of mentors and people who’ve both helped and challenged me to keep focused on my goals, to keep backing myself and to stay true to who I am, in good times and bad. I try and do the same for my team and for the people who seek me out for advice.
What are your goals for the future?
I have many! However one of the things I am most passionate about is providing opportunities for rural women in the fields of PR, marketing and events. It upsets me when I see talent trapped in small towns and I firmly believe you can have the best of both worlds without moving to the city. I’m proud to provide a city agency environment in a regional area, particularly for those who expected their professional careers would be limited in a regional location. I love that, and one of my goals is to create a model that connects talented rural women in my field with opportunities to pursue rewarding, high level careers without moving to the city. I can’t wait to see it come to life.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?
If you’re thinking about launching your own business, some points I’d like to share that have been important in my journey include:
- When you’ve got your business idea, really spend time on understanding what’s unique about your offering. Identify what sets you apart from your competitors – whether it’s a product or service, your customer care, technology, your location or reach. Then communicate that.
- Never compromise your integrity or your reputation. This is so, so important in regional and rural Australia. Say ‘no’ when it’s not right, say ‘no’ if you’re not the right fit. And if a client’s values aren’t aligned with your own, walk away and walk away quickly.
- Surround yourself with incredible people. Not only in your business, but most importantly in your support network. Find men and women who can act as mentors, champions, sponsors – who you can bounce ideas off, seek counsel from or can call on to share a glass of wine to celebrate or commiserate!
- Invest in yourself. Whether that’s investing in education and training. Or investing in your health. Or investing in your sanity via coffee, chocolate and red wine, which is generally how I approach the peaks in my business. Whatever it is that gets you through!