To start at the beginning: We were born during the last recession. Born to fill a huge gap between client needs and traditional agency offerings. The world of opportunities was flat and agencies like ours were the new stars. We were young, agile, disruptive, modern - we spoke a different language and we lived without a care in the world.
Speed was everything. The ability to do so much with so little gave us a high. We were our own bosses and we made the rules. Oh what a time that was, the formative years of a company are always interesting, like our youth, they shape you but I do not believe they define you.
So, the energy to power through, to shine, to emerge and to win at that time took over fatigue, rejection and the ridiculously low amount of money we all made.
But energy, youth and disruption are not the only ingredients that fuel a company’s long term ambition. Every day, every moment taught us something. I always write my experiences and break it down so tomorrow can be an educated day. So here goes – these are four key learnings from my little black book.
1. Focus on your consumer, not the competition, they don’t pay the bills: I like to operate from a secure place and truly believe comparison is the killer of joy. Build a culture where you keep your eyes open, learn from your competitors, predecessors and the industry but more so from what your consumer says. Your competition is learning as much from you as you are from them. In my experience to have long term success you need to always look inwards first.
2. ‘Me’ needs to be the servant of the ‘we’ – One great person can do a lot, but a lot of great people can rock the world. Only a collection of really great people who feel equally motivated and see equal opportunity at every level of the organisation can support a long term vision.
This is what we believe in so every exit matters, every exit decided that your company was not the place for them to chart their path. Let that bother you enough that you do something about it. Let this force you to look inward. What can you do better to a) hire right b) spend enough time to mentor c) allow space for everyone to shine d) make everyone feel respected?
3. Don’t become a slave to process, instead make it your biggest ally – I am personally guilty of revolting against anything that slows us down. However I’ve learnt, sometimes quite harshly, that all challenges are not set to destroy you. Some actually clear your path.
A company with smart processes make for delighted customers. I’ve learnt that the balance between arrogance and accepting your shortcomings helps clear your mind so you realise that everyone who tells you otherwise isn’t your enemy. Align what you believe to be your brilliance with a happy marriage of structure and process. Because unless structure follows strategy, inefficiency is the obvious result.
4. Don’t lose yourself trying to be everything to everyone: This part is personal and my strongest guiding light. If you allow unfiltered noise and hungry ambition to get the better of you, you may lose focus on what you are actually good at, what got you attention and success in the first place.
My natural instinct is to put my hand up for all opportunities, my company reacts the same way. It comes from a place of dancing confidence that we can do it all. I’m still sure we can, I wouldn’t want to break that spirit, EVER.
I have learnt that and hence so has my company, that to be great you need to be great at something. You need to own that greatness and create an offering that no one else can beat you at. Wrapping up with a quote from Phil Jackson, the legendary NBA coach -
“No one plays this or any game perfectly, it’s the person who recovers from one’s mistakes that wins”.
So make mistakes, learn from them, encourage more of we and less of me, balance brilliance with structure and never kill your dancing spirit just to fit in a box.