What do you currently do?
I’m the Founder and Managing Director of Acknowledgement. We partner with established brands and organisations to transform their business and achieve their ambition via user centric web and mobile applications.
The partnership part is key – we really do become one team with our clients, which I think a lot of agencies talk about but few achieve. Outside of Acknowledgement I’m also involved in some software start-ups, an artist management company and some West End Theatre endeavours.
What is your inspiration in the business
Our clients. For us to deliver effectively we need to get under the skin of their business and understand the day to day challenges they face. Ambitious clients inspire me and my team to push ourselves and deliver innovation. From top to bottom we are a client centric business. Although we have a dedicated client team, everyone in the company gets to meet the client. We just delivered an enterprise wide call centre system for one of our clients.
Everyone working on that project from the account managers, through to the developers and designers went and spent at least a day at the call centre listening to real customer calls and talking to real customer support agents. Making clients happy is what we strive to do, but you can’t always do that if you don’t understand their world.
It’s also a great way to get buy-in – you are no longer a faceless agency imposing your will on call centre workers – you are one team making their job easier and more productive.
Who do you admire?
I admire people who take traditional businesses and reinvent them through innovation. The ability to constantly adapt oneself and their business to the latest business models or technologies, whilst staying true to the foundations and principles of that company, is a challenge worthy of admiration.
People like Herb Kelleher at Southwest Airlines and Angela Ahrendts at Burberry have a pretty good track record in that area. They have both taken what could be considered products at a mature and established stage in their life cycle (airlines and clothes respectively) and totally reinvented them.
To the point where all their competition are now playing catch up. Both these businesses have also embraced online in the strongest possible ways and proven that if you innovate you can build brand in an increasing commoditised world.
Looking back are there things you would have done differently?
No. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, and I’ve learnt a lot from those mistakes. I’m sure I’ll make plenty more but looking back isn’t something I like to focus on. The road ahead is always more exciting.
What defines your way of doing business?
We understand our clients business first. I really can’t emphasise how important that is. We spend time with them. We research their products and services and their competitors. We understand who their customers are. We talk to those customers. It can take a while but you can’t bring innovation to something when your understanding is only skin deep. You have to go deeper! We then we bring what we know from our world to their world and work in partnership to deliver innovation.
We try to never stand still and rest on our laurels and we don’t just try and resell the same solution time and time again. We also don’t like to pigeon hole staff into one skill or specialism. Great ideas can come from anywhere. But a great idea is only truly great when it’s realised. And that comes back to understanding.
I think sometimes agencies in general can be guilty if coming up with a big idea that may be brilliant but will never work in the context of the client’s situation. It comes back to understanding again and so we try to focus on ideas that will work in the context of the playing field we and our clients are in.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
If you can blend something you love with something you understand then you won’t go far wrong.
Never stop learning and make sure you are doing it for yourself. If you don’t look forward to every working day then something is wrong.