Before I get into the 6 lessons I want to share, here’s a quick rewind on how I got to where we are today.
OUTCREATE was set up in the midst of the Covid pandemic, but if there was ever a perfect time to launch a marketing and advertising consultancy with an ‘outdoorsy proposition’, this was it.
Marketers and their departments were also looking for expertise from more nimble, collaborative and cost-conscious partners. With fewer layers, more fluid processes and our ability to work with smaller budgets we have a distinct advantage in these areas over traditional agencies.
It’s big agency strategic and creative thinking, delivered in a more intuitive and transparent way for outdoor brands and organisations. And it’s worked.
The past 6 months have been fast and frenetic. We’ve been busy building a pioneering active outdoor brand with an ambitious start-up. We’ve been working with the brilliant British brand, Inov-8 on some of their most exciting future product launches. We’ve pitched ideas to Surfers Against Sewage and we’re currently having some really interesting conversations with more outdoor brands and organisations about working together early in 2021.
All this hasn’t happened by accident. Which brings me nicely onto my 6 lessons.
1. START UP TIP - THERE’S VALUE IN EVERY CONVERSATION
As a start up, I knew nothing. In fact, I was panicking (and still do sporadically). Having been PAYE employee for over 20 years in advertising, I realised I had a gaping hole in my experience. The only way to get over this feeling of free falling was to get advice and stability from people you trust and respect. And If they trust and respect you, it’s incredible what they’ll do to help you. I put in countless phone calls, emails, socially distanced beers and Zooms to learn from those who had the experience I lacked. I’ve never had a wasted conversation. There’s always something that comes from talking. And when you’re seemingly ‘alone’ in your own world, it’s so important for your business, and your clients, to get different perspectives on things. To everyone whom I spoke to and continue to do so, I can't thank you enough for being there.
2. NOTHING HAPPENS THE WAY YOU THINK IT WILL WHEN YOU START UP
My first client came from a direct message on Instagram. I didn’t see that one coming. You set up your stall on LinkedIn and a client comes from somewhere completely different. So Instagram is fast becoming a vital tool for Outcreate. And talking of finding back doors, sometimes someone opens them up for you. This is the case with another client. By collaborating with another business, I’m now working closely with a fantastic brand, on projects I only dreamt of doing this early on.
3. A START UP IS INCREDIBLY HARD WORK
There’s no way to dress this up. Setting up a business is bloody tough. The hours are long. The lows are low. The highs are high. And I’ve found myself constantly pitching between these two states. This results in a sort of seasickness for a while, but I’m gaining my sea-legs and somehow getting more comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’ve always been a hard-worker, so I’ll make it work.
4. WORK WITH PEOPLE SMARTER THAN YOURSELF
This one’s not difficult in my case. Okay, I’m being self-deprecating for the sake of this piece, but it’s so true in start-up land. I’ve really lucked out on several fronts. For example, I’ve got partner with one of the finest strategic marketing minds to help create a new brand for a client. I’m in awe of her capability and unflappable nature. There’s just no way I can do what she does. And from a creative standpoint, Covid has created a pool of talent like no other. It’s the ultimate creative department and they’re hungry to show what they can do. I can say with confidence that the best people in advertising and marketing are no longer in advertising and marketing.
5. OVER-DELIVER BUT NEVER UNDER-VALUE
Knowing what you’re worth has been so important. You have to forget about the agency model to a certain degree. As a start up, charging for ‘time’ and ‘hours on the job’ is just old-thinking and no client we’ve spoken to wants that. And to be honest, it just doesn’t work out like that anyway. Creative ideas don’t arrive in sequence with a timing plan. So habitually, every job we do goes beyond what’s expected and our clients sit up and take note. We want then to see the quality first and foremost, but then they see the value based on how far we go with the thinking or execution or speed…there’s always something. Over-delivering is one of our core values. And because we always do it, it allows us to keep prices reassuringly high(ish), without having to drop them or our standards.
6. MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
I have put this last, but it should really go first. I’m not going lie, my brain has taken a battering of late and setting up a business is actually part of the remedy. So, take a look at the image at the top. It's sunrise at the top of the South Downs. I took it while I was working on a job for Inov-8 while walking the dogs. As a start up, there is no nine-to-five. I can choose to work five-to-nine if I want, or ten-to-three forty five. You can’t do that working for a holding company run out of New York who has 54,000 other employees on its payroll. Your time is their time. OUTCREATE gives me, and the people who work with me, more space to think, more room to breathe, fewer politics and bureaucratic red-tape. This time invariably works its way into what we create and what we do. Our brains are less cluttered. Our blood pressure is lower. Our vision is clearer. Our time is shared more evenly between life and work. Yes, there is still the occasional 'all-nighter', and as mentioned in my 3rd point, it’s bloody hard work, but I've found time for myself to be the most valuable thing of all.