What can you learn from a nine-year old?

Born + Raised turned the ripe old age of nine this week. There have been plenty of ups and downs, and it’s been a challenging yet thoroughly enjoyable journey. In many ways it’s flown by, yet it’s fair to say I’ve learned a hell of a lot along the way.

So like a precocious nine-year old I thought I’d share nine little nuggets I’ve picked up over the years that have informed my thinking, and helped take this business to where we are today, in the hope that they help someone, somewhere, on their quest for greatness.

But before I do, there’s been a lot going on at the agency this month that I thought I’d share in case you missed it…

Going global

Helen, Stephen and Steve jetted off to New York (with detours for a hotdog stand, pizza and the view from the Rockefeller Centre), to run a messaging workshop for our clients at SITA.

Meanwhile, our customer stories series for HSBC launched with Patrick Reid, CEO of Imagination talking about the challenges of going global. Next stop, our team are off to Guangzhou in China later this month to shoot the next video in the series.

And finally the new brand and website that we’ve created for UK Finance also went live this month. You can read more about that work on our blog too.

Pitch perfect

April also saw us continue our solid run of successful pitches in 2019, with our first project for Unilever. We’ll have more on this next month once the work is complete, so watch this space!

And in other news…

We were named one of Campaign’s Top 50 Best Places to work. A big deal for us as we’ve always been a committed people agency, focused on creating a business where people love to come to work and be proud of what they do.


On a similar note, after years of affectionately referring to our culture as ‘don’t be a dick’, we decided to get all scientific and try to define it. The result was a relaunch of our culture page, and Helen shares the journey on her blog here. Why not drop by and get a flavour?

Nine nuggets

And finally, the nuggets I promised you. They’re not necessarily rules to live by, but these ideas have definitely helped me and the team along the way and shape the agency that we’ve become. So borrow what you wish, and hopefully one will help trigger a new perspective on a challenge you’re facing.


  1. Question everything

It helps to define and outline the problem, and can lead you into new areas of thinking. So be like a slightly annoying child, and ask questions. Ask lots of them. Don’t take things at face value – not only will you save time further down the line, you may even arrive at the solution sooner. Whatever you think, think the opposite, by Paul Arden is a great book to help start thinking differently.


  1. Think sizzle. Not sausage.

People buy the cake not the ingredients. It’s the finished result, the end product, the benefit that excites them. Not the detail or the process. So show them what success looks like, not how to get there. After all, travel agents don’t sell the airport or the plane journey do they? It’s all about the beach! But be warned, you might be asked how you got there later, so make sure you’ve done your homework and can show your workings out.


  1. Don’t talk. Be talked about

Two thirds of your marketing isn’t ‘your’ marketing at all, it’s what people are saying about your brand when you’re not there. So what can you do to get them saying the right things? Create a word of mouth strategy. Think about what your business can do to get people talking about it in a positive light. It needs to be remarkable, but relevant, and this book can help you along the way – Talk triggers, by Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin.


  1. Look beyond the brief

Often, what we’re asked to do isn’t necessarily the best way to solve the problem. Don’t just accept the task you’ve been set, understand what the ultimate goal is and look for the best way to hit it. Watch this video about how AMV helped Sainsburys by doing precisely that.


  1. Listen to your gut

Don’t play it safe. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got. Take risks. Do something new. Follow your instincts. My Ordinary is the Enemy blog post talks about precisely that here.


  1. If you wait it’s too late

Be the first to seize the initiative to change something. My sports teacher at school used to scream at us “move to the ball” when playing football, “don’t wait for it to come to you”. If you don’t go to the ball, someone else certainly will and before you know it you’re on the losing side.


  1. Culture is grown, not made

Hire well. Establish strong foundations. Then give good people the autonomy, support and space they need to create. Trust me, great things will happen. If you manage creative people (everyone’s creative, right?), then it’s worth checking out Todd Henry’s podcast, and in particular his book Herding Tigers, for some interesting ideas on how to get the most out of creative people.


  1. Play nice

Be nice to people. Be helpful. Be responsible. Be honest. You get back a hundredfold what you put out there.


  1. Never stop learning

Listen and read whenever you get chance. Switch off from the toils of the everyday and immerse yourself in a good book or podcast. I’d recommend Read to lead, which is a great way to get game changing ideas on leadership, and some excellent book recommendations at the same time.

Put all this together, and you get challenging thinking. Thanks for taking the time to get this far – here’s to the next nine years!