13 years to the day I founded Thinking Juice, Gellan Watt & Associates is now open for business.
Here we are then. 13 years to the day that I founded Thinking Juice. A gutsy little start-up which went on to become Marketing Industry UK Agency of the Year – and part of one of the UK’s largest Independent agency groups, Emerge – which my partners and I sold, along with the other Emerge Group agencies, earlier this year.
So, I’m back in start-up mode. Not building an agency empire this time. But consulting and working as a Non Exec, direct with ambitious brands and agencies. Gellan Watt & Associates is now open for business.
It’s hard not to reminisce on a day like today.
Looking back, I’m immensely proud of my career. I’ve really enjoyed the journey.I’ve had some great successes. Some beautiful moments that I’ll never forget. With the opportunity to work with some out and out stars of the industry – new and old. Apart from the BIG idea and commercial strategy, Talent was always my favourite thing. Finding and unleashing it. Wonderful.
And of course, I’ve made some big mistakes too. Howlers in fact. Most of which I wish I couldn’t remember. Dressing as a hooker for a pitch. A seriously bad hiding place after an agency Christmas ‘do’ got a little (VERY) out of hand – I got fired. Deservedly. And rehired a week later. Phew. Falling into muddy ditch changing into my suit five minutes before a really important meeting. The client actually pulled a twig out of my hair. All of it makes me smile.
Reflecting back, selling and leaving my agency group Emerge and the constituent agencies earlier this year will probably rank in the Top 5 hardest decisions I’ve ever made. Certainly, it was one of the hardest things to do.
We had such an amazing run becoming one of the UK’s highest rated independent agencies based outside of London. Most Effective. Best in Advertising. DBA Creative Business of the Year. Best in Strategy. Top 10 Elite Agency. Recommended Agency 8 years in a row. The list goes on. And we were commercially very successful too.
When I merged TJ into the Emerge Group, the group was turning over £30m. When we sold, £60m. The trajectory was sensational. It was an extraordinary business. The 12th largest independent marketing services Group in the UK. Privately owned by three active partners in the Group, of which I was one. We had agencies in Pharma, Property marketing Services, Integrated Creative, Digital, Media, PR and Data. Working for the largest and most exciting brands in the world. All from a Bournemouth head office. Not bad.
But it was time for something new. It was the right decision.
And the business, particularly Thinking Juice, following some fantastic client wins and more inbound enquiries than we could possibly handle, was set for two or three years of brilliant momentum, making it the right time for the incumbent team too. A brilliant incumbent team I’d like to add. They were a joy to work with.
So, here we are. My doors opening again. But this time, it’s just me. Well, me with a vast network of partners and contacts.
And I am putting what I have learnt to good use. I know how to grow brands and agencies. Fast. Creating powerful and profitable relationships. I know I should have taken more risks. But I was right to put culture and creativity first – it creates value. I learnt to employ people that I couldn’t afford. It always paid off. Unsurprisingly, cutting corners never did.
I learned the importance of being authentic about your values… and standing by them. Over everything. And the importance of treating people properly. I’ve worked with many that don’t, and it’s an ugly habit. In a business that relies utterly on its people, doing anything but prioritising them is an opportunity missed.
I’ve seen first hand that if you give people a chance to own their future, they’ll usually do brilliantly. I know that age is no indicator of talent or ability. That gender and race shouldn’t matter. But for some mad reason, for some mad people, it does. And they’re missing out. Big time. When you put backward thinking ahead of forward progress you are getting things very wrong.
I’ve found, unbelievably, most agencies have no real strategy or playbook. Making them easy to win clients from. They’re a slave to what the market does, who they know or who sends them work whenever they choose to do it. They even measure and focus on the wrong metrics and measurements. They don’t nurture opportunity. They get stale. And fat. They’re often strangled by yesterday. Not inspired by the adventure of tomorrow. You simply cannot run a business and create sustainable value that way. Not ever. No agency sold for a five times multiple (+) because it sits on its hands.
I’ve seen far too many clients under-invest… and many over-spend. Why? Because they don’t have the evidence that their communications are working. And they don’t know who to trust. Too many think that digital IS THE ONLY ANSWER. It’s not. It’s part of every answer. Because it’s a beautiful part of our connected lives… but I emphasise… PART! Too many brands follow, not lead. They over complicate because they’re not fully focused. And most are not getting the maximum value from their brand.
And more importantly I know, for both agencies and brands, there is opportunity EVERYWHERE! Unexploited, latent, profitable, game-changing opportunity.
That’s my new focus. Helping to identify and exploit those opportunities.
I’m only working with ambitious brands and agencies seeking high growth. I love big ideas. Results. People. Marketing and brand science. Customer insight. Creativity. Innovation. Entrepreneurship. And making change happen.
I’ve faced most challenges. I have founded agencies on three continents. Bought, merged, closed and sold them. Delivered award-winning campaigns for famous brands and start-ups. Developed market beating strategy. There’s been a lesson in everything. From my successes to my failures. Everywhere… and from everyone.
I know what’s kept ME fresh and relevant, is my curiosity, enthusiasm and relentless hunger for results. I love what I do.
And I am certain of this… ONLY GREAT WORKS.
It’s an exciting and fascinating time for me. Here’s to Chapter Two. Well, more like Chapter Seven or Eight, I guess. Game on.