A year gone already? Here’s what we learned.

Dom Hawes | December 18, 2019


You’re confident that the mulled wine is at the right temperature and the playlist is spot on. The nibbles should be ready just as the first guests arrive. But will they?

It’s that time of year when many of our readers will be hosting Christmas parties and, however well they’ll have planned for the event, there’s always that sinking feeling; will everyone turn up? In fact, will anyone turn up? Of course, everyone usually does, and the party goes with a bang. 

That sinking feeling, followed by exhilaration, is exactly how I felt this time last year when, together with my colleagues Simon Quarendon and Ed Goodchild, we launched Selbey Anderson. Thankfully, just like most Christmas parties, our guests, in the shape of four acquisitions, one start-up and over fifty staff, did turn up and boy what a party we’ve had in 2019.

So what are the five key things I’ve learnt in our first year of trading?

Number one: back yourself

During 2018, lots of people told me that what we were planning to do wouldn’t work. Thankfully we didn’t listen to them and went ahead anyway. Sometimes no amount of business planning can replace old fashioned cussedness.

People are nicer than you think

OK, so maybe I’ve already got into the Christmas spirit, but I’ve found that, if you treat people fairly – be they the management teams of potential acquisitions,  suppliers, clients or staff – they’ll respond in kind. In every sense of the word. 

If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it

The marketing services industry is – mostly – full of great people. People with drive and ambition. Interesting people. Even quirky people. But not everyone gets us. Or we them. So we’ve turned away from dozens of potential acquisitions during 2019 because, well, it just didn’t feel right. In fact, I’d replace the phrase, ‘the harder I worked the luckier I got’, with this one, ‘the older I’m getting, the more I listen to my gut instinct’.

The numbers tell the story. Period.

So, what makes a great agency? Is it the people or the clients? Well, for me, it’s the numbers. Because they never lie. A strong set of numbers from an agency tells me everything I need to know about them. (Come to think of it, so does a weak set of numbers).

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity”

It’s a shame that the Dalai Lama (whose quote this is) never worked in the creative services industry. He’d have cleaned up. Despite the proliferation of social media channels, transparency in business remains in short supply. It’s why we’ve made it one of our group-wide agency values and we’re encouraging all our staff to put it into practice in everything they do. Its already reaping dividends as teams build stronger relationships with their clients based around openness and trust.

I’d describe our first year of trading in exactly the same way you’ll probably describe your soon-to-be-enjoyed Christmas party when it’s over; bloody hard work, but great fun. So let’s do it again next year.

Happy Christmas readers!

Dom

Dom Hawes

Dom has spent nearly thirty years as a marketer starting his career in creative communications agencies before starting a business which he built it from the ground up and exited in 2009. He then consulted to tech and service companies before putting Selbey Anderson on the launch pad. Today, he leads development of the group strategy, M&A and performance.