Some things you never forget. The morning of 28th August 1989 would sit neatly in that category.
I’d left my previous job the week before, with huge ambition and equal amounts of doubt, and my plan was a simple one. Keep to the old routine – well, as much as possible, anyway. That was probably my OCD kicking in, but deep-down, I could feel the panic trying to rise.
And the headline in The Daily Telegraph didn’t help; “It’s official – it’s a recession!”
So, I got off the IOW ferry in Southampton (I’ve been travelling on that damn boat since 1975!), on a bright Monday morning, and walked up to our new offices – actually, lets call it an office made for one at that point – still trying to maintain a ‘nothing has changed’ approach.
And then I walked in. Suite 63 on Portland Terrace. And that’s when the reality hit home.
It’s all up to you kid. No one to blame but yourself. Somebody dared you. You took the bait and swallowed it. Now make it work.
Which was very weird because I was the only one there!
Who would I call first? When would my first meeting be? Who would be in charge of paper-clips? What do I do if the phone doesn’t ring? Who would know the number anyway? What time should I eat my lunch?
It was some plan!
Looking back, there was nothing unusual about having those kinds of questions and concerns. Doubts and fears. But whatever it was that we subsequently did, we must have been OK at it because, 30 years downstream and a lot of water under the proverbial bridge, we’re still doing it. And I think that’s kind of cool! I’m a very proud man.
During those three decades, great people have come and gone, but the creativity, innovation and energetic determination to makes our clients’ businesses better has remained. So what feels different today from 30 years ago?
Well that’s simple. Good, old-fashioned personal relationships…
Back then, the people I knew, the people who challenged me to start the business, were people I wanted to call friends; so, from that perspective, getting new business was relatively easy. If they had work, I’d be the person they’d call. And if they left their jobs to forward their careers, the first person they’d contact would be me. It was a time when networks were everything and back then, you really could call an account, an account!
It’s not like that today. Idealogy is up to its neck in a project-by-project world and, as clichéd as it sounds, we’re only as good as our last piece of work.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t written to offend any of our current friends. We still have great relationships with fantastic people and partners all over the world – UK, US, EU, UAE, and countless other acronyms (sorry, countries). The business has been blessed with so much international work and it’s still the mainstay of our ongoing growth plans.
But the powers of those contacts are being suffocated by ‘cost out’, shareholder value, budget sacrifice and ROI. What they are left with gives them so little room to manoeuvre and little old Idealogy is sitting in the cheap seats – trying to be agile and creative and value orientated. It’s a Procurement controlled world people. Get used to it.
Is it the legacy of a truly commoditised, social media influenced, reputation ‘front-and-centre’ world? I have often said (and thought) that you truly do your best work for people that you fully understand, and who trust you to get close. To see everything about themselves and their business. Warts and all.
But today’s world is competitive, relentless and impossible to predict. Some would say that’s a good thing!
So, Idealogy needs to be very good at all of the above, because there are plenty of fish out there, big and small, and they’re ready and waiting to eat our 30-year-old lunch.
Now, just remind me! What was I up to yesterday?