Monday, 16 November 2015

The leap from start up to market leader

I was asked to write this article by our Head of Marketing, Rukoosa Trevor for use on our blog.

As I contemplated on what to write, I started to reminisce about the past and the journey to now.

Blush was a true definition of a start up. We were about 10 young entrepreneurs with a dream of making something of our selves.

We started with a dining table as an office desk, used a borrowed camera and went several months without pay.

We now have more office desks than we need, a team of photographers, designers & creative with the latest equipment; who get paid better than any others in the same field.

The leap from start up to market leader wasn’t a simple walk in the park. It was more like a belly crawl through a jungle. We had to be patient; and keep believing in our selves even when no one else would.

On a personal level, being at the helm of Blush Media requires three things; personality, resilience and good judgment.

Being MD requires me to shoulder all of the company’s problems and in the past boy were they many. When we started, I had to be on duty all the time, a jack erm Kenneth, of all trades. I had to be the MD, the human resource manager, the administrator, the marketer, the accountant, the copywriter, the creative director, the driver, the counsellor and the creative.

The role was consuming; so much so that most nights I fell asleep thinking about Blush. I was constantly juggling thoughts from what I would have for dinner to whether the landlord would give us another extension on rent, or where we would get the money to replace the studio bulbs that had just blown.

Two years later, things are much easier but I still fall asleep thinking about blush and how we can keep getting better. Although we have a large team of awesome individuals taking on all those individual roles, my job is to ensure the growth of the company.

The privations involved in running this business are mostly its volatility and inability to be make clients happy every time. It’s a farce to think that you can operate in a high level market and still be able to make every client happy every time. The true test of a good leader is ability to be calm under pressure. How you respond to a situation that makes a client unhappy will determine whether you will lose or retain a client.

Say for example your creative team has spent sleepless nights coming up with a pitch. The concept is sweet-out of the box stuff, artwork is great and the client loves it. You execute and the shots make even the toughest of client’s smile. Then its time to print the billboard skins and the printers do a shit job.

These are some of the hardest times; when you have to apologize to the client for something that is beyond your control. At that point it’s a waste if time losing your cool-although its okay to let the printers know how much they suck! It’s important to first and foremost own up to the client and try to rectify the mess.

Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone who does will own up and go out of their way to correct it. A printer who acknowledges when they are at fault and fights to the death to correct an error is one you keep. That’s why its always important to choose the right suppliers.

After the situation has been rectified, take the time to apologize again to the client without sounding like a broken record. Reassure them that you have everything under control and if you can offer freebies.

As long as you have done everything in your power to save an account, don’t fret too much if you lose the client. Rather learn from your mistakes and serve the next one better.

Let’s talk about the team for a second. It is almost impossible to run an agency without team chemistry. Being MD requires you to know every individual team member, their strengths and weaknesses, when they have their mojo or when they are in a rut.

That’s when personality comes in. I believe a great personality goes a long way with leading a company. If you are the kind of leader that puts up walls, then it will be difficult to read your team as everyone will always act a different way around you.

Almost every creative I know likes to be complimented where they’ve done a good job. Make sure to appreciate good work but also be ready to critique if something isn’t to your liking. This not only builds confidence but promotes diligence during the creative process.

Most creative’s are horrible at spelling & grammar. Take it upon yourself not to take anything for granted; it pays to give each design a thorough review before it goes out. At Blush, it helps that all the creative sit next to each other at the office; as Its easier for them to police each others grammar. Always urge them to read out text loud before it is submitted. Reading text out loud is the best way to notice mistakes.

Our company slogan is to live your imagination and our motto is “the blush way”. Every design, photograph or concept taken must pass “the blush way” test. The Blush way is in taking time to understand a client brief, its in utilizing all forms of media and pushing the limits of creativity. It’s non-conformity to what is considered safe.

The Blush way, is in delivering work on time without compromising quality, it is always being helpful to a client and putting their needs before everything else.

The Blush way is the way we dress, the way we talk, the way we think and my job is to make sure the team understands that. Each individual member must become an embodiment of it.

Being the MD of this company has also taught me one great lesson. It pays to know what you are selling. When you know everything that there is to know about your service offering, chances are whoever you are selling to will buy quicker.

Most importantly, if after two years you are still juggling every position in the company then you aren’t doing your job well. It is important for you to build proper structures and to empower your team.  

Lastly, it is important to have a leader that believes in prayer, fasting and tithing. I would like to believe that I have led Blush to where it is now mostly through my belief in God and through prayer, fasting and tithing.
Always asking God to intercede and go before me every day has taken Blush through murky waters and protected us to now. Giving back to God a tenth of my personal income has blessed me and most of these blessings have spilled over to the company.

I will end with this, humility & the love of God are virtues every leader should aspire to.

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