My lesson learned

“In business you can only be who you are.”

The process of generating new business can often be a process of self-delusion and consequential disappointment.

You get everyone who matters in the boardroom and decide which clients you’d like to win. What sectors you would like to be in. Which brands would look good on your website. The names you’d like to drop. There is a collective puffing up of chests and a pride in ‘what this business could be like’.

Aspiration is commendable but it can be a walk down the garden path.

Look at your current client list. If it’s anything like the one in a typical ad agency, you’ll have one or two jewels in the crown but the crown itself will be less impressive. The clients you don’t shout about will probably be the ones that pay the bills. Whereas the clients you like to boast of are possibly unprofitable and tie up disproportional amounts of your resource.

Maybe there is a gap between the perception you have of your business and how the market sees you. Or maybe you are missing a trick. Maybe you have a specialism without even knowing it.

Six months ago me and a colleague were doing an afternoon of new business. We decided to write the names of all the clients we’d worked for in the last couple of years, regardless of whether or not the accounts were active.

We noticed something remarkable. With one exception – Virgin Active Health Clubs – all our clients did mundane things. Our work was anything but mundane but our clients’ products and services were distinctly dull on the face of it.

We seemed to be a creative agency revealing the brilliance of clients in the un-sexy sectors. We seemed rather good at showing schoolboy enthusiasm for products most would find tedious.

Now the penny had finally dropped. We had realised who we were, what we were good at and what made us different.

The clarity this created has totally revolutionised my business.

My lesson learned? There’s a reason you have the clients you have. Don’t leave it too late to find out what it is.

Philip Morley, Founder and Creative Director
Think Industries – the creative agency for the unglamorous sector

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