Executive InterviewsLatest

Meet Kelly Mackenzie – Creativity in a remote world

Today we have selected Kelly Mackenzie to take her interviewShe is the Founder and Creative Director at White Bear.

First of all, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?

Great, all things considered. We’ve been working remotely for a year now which is far longer than we’d hoped for but we’ve managed well having been used to it for a number of years being an agency with a presence in two countries with clients globally.

We miss each other as a team, and we miss meeting our clients face to face. But we’re looking forward to getting back together once we can safely do so.

We’ve had an amazing year as an agency and have worked with some really inspiring founders and marketing directors who have embraced the challenge of Covid head-on and really got on with the work at hand, not using it as an excuse but as an opportunity for innovation and growth.

 Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company?

I’m creative at heart and cut my teeth in several global design agencies before deciding to set up my own agency. I founded White Bear 7 years ago because I wanted to take control of my own destiny and build something great that I could share with clients, and a team of like-minded creatives.

I love meeting people and really understanding the business challenge behind the creative brief, and having my own agency really enabled that.

How does your company innovate?

One of our company values is Enterprising, and we only hire people who have an entrepreneurial spirit. This results in constant innovation and a striving to improve how we help our customers, and how we run our business.

This manifests in several ways but mainly in a focus on our customers and a focus on the quality of our work. I’m a firm believer in if you look after your customer and your team, and you do great work, the rest will fall into place. So we’ve been focusing on that a lot this year, pushing ourselves to be more creative, more effective, and to wow our customers with our work.

We also involve the whole team in the improvement and growth of the business. This has involved a rapid journey over the past two years of the team being involved in improving everything we do, from creative to marketing to processes. Each team member takes on a new workstream every quarter and once we prototype and test a new way of working, we embed in how we do things.

How the Coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

It hit us all as a shock in the early months but we made a conscious decision to roll up our sleeves and actively try to help as many clients and businesses as we could.

We built a community of start-up founders and marketing managers to share ideas, tips, and networks.

We’ve come out of it a stronger, more together team, and have enjoyed working with lots of really interesting, disruptive brands that are adapting to and striving in these challenging times.

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

We consciously decided not to avail of any furlough schemes during covid and instead invest our time in our clients and our own business. That has paid off in spades for us.

We’ve learned a lot of lessons but for me, it’s been about trying to help as much as we can, both our clients and our team.

I’ve also learned that creativity can be done in a remote environment – you just need the attitude and processes to enable it.

Finally, whilst it’s been difficult not seeing clients and the team, I think the pandemic has humanized a lot of our interactions – I’ve loved meeting clients and colleagues kids, partners, and pets. I think this is something that would not have been the case in a face-to-face world, and when we go back to meet each other in the flesh we will have a more rounded and human view of each other.

 What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?

The usual tools – Zoom, Google, Slack, Trello!

From a management perspective, we try and talk as a team daily and I talk to all of my team individually as much as I can. It can be difficult for creatives not to be in an environment where we can sketch and bounce ideas off each other, so we’ve had to adapt and be as supportive as we can digitally. Thankfully, the team is incredibly supportive of each other, resilient, and innovative, so the creatives spend a lot of time helping each other and sharing ideas over screen share on Zoom.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

We compete with the brand and creative agencies. In terms of staying in the game – we plan to keep the focus on doing great work, keeping our customers happy, and looking after our team.

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