First of all, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?
It’s been a challenging time for everyone in the industry, but I believe there are two reasons why we have weathered the storm better than most. The first is the culture we had created pre-pandemic. We really believe in the power of ‘cultural capital’ – we actually hire on culture first and help brilliant people fill in skill sets through training and mentorship. The second is the relationship we’ve built with our clients. We have worked with most of our clients for over three years – we get their business, and the relationship has moved beyond the transactional. I believe we have helped our clients navigate this difficult time and helped them understand how changing consumer behavior will impact their business.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company?
I left school at 16 and went straight to art college and never looked back – I knew my future lay in the creative industries; it just took a couple of years to figure out exactly which one. After working at various agencies and a long stint in Asia, I returned to the UK in 2000 and joined FITCH – a big design consultancy part of the WPP Network. This is where I met my business partner, and after much talk about setting up our own agency, we finally leaped in 2013. We saw a real opportunity to apply the ambition and experience of a big agency with the nimbleness and agility of a start-up.
How does your company innovate?
It’s an interesting question as I couldn’t put my finger on any one single thing, but when I see how far we’ve come from when we started the agency 8 years ago, it’s actually quite a dramatic change. Innovation in our agency often comes from necessity – what do our clients want? How can we support them better? What do we need to know about how to make a difference? It’s a much more organic process than, say, a digital transformation agency, where technology creates rapid step change. Our value comes from a deep understanding of the consumer; what motivates them, what engages them and what triggers action. These behaviors tend not to change overnight, but sometimes the tools might. That’s where we need to keep ahead.
How has the Coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
Like almost every other business, it was a dramatic overnight switch to working from home. I couldn’t be prouder of the team and how they adapted so rapidly and ultimately made it work. We left the studio on a Wednesday at 5 pm, and everyone was set up and ready to roll by 9.30 am the next morning. Over a year later, we are starting to repopulate the studio with about 50-75% attendance every day. There really is nothing like the buzz of a busy studio—the sharing of ideas and the ebb and flow of creative conversations. Even the watercooler stuff feels good these days.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
We decided early on that we were determined to keep our staff together and to work. We could have made a few redundancies or even put people on furlough. We didn’t do either, and we’re very proud of that. In fact, we hired over lockdown. One of the joys of getting back into the studio was to meet them in real life! I think the lesson for us was to keep the faith; in our people, our process, and our ability to add value to our clients.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
We have a very single-minded approach. We want to be seen as industry experts, so everything we do in terms of insight gathering, knowledge sharing, and outreach focuses on particular areas of interest that we believe will influence consumer behavior in the future. We do a bi-annual publication called Show Me, alongside monthly insights reports and a webinar series. Being on top of what is bubbling on the fringes of popular culture signposts what comes next.
Your Final Thoughts
I firmly believe in the idea that creativity is one of the last remaining legal ways of gaining an unfair competitive advantage. That’s what our clients pay us for. And the best creativity happens when people are together. It’s time to get out of the spare room, the kitchen, or the makeshift study and get back into where the good stuff happens.
- Founder: Stuart Wood
- Company: Missouri
- Website link: https://missouri-creative.com