Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with lots of incredible clients: from world leading brands like Amazon and Sony Music, to visionary tech and e-commerce start-ups/scale-ups.
Working closely with talented founders, CEOs, and management teams on their PR, communications & branding strategies has given me the opportunity to pick up many insights along the way. These ‘golden nuggets’ have really helped in running Thinking Hat and have influenced many aspects of the business – from how we approach ways of working to how we hire and how we approach clients.
So, I thought I’d share 5 tips that I’ve cribbed along the way from people much more talented than myself!
Every Day is Day One
From the very top of the business, all the way down, Amazon works to the mantra that ‘every day is day one’, meaning that even though it’s one of the biggest businesses in the world, there’s an emphasis on trying to approach everything with an element of dynamism, nimbleness and with a key eye on emerging trends.
At Thinking Hat, we’ve found that as a 7-year-old business, it’s important to avoid becoming entrenched in the way we’re used to doing certain things. Instead, we try to approach each day as a new one. That’s not to say we don’t have our established processes or tried and tested formulas, but when it comes to working on client projects or campaigns, we endeavour to approach our work as the fresh thinking, ambitious and scrappy PR start-up we were on our actual first day.
This is also key for team empowerment – nothing kills energy or creative thinking like being told that “it didn’t work last time” or “that’s not how we did it when…” Take your lessons from past failures seriously but don’t let them make you jaded or kill your team’s buzz.
Embrace Your Point of Difference
Working with Sophie Cornish MBE and Holly Tucker MBE, co-founders of notonthehighstreet.com, was a totally revolutionary experience for me. Here were two founders who had passion, vision and pragmatism in spades – and they weren’t about to let their creativity and spark be dulled by men in suits.
At the time (early 2013), the idea of going into an investors’ office and being a fairly no-holds-barred version of yourself i.e., not trying to be who they wanted you to be, was pretty ground-breaking.
Funding generally went to men who had gone to Oxbridge and who had worked at the Top 4 and that very much set the tone. However, when fundraising, Holly and Sophie always let their unique vision, infectious ideas and limitless passion do the talking; there was no dulling down of their creativity to fit in with the corporate audience. They were bold and creative in their approach, and let the fact that they were their consumer (they were women selling to women) do the talking, which is why they were such incredible leaders.
If you’re a founder going out for investment, my advice would be to have a full grasp of your numbers, a strong funding deck and be able to demonstrate that your business is scalable. But in addition – be yourself, demonstrate passion for your brand, why your consumer resonates with you on a personal level (and always avoid boardroom stereotypes).
Feedback Should Be Your Favourite F Word
Another mantra someone said to me along the way is that feedback should be your favourite F-word. Whether that be feedback from potential customers in a product sprint, feedback from investors on how your business could be stronger or feedback from team members, it really is worth giving an F about.
Listen to it, act on it and use it… it’s some of the most powerful information you have at your fingertips (and it’s usually free).
If You’re Going to Fail, Fail Fast
No-one likes failure and it can be a painful thing to go through in any business. However, one of the best things I learned in my time at VC fund Forward Partners was that failing fast is the best way to fail.
If something’s not working or if a product isn’t resonating, get to the root of the problem fast and, if it can’t be fixed, move on. Quickly. Too much time and money is wasted on trying to fix the unfixable, resulting in the inevitable anyway. Fast failure is more cost effective and less painful in the long run.
Hire People Smarter Than You
The real flex is having the confidence and lack of ego to hire people who are smarter than you and who challenge you at every turn. Too many founders surround themselves with ‘yes men’ scared to say no and to challenge their ideas. Ultimately, that feels great in the sense that you’re always right, but leads to teams who are unmotivated and voiceless.
At Thinking Hat, we always hire the smartest talent and team members who really are specialists in their fields, meaning that they can challenge and push us forward as an agency – it’s invaluable.