Starting, building and scaling a capability
Today, I am excited to introduce Media.Monks, the new integrated brand that brings together the content, data&digital media, and technology capabilities of S4Capital into one unified brand. Together, our global talent network of over 6,000 interdisciplinary experts will operate out of 57 talent hubs in 31 countries across the world.
With this integration, our clients can expect the same industry-leading level of data services from our team, and will benefit from our extended global headcount and expertise across a full spectrum of digital services, from content production and strategy to marketing transformation and everything in between.
As we move into the final stages of merging Brightblue with the wider S4Capital family of companies, I felt the urge to jot down some thoughts on my journey of setting up Brightblue and leading it through to the integration with a much larger organisation.
I’ve broken this down to the four key milestones I’ve gone through during this exhilarating journey: starting, building, merging, and integrating. These are my thoughts – by no means am I giving any advice here, as I firmly believe people work in very different ways. This is merely a reflection on my experience.
Starting a Business
Starting the business might have actually been the hardest part – it takes a pretty large leap of faith to go from the comfort of having a salary and holidays to being completely responsible and accountable for your income. The perception is that it’s all “work when I like, how I like,” but the reality for me was quite different. I may not have had a direct boss, but I had to be on hand for clients at all times to get the business off the ground. I physically went on holiday, but my mind was always on the fact that any day I have off is a day lost in growth.
Those early days were testing times, but I found that resilience and hard work got me through it. Resilience is required as you get quite a lot of knocks and bad breaks at the start (I think that happens to test your mettle!), and hard work is needed as the more conversations and leads you have going, the more your chances go up of pulling in bigger, meatier projects. In hindsight, having a co-founder would have helped enormously here in the beginning – however I was very lucky in that my wife knew the industry and was incredibly supportive throughout.
Building the Business
As the income started coming in and the team grew larger, the pressure eased. What I didn’t quite appreciate in the early days is how reliant you can be on one client, which is a very precarious position to be in: if they drop you, your business drops, and you need to make hard decisions about the team. Luckily, I had some great advice throughout my Brightblue life from my advisor and chairman Paul Edwards, who was invaluable at pointing out things I hadn’t spotted yet, and also coached me and helped manage and scale the team. I found the process of having an external advisor/non-executive director invaluable in terms of keeping me sane, but also keeping the standards up in the company – keeping us on our toes and helping drive the mission, vision and values that were key for us to attract and retain talent.
After many years of great growth, we got to the point where we had nurtured a fantastic team and had built some amazing market-leading products. In order to really accelerate our growth, we knew we needed a partner to go global. We avoided private equity – cash wasn’t the issue – access to clients and facilitation of global growth was the ambition. After a lengthy process, helped along by our excellent advisors at SI Partners who smoothed the wrinkles, we matched up with S4Capital. We were blown away by their agility, their sheer focus on the future and their culture of entrepreneurship. It was a nerve-racking decision, but luckily we had informed the team along all parts of the process and it was a collective call that we all backed. And what a great decision it was!
Once we had done the deed, we quickly moved onto integration. S4 are pros at this – the Post Merger Integration team made everything very smooth, and we very quickly felt a part of the team. It’s only been 10 months, but we’ve seen huge global growth from the group which continues to accelerate, as well as the opportunity to develop even more market-leading products. We have merged now with eight more cutting-edge companies since we joined S4. The pace of change and the talent base is phenomenal.
With this comes unrivalled, market-leading capabilities across content, media and data. As far as the future goes, we will continue to integrate into one P&L and one name (watch this space!), making it much easier for clients to navigate and manage all of their media and content services with one entry point.
What a journey – we’ve been very lucky to find such a great partner and we look forward to continued growth in our teams and capabilities. I’m certainly very excited!