Tell me a little bit about yourself. What’s your background/career path?
I come from a client service background across full service, digital and UX agencies. My then boyfriend/now husband started out as film maker / editor. Somewhere along the way we had the hair-brained idea to join forces and one wedding, two babies and a team of 12 later, here we are…
Tell me about your agency. What is it you do and what prompted you to start up your own?
We work with brands like Center Parcs, Toyota and Capital One to make creative video content. We’ve built a team of hugely talented film-makers, directors, producers, animators and designers who are a joy to work with every day.
When Fat Free started out 11 years ago, it was against a culture of the people with the expensive cameras are the ones who get the work. Now the barrier to entry is so low that anyone with a DSLR can start a film agency, the way we differentiate ourselves is through our concepts and the execution of those concepts. Having worked both side of the agency/client-side line, I also think we do a pretty banging job of looking after our clients …but as Client Services Director, I probably would say that.
What do you think are the most important issues for developing your company culture?
Number one for me is mutual respect for each other, and for the things that each member of the team brings to the table.
Number two is understanding that people come to work for so much more than their pay packet. Creating a culture based on mutual support, encouragement and creative fulfilment is what we’ve always strived to achieve.
Number three is accepting that people are going to balls something up every now and again, and 9 times out of 10 that person is me or Neil. Honesty, integrity and apologies can go a long way in building a culture that looks towards the future, even if that means admitting we don’t get it right all the time.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a woman in business?
Being a business owner comes with a whole heap of challenges, but none I can chalk up to the fact that I’m a woman. Juggling a young family with the pressures of running a business isn’t easy (for me or Neil), but actually offers so much more flexibility than a 9-5 job. I can do the school run and be last in the office in the morning, and Neil can work from 6:30am-2:30pm around afternoon school pick ups – because that’s what works for us. It’s actually incredible to have the opportunity to decide what your dream day would look like, and then make it a reality. That’s an impossibly smug thing to say, isn’t it?
The Wow Company’s recent survey of 471 agency owners across the UK has the figures as Female 27% – Male 73%. Can you share your thoughts on this?
I’m torn – on the one hand, I look at these figures and I’m appalled at the lack of women agency owners, but then, if I look at our team of 12, we’re 25% female and a whopping 75% male, so I need to avoid being hypocritical here!
What I will say is this:
There are some areas which appear to be more male dominated (motion graphics, film makers, agency owners) in the same way that there are some careers which have stereotypically been seen as more female dominated, but This. Will. Change. It’s coming!
Do you have a mentor, or are you a member of an agency owner community?
I have had mentors in the past. This can be hugely valuable as long as you can work out what support you need, and how the process of mentoring with that specific person can help you achieve it.
I would also be really open to mentoring those earlier in their career – the more that people can share their knowledge, the more we can bolster each other.
I am a member of the Agency Collective. It isn’t hugely active in the midlands, and I’m often not in the areas the events are taking place on the right dates, but I find the sounding board of the slack channel a real asset – there’s a huge wealth of knowledge and a fantastic attitude of respect and community.
Do you feel as a female agency founder, they offer the level of support you need? Do you need additional support that isn’t currently available?
When I joined Neil and became director, I spent the first couple of months having a long hard look at where we wanted to go as a business, what kind of agency owner I needed to be to achieve that, and what gaps existed between who I was then and who I needed to become. This wasn’t because I was a woman, more that I was dealing with a serious case of imposter syndrome – something I think affects a lot of us, regardless of gender.
For me, the biggest skills gap was being financially literate, so I sought out coaching from a fantastic financial coach who has made a huge impact in my strategic planning and understanding of the financial side of the business, as well as giving me clarity on what is the most important thing I should be working on today.
What other female founders inspire you?
I’m going to be honest here, only know a couple of female agency owners – and it’s the way they’ve defined what being an agency owner means to them (their relationships, families, hobbies and careers) rather than being and agency owners itself that inspire me. I wish I knew more…maybe you can hook us up, Kelly?
What do you think makes a great agency?
It’s not a sexy answer, but it’s an important one. The answer for me is balance.
Agencies need a great leader at the helm. A creative mind that inspires others and thinks the big ideas. For clarification: this person is 100% not me. But, too many people like this in a team, and no-one will get anything done. To balance, you also need people who make shit happen. That’s where I come in 🙂
You need great clients, but they need to think you’re great too so that the relationship can be mutually beneficial. Far too often, I see agencies who are scrambling to keep key clients happy without realising that it’s making them unhappy in the process! (I’ve been guilty of the same, but I’m a work-in-progress…).
You need a happy team who love what they do, but in order to truly love what they do, they’ve got to leave work and go home and do other stuff, so they can come back refreshed and ready to do some great work. It’s just one part of a much bigger picture.
What would be your one piece of advice to future female leaders?
Be bold. Understand your worth and the problem you solve. Be your biggest cheerleader and believe in yourself.