How does an agency go from local to global? It's the million dollar question with way more than one answer. Our story is unique to us, you’ll have to write yours.
By starting up on your own, and if you do it with integrity and don’t want to steal clients, you are by definition going to be local. We didn’t have some super cool bankroll client that came with us. We didn’t have a swanky address or indeed much in the way of funds for travel, so if Uncle Bob needed a new identity for his worm sanctuary, we were on it. Get the scoreboard and the bank balance ticking over, and you can start to think a wee bit bigger.
Luckily for us, because you always need a bit of luck, the old integrity thing started to pay dividends. Clients who had worked with us in the past, eventually approached us to say they still really wanted to work with us. Now we’re getting somewhere. London, a lot, as it turned out. And so it goes on. Honest hard graft and doing the best job we could to make our clients’ customers' dreams a reality. This is key. The best business development is the inbound call via a referral, and they only come when you have a reputation for being problem solvers who are great to work with.
And then it starts to get really interesting because technology allows the reach of your reputation to travel and the interest comes in from far and wide. That said, the bulk of that interest is useless, wanting the world with no brief, for a stick of gum and an old shoelace. The point being that as you get that bit older and a wee bit less desperate, you get a damn sight better at filtering the time wasters at point of contact. The £50K minimum engagement clause usually sees them off.
So now you’re getting quality leads driven by your existing client base singing your praises. Not as designers, that’s a given now you’re operating at the highest level, but on how you deal with people and problems and most importantly, how you solve them. Long-term solutions, hard yardage discussions and arguments based not on the shiny shiny but on awareness, growth, and shareholder value. Working to define strategies and unify individuals to a common cause and ultimately, collective betterment.
By now the calls are coming in from overseas, and this is going to breathe life into your definition of global. Do you want to an acquisition behemoth with offices across the globe? Do you just want one or two bodies in a couple of key international cities where you have important clients? Do you simply want the badge of global because you once had a designer on a press pass in Bogata? Or, do you want to be local with a global reach because of your deep expertise in one area of creative services? We chose the latter, with current consultancy led clients in Chicago, Atlanta, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Singapore. All serviced from our London and Glasgow offices.
Reach comes from clear differentiation, being experts in your field with a proven track record of success. I’m not entirely sure we’re as clearly differentiated as we’d like to be, to be honest, but over the last 30 years, we’ve refined and honed the expert bit to a pretty sharp and succinct point. Lots still to do as you never stop learning and putting those learnings into practice, but we now have the confidence in our abilities to crack anything thrown at us. And that confidence, as in any team, is contagious.
So in our book, the journey from local to global isn’t that hard if you keep in mind some simple rules.
1. The one all our mums and dads taught us and I’m still trying to teach my kids - Be honest and do your best.
2. Put the client’s needs and the needs of their customers before your own. Always.
3. Become an expert in your chosen field of design services.
4. Clearly differentiate from the competition. What’s your brand?
5. Nothing should ever be too much of a problem. You’re in the service industry to help. So help. Ideally with a smile on your face. This isn’t rocket science.
6. Choose your clients as you would friends. There has to be a fit. There has to be mutual respect.
Master all these things and repeat. Day in, day out. For many years. Persevere against all setbacks and you will achieve your own definition of global.