A few weeks ago, I left big agency life to do my own thing. It’s taken a smidgen over 40 years, but I think I’ve finally figured out what I want to do when I grow up: I want to convene a collective.
A collective is a group of entities that share or are motivated by at least one common issue or interest, or work together to achieve a common objective. Collectives differ from cooperatives in that they are not necessarily focused upon an economic benefit or saving, but can be that as well.
Like many of the people I know who started off in the internet and social media industry ten or more years ago, my initial interest wasn’t making money – indeed, back when I started, there were very few “proper jobs” in digital. Instead, I was motivated by the belief that, used in the right way, digital tools offered new opportunities to forge a new sort of society based on shared interests and collaboration.
Call me an idealist, but I still believe that digital and social media can make the World a better place. There are plenty of non-believers out there – indeed, most businesses are leveraging digital not because they want to do good, but because of the economic benefits. That’s fine by me – the economic argument is the perfect Trojan horse when it comes to changing business and, anyway, profit can and should still be an objective.
A couple of years ago now, I interviewed the Sustainability Expert at a leading multi-national chemical producer as part of a stakeholder insights gathering process I was conducting for a client. One thing he said struck me, not for it’s brilliance, but for it’s no bullshit common sense: he argued that sustainability had to be part of the brand’s evolution because, by reducing wastage within it’s many processes, costs were reduced and greater profits achieved. He also argued that, if the World continues on it’s present course, there eventually won’t be any clients or customers around for the brand to sell for. His argument, that change is an economic necessity, not just the right thing to do (although it’s that too), is a hard one to counter.
In setting up my new thing, I wanted to come up with a model that focuses on delivering positive outcomes through change. Those outcomes include making work more meaningful for employees, helping functional and regional silos work together more closely, reducing repetitive processes and investments, focusing on activities that are closely aligned with business strategy, and engaging more meaningfully with stakeholders. I believe that better, more authentic conversation is central to achieving all of these things.
The business models of big agencies aren’t always well suited for achieving such outcomes for clients. Whilst the team flown in the for pitch might include some impressive people with equally impressive air miles balances, the reality is that after the pitch it’s quite often people with “spare capacity” who end up doing much of the work. That is, those available instead of the right people. Big agencies tend to have fixed teams and costs, and profit margins to generate from them. All too often, this causes them to “do stuff” rather than to focus on the activities most likely to bring the most value to their clients. That’s a shame – clients don’t necessarily get what they want or need and the agency people who serve them find themselves delivering work that fails to generate the professional pride and job satisfaction they yearn for.
My new thing is a Collective. A group of talented people and small agencies, each a leader within their particular niche, working together within a loosely affiliated network structure. My collaborators are drawn from my 15 years of industry experience and include friends, former colleagues and suppliers, ex-clients and a handful of people I’ve sort of bumped into along the way. They include technologists, start-up advisors, academic researchers, PR people, designers and coders, social media managers and video producers. But more importantly, they’re all people I’d like to work with again, and who I trust to deliver maximum value to clients. They’re also all people who I know to believe in doing what’s right for their clients because doing so leads to greater personal, creative and professional achievement.
The collective has no financial value, as such – the network cannot be purchased or traded. If it ever does have shareholders, those shareholders will be it’s members and their return on investment will be greater opportunities to deliver great work. I am not the CEO, Managing Director or General Manager – I am merely the Convenor.
My new thing is called Stradigal. As in “has your businesses’ digital and social media strategy got a bit muddled up”. If so, that’s the sort of challenge we’d like to help you solve – get in touch.
It’s early days, still, but in the near future I’ll be announcing some of Stradigal’s first collaborators. Having had a flurry of conversations with many of the industry’s best and brightest people over the past few weeks, I’m certain that we can offer the same breadth of experience as a big agency, but with far greater flexibility, depth of expertise, and a genuine focus on helping clients push the needle towards their most important strategic objectives.
More coming soon…