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The Growth Conundrum

The cold belt-tightening of January may be an odd time to be talking about growth. Even more so to be talking about growth as a potential business problem. It’s in these times of – for want of a better word, austerity – that growth can prove to be a bit of a conundrum.

We are all somebody’s client at some point in the food chain, and as such, we know that now is not the best time to commit to a long-term business relationship. It seems that, what people in such economic times are after is a quick fix solution to their business needs. A solution that requires no long-term financial obligation.

But herein lies the problem for the service (or solution) provider. As you take on more new short-term clients, at what point do you take the plunge and bolster your team to manage the additional workload? It’s a chicken and egg thing. What comes first? The team to service the clients or the clients to pay the team’s wages?

Let’s look at the options.

Option one is to hire somebody on a long term basis, investing time and effort in integrating them into the team and your business, in the hope that incoming business levels remain dependable. This option gives the team stability which, in turn, means that your clients receive a consistent service.

Option two is to go for a short-term hire to get you through a busy period. You hire somebody who can come in and just get the job done only to leave again once the rush is over. The problem with this is that it doesn’t give the new employee any commitment and therefore, how much commitment will you receive in return?

Or do you go for the third option – the freelancer? Now, I think freelancers are great – I was one myself for many years. They are generally experts in their field and can come in, do their job, and leave again without the need for any hand-holding. On the flip side, however, too many different faces can lead to a lack of consistency and frustrated clients. And the rest of your team could start to tire of the revolving door approach.

Personally, my gut feeling is to go for option one. Yes, it’s a gamble, but then most things in life are. And if you don’t have faith in your business, then nobody else will. In order to sustain current growth, you need to adopt a grown mindset, bite the bullet and invest in your people.

Take the long view and you’ll end up with a committed team who have the focus and drive to develop new business opportunities as and when needed. They will understand your company’s culture and adopt the required tone of voice. They will become the touch-points for your potential new business leads. A close-knit team is worth its weight in gold. And regardless of the financial situation, gold always seems to hold its value.

Amsterdam is a Creative City. Why? Because it is.

Amsterdam is a creative city. It has been for decades – centuries, in fact. Amsterdam has always attracted talent of all shapes and sizes from outside of its borders. From the 15th century when countless Sephardic Jews (who, incidentally, established the modern day banking system and secured Holland’s place on the world trade map) fled from the Spanish Inquisition to the safety and tolerance of the Dutch Republic, to modern day movers and shakers who are attracted to the city’s rich cultural heritage and favourable tax laws. With so many cultures mixing it up over such a long period of time, it’s no wonder that open-minded creativity is entrenched in the city.

Yet for some reason, Amsterdam’s status as a creative hub is still heavily debated. In London, at least. Occasionally, the focus shifts elsewhere and over in Amsterdam we just keep going about our creative business as usual. But it’s only ever a matter of time before the same questions raise their head: Is Amsterdam still a creative hotspot? And, If so, why?

It’s a cyclical question. The last time? It was a buzz topic some four years ago and probably about four years prior to that. It seems that we’re entering another phase of interest.

Which is fine – I can wax lyrical until the (Friesian) cows come home about the whys and wherefores of Amsterdam’s creative credentials. But at a certain point, when will the rest of the world just accept that it is what it is. Do people continually demand that London justifies itself? And how about New York? No, didn’t think so. So why is Amsterdam so different?

It could be down to its size – as it really is a village. Maybe people just can’t accept that a city of such a relatively small scale can sustain itself on a global creative stage. It could be down to the fact that English is not the first language here. And it could even be down to the fact that the Dutch are a relatively humble bunch and haven’t pushed themselves forward in a way that they perhaps should/could have.

The fact is, Amsterdam’s small size makes the creative community here more connected and, ultimately, stronger. While English isn’t the first language, many Dutch would put native English-speakers to shame with both their grasp of the language and their openness to speak it so willingly. And I think it’s to Amsterdam’s credit that they go for subtle flag-waving as opposed to ostentatious rooftop-shouting.

So, can the rest of the world please stop questioning why, or if, Amsterdam is a creative city. Just get over it already. It is, and that’s that.

Where Are All The Women?

At FinchFactor, we’re in the business of managing reputations for creative agencies. As such, we get contacted on a regular basis by awards show and event co-ordinators looking for creative directors to be jury members and talking heads. Just a few years ago, we never heard this question but more and more people are asking ‘have you got any women’? So much so that we’re starting to feel a little like we should be sticking a red light in our window.

Women, it seems, are in demand. Now, as a woman in business, I would love to say that it’s because we’re all excelling, achieving and paving the way. However, the real reason is, I’m sorry to say, much less inspiring.

It’s August, sorry, the Continent is closed

As a Brit living in Amsterdam for the last 11 years, there are plenty of cultural stereotypes I’ve faced head-on. Like any country, those in the Netherlands are both good and bad, some expected, others surprising. Over the years I’ve worked out all by myself that the Dutch don’t sit on the steps of windmills in clogs, carrying tulips, eating cheese, to watch mice dance. At least, not the Dutch I know. You?

Cultural stereotypes are fascinating. After all, they come from somewhere, right? Recent events in London and other cities in the UK have reinforced the idea that, given the chance, a certain section of the population is a disgraceful rampaging mob of rioters and looters. There was a time when ‘Think football, think British hooligans’ rang true. Last week’s opportunistic civil unrest was shameful. It also seemed to be sponsored by adidas. This blog from Zimbabwe, which has collected random photos, asks a common question: ‘Is Nike pissed off that the recent disturbances aren’t known as the Nike Riots?’ Dutch news site headlined a news story ‘Adidas: official sponsor of the London riots’. Type in ‘adidas riots’ into Facebook and you will find six sites immediately devoted to this cause – in both English and Dutch.

National Pride on a Global Scale?

As events have unfolded over the last few weeks, the world has been faced with a medley of emotions. And at the top of the emotional pyramid sat national pride.

First came the highly-anticipated royal wedding of Wills and Kate. The world watched as swathes of Union Jacks flooded their screens and sales of questionable royal memorabilia soared. If that wasn’t enough to quench your royal thirst, the very next day saw the Netherlands celebrate Queen’s Day. The Dutch really know how to push the boat out as Amsterdam is bathed in a sea of orange.

Social skills not required?

A guy in his twenties said to me yesterday, in all sincerity, “I’ve never written a letter”. He’s also never bought a stamp, but that I think is down to sheer laziness – surely he’s had to post something in his life?

The art of letter writing is almost extinct. How much longer before we stop talking to each other?

Sexism in the PR Industry? Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it.

If a guy is good at PR he’s a ‘spin doctor’. If a woman is good at PR, she’s ‘the PR lady’. Think Alastair Campbell – the orchestrator of New Labour and Blairism at its most powerful. Think Lynne Franks – a faux Buddhist cymbals-dinging caricature in Absolutely Fabulous. Generally speaking. Or something. 

The Ego Has Landed – Is Posturing Part of a Creative’s Job?

When I’m working on the PR strategy to launch a creative campaign, there’s one part of my job I never look forward to. Last minute changes? A broken ftp site? Running out of coffee? Nope – the credits. 

Compromise – it’s a killer

During a difficult time for the ad industry, most of us suffer from client cutbacks in one shape or another. So now would be a silly time to turn down business, right? We’ve got staff to feed, bills to pay, lifestyles to lead, and any money that goes towards new light-bulbs in the foyer is money well earned. After all, that Cup-A-Soup dispenser doesn’t replenish itself. Right? 

Agencies don’t win business – people do

If a prospective client asked you, right now, to put five random members of staff in a room to represent your company, how would you feel? Secure and assured that this was yet another business win in the bag? Or would you have more confidence in the gooning chimps from a 1980s PG Tips tea advert to do the company justice? Too often, agencies think the former, but potential clients experience the latter.