As the irreplaceable Will Spratt moves on to exciting pastures new, he shares with us the five things he learned during his three years at Pagefield…
I joined Pagefield about three and half years ago. I will always remember – before making the decision to join the agency – what one of its alumni (Simon Redfern, now head of Corporate Affairs at Starbucks) said to me when I asked him if I should join. He gave an affirmative ‘yes’ and followed this up by describing the agency as ‘invigorating’.
That is the perfect description of Pagefield.
I have learned plenty of things in my time here. Ahead of me leaving and in the spirit of our occasional ‘5 things we learned…’ series, I have tried to neatly summarise what has made the biggest impression on me.
Build a network: ‘What’s your network like?’ barked Pagefield’s founder Mark Gallagher. In week one at the agency I couldn’t muster the courage to utter the quip mischievously flickering in my head (‘a bit patchy in rural areas but otherwise it’s good’) and instead I meekly admitted it was ‘ok’. This was met with an arched eyebrow and an about turn towards his favourite smoking spot. The first thing I learned here was how important a network and connections are. While that may be glaringly obvious to anyone in the industry, it wasn’t to me. Building a network should be something that anyone starting out in the industry should apply some energy to.
A good argument: Another thing that made an early impression on my arrival was the diversity of views and political leanings here. This means you can always find someone willing to have a good argument with you – whether it was about something relevant and significant like a new policy, or something lighter or more trivial (over the summer I did overhear several heated discussions related to Love Island). This goes well beyond being just a cultural point. Our job is to formulate and convey an argument or case on behalf of our clients, so if we can keep our teeth (or tongues) sharp, our job will only be easier.
The critical friend: Too many agencies and advisors say what their client wants to hear. This is something a less experienced me has been guilty of. Pagefield often describes itself as a ‘critical friend’ – on the side of the client, but willing to raise difficult questions which might be easier shirked. This approach stems from the agency’s three co-founders – all of whom had spent the majority of their careers in-house and wanting to be challenged by their advisors. As consultants, having challenging conversations with clients can be difficult, but if we don’t do it, we need to question whether we are adding value. If the client is willing to listen then they will get the best advice and it ultimately means the agency becomes ‘critical’ – in both senses of the word.
Power of positivity: Many agencies say that they have an entrepreneurial approach or culture – and many do. This is absolutely the case at Pagefield and it manifests itself in many forms, be that creativity or lateral thinking. From my perspective, the most compelling trait has been positivity: no challenge is too big and every problem should be seen as an opportunity. At worst these are clichés but a positive mindset across an agency can be infectious and create a potent culture.
You catch more flies with honey than vinegar: Perhaps it is the diplomatic tone set by our Chairman Sir Christopher Meyer, but being nice to people is not only very obvious, but it works. Building on this point, not taking yourself too seriously is important too. There is a lot of posturing in the world of business and politics. A dose of self-deprecation and the ability to see humour in a situation is important and can add a much-needed perspective. Pagefield has this in droves.