Started by founding partners Mark Eaves and Mark Boyd, both veterans in creative advertising, Gravity Road has gone from strength to strength since its launch. The agency works with brands such as Bombay Sapphire, Sainsbury’s, Huffington Post & You Tube.
After leaving university I was fortunate enough to land at a company that was both pioneering in what it was doing and also very entrepreneurial. The guys that started it were still running it and that’s a very infectious environment to be in. So I stayed at that company for 13 years, which is unusual in the creative industries – it was only leaving to set up my own company which led me to move elsewhere. We were in such a fast moving, fast growing area of the creative industry that every time I thought of doing something different, a new opportunity popped up.
I set up with my business partner two years ago and it was a matter of taking everything we had learnt from larger organisations and trying to mix it with some of our own thoughts that we had been fostering over the last few years. So, the biggest milestone was sitting with my partner going “Ok we need to turn what we’re saying we are going to do into what we are going to do.”
In terms of celebrating, sadly, we never celebrate enough. We were actually talking about this the other day. The danger in small businesses is that you are at risk of not celebrating because the good things that happen are the things that you planned to happen. If they didn’t ensue, you’d be really upset, but when they do it’s all part of the plan. One thing we are trying to do now as a business is gain a bit more perspective and celebrate the things that are great because we do work with a group of talented people who give it their all. In the same way you don’t tell your family you love them enough because they are around all the time, it often gets overlooked.
I think that when you are a small business you have a different body clock to larger companies. You are trying to run very quickly but you have to realise that the companies that you are working with run at a different pace. You want to develop new business quickly but the world doesn’t necessarily work around you or at least not at the speed than you want it to. You have to realise that things are going to take a little bit longer than your business plan said they would.
In terms of what you learn, the banal terms that you hear about in the boardrooms of larger companies suddenly have acute meaning; cash flow, insurance, things like that. Everything that is generally hidden away in larger organisations is now with you day to day. That’s the challenge within the creative industries; people who pursue start ups are not well versed in the practical functions of a business; they are happier using different bits of their brain.
Setting up your own company is essentially about risk but once you’ve done that, everything you do feels like it naturally flows out of that. We haven’t really sat there day by day and assessed risk. I think you have to be very clear about what it is you are setting out to do and the areas you think are important to you as a business both culturally and strategically.
The biggest risk is losing that clarity of what you are about. There are temptations for young companies to do whatever is out there for money and there is nothing worse than a company that has been around for a few years and doesn’t know what it’s really about. Risk is really straying from the thing which makes you different and what it is that you are good at. I’d say that’s the single biggest risk for any start up.
Anyone who wants to start their new business because they want to take control of their lives and have more of a say in their work life balance is absolutely kidding themselves, the two just don’t go hand in hand. My advice to anyone who is starting their business,: have a year’s worth of sleep beforehand. There is a period of start up energy that can be sustained for a while but you have to try and get that balance back.
My work life balance at the moment is terrible. Ask my wife and two children. You know that it’s going to be crazy for a while and you just have to embrace it, and make sure the important things in life don’t go by the wayside.
What is inspiring about this industry is the ability to sit in a room and come up with great ideas with other people to solve tricky problems. It’s a really interesting way to spend your day and if you can create a culture around that which you feel a part of, it really is a privileged thing to be able to do. It’s also about the amazing mix of people that you get to encounter on any one day. We sit at a junction between entertainment, technology, media, brands, and marketing. We wanted to create a business which could move between those silos. The thing that really inspires me is when I look down at my diary and think what an interesting week I have ahead of me.