It’s dawned on me that rbl is 15 years old this month. Sadly we’ve been too busy to stop and do anything about it, a great problem to have!
It’s been an amazing journey from very humble beginnings when I sat down in my living room and started life as an independent freelance brand consultant.
I reflected on what’s enabled me to build the agency I run today with my colleagues Adam, Karen and Steph and am so very proud of. And so here it is, without overthinking it.
1. Our people
Agencies are really just a loose collection of people with different talents who love solving problems. From the early days working with Andy and Harriet, to today, where we still work with Andy and Harriet, but we also work with Adam, Karen, Steph and a whole bunch of other lovely designers, consultants, account and agency managers, the real success of rbl is the quality of our people. Thank you, everyone, for being part of the story.
There isn’t a single project at rbl that is the work of just one person. It takes a whole team to deliver and we succeed or fail together. Clients and suppliers are a big part of the team too and we all know what it’s like when you genuinely do feel part of the same team, working with a shared spirit. It’s just the best feeling ever. We are still learning about teamwork, but I know it’s vital to our success.
3. Hard work
Nobody chooses agency life because they want a simple life. There is so much hard work that goes on behind the scenes to create the brands, campaigns and communications that look effortless when they are revealed. Never, ever think that great design is simple.
4. Methodical approach
There’s method in our madness. Strangely it’s what enables us to be more creative. Underpinning pretty much everything at rbl is a process or a methodology that enables us to focus more on the outcomes, than on how or what we need to do next. We’ve all learned to trust in the process and pride ourselves on being pretty well organised behind the scenes.
We’ve built strong relationships that have stood the test of time, working with clients and suppliers for decades across multiple different projects. These relationships really matter and our collective heart soars when an old client reconnects to ask us if we’d be interested in working with them again. Of course, we would!
Perhaps this should have been top of the list. I’m constantly amazed by how many rabbits my team manage to pull out of the hat, every day. Where do all those rabbits come from? But actually, if you look at what’s been covered already, there’s the answer.
I am sure there are times when my colleagues truly hate me because I throw my toys out the pram about spelling mistakes or sloppy administration. But those occasions are pretty few and far between because everyone at rbl works to very high standards. We expect a lot of each other, but even more of ourselves.
Standards can’t work without some discipline I’m afraid, and I think we are pretty good at that too. We do lots of small things regularly such as our Monday Morning Meeting, blogging, Client Service updates, tidying up, stock taking, archiving, filing. These are the regular routines that give us all structure and confidence.
We have not been shy of investing in the things that matter, mostly people, quite a lot of kit, nice studio environments, marketing, IT support. Personally, I am a great believer in investing in our future, but I always do so with a clear expectation that there has to be a return on that investment. The agency we are today is because of the investments we made previously.
Where would we be without Apple or Adobe? Nowhere in my view. Some people think these products are expensive. My experience shows they are worth every penny. Other technologies have also added lots of value for pretty modest costs such as Xero accounting software and Slack our internal messaging system. We’d be utterly lost without them.
10 years ago we made a serious effort to get our website optimised for search on Google (thank you Paul and Andy). That effort is still paying dividends today as we regularly receive high-quality inbound enquiries through our website. We are a small agency by most standards, but we punch way above our weight online and have the client list to prove it.
12. The art of great copy
Perhaps one of the reasons why we have succeeded in the world of strategic branding is because we have a real passion for good writing. That could be an email, a proposal document, a research report, a strategy paper, a brand essence or campaign concept. Words matter just as much as any visuals.
We talk quite a bit about creating ‘a rewarding agency culture’. That’s a place where people want to come to work, where they feel valued, where their opinion counts, where their skills are developed, where they have opportunities to progress and where they are rewarded with an above-average benefits package for an above-average contribution. This is the culture we try to nurture at rbl.
You can’t produce great creative work in a poor physical environment. We’ve always had inspiring studio spaces, but the latest is the best! Our office sets the tone for the whole agency and make us all want to produce better work through better collaboration.
15. Strong financial management
It’s last on the list but it’s still important. rbl is a sizeable business now and we have to pay our people, our suppliers and our taxes. We’re pretty hot about looking after the pennies. Victoria does an excellent job of keeping on top of a lot of detail.
So that’s 15 years and 15 reasons that underpin our success to date. I’d better get back to work.