So how naughty have I been?! It’s been over a year since I’ve written a blog. Bad Alex, very bad.
But, oh and here comes the excuse, we all do it! We need to prioritise and in this case, my precious blog took a back seat. Clients came first, which I think is fair enough.
However, and here comes the ‘head hanging in shame’ bit, another typical business trait occurred too – I got out of the ‘good practice habit’. The safety net we put around or under us only works if we keep checking it for damage, and repairing where necessary. And what is a technique that helps us keep it in tip top condition? Yes, good practice habits. We’ll always been thrown challenges but as well as being adaptable to these challenges, upholding good practice habits helps too – they are after all our USPs; the things that make us stand out from the crowd. And keeping my blog up-to-date was something I was proud of. So, chastising over, time to get back on it. Repair, move on and up!
“Well, what have you been up to this past year Alex?” I hear you think. Yes, mind reading is another USP (insert winking face here!).
“Charity work”. I respond with a wee halo hanging above lifted head.
This last year I’ve been working for an incredible charity; Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance. Like all 30+ Air Ambulances in the UK, the entire service is funded by the general public, with the NHS seconding amazing paramedics to the service. These men and women are literally life-savers on a day to day basis. Lincs & Notts is a particularly busy region; the team fly on average 3 life-saving missions a day, but that can increase to anywhere up to 11! Mind blowing stuff.
I helped the charity get up to speed with their marketing and PR. It was a truly inspiring year. What I’ve learned has been invaluable; the challenges and opportunities for charities such as this are immense. It was an honour to work with them. The testimonial from the Deputy CEO, Sally Crawford, which I’ll soon put on this site, means so much to me.
Right, enough halo polishing, time to talk 2016. New clients are on their way and a project I’ve been working on for over 2 years may finally be hitting the shelves soon. And here it comes – the obligatory ‘watch this space!’.
Speak soon …
In the last month I’ve received two bits of news that have slightly knocked me off balance. One involved the oh so marvellous blind dog Ellie and the other, a fantastic client. Ellie, having visited the vet with a lump on her leg, was diagnosed with life-limiting arthritis; at the age of just 4. It was a huge blow; her joints were that of an 11 year old dog. How could an animal who has challenges thrown at her from birth, then be hit with more bad news? It seemed so unfair.
Regarding Kinnear Creative, we know that having multiple clients makes having your own business an exciting yet topsy-turvy affair; bounding around on peaks and in troughs. Sometimes you hit the jackpot with a fantastic project and an appreciative and understanding client, and at others times, the project is good yet the client is a challenge; they maybe don’t truly understand the work involved or how the process works. Well, I am very happy to write that every project Kinnear Creative has had, has ended with smiles and a satisfied client. Perfect you may think? Well no. This week the fabulous peak client has become a challenge. Why? Because the project has run to its natural conclusion and the work will now go in-house. So how does one handle this, emotionally?
I mention emotionally, because the other aspects; the financial, are inevitable, and any good business owner should always have this end in their mind; I’m known for making hay when the sun shines; and another metaphor; I don’t put all my eggs in one basket. You literally can’t afford to become complacent with projects; as a consultant or agent you’re often one of the first things to be cut for example when you’re a victim of your own success; the project grows arms and legs and so the client requires a permanent in-house employee or when a company department hits financial pressure. That’s fine, and that’s right. But how do you cope emotionally?
Often over the years you have created a bond with the client; you start saying “we’ instead of “you’ in meetings; your friends and family know that you’re not free on certain days. This week, I had to take a deep breath when I read the Dear John letter. Yes, it was a Dear John letter; I couldn’t help seeing it like this; I hold the client and their business in very high esteem and I’ll admit my lip quivered for a mere moment. But then, remembering all the ‘turn that frown upside down’ teachings, I had to turn this situation into an opportunity. Just as I have done with the Ellie-meister.
If I hadn’t investigated what was a small lump on Ellie, she wouldn’t have been sedated for the x-ray. It was when she was sedated that the vet started doing an overall check; and he discovered that further up the leg, unrelated to the lump, her elbows hardly moved. Curious, he x-rayed these parts too. And the rest is history; she’s riddled, the poor thing, but due to her blindness her strange running style was put down to her feeling the terrain with her paws.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the arthritis had been there all along, just like the inevitable end to my fantastic project with the fantastic client. The test was in how I handled the news. With Ellie, I drew up a plan; my husband and I researched what we could do to make her life more comfortable and not debilitated. I rather got into it and I found a new sense of purpose; I was going to make this dog even happier. I had been given an opportunity to understand her further and build an even better future. And this is what I have done with my client.
I replied to the Dear John letter with the opening line:
“As the expression goes: All good things must come to an end; and in this case, it was a great thing … Whatever success comes your way, you truly deserve it with knobs on!”
The client responded with a LOL, the acceptance of my request for conciliatory drinks and a promise of supporting my search for the next big client. And I know they will, and the chances are I’ll work with them again. I passed the test and feel great about it. Business is Business; you work as you live: “Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain!” Vivian Green.
I am of course chuffed to write that this is by no means an end of the marvellous Ellie. Oh no; this is the start of a new chapter; a chapter that sees Ellie losing 3 kg (not one gramme has come off yet in three weeks, but that’s a whole new story), and taking tablets everyday, which she swallows with gusto, as if they were penny chews.
There’s nothing wrong with allowing emotions into business; how can you be passionate about something without emotion? The test is how you handle these emotions in the peaks and the troughs. I’m not perfect at it yet, and probably never will be, but I certainly feel that this month I deserve at least a B+.
A few weeks ago I decided to try out a new eating plan; no not diet, eating plan. The basis of which is eating according to your blood type. So I’m as common as you get, O positive, which means wheat and dairy aren’t my tummy’s friends whereas meat is a true buddy. This is hard for me; I’m a vegetarian.
Determined not to be put off by some of the plan’s not so Alex friendly options, I delved deep to find some positives within this ancient diet. ‘Ancient’ as supposedly your blood type’s preferred food is based on how your ancestors lived.
Upon delving deep I found some true favourites; oh yes baby! Spinach, broccoli, spelt, rye, tomatoes, soya milk, rice, rice and more rice.
Now why on earth am I wittering on about food? Well if any of you know me, you will be aware that food is one of my favourite subjects, however this isn’t the reason. It’s all to do with a design project I’ve been working on.
This project has really pushed my design skills and self belief. The client wanted the extraordinary; an extremely complex vector design with a limited budget. Could I do this? Would I start to wane mid-design? Well, nearly! Like the food plan, sometimes a brief can seem to be just filled with obstacles whilst the positives, the fun, exciting, mind blowing end product can get lost amongst a sea of hurdles and “this is crazy!”s.
Now my advice and learning in such cases is simple:
* Stick to the brief
* Don’t be a child in a sweet shop, nail your design inspiration and thoughts with your client early
* Don’t let the client be a child in a sweet shop and confirm their expectations early
* Tell any silly “but you’re a vegetarian, you can’t do this” thoughts to take a short walk off a long peer
* Stick to the brief
The design I’ve created for the client is most certainly my most challenging, most complex and most rewarding. I can’t say that the 25 hours staring at a computer screen didn’t leave me slightly bozeyed but boy was I elated when the client used the word “incredible!”.
During the 25 hours I was challenged by design and technical complications but I kept searching for the positives; that spinach and broccoli: “This is so on brief”, “the client will love this”, “I couldn’t do this last week” and “this is awesome fun, who needs non-blurry eyes?!”.
And what’s next? The product will be launched internationally this year, I will be sure to send it to as many contacts and friends as possible to show off and remind them of what I do exactly and I will continue to have a happier, less rumbly tummy.
Five fabulous clients later and here I am writing my blog with a huge satisfied smile on my mug. For a moment however, it wasn’t quite as big. You see, recently I encountered powdery mildew.
This mildew I hasten to write, was not upon my person. It was in fact upon my roses. So where do I start? Ok, so 4 months ago I purchased my first ramble of roses; yes I’ve made up that collective noun, and yes I rather like it. Well, this ramble of roses equated to 10 beautiful climbing roses that were to create a blooming wall between my neighbours and me.
It all started incredibly well, I became an obsessive nurturer; training the stems in a manner taught to me by Sir Alan of the Titchmarsh. I beamed with pride every morning when someone strolled past and commented on my potential blooms. Then last week, disaster struck; the powdery substance I had discovered on my roses was, as the RHS website informed me, powdery mildew. So what does one do now? Well, firstly remove affected leaves, and if necessary, the stems.
So here I was, cutting away all the work I had lovingly toiled over for the last 4 months. It wasn’t all gone, but let’s just say that my roses’ stems looked in need of a modesty patch.
After creating an organic spray and squirting the poor things, instead of being disheartened, I started to truly feel like a ‘gardener’. I had suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous powdery infestation and having adapted to head off the attack felt at one with Sir Alan.
And here’s where we get to the point. It’s all about adapting. You can start a project, feel you’ve got this nailed; got this in the bag; easy peasy lemon squeezy … Then, what? The brief’s changed? The client having seen the first draft realises that actually this isn’t what they required.
Well, that’s the creative business for you. And it’s human nature. Sometimes we have to see what we don’t want in order to realise what we truly want.
So, this is when as a creative consultant you need to keep your skin thick, and be ready to jump into the next required mindset and action. You have to be adaptable and understanding. And most importantly, you need to enjoy doing it. This is why we do drafts; I often give clients 3 very different designs and ideas, and once or twice none of them work. Back to the drawing board you go, but you keep the positivity you had at the first briefing.
This isn’t failure, it’s gardening. Powdery mildew is merely a creative challenge that once you’ve tackled, leaves you still with a beautiful product, but most importantly, a great feeling of ownership and satisfaction as having stepped up to the plate and truly delivered.
So it’s the 20 December and I am thinking about those fantastic, though one could argue, a wee cheesy song lyrics: “You’ve gotta accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative. Latch on to the affirmative. Don’t mess with Mister In-Between”.
This week a number of newspapers chose to dedicate their back pages yet again to the wonder and awe-inspiring story that was and is The Olympics. This time, however, the angle they chose was all about ignoring the teachings of that rather marvellous, joyous and mildly Stilton-like song. An 11% increase in sports funding following our incredible summer felt decidedly meagre when some of our UK press got hold of the story. Yes, some sports unfortunately lost some funding but let’s look at the stats: 5 had funding reduced whilst 18 increased. Now I have never claimed to be much of a mathematician (a superb triple-word scrabble square user, yes) but even I can see that an 11% overall increase and 18 sports’ fundings augmented versus 5 reduced equals a positive story?!
This then leads me onto thinking that at least it could have been worse … these are the same newspapers that publish articles written by journalists concerned about what will happen if competition is irradicated from our next generation’s education; worried that the future of England won’t be able to cope with the concept of competition, as schools are advised to not allow “winning” or “losing” as everyone’s a winner, and therefore when we hit the real world it’s a big surprise that we have to compete for jobs etc. So, thank Santa for small mercies and all that … at least we didn’t have a wishy washy (yes, the panto references are coming in) UK press that doesn’t dare show opinion (ok, so that’s never going to happen) but why is its mood sometimes so unreliable? It’s an absolute mystery as to know on which side of the bed it has fallen out of … Are today’s stories going to accentuate the positive or the negative?
Now please get me right; I am extremely pro journalism that digs and refuses to accept the gilding of PR and spin that can often surround stories everyday, it’s just that occasionally I do wonder at the pessimism that clouds us all from time to time, and how easy it is to get caught up in. Yesterday at a fascinating innovation forum I attended, I saw powerful people choosing to see their competition’s ideas as inspiring instead of belittling them and disregarding them through ignorance and pride. It was wonderful to see Industry saying “I wish I had thought of that; what can we do to top this?” instead of the negative “Well that won’t work for us so what’s the point, let’s just keep going the way we’re going and find fault in everyone else to make ourselves look better” – or something to that effect!
Ying needs yang, ping needs pong, win needs lose and Scrooge needs Cratchit – oh I just can’t resist … this year we’ve all had our ups and our downs; our boxing budget and our badminton budget but let’s sing that song (out loud or in our head – dependent upon your eccentricity and skill) and choose the affirmative to define who we are and how we do it. And let’s hope the time before the first journalist siting the number 13 in our new year as an excuse for seeing the ‘unlucky’ negative side of a story is a long and happy one.
Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year everyone!
Well with the last remnants of summer shining on me and with a warm feeling of human (not just national) pride following both sets of Olympics I sit in my new feng shui(ed) office contemplating the next exciting move for Kinnear Creative.
When I set up this business nearly a year ago I had no idea how much I would learn and grow during the process. The variety of work and personalities I have enjoyed and met have been tremendous, and I sit here with a wonderful feeling of pride; knowing that taking the opportunity that many would have ducked has paid off.
Yes the year has thrown its challenges, but I have been keen to learn from each one, never giving up on my dream of having a successful business known for looking at things just that little bit differently from the ‘norm’. And here comes my point – and secret admission – I don’t believe that what I do is all that different! “Shock horror” I hear you cry, “Is she mad for dismissing her USP; her Competitive Advantage?!”
Well first of all calm down and stop being so dramatic, and secondly, my response is a “nope”; it’s just that as this summer of sport and games has shown us, ‘normal‘ just doesn’t exist! Humans that come in all shapes and sizes entertain, amaze and dazzle us with equal aplomb. The only difference is that somethings are just often overlooked in favour of the more obvious and therefore more trodden route.
And that’s where Kinnear Creative comes in; we simply find a way / view / look that is just as beautiful and efficient as the ‘norm’ but has that edge that makes it more exciting, enticing and ultimately creative.
So as we head toward our second year, I am faced with a dichotomy: I’m encouraged to see and embrace our world moving away from appreciating / acknowledging somethings as the ‘norm’, but I better watch out and keep on my toes, because being careful of what one wishes for; the competition is now just behind …