So, in 2018 I write a blog on this website and then, within a couple of weeks, I find myself working as an Account Director at a very fancy and successful agency.
To be honest, I was incredibly flattered to be thought of for the role, and having gone through interviews and passing Account Director aptitude tests (gaining a 92% test score, which gave me a boost, especially considering in the middle of one of the tests, I had to rearrange childcare for my 1 year old as the day overran) I felt very proud to be made part of such a great agency.
The following 10 months proved a great reminder of why I love creative work so much. I met some amazing people and worked on some huge high-street brands. But – yes you knew there would be one – but, juggling the long hours, with a deployed military husband and a one year old proved too much of a compromise for me.
As you know, I spent a lot of time, energy and a smattering of heart-ache to get my little boy and the work / life balance seemed more than a little off. My side of the see saw rarely touched the ground and so I hardly ever got to play on the swings or slide. Instead I had to sit up there, legs dangling as I watched others play with my son, and that hurt. So it was time to say goodbye to the agency. I had no regrets; I’d worked with some amazingly talented people, on some superb projects and the leaders there were so supportive of me. They just weren’t in a position to flex in the way my family and I needed.
Over to life in an equine charity. Wow, what a ride! Pun intended. As I type I’ve two months left of my notice to serve and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it. Again, so many incredible things have been experienced and learned. I’ve regained my confidence in writing and designing, and reignited my love for leadership. I dare write that I’ve found myself to be a pretty darn good leader as it happens. My team are brilliant. Like me, they meet challenges with gusto and determination. They don’t shy away from something new, and are not afraid of failure; I’m mindful to instil that in them. Being in the arena is essential for great creativity and successful relationships.
And why are you leaving I hear you think? Well, all this regaining and reigniting has left me wanting more. When I started in 2018 I thought the role enough, but it’s not. I want more, and I’m not afraid to pursue this ‘more’. What this ‘more’ looks like, I’m not so sure, but I know I want it. And I want it in a way which enables me to deliver the high standards I believe in, whilst still being a great mother and partner to my military husband.
Now, should I be writing this? Is this career suicide? I flippin’ well hope not. Nope; I know not. If anything this pandemic, we’re currently rattling around in, has taught us, is that the lines between work and life are become more twisted and blurred by the day. Speaking up about being a woman who wants a flexible life to be the best she can be in all spheres is essential right now. We’ve moved forward so much with home working and understanding the juggling women and men do with their home lives and we mustn’t go back. I am embracing this, and so in 2021 I’ll be doing ‘my thing’ again.
What this thing looks like, I’m not so sure, but whether I go on another brick laying course, start glass blowing, begin freelance brand strategy work or join a forward thinking agency or brand’s workforce, I’m not only ready, I’m excited. An amazing coach I’ve recently worked with, named Sarah Barker has reminded me about what makes me, me … me. She said on our last call, having helped me come back and break down the restrictions that military life and parenthood can often hold over us: “Alex, you do you. Keep colouring outside of the lines, in your own palette.”
And so I will. 2021, make a place at the table for me; I’m coming …
This is written in memory of a very special four-legged friend, the majestic Ellie, who passed away on 1st April, and to two-leggeds Gerry and Evelyn who I have also lost this 2020 lockdown. I miss and love you.
Anyone with an eye, let alone an eagle one, will have noticed that my blogs have been somewhat remiss as of late. And by ‘of late’ I mean ‘for the last two years’. Tut tut … Just not good enough you think – especially as the last blog I wrote said that I shouldn’t be doing such a thing. But this time I won’t apologise. No sir, because boy have I got something to tell you?!
These past two years have been the most challenging, character building and rewarding of my life. I’ve had incredible lows and magnificent highs. I feel like I’ve travelled the world three times over and have the tremendous scars to prove it.
In 2017 and 2018 I’ve been through an emotional journey of personal discovery that has left me more sure of my loves and dreams than ever. Some events helped me to improve my skills as a writer, some as a thinker. Other occasions have encouraged me to think creatively outside of the box, others well and truly within it.
Life at times gave joy to me with one hand whilst with the other threw at me despair. But when faced with such diametrically different emotions I know I’ve excelled. If I do say so myself – and yes, I do. My skills of patience, tenacity, empathy, sympathy, creativity, bravery and good old fashioned slog have been tried and proved themselves more than worthy.
So what on earth have I’ve been up to? Well in a nutshell: suspected infertility, IVF, pregnancy, birth and then my blessed new born’s syndrome management and major surgery. Now, am I meant to reveal this on my business website, and God forbid during a meeting or job interview? The jury’s out on that. But for me, I’m a huge believer in being open and honest in life and business. Yes, somethings need to be kept on the QT for confidentiality reasons, but in these circumstances I believe it right to be myself. I’ve weighed up the options of being open about the last two years of my life, and as I feel immensely proud and know that such experiences have truly enhanced my personal and business confidence and ability, here we are.
The person I once was has been enhanced by the amazing experiences I’ve encountered.
Let’s see if being so honest puts clients or potential employers off – I hope not, but if it does, it’s by no means a catastrophe. I’ve always prided myself in working with like-minded individuals because I believe that way always results in the best outcome; in working and in final product.
And that’s not all; amongst all this I’ve been fortunate enough to have been given wonderful and fulfilling pro bono opportunities for brand development, marketing and design. Some of these are now profiled on this website.
And on the subject of this site, one last thing the eagle eyed may have noted is that Kinnear Creative is no longer a limited company. This is something I decided upon very recently. I’m not sure if the universe intends for me to become self-employed or to be employed by a company I believe in, so as to share my skills and further contribute to said business’ success. And for once, the undecided doesn’t concern me. The adventure of life, whether personal or business, is more exciting than ever and I’m beyond thrilled as to what is going to be handed, or thrown, at me.
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.