Orange Panther Collective
Wed, 30 Nov 2022 18:30:45 GMT
Simon is founder of the Orange Panther Collective, an integrated creative communications agency focusing on helping Scale Ups make the leap into the mainstream. With 20 years experience working on some of the biggest brands in the UK and the world, from McDonald's to Red Bull, The IOC to the BBC, Sainsbury's to Guinness, Simon and the OPC team know what it takes to be a powerful mass market, mainstream brand, and believe that it's time to share that knowledge with the next breed of brands.
In his previous life, Simon was client managing director at Engine, running the Red Bull and Olympic content businesses. Before that he spent 5 years helping lead the McDonald’s UK business at Leo Burnett. Going further back he worked at BBC Creative, AMV BBDO and M&C Saatchi.
Simon> I assume being made a class monitor at the age of 11 isn't what you’re after here? So my answer would be when I got promoted from account exec to account supervisor at M&C Saatchi, waaaay back in the early noughties.
Simon> I’ve always been a big believer in thinking about what life’s like when the shoe’s on the other foot, so I always knew that empathy and compassion would form a large part of my leadership style. Aside from maintaining that as my golden rule, the rest I figured out as I went along.
Simon> Working on the McDonald’s business at Leo Burnett. At one point I think we had about 25 people exclusively working on ‘Maccers’, so we were effectively an agency within an agency. The majority of the team were in account management (about 16 or 17 I think) so, as one of three business directors (under the watchful eye of a senior CSD) leading one of the busiest and highest profile ad accounts in the UK, we learnt a lot about team and leadership.
Simon> As soon as I committed myself to a career in the advertising industry I knew I wouldn't be able to settle until I was running my own show (or co-running it, as is the case with the OPC). But the prize wasn't so much about becoming a leader, it was more about having the autonomy to make decisions that myself and our team believe in, and to create an agency where everyone has a say in the direction we’re taking. That was the prize. So a mix of masters of our own destiny and altruism was the motivation, not autocracy or basking in the glory.
Simon> As with all things in life I think it's a mixture of nature and nurture. Anyone can become a leader - admittedly some may be a bit more predisposed than others - but the speed at which someone gets there is what stands out to me, and that’s usually informed by a combination of skill, self-belief and a tough enough skin that you don’t get knocked down too easily, as there will always be hurdles to overcome.
Simon> Self-belief is still a challenge for me. I think back to my days playing 7-aside football down in Dulwich - whenever I didn't overthink things I played really well, but whenever I thought about how I was playing I’d often misplace a pass or scuff a shot. Apologies for the slightly lame parallel to football (appropriate as it may as I’m writing this during the World Cup) but I think it rings true in my working life. When I go with my gut and trust my take on things it feels good, but when I start overthinking what I’m doing I can lose faith in my decisions. The great thing is I then have brilliant people around me to help steer the ship.
Simon> I’m not sure I buy into the word failed, maybe more ‘made the wrong decision’. I don’t mean to be pedantic but I think failed carries such heavy negativity, the kind of negativity that can bog you down, and I believe that’s one of a leader's biggest enemies: doubt and weight slowing down the ability to make big decisions swiftly. Oh and yes, I’m sure I’ve made a few wrong decisions, haven't we all. The trick is to shake it off and bounce back quickly.
Simon> I always err on the side of honesty, authenticity and being earnest, and firmly believe that's a fastrack to building integrity and trust with your clients and team alike. What I will say though is I have tempered my openness over the years, as I believe oversharing can undermine your gravitas and respect as a leader.
Simon> I have never had a mentor per se, but there have been a few people I have worked with who really inspired me. Sarah Douglas, Susan Cooper and Crispin Butler at AMV, Emily Sommers and James Joice at Leo Burnett, and most recently Dave Roberts at Engine, all taught me a fair few things and have helped shape who I am and how I work with people (and how to run a business beyond the people).
Simon> We set up the OPC in early 2020, just as Covid was becoming a reality, and in the same year I lost my mum to cancer. So compared to that everything else feels like a breeze. But I appreciate that’s just me, what about the team? I know it’s tough and we are all feeling it but we always talk about real life beyond the day job and I make sure the team knows that they can voice concerns, ask for help or just chew the fat at any time. Crucially I think it’s about being available and encouraging honest conversations.
Simon> I am frustrated with the industry as a whole as I believe we should be faster than most to action change, given we are meant to be at the forefront of the social zeitgeist. But we are managing our own house pretty well. At our core of five people we have three mums, one dad and one dogfather. We have an ethnic mix that spans from China to the Caribbean via India, the UK and Ireland. We are also looking to bring in our first junior placement. And every time we look to hire new people we ensure our brief is genuinely open.
Simon> Define culture… If you mean encouraging openness, inclusivity and having mutually respectful relationships between all of the team, then yes we have a good company culture. And if you mean having a regular natter about the trials and tribulations of real life, often over a coffee or something a bit stronger, or giggling in the office about another brilliant ‘real life’ anecdote from our Head of Creative Ops (he has soooo many), then yes we have a good company culture, and it’s crucial for our existence.
Simon> The people around me, especially my co-founder Lorna and my wife Christine, and my gut.view more - Bossing ItOrange Panther Collective, Wed, 30 Nov 2022 18:30:45 GMT