More creative companies in the North should capitalise on their own distinct “brand” and culture to grow their business, says Elmwood chairman Jonathan Sands.

Leeds-based Elmwood is one of the few Northern design agencies to enjoy success globally, with offices in the United States, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong as well as London. Total design revenues are £13million and staff numbers stand at 150.

It celebrates 25 years in business this year, with Sands having led a management buyout at the agency in 1989.

Jonathan Sands

Elmwood chairman Jonathan Sands

Having an HQ in Leeds has been central to the agency’s success, says Sands.

He said: “The Leeds office is what makes Elmwood, Elmwood.

“In London, people move around between agencies, but in Leeds very few have gone to other companies. The Leeds studio defines our culture. As well as being a creative studio, it remains the head office for everything from IT to HR to finance.”

“I always tell our staff that Walmart, the biggest company in the world, is based in Bentonville, Arkansas, while Nike is in Portland, Oregon.

“Although more HQs are based in capitals, there are some amazing companies who are not, and their location is what makes them different.”

Sands will expand on his ideas on how to build a global design business at a Design Business Lunch at Designival in Liverpool on July 18.