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A Week in My Life: Richard Attwater, MD and co-founder, Sergeant Walnuts

Richard Attwater

Sergeant Walnuts is a creative agency based in Manchester.

Launched last September by ex LOVE senior staffers Gary Toal (creative director) and Richard Attwater (managing director), the duo each have 20+ years’ experience working across global brands including Umbro, Adidas, Under Armour, Nike, PlayStation, Amazon, Sky, Johnnie Walker, Guinness, Haig Club, Glenfiddich, Hendrick’s, BrewDog and Penfolds.

Prior to co-founding Sergeant Walnuts, Attwater’s most recent role was as Client Business Director at LOVE where he worked for almost nine years looking after many of the agency’s key clients. He’s also held senior account management positions at McCann Manchester and gyro over the years.

He shared how a recent week in his life went…


I trudge downstairs at some unholy hour to let the dog out into the garden. He stares me dead in the eyes whilst answering the call of nature, as if to say ‘You’re going to have to pick this up’. He’s right of course, but that can wait.

My children are soon on the scene and, despite the selection of cereal available to them not having changed within recent memory, they force me, yet again, to read out what’s in the cupboard. They ask if we’ve got *insert unhealthy sugar-filled cereal*, as they do every day. I manage to say ‘No we have not’, without also including a swear word and go about making their breakfast. I transport their bowls of cereal to the table, and manage to spill some milk onto my feet. It’s 7:14am.

What follows is 45 minutes of chaos as we attempt to get the kids ready for school, and ourselves ready for work. Nobody knows where anything is. Cardigans, shoes, school bags – all vanished. Accusations are flying all over the place, shoulders are being shrugged. Someway, somehow, we make them look reasonably presentable before bundling them out onto the street. My wife or I will walk them round the corner to school, then thoughts turn to work for the first time.

Monday mornings are always tricky as I inevitably have to deal with two things: 1) the emails that arrived over the weekend from people who are far more keen/diligent than I, and 2) the things I should have done on the previous Friday but ran out of time/steam. Not ideal. But deal with them I do, and I gradually tick things off from a seemingly unending to- do list.

We’ve got a big shoot coming up for a sports brand, so we’re speaking to videographers and reviewing potential locations. One of the reasons starting your own agency is so fun is that you find yourself involved in all aspects of a shoot like this. This takes up the majority of the day, bar a small break for lunch (and a trip into the garden to pick up the gift left for me earlier by the dog).


The morning starts exactly as Monday did (as do all days of my life, so I’ll skip to 9am).

Tuesday is generally the most productive day of the week for me. I’ve made my peace with the fact that it’s not the weekend anymore, and I’ve typically dealt with the more annoying tasks on a Monday (having not done them on the Friday).

I’ve got three proposals to write today – we’ve been extremely lucky since we launched to have had a steady stream of briefs/enquiries from companies big and small. I’ve developed a good instinct over the years for jobs that are never going to happen, and one of the proposals definitely falls into that bracket. I write it anyway, as it’s easier than saying ‘I don’t believe you have any intention of giving us this brief, and think you’re wasting my time’, before moving onto the two that feel more up our street.

Lunch is a big deal. When you work from home a lot, it’s a good opportunity to break up the day and have a rest. I’m a big believer in having a varied diet, so I try to alternate between sandwiches and bagels each day. Hula Hoops, Frisps and Nik Naks are also on permanent rotation, as are Kit Kats and TimeOuts. It’s all about balance.

In the afternoon I have a catch-up call with Gary (the other co-founder of Sergeant Walnuts). He’s working from Spain for a few weeks so it’s difficult not to hate him, but we manage to successfully navigate those ill-feelings and talk about the work we have to get done this week. For Gary, that’s a combination of creating a new brand book for an alcohol client, and working on some concepts for a comms campaign for another sports brand (not all by himself, of course, but he’s working alongside the design team). I take him through the proposals I’ve written, which he feigns interest in, before he departs (probably to go and eat some tapas or something).

Co-founders Richard Attwater and Gary Toal


I’ve got a client meeting in town today, so I reach for the jeans instead of the joggers. I say meeting, it’s a workshop – the word I hate most in the world. But this one is genuinely fun. It’s for a new-to-world brand we’re helping to create (from the brand identity through to packaging and comms) so it’s a fantastic brief. Plus the clients are really nice.

I return home later in the afternoon and have a load of emails to wade through. One of them is some client feedback on some copy we provided the week before. They’ve been kind enough to suggest some changes that make the copy both less good and more complicated, so I call them to explain why this is not ideal. I then move on to reply to some nice people who’ve expressed an interest in joining the Sergeant Walnuts team (which we always genuinely appreciate).

Then I get a call from somebody who wants us to spend £3,000 a month with them to act as our ‘new business function’. I manage to avoid laughing in their face and instead politely explain that we don’t currently have that sort of money to spend on that, or any kind of function, and get off the call as fast as possible.

I’m struck by inspiration towards the end of the day, and have thought of a good idea for the concepts Gary is currently working on. I furiously write it down on an email, and send it over to him, and eagerly await his reply. It never comes, which means he thinks it was rubbish (on reflection, it really was) and so end the day with the wind having been brutally removed from my sails.


A brilliant thing about starting your own agency is you have the opportunity to work with old colleagues again – and cherry pick the best/nicest ones. Many of our old colleagues now work for themselves as freelancers, and it’s incredible to spend time with them once more.

We’ve got a live project that requires the help of a strategist, a couple of designers, and an illustrator, and they’re all great. So, for once, the Zoom call is a total pleasure. We get some good work done, and then spend the rest of the time reminiscing, which includes one of the designers doing a brilliant impression of somebody we used to work with. All wholesome stuff.

We’ve heard back on two of the three proposals I submitted earlier in the week. Shock – horror, the one I thought we had no chance of getting, we did not get (despite claiming to have no budget in mind, suddenly one appears – it was about 50p). The other client has gleefully informed us that we’re through to the next stage, which is great. So, whilst obviously delighted to still be in the running, the next stage involves a call with procurement, so I look forward to that like I do a trip to the dentists.

Something that’s less good about running your own agency is you find yourself spending more time on LinkedIn. 90% of it seems to be people mithering you, or you mithering them. Since we started Sergeant Walnuts, I treated myself to the ‘premium’ version of LinkedIn, so I can mither/be mithered more professionally, and without limits. I like to see if I can spend 10 minutes on there without being confronted with a video featuring Simon Sinek – it’s not happened yet. I spend an hour sending a few messages on here, swiftly decline an invitation to attend a presentation on the enormous potential of the metaverse, and that’s the day done.


I start Friday with a call with Gary (who has more freckles by the day) to review the concepts he’s been working on all week. They’re annoyingly good, but undeterred I manage to make some small comments to make me feel like I’ve contributed in some way, and leave the call feeling good about myself.

I then head into town, as I’ve got a few office spaces to look at. We’re still looking for our first permanent home, which is both extremely exciting and slightly terrifying (when you’re a new business, signing anything that commits you to a significant expense is a really big deal). But we’re adamant that we need our own space to help build Sergeant Walnuts into the type of agency we know it can be, so we’re determined to find somewhere soon. The ones today weren’t quite right, so the search continues.

Upon returning home, I spend 20 minutes watching the dog chase a magpie in the garden. Which is fun, until he decides to roll in some mud. Now, I have to chase him around the garden (with Benny-Hill music ringing in my ears), carry him upstairs, and bath him (successfully transferring all of the mud from his coat to all corners of our bathroom).

So that’s it, the week’s done. I make my list of things I didn’t have time / want to do this week, ready for Monday, shut the laptop, and eat some crisps.

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