What I've Learnt: Doug Main, Creative Director, The Bigger Boat

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by Charlie Spargo

Creative Director at Yorkshire's The Bigger Boat Doug Main is a hugely experienced creative who's worked with a wealth of leading brands.

He co-founded creative digital agency The Bigger Boat in 2010 having co-founded Shark! Design and Marketing in 2006. He specialises in strategically driven concepts and is committed to keeping ideas simple but effective.

The Bigger Boat has successfully brought to life a wide range of campaigns over the last decade, supporting brands which have included Little Tikes, Microsoft Studios and more, and are focused on creating great results and a great culture - using innovative techniques, developing top talent and focusing on customer service.

We heard from Doug on the lessons he's learnt across his career.

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Breakfast or exercise - actually both! If I miss either it usually has a negative impact on the day.

What's been your luckiest break?

Getting a job in London when I was an hour late for the interview (it was still during the days of trying to make sense of an A-Z, and I misread the address!)

I learned loads working for its founder, Andrew Robinson, and wouldn’t be where I am today without my time at The Family - a design agency in Farringdon.

What's your best failure?

The previous agency - during which my current business partner and I first met. It wasn’t going as planned, and in fact helped us to make the decision to ‘go it alone’.

What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?

I did the Goldman Sachs 10KSB course a couple of years ago. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it was worth it. I learnt so much and met so many great people - it really helped to change our business for the better.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

This might sound strange, but I try and avoid books about business. For me, reading and taking in audiobooks is a time for me to switch off from work.

So, for those into cycling they should give ‘The Secret Race’ a read - a great insight into the Lance Armstrong years. Any Haruki Murakami bestsellers are good for some escapism too or it’s worth looking at ‘This Book Will Save Your Life’ by AM Homes, especially for people who might be set to embark on a mid-life crisis.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Don’t worry so much - things are never as bad as they seem.

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

My creative director from The Family, in London, Andrew Robinson. He would laugh at me for saying this, but he really helped me understand the importance of most of the graphic design principles I still hold dear to this very day.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I don’t really like confrontation.

How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?

Working from home, I think, is something that will improve work life for a lot of people. Personally, I’m able to spend more time with my family and exercise, but it’s definitely not a panacea for all.

There are times when you need to be in a room with your colleagues, suppliers and clients. From an economics point of view, we’ll see more companies focusing on what they’re providing to customers online - and agile firms will continue to pivot when, and if, they need to.

With something that’s impacted us all, it’s important to stop, take stock and perhaps re-evaluate things both personally and in business.

What does success look like to you?

A business where all the crew enjoys coming to work!