What I've Learnt: Laurra Davis, Founder & Creative Director, Brilliant Agency

Charlie Spargo's picture
by Charlie Spargo

Laurra Davis is the founder of Brilliant Agency, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last month.

The Leeds-based marketing and communications agency which works across retail, food and drink achieved £1m in turnover as it hit the decade mark, and boasts a strong client list including names like Saint Agur, Very Lazy, Yorkshire Provender soup and Beanies Flavour Coffee.

Brilliant delivers creative marketing services across a wide range of disciplines, encompassing social media, branding, advertising, PR and more. The agency also has a strong, positive culture focused on wellbeing, growth and transparency.

At the turn of her agency's 10th year, we found out the lessons Laurra has learnt in her life and work...

 

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

In terms of daily practices I’ve tried so many things, I only have to read a book or listen to a podcast and I’m jumping onto whatever they suggest! But overall the number one thing that has impacted my well-being the most has been sorting out my sleep.

The things poor sleep impacts is mind-blowing, and ever since reading ‘How We Sleep’ by Matthew Walker I’ve pretty much transformed my sleep routine. Things like having a dark room with no red LEDs, using blue light-cancelling settings after 7pm, putting my phone on airplane mode and supplementing with magnesium.

It all means I now sleep better than I ever have, and with two small children that’s saying something!

What's been your luckiest break?

Getting switched onto social media when it was in its infancy allowed me to start one of the first social agencies ten years ago.

I wasn’t really sure what I was building back then, all I knew was that I wanted to make social media accessible to people - whatever their knowledge. There was a lot of appetite for getting onto social back then, and so it quickly changed from a training business to offering full social media management.

I do think being purely social to start with has worked in our favour - because it’s something we specialise in, rather than tagging it onto our services. When we decided to go niche with food and drink was when the momentum really got going, and now after 10 years we’re offering a much wider marketing mix including branding and PR, but with social media still at its heart.

What's your best failure?

I started my first company before Brilliant in my early 20s, which allowed me to make a lot of mistakes and try a lot of things out. I ran it for six years to marginal success, but eventually conceded that the bit of social media work I was doing on the side was probably going to be more successful!

What that business gave me was a crash course in every aspect of running a company, and how to build something from scratch.

Because it was my first one, I invested a lot of time and energy into personal development, business coaching and networking - determined to make it work. So although it didn’t win out, the experience I got and the perseverance I developed to just keep going no matter how many knocks I had, was all worth it in the end.

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

I’ve always loved photography and have never really been without a camera for most of my life. Being able to document my travels and family brings me a lot of joy, so probably my best investment has been in buying a decent camera!

Surprisingly, I’m not that into posting too much on social media but I have photography books of my travels which I absolutely love putting together and I know I’ll treasure them when I’m old and grey!

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz. It’s a pretty short book and it gets a bit lofty (the audiobook is a good way to absorb it!) but the premise is pretty simple.

In essence, if you follow the four agreements you can gain a lot of personal and mental freedom. They are: always be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best.

They can be pretty hard to live by sometimes, but I do try to hold myself to them and we encourage our team to do the same. The truth is, you can’t please everyone no matter how hard you try, so these agreements help to adjust your thinking away from the negative and onto the positive in pretty much any scenario!

Also, ‘Shoe Dog’ by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, is a brilliant mix of business and autobiography. I’ve read it about four times!

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

Everyone has impostor syndrome. Don’t worry about it, just crack on and it’ll all work out in the end!

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

I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from so many people throughout my working life, and I’ve met a lot of characters on the way, good and bad!

I’m a pretty big believer that people walk into your life right when you need them, you just need to pay attention and work out why they’re there, because sometimes it’s to help you learn something - even if it’s how not to be!

Additionally I think a book I read really early on helped me a lot - ‘The Jelly Effect’ by Andy Bounds. It teaches you how to succinctly say what it is you do without the usual waffle that tends to come with networking and sales pitches.

I really honed in on this and still to this day aim to speak as concisely as possible. Even the name ‘Brilliant’ for me doesn’t mean ‘great’. It means clear, transparent and with clarity - just like you would find in a brilliant diamond.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I used to write funeral eulogies and wedding ceremonies, and sometimes even conduct them!

How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?

There have been a lot of positives that have come out of a very disruptive year and most likely, less emphasis on having to do face-to-face meetings when you’re at different ends of the country, and more flexibility to do some working from home will be the two things that end up sticking around.

We’re fortunate in that our work is almost entirely online, but we’ve certainly missed the togetherness and creativity that comes from being in the same room. I hate laptops in creative sessions - they’re not usually allowed in, but working from home kind of makes that redundant. I’m looking forward to relegating them to bags again!

What does success look like to you?

The freedom and health to do what I want, when I want with my friends and family close by.

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