A Week in My Life: Mark Easby, MD of Better Brand Agency
Mark Easby, Managing Director of Teesside's Better Brand Agency, takes us through a week in his working life.
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Mondays are always an early start. My wife Nikki is out to work at 6.30am and not long after our five-year-old daughter, Lily, is up and raring to go. I love doing the school run. It’s only a short walk to the village school and normally the drop off is swift, then it’s game head on. It’s about a 25-minute drive to work. Just enough time for a cuppa and some Chris Evans to get my head into it.
Today is the first day in our new studio. We’ve not moved far, just downstairs into a bigger and better space. We’re in one of Middlesbrough’s most historic buildings and it's beautiful. The fit out and furniture compliments the style and this morning I've invited the team into the lounge to welcome everyone to our new home. Everyone is buzzing. We’ve been hectic all year and we’ve all been working, outside the day job, to get the new studio finished. It feels good to finally be in.
A proper proud start to the day.
Mondays are mostly filled with internal: team meetings, project planning, client services, and pipeline. I’m at my desk for most of the day - normally the only chance I get during the week. It’s the first Monday of the month so the focus of the afternoon is on preparing management and performance accounts for the board. There are always a few distractions though: Tweetdeck notifications pinging every few minutes, the team’s Slack #random channel showing everything from the latest industry news through to usual humorous craic (none of which I can share here!).
I leave at 5pm to get Lily from Nikki’s parents and we have a quiet evening together. She’s so creative and loves writing and drawing, she’s already better at school than I was! I watch her write a story about unicorns and the seaside, her two favourite things.
A proper proud end to the day.
The alarm goes off early. I’m due at the station for 6.30am for the ‘red eye’ to London so it’s straight up and out. A long exciting day ahead of presentations and client meetings.
We’ve been working in London for two years now and have a growing client base down there. Getting around is now second nature but I still get caught out by the time it takes to get between meetings sometimes, so I always leave plenty of time. With the first meeting at 9am, I’m watching the clock as we get into Kings Cross.
The first is a pitch for a new place brand for a major regeneration project, exactly the type of project we love. We pitch our BetterBrandBuilder™ process and it goes down well. They seem to like us, our process and how we work. They also like our hunger, energy, and Northern spirit!
The next few days will be nerve-wracking. For me, this is the best part of the job - the buzz of meeting a new client, the pitch and excitement of sharing how we can add value to their project.
Next is a catch up with the Chairman of the High Tide Foundation, who is now based in London. High Tide is a foundation that delivers life-changing career and work experiences for young people in the Tees Valley. As a Trustee, I’m very passionate about the work the foundation does and the critical role we play. We enjoy a long discussion about the upcoming board meeting on Thursday, the Foundation’s strategy, the programmes we deliver and our plans for scale.
Finally, there’s a catch up with a current client who we’ve been working with for two years now. I always love to check in and maintain a strong relationship with our clients, especially as the client services team have the majority of the day-to-day contact. It’s also a good excuse to go to the German Gymnasium at Kings Cross. Good food, lots of feedback about the work we've delivered and some discussion about upcoming projects.
I love being in the city and the buzz of it all, but coming home is by far the best part of the day. It’s 10.30 and time for bed.
Straight back into the studio this morning.
I’ve still got that ’new office’ feeling so, even after only being away for a day, walking back in feels amazing. Today is a mix of new client meetings and proposal writing. I’m responsible for all proposals to potential clients so I spend a lot of time working on tenders and costing out projects. In between these proposal sessions, we’re also welcoming a couple of potential new clients to the studio and I'm in charge of showing them around. It’s the first time I’ve been in charge of the tech and presenting on the new ‘super screen’. It works, they love it. Job done.
This evening I’m off to a local business networking club meeting. As with most businesses, building relationships is key to growth so I spend a lot of time networking. Lots of friendly faces and plenty of new ones. Tonight’s event includes an inspiring talk from a local entrepreneur who talked us through his business growth story. I come out inspired with a pocket full of business cards.
A good night all round.
Today I’ve got my High Tide hat on for the morning board meeting with the rest of the trustees. I’ve been a trustee of the Foundation for almost five years now, so I’m well versed in the preparation and activity surrounding these meetings. However, this one is different. I recently accepted the role of Chairman at the foundation for 2019 so this meeting is where the formalities will be completed. I’m equally excited as I am nervous.
Providing opportunities and helping to raise young people’s aspirations across the North East is something very close to my heart, and something the team at Better are also very passionate about. The meeting is the start of a programme of evolution for the foundation and, after today, I’m going to be in charge of making sure it happens. The meeting goes well and it’s clear that, both individually and collectively, we’re all looking forward to the challenge ahead.
Luckily our studio is just across the road meaning I can get straight back to my desk for an overdue email check, social media scan and team catch-up before home.
It’s a big day today. The final session of my DBA (Design Business Association) mentoring course and a ‘big reveal’ presentation for a brand project we’ve been working on.
This year we’ve had a strong focus on growth and maturity. The agency is 10 years old this year but, in some respects, we still feel like a start-up. As an agency with its HQ in the North East, we joined the DBA to feel connected to the UK design community and help drive our design effectiveness agenda. I joined the mentoring scheme in January 2018 and today is my last session on what’s been an amazing programme.
I’ve been super lucky to have had Debbie Longbottom (Group Finance Director at Elmwood) as my mentor for 12 months. It’s really helped to share our growth challenges and shape some major changes we’ve made in the business. This session is all about reviewing the progress to date and planning the next steps of the journey as we look at our strategy for the next three years.
It’s also about celebrating what we’ve achieved so far. So often in a small growing agency, it’s easy to beat yourself up about the day to day challenges and any derailments of the 'grand plan’. Sessions like this really help to give some context and reinforce that we’re doing alright - it also gives us that timely kick to crack on and keep driving forward.
To finish the day, I’m with the client services team dialling into a board meeting to present a client’s new brand. It’s the big reveal of an idea we’ve been working on for months and the positive reaction is an amazing end to the week. The client loves the concept and can see how the last few months of the BetterBrandBuilder™ process has led to the final result. Next steps are to plan roll-out.
With a weekend full of family time, an exhilarating 'Boro performance (always the optimist) and our regular poker game in the local to look forward to, the world looks pretty good to me.