Spotless Attends – Agency Summit 2019

5 August 2019
Ben Logan

Ben Logan


Passionate about improving services and experiences for the people that use them.

I attended the 4th Agency Summit run by Agency Hackers.

This was my first Agency Summit event, held at The Ned on August 2nd, which pitched itself as ‘A Day of Inspiration for Agency Leaders’ and I have to say it very much lived up to this claim. The event run by Ian Harris, had a really relaxed informal vibe to it, with both the speakers and attendees being really open with their stories.  Running an agency can be both an amazing and challenging thing, and participating in a conference aimed at people with shared experiences really struck a chord with me. As a business owner, not every topic you might want to explore can be posted on LinkedIn, without (sadly) the risk of being shouted down, or two plus two equaling five. Sometimes you just need a space to explore!

The Ned

Photo by Spludge


5 key highlights from the event

Like any great music festival there is the inevitable Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO), so the caveat here is that I did not attend all the sessions! These are a few takeaways from the ones that I did. I was too busy taking notes so the photos I have are limited!

1. The importance of ‘Psychological safety’ in teams

I think my favourite session was from Bruce Daisley at Twitter, who has written a book (I ordered it this morning) called ‘The Joy of Work‘ and covers 30 Ways to Fix Your Work Culture and Fall in Love with Your Job Again! He gave some really practical tips and pushed back on some of the misdirection from people like ‘Elon Musk’ and their promotion of overworking with quotes such as ‘Nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.’ I really liked the sections on understanding ‘How We Team’ and the importance of face to face interactions.

Bruce Daisley - Agency Summit 2019

2. Dines, creative swagger and Studio Blup

I loved the honesty and rawness coming from ‘Dines‘ and his co-founder Alex at Studio Blup (their work contains lots of flashing video!). These guys have delivered some really creative advertising work for major brands including Nike and MTV and ‘Dines’ delivery on stage was very infectious.  I really liked how tenacious he was and how they have used every moment of their journey as an opportunity to hustle and generate work. Dines reminded us to ‘Love what you do and stay patient’.  The guys have used Instagram as a platform to inspire people and I wrote down the quote ‘No one cares about your picnic’, in reference to how much agency noise there is on Instagram about ‘culture’, and we are guilty of contributing to this.

Dines - Studio Blup - Agency Summit 2019

3. Team well being and mental health

Whilst I did not attend the session run by a guy call Nick Stolerman on ‘Meditation for Leaders’, this is an area that agency leaders need to do more on for their teams. There was a survey conducted recently, with involvement from The Drum and it put the Marketing and Communications sector significantly lower than the industry average (including Finance and Investment Banking) in terms of employee well being and mental health. I could not find the link to the results but this explains more around the study by Opinium. We have too many people in our industry feeling mentally exhausted on a daily basis. I am fortunate that we have a caring team that has already raised suggestions around this topic. Through some of the discussions during the breaks I came away with some more ideas and services to explore here back at Spotless.

4. Due diligence on agency culture in any merger is essential

I think the most refreshing session for me was by Chris Donnelly from Verb Brands on how his agency has grown through multiple acquisitions, and how it did not work out that well with the first agency they acquired (they are doing really well now).  This was a gloves off, warts and all account of what went well and what they would do differently.  One of the key takeaways was to do more detailed due diligence on the chemistry and culture of any target acquisition, even if considered a ‘Friendly Merger’.


5. Enabling entrepreneurs within the agency

Rachel Bell is a serial agency entrepreneur and she shared the candid lessons she’s learned the hard way, growing and selling some of the UK’s most successful agencies. There are six key attributes she looks for in future hires; 1) Energy, 2) Passion, 3) Confidence, 4) Commercial nous, 5) Salesmanship and 6) Attitude. Whilst some of these might sound generic, I think she explained these really well and how she has enabled employees to become entrepreneurs, handing over responsibility to them very early on. In some examples, Rachel has even set them up with their own company and Profit and Loss account to run. The sentence that really stood out to me, was that her aim in setting up her first business, was to ‘Never lose a person through lack of opportunity to learn’. I think there is something very powerful in this statement.

Rachel Bell

Photo by Neil Stoddart


In summary

Great speakers, workshops, venue and of course the food. The event organiser Ian mentioned he only ordered food he knew how to pronounce, or could understand, from the menu he was given. This underpins the honesty of the event. The acid test for me for events and conferences is whether I would book again the following year and the answer is unequivocally yes!

Thanks for reading. What methods do you use for finding inspiration in what you do?

Agency Hackers - The Ned

Photo by Neil Stoddart
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