The Blog

Navigating business transformation: 5 things we’ve learned

Marcus Isherwood's avatar
Marcus Isherwood
Business Development

When you’ve been in business for the best part of 30 years, you have to get comfortable with some uncomfortable truths.  

One is that the only thing you can be certain about is change – and change is scary.  Another is that, no matter how many years you’ve racked up, no matter how experienced you are, or how successful your business is, you’ll always question whether you could be doing things differently, or better.

This month marks four years since Creative Media experienced the most turbulent, terrifying – and ultimately transformative – period we’ve had since the business opened its doors in 2000. 

Since 2020, we’ve evolved from a small agency of less than 10 people with a hipster office in a fairly rural Northern Irish town, to a global, fully remote, full-stack marketing agency with over 50 employees and clients on five continents.  

The scale and speed of this change has been exhilarating and disorientating all at once.  There have been sleepless nights and fraught conversations, self-doubt and mis-steps.  But as we launch a new website, with refreshed branding on a new domain, it feels like the right time to reflect with pride on how far we’ve come – and to think about what we’ve learned along the way.

Mourne Wall, Co. Down, Northern Ireland
Mourne Wall, Co. Down, Northern Ireland

If you’re about to embark on a business transformation journey, or you’re in the thick of it and struggling to see the wood for the trees, this blog is for you – here are 5 lessons we’ve learned: 

1. If you wait until you’re ready, it will never happen

It took 20 years, a recession and a pandemic for Creative Media to find its sweet spot – and even then, we weren’t ready.  You don’t get ahead in business by being reckless, and staying the same can feel like the safest choice.  You do need to be pragmatic – but if you’re waiting for the ‘perfect’ conditions to start implementing a change, you’ll be waiting forever.  As it turned out, our hand was forced – we had to adapt to a seismic change in the world, and quickly.  But it shouldn’t take a crisis to spur you on towards your most audacious goals, and there will never be a ‘right time.’  There is only now.  Start today.

2. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing anything

We’re not afraid to admit that we’ve made plenty of mistakes over the past four years.  We’ve tried strategies that didn’t work, and even lost clients as a result.  Perfectionism culture would have you believe that if you’re not already an expert at doing something, you shouldn’t be doing it at all – but if you never made mistakes, how would you learn?  How would your industry and your knowledge grow?  Sometimes in business, you have to fake it ‘til you make it – in fact, some of the best experience you’ll ever gain occurs when you’re learning and problem-solving on the fly.  Of course, you shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep – but don’t let a lack of experience stop you from just getting stuck in.  The mistakes you make will become valuable lessons for the future.

3. Culture is not a nice to have

When we start to talk about culture, sometimes people’s eyes start to glaze over.  They think culture is a performative thing, a box to be ticked or a ‘nice to have’.  But in moving to a fully remote business model, we’ve learned a lot about the true power of culture – and why it should never be bottom of the priority list. 

When we didn’t have an office, or tea breaks, or in-person meetings, we realised the things that bonded us weren’t physical.  Our team stayed connected because they shared the same values, the same work ethic, the same sense of humour and the same professional goals.  On a personal level, I believe very strongly that people need to feel seen, understood and cared for in order to bring their best selves to work.  

As we’ve grown, we’ve made it a priority to recruit people we feel are a good ‘culture fit’ as well as a professional fit, and when we find them, we look after them really well.  As a result, we’ve been able to maintain the tight-knit feel of our 10-strong team, even though we’re five times larger.

4. The world doesn’t need more of the same

As a marketing agency, of course we’re going to say it’s important to stand out.  But in the B2B space in particular, it’s actually really hard to do that.  Businesses get so hung up on competing with others that they forget to run their own race – and as a result, there’s a lot of bland, unfocused and samey messaging out there.

It’s a journey we’ve been on ourselves these past four years, trying to understand why our clients choose us, and when the ‘light bulb’ moments actually happen.  We focused on their fears.  We thought about how we wanted to make them feel.  And we landed on the thing that made everyone’s ears prick up and their shoulders drop during a pitch meeting – guaranteed ROI.

The things you think you’re ‘supposed’ to say, the things your competitors are saying, and the things you think your customers want to hear – those are just noise, and there’s enough noise already.  Focusing in really sharply on just one small but vital element that makes your business different can be the thing that creates real distance between you and your competitors.

5. Collaboration is currency

When you’re on a business growth or transformation journey, the people you surround yourself with can have a significant impact on your trajectory and your ultimate success.  For us, it’s been so important to nurture collaborative relationships based on mutual trust and respect, because this creates the space for experimentation and learning.  

We’ve found that the clients who have been willing to go on the journey with us over the last four years have benefited the most, because of the successes and failures we’ve shared, and the strong relationships we’ve built.  From this, we’ve learned how important it is that our clients, as well as our people, are a good fit for our culture.  Our growth and evolution has accelerated when working with customers who shared our values and understood our vision.

While we’ve spent the last four years transforming our own business, we’ve also been helping our clients to transform theirs. Our services now include 10 separate disciplines that combine to get brands looking and sounding on the money, while pulling all the right levers to boost customer retention, build brand awareness and drive conversions online, or in person.

We offer a range of budget-friendly retainer packages with guaranteed ROI and our unique ‘no contract’ promise so you can engage our expertise with no strings attached.  Book a free call today and let’s get straight to growth!