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We're Streamtime, makers of project management software for the creative industry. We love design as much as you do and know that productivity and creativity aren't mutually exclusive.

It’s a matter of time

It’s just what we do.

We track time. We fuss over Gantt charts. We fret over worked hours versus quoted hours.

But we hate it.

Because it’s cumbersome, time-consuming and – let’s face it – a little soul crushing.

It’s not surprising – we’re using products that constantly pile on new features (egged on by misguided product reviewers), instead of meeting our growing need for simplified, tailored and intuitive platforms.

What if Streamtime threw the accepted practices out the window, and risked the ire of the tech media to radically alter the interface and input requirements?

What if instead of people inputting time, it was tracked natively within the system for them?

What if our project plans were auto-populated from our proposals and calendars?

What if managers received smart predictions and advice based on hours worked versus hours estimated, to course-correct on the fly?

What if Streamtime tracked cultural performance as well as financial performance?

We’d all have to adapt.

Throw out habits we’d developed over many years, and learn a whole new way of doing things.

But project managing and time-tracking would be so much easier and worthwhile.

There’d be a consequence, though. With so much genuine data available so readily, we’d have to accept a hard truth – the current system is built on lies.

Dramatic, perhaps, but true – we currently add extra time to our timesheets to pump up revenue, or remove it to appease clients.

We set a plan for the week on Monday, and then instead work to the constantly shifting time-constraints and demands of the real world.

And this new stream of data would force us to accept that we currently toil through admin work to create a comforting but ultimately damaging illusion of control.

Oof. That’d be a bummer.

At first.

Because before we had time to get too down about it, data would be spitting out of Streamtime that we’d never had before.

We’d be able to tell which tasks were making our people regret turning up to work in the morning. We’d be able to see, immediately and graphically, the divide between the costs that were planned for and the costs that were actually incurred. We’d be getting clear indicators of the trajectory of our businesses.

Instead of software that micro-managed our projects, it’d be software that helped us improve our businesses and support our people.

And we’d all be getting it all with less effort than we currently put into admin.

It’d be more than just our time, streamlined – it’d be our time utilised more effectively than we could’ve possibly predicted.

That’s worth breaking a few habits for, right?


Mathew Groom - Storyteller at For The People.

Podcast: For The People on being different

Streamtime Radio caught up with For The People Co Founders Damian Borchok, Jason Little and Andy Wright to discuss working with startups, life without client service managers and bringing your own lunch to work.

Like this podcast? You can find other insightful episodes on iTunes or at streamtimeradio.simplecast.fm

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to read For The People’s insights, here is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Who are For The People? 

Andy Wright: I used to be a tennis coach…for a little while anyway and I actually fell into marketing because I coached this guy’s kids. He worked for a company called Dulux. I said “I kind of like marketing.” and he said “I think there’s a job down in London.” I fell into marketing like that, did it for a year.

Then I worked for a few internet companies and met an Aussie girl and moved to Sydney and met these guys when we worked at Landor, which was around ten years ago. So we worked together about a year and then I went off into the world of men’s magazines for three years and emerged slightly more knowledgeable, a little bit sweatier, certainly more knowledgeable about the ins and outs of magazines and what gets men going.

“We decided it was time to do our own thing based on the experiences that we’d had and some of the frustrations that we had…so For The People was born out of that”

Then Damian approached me to run Interbrand, down in Melbourne. So we built up Interbrand in Melbourne and then I came to Sydney and worked for a company called RGA, which had launched here about a year before. Then we all had a chat, came together and decided it was time to do our own thing based on the experiences that we’d had and some of the frustrations that we had and what we wanted to try and achieve in this industry, so For The People was born out of that.

Damian Borchok: I kind of fell into this industry as well. I started in banking and then worked for a winery for a while. I always had a passion for design and a point of view around communications and how businesses work. Somebody said there’s a job going at a design firm and that kind of gave me my grounding in the industry. It taught me as much about what not to do, as what to do.

“I always had a passion for design and a point of view around communications and how businesses work.”

Then I moved to Landor and got asked to start their brand strategy practice and had no idea what to do to start with, we made it up as we went along. It got kind of successful and then Jason and Andy came on board and I eventually left to start at Interbrand. I was asked to be CEO for Interbrand so I did that for about seven years and thought I had enough of working for large global organisations and seeing so much of the market changing and the need to respond to that and start fresh in terms of not only in a new business, but my own career as well. That’s where we got together talking. It was an interesting experiment to see where we could take this business in our careers.

Jason Little: I had sort of a classic design background in terms of I liked to draw and wanted something to do with that when I grew up. I went and studied architecture actually, which was cool, although it wasn’t for me. I got an internship which led to an apprenticeship in design and so I did study design. I did that for about 18 or 19 years now, a long time. It wasn’t good for a long time, I wasn’t good not that it wasn’t good. Yeah and so that was in the UK, Scotland mostly, then I moved over to Australia worked at Landor.

“I went and studied architecture actually, which was cool, although it wasn’t for me.”

After working in a number of agencies, I seemed to move on every year when I first arrived, for the first five years and then finally found my footing in Landor in terms of what I was looking for, surprisingly. Then I met Damian, met Andy, worked there for a decent stint, moved to Paris, worked there for a decent stint with Landor as well, so that was cool. Then came back worked for another agency and then finally had just had enough of people being my boss or thinking you’re the boss, but really there’s other people holding the strings, you know?

And obviously, why wouldn’t you want to go into business with people like these guys, who know what they’re doing, equally have their own vision about what things could be. I think the cool thing about it is everyone is kind of product based. As in we are all working on stuff, we’re not facilitating stuff, we’re thinking and solving stuff. So yeah…I was kind of lucky for it to work out this way.

“Why wouldn’t you want to go into business with people like these guys.”

Making the leap

Kye: When did the seed get planted, where you one day wanted to work together again and possibly in your own business?

Damian: I don’t know that we talked about it much before. There was a time when I was looking for another Executive Creative Director at Interbrand and I immediately thought of Jason. We had a conversation and rather than me going “Jason, do you want to be our next Executive Creative Director?” He kind of turned the conversation around and said “why don’t you leave that business and why don’t we start our own thing?”

That was nine months before it really happened. I was going through a process of just thinking what my options were. Can I do this? Do I just walk away from a decent salary, when you’ve got a mortgage you’ve got to pay, to walk into no income for a period of time? So that was a big consideration and I think when Andy came along as well, it made the opportunity an even bigger one. We thought, at least for me, it was time to make the change.

“Can I do this? Do I just walk away from a decent salary, when you’ve got a mortgage you’ve got to pay, to walk into no income for a period of time?”

Jason: The truth though is once that conversation happened, then all three of us got together. Damian, getting him to leave this really cushy job as the head honcho was a lot harder. After we had a dinner together and talked about the possibility he still didn’t…he was like “that would be cool.” But it’s like walking away from a meeting and then going, “right now what?” Me and Andy met the next day and then we had lunch, had a few drinks and then went “timing’s right we should do this, let’s do this.” We shook on it, texted or called Damian and said “we’re doing this, are you in?” And it was like an elbow to the ribs “come on” and so he did, obviously.

Kye: It’s a scary thing right?

Andy: It’s best described by Damian’s lunch I think. Damian brings a very small kids sandwich box to work every day. It has two pieces of bread with maybe a piece of ham in between or maybe one of those little cheese and bacon things that you can get from Baker’s Delight and maybe some cherry tomatoes, I think and that’s pretty much what he eats every day.

“Damian brings a very small, kids sandwich box to work every day.”

Damian: I’m still doing it. But it is, when you’re without an income and you’ve still got massive outgoings it is very difficult. It’s very hard to then sort of live the life that you are used to. You have to reevaluate everything. I think we kind of started businesses before, but we had the foundation of a big company to keep the money coming through, whereas this time there was no safety net at all.

At the end of the day that became the motivation for why you want to ramp the business up, big enough, fast enough so that you’ve got the cash flow so you can start paying yourself something, most of it is still away from what our previous salaries were. It’s now easier, 12 months in that at least you can cover the cost.

Kye: Now that you’re giving yourselves a bit of cash, is it a better trade off, maybe not as much money, but a better quality of life, a better quality of business life then working for somebody else?

Andy: Yes we are in control of our own destiny, that makes a big difference. We get to decide if we want to work with clients or not. There are a lot of clients that we’re working with now, smaller but way more interesting in terms of a lot business startups or social enterprises that we would have had to say no to before because the cost structure just doesn’t allow you to work with them.

“We are in control of our own destiny, that makes a big difference.”

We can take that stuff on now. But we certainly haven’t got it sorted. At the same time we love a big client that we can do great work for, but yeah we are much more in control of the situation. We are certainly happier, but just less well off.

Jason: And work life balance has taken a massive dive I reckon. It feels like we just work nonstop, there is no switch that says “finish work.” That switch was a grey area anyway, but now I think it’s just on a slight dim through the sleeping period until we get up again. It just doesn’t stop. You’re just constantly aware that you’ve got people where you pay their salaries; you’ve got a business where you’ve got a constant load of work coming up ahead, plus a gazillion projects that you’re working on currently that you’re not meeting deadlines on. Everything has an impact on everything else. In a good way.

“We are certainly happier, but just less well off.”

How we’re different

Kye: So how are you different to other agencies?

Andy: I think some of the ways that we are different, we don’t hire client management, so everyone is responsible for managing their own projects, managing their own clients. It means that we don’t deliver particularly good client service and we don’t profess to either, we make that pretty clear at the beginning. We don’t do things like timesheets, but we still have to try and manage our way through in terms of deadlines, so that we know that we’re not spending too much money.

We try and get people of different disciplines and skills sets for the project at the beginning versus passing batons on. We want a developer, a strategist, a designer and a copywriter at the very, very beginning of the project, because we don’t know what the answer is meant to be.

Damian: I think one of our distinctive qualities is that we’re kind of counter intuitive in how we behave to what some of the industry norms are.

“I think one of our distinctive qualities is that we’re kind of counter intuitive in how we behave to what some of the industry norms are.”

For example, as Andy said, no client services but we actually think we deliver a better product for that and we certainly help deliver better value in terms of what clients get. Things like we’re not afraid to tell clients when we’re not happy with how things are working or what they look like or in terms of the way their business operates. We’re happy if we are in a pitch situation, to actually walk away from it. In a number of instances where we have done that, they have actually come back to us and awarded us work.

Most organisations would be terrified of giving up the work. There’s kind of a brutal honesty to how we work but I think clients appreciate that and that gets us to the heart of problems as well as answers a lot faster. We see the problem differently and as a result the answers are different as well. I think that…in a lot of ways it’s cultural that’s the difference.

“There’s kind of a brutal honesty to how we work but I think clients appreciate that.”

Jason: One other area we’re trying to be different is with regards to people, which you would expect with our name. But there’s been a really strong push to the types of people that we hire or focus on, the types of people that we hire. That means not taking on work that would mean we would have to hire a certain type of person that keeps an engine running, but isn’t necessarily pioneering or innovating within their space.

We go through this vigorous interview, like half the time when we hire creatives, we don’t even look at their folios for like the first three interviews. We’re always erring on the side of thinkers and the people who are doing stuff beyond the job description. Anyone who fits the job description isn’t going to be working with us. Just bringing in a whole diverse set of skill sets, but not going “that’s what you’re hired for, do your job on that single piece.” Actually, alright you’re brought in to be a thinker that means you can put your hand to any of these things.

Some people might have an extra special skill set that can help deliver some of that thinking in a certain area. But everyone is responsible for the ideas and anyone can lead, anyone can take the reins and make it something better, so it’s cool. That changes everything for me. It’s just a very different dynamic.

“Everyone is responsible for the ideas and anyone can lead, anyone can take the reins and make it something better. That changes everything for me.”

Andy: We spend a lot of time talking as a group. We have something called book club, which is almost like group therapy. We read a book together as homework and then we talk about the things from it. We just read the Google book, How Google Works.

What’s interesting is we have one or two forums a week where we’re able to talk about what’s going on in the business. It can be about anything like how we approach hiring, or how we approach a project, are we doing enough on a project, how do we know when to stop or just keep going, is everyone happy with who they’re working with and who they’re not working with, and all that kind of stuff.

Knowing from past agencies that stuff gets talked about but in silos and very small circles, it can poison a business and culture pretty quickly because people are talking about things individually and other people don’t know anything about it. Where as ours is very much out in the open and if you’ve got a problem, let’s all get together and see what we can sort out. That’s been good for us.

Jason: That and we have our book club on Tuesdays and we have we our stand up for Monday where we kind of work out what’s going on, but we talk about other stuff. This week we talked about our finances and just how projects run. Then we have wrap up on Friday, where we talk through projects and understand what’s going on.

The future is flat

Kye: You guys have a flat structure, are you finding that’s working?

Andy: Back to culture, is one of the reasons for doing that. So often in agencies people will be unhappy or they will see somebody else got a promotion and so they get given a title change. Sometimes that’s enough for them to be happy. Their role didn’t change, their pay didn’t change, but they’ve got this little kind of addendum to their title. When you look back at an agencies structure, there’s 14 different levels to something and it’s ridiculous.

Really what’s happening is people are just going through their careers looking for the next notch on their career bedpost. If they don’t get it at your place, they’ll move on to somewhere else. To get rid of that kind of culture was to just say “if you’re looking for the next notch, that’s not with us, you are just going to be called a discipline here, not senior discipline or associate senior”, like that.

“Really what’s happening is people are just going through their careers looking for the next notch on their career bedpost.”

Kye: If you’ve come from a traditional agency background and you’re a designer, normally you’re protected a little bit by client service so when something doesn’t get done you can sort of hide behind that. But now everyone’s responsible so that could feel a bit…

Damian: It’s a tradeoff. When you’re in those agencies of client services, people complain that they get treated like a child with someone standing over them all of the time. The tradeoff is that you don’t have that safety net anymore, but you then get treated like an adult. You’re responsible for your work. You stand and deliver. If there’s a problem you’re on the phone directly with the client. You have to confront the deadline, there is nobody else there that is going to confront that for you. You work as a team and that’s self-supporting, but you don’t have that layer to hide behind anymore.

The upside is that everybody gets to behave like grown-ups and take responsibility and also be able to work together on work that’s meaningful and not getting caught up in the management of the business because it’s much more pure structured this way. You are doing the work and you’re having a direct interaction with the client about the work and there’s no layer in between that anymore. We are very product oriented and that is the core of what we want to do for our clients is deliver great product. That is probably the most pure model that you can have to achieve that.

“The tradeoff is that you don’t have that safety net anymore, but you then get treated like an adult.”

Kye: Are you finding they’re thriving with this responsibility?

Jason: I would say that people are getting used to it. I think there’s an acclimatisation period, because if you’re used to being managed and then suddenly not knowing how to approach a client or feeling like you can’t just say the truth.

We’ve all worked in businesses where there has always been a hierarchy like “who presents?” Wheel in the grey hair in the old agency model. Or “this meeting really matters, so you guys aren’t even in the meeting to explain the work that you’ve done and hopefully we are going to explain it the way that you wanted to and then come back with a whole bunch of feedback, that we are then going to put on you to change it and you won’t know why”. And there’s going to be all that kind of weirdness about it trying to work out what someone was saying. With us, they’re in the room so we get to have these adult conversations.

Often our meetings aren’t meetings, they’re creative sessions as in you solve the problems in those meetings, so no one is going “what am I going to do after this?”.

To pitch or not to pitch

Kye: Another thing that’s different about you guys is you don’t necessarily like to pitch. How did you get your first client?

Damian: You talk to people you know and each of us obviously had a lot of interaction with clients in the past. I was really heartened to see how quickly when you tell people you’re on, there’s actually a real desire to help you out.

Any business development is a network of conversations you’re always having anyway. Yes we were given opportunities early on, but I hope that as we continue to grow, that we still don’t have to pitch. It’s really expensive and I actually think the process is dysfunctional. It never actually highlights the real skills, it’s such a heightened, unrealistic level and then it sets an expectation that the client never meets in terms of the quality of creative they want or what they really want from you. You know it’s always a bit strange.

“I actually think the process is dysfunctional.”

I think there are just better ways of doing business and we prefer to have that conversation and then say “look give us go.” Again, a pitch is often high risk because of the volume of value involved, where as our work tends to start very small and modest where the risk to actually go “okay we’ll try you out on that,” is much lower and the confidence building is much quicker because within a week or two you actually know what our thinking is like live, on a real problem. That immediately gives them a sense of confidence more often than not that the next stage is an obvious choice.

Weird and wonderful clients

Kye: How does a company that doesn’t do timesheets, have a client who builds timesheets? How does that happen?

Andy: The client/agency relationship with us is all about ambition. When it was very clear what you wanted to do with Streamtime and also seeing some of the history of what you had achieved with Streamtime, it was that, that dictated whether we should work together or not.

We kind of joke that maybe it’s because of our mutual hatred of things like timesheets. Maybe that is why we’re so keen to be able to help fix it. Like why should this stuff be the bane of everyone’s lives? It’s really amazing when you interview someone for a role at our company and you throw in “oh yeah and we don’t do timesheets” and they go “what?!” Like you could have just said “I will give you a bar of gold if you join us”, it is almost the equivalent. We’re keen to try and work out ways to fix that.

“The client/agency relationship with us is all about ambition.”

It is true, you’ve told us stories of people who think that they are making money off jobs, but when they actually look at the time spent on their jobs, they came nowhere near to it. It is important places know that and there are plenty of places that do need timesheets.

It’s ambition that drove us together not what the product was. We work on a whole heap of weird, different products and it’s that that drives us forward.

Kye: Is diversity in clients something that’s exciting?

Damian: Yeah, we don’t want to become specialist in any industry. It’s really about how we philosophically approach a problem as opposed to being experts in telecommunications or technology or arts or whatever. It’s absolutely ambition. It’s the will the client wants to put behind the kind of transformation they’re looking for.

Because they’re kind of rare in this market and it seems to be more concentrated in the startup world than the large, organised bureaucracies where really what you’re looking for is a way to manage your way through the day, the week, the month and the year, as opposed to actually achieving anything of any real, substantial consequence. If you’re in that corporatised model, that’s just not useful for your career or the development of your own life or actually any achievement you can do, that’s why we’ve kind of gravitated to where we are.

Andy: There is some real substance in ambition. We have had meetings where companies want to work with us and we kind of push them to find out what their goals might be and they go “oh yeah, we want to grow by 50 percent or 100 percent” or something. You can pick it fairly easily as to whether they really mean it or they just like the idea of being ambitious and then expect you to do absolutely everything. They have to have some sort of vision of where their business is going or some understanding of why it needs to be changed.

Jason: In our industry you always get to work with awesome clients that are so diverse from a cup-a-soup, to a car brand, and then an airline or a city or a country or a telco or whatever. That’s really cool anyway in our industry and you have to become experts in that.

The one thing that is interesting now with this whole start up thing is everyone is coming up with these new products and models that you have to get your head around even what it is and how it’s going to work. It’s opening up a new avenue in our minds, in my mind definitely, of what’s possible. It almost wants you to be an entrepreneur and come up with products yourself. When you’re working with these people you’re like “wow, I can’t believe they come up with that great idea, I wish I was doing that.” And then we get to work with them and make them successful again and get none of the money that they make.

Working with Startups

Kye: What are the issues facing startups today? Are they different from the past or has it always been the same issues? Are there any?

Andy: Working with startups is still relatively new for us so I’m not sure about past issues. One of the most common things we find is…most start ups have some sort of game changing piece of technology, that doesn’t currently exist in their market, that’s why they’re doing it because they see some sort of opportunity there.

What they really struggle with is being able to tell a story around that, that is different or is simple enough for everyone to go “oh right, this is that thing I should have!” So there is this ability to tell a story and they see so much potential in their product, but it could be 10 different things and they just don’t know which one to pick so they put all them on a web page for example.

Then the other part is that, especially in digital kind of products, is that they’re engineers, they’re technology people, so they’re very kind of rational, kind of logical, they know how to work out systems and solutions, but when it comes to creating magical experiences it’s not. And there is so much that is talked about and effort put into things like a minimum, viable product. But then they put it out in the market and low and behold the experience is a bit shit. It’s not fun or is a little bit underwhelming for people.

So, we spend a lot of time down in user experience, one to create some of the logic, but two to create some of the fun in a product. Often we are looking for things like “why would you tell someone else about this?”, “why do you want to share it with somebody else?” That doesn’t happen a lot of the time in terms of their thinking. That’s fair enough. A lot of their time is spent trying to build the thing. That is where we come in and help them.

Damian: I think one of the other areas that they struggle with is that I don’t think they fully understand design. I think design is talked about a lot, but it gets left by the sideline more often than not when the final product comes out. There seems to be a gap in their understanding, it’s not simply the functionality of the product that makes a product engaging. It’s the way that people can relate to the story, they can relate to an aesthetic, the way the thing simply moves and functions, the little touches that might seem superfluous to a rational thinker but I think that human interaction is important and memorable. I think all those things we find incredibly important.

“It’s not simply the functionality of the product that makes a product engaging. It’s the way that people can relate to the story.”

There was one project where a UX Researcher came in to look at our work and immediately stripped out any of the humanity in what we do and it ended up being very utilitarian. That kind of mentality…they are sort of like the dementors of our industry and they take the soul out of everything. A lot of what our focus is on is how do you bring the soul back? How do you introduce the soul into a brand as quickly as possible so that the startup doesn’t simply look like a minimum, viable product early on. Even though you have to work within very tight budgets, you can actually elevate it quickly so it can go to market faster and it can get success faster so you can start the ball rolling.

We aim really high in in terms of what we like to be able to give startups. And I think what they often expect is much lower when they first come to us.

“We aim really high in in terms of what we like to be able to give startups.”

One year on

Kye: You just celebrated your first anniversary, what have you learned in those 12 months?

Andy: We’ve learned a whole heap of things. We’ve learned that we don’t need client managers and it’s something that’s sort of expected. We’re starting to learn how to get people into projects at the very beginning and how to fuse the different disciplines together and also when that stuff doesn’t work. We’ve learned that we don’t have to stick to the model that all agencies stick to, like the 40 hour week, the hourly rate and sticking all that together and assuming that that week is real. A lot of that is not real, ever. Show me the agency that works a 40 hour week and we will all go and work for them.

“Show me the agency that works a 40 hour week and we will all go and work for them.”

Like this ability for people to always be picking on numbers, like “you know your utilisation is terrible this month” or “this job has gone 50 grand over and it’s only a 50 grand job” or whatever it is. Still, when you look to the numbers at the end of the month and the money that came in and the money that came out and you look at the margin that they want to hit, it’s the same so why all the hassle for trying to fit in to the model that doesn’t exist? That’s one of the biggest things, proving that that model doesn’t exist and doesn’t need to exist. I think we want to do even more with that.

I think we’ve learned how to get a little bit more comfortable with showing work that isn’t good.The work only matters when it goes out the door properly at the end of a project in terms of what it looks like, what it does. Sometimes we have a client that will come in and I write up a percentage on the wall which is based on very little science or logging of time or anything like that, and I will say look “we are about 50 percent through this project, so what you’re seeing is 50 percent of work, it’s not there yet, it’s going to change a lot as we go but just feel comfortable, don’t worry that this is it.”

“That’s one of the biggest things, proving that model doesn’t exist and doesn’t need to exist.”

What is every agency presentation like? It’s the big ta da, everyone gets kind of wound up, it’s a late night before and it’s like okay we are going to come in and we are going to do this big presentation and we are going to knock their socks off! But we are only half way through the project and everyone is under a lot of pressure. All these things get designed that are never, ever going to get up or exist they just want to sell an idea.

So all this unnecessary pressure gets heaped upon people throughout the process and really all that matters is what comes out at the end. So we have kind of worked out how to do that. But it is hard to get people into that sense of comfort.

Kye: Have you started working with a client and then just worked out that it wasn’t going to work out between either of you?

Damian: Yeah we work out an exit strategy.Then it’s like “how did we let that one in the door?”

If we had only asked about two or three other questions it probably could have qualified them better and we just miss those in the conversations. You do sometimes regret it, but we are extremely spoiled with the kinds of clients that we have.

Jason: We are just so spoiled by the start up world. Like the art clients that we’ve got, there is just a lot of interesting stuff, you almost see the motivation of the staff’s faces drop when they are faced by a project that actually helps pay the bills.

You can really see the effort kind of changes and it’s like “wow” just because it’s not one of these super cool ones. Actually that’s often the mindset of the staff. It can be cool; it’s just that sometimes there are just a lot cooler clients that we’re working with.

Getting work has been relatively easy. Initially when we started I thought reputation has nothing to do with it and you have got to work hard. Pretty much a week later all these things started appearing. It’s quite flattering when people want to work with you. So when they’re really keen it’s very hard to go “hey, I’m not sure if you are right for us.”

Best piece of advice

Kye:What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Jason: It was from one of my old MDs and it’s a kind of tired saying but it really helped me. Which was “don’t ask for permission, seek forgiveness”, because once you realise that nobody knows the answers, everyone is kind of just blagging it, and if you just do what you think is best, no one is going to argue with you if someone is going to have a stronger idea of what things should be or a driving vision to make something happen. They step out of your way.

“Don’t ask for permission, seek forgiveness.”

That was about eight years ago, nine years ago they said that to me and I think it pretty much set the pace for my career or how I’ve acted in business. Obviously, I’ve had letters from the lawyers, formal warnings, all sorts of things…but I still wouldn’t change that.

Damian: I’m not sure this is the best piece of advice I’ve ever had, but it’s certainly the piece of advice that sort of rings in my ears all the time working in this sort of business.

One of my old bosses said “This industry is a very unusual industry, in that because we’re project based we’re only ever probably two to three months away from going bankrupt.” And that kind of focuses the mind on…very easily your business can fall over and so the idea of keeping the business running, and keeping on top of things and never slowing down, always thinking about how you can be better and how can you find the next opportunity is a really important driver for me. It always sits in the back of my head, that that is the thing we always need to be looking at.

For some people that would be terrifying and unmotivating, whereas for me that intensifies my focus on what we want to achieve. Rather than being fearful of that, it’s almost like embracing that and going “how do we challenge ourselves, how do we challenge our clients, how do we actually excite the industry or the marketplace about what we can be doing for them?” I think that’s proving itself because we haven’t had to formally market ourselves to date.

“How do we challenge ourselves, how do we challenge our clients, how do we actually excite the industry or the marketplace about what we can be doing for them?”

People have just started talking about us and apart from our website and a couple of presentations we’ve given at events, we haven’t done much. Stuff just seems to be working. We can’t always just rest on our laurels and think it’s always going to be that way, but certainly it seems like I guess our ambition is starting to be heard by people.

Andy: I think it’s actually a very recent piece of advice, as in the last couple of years, but it was, “do the right thing.” I think too often you can get carried away and caught up with what’s going on around you and what you think you’re supposed to do versus when you step back and go “actually, what’s the right thing?” And whether that’s by people or by the client or by even yourself, a lot of common sense and logic comes through. I think quite often people don’t get the chance to think that way.

“Do the right thing.”

I think you constantly need to remind yourself of it like are you doing the right thing? We have a business owned by three different people and the three of us are pretty different. You have to realise that we’re not going to agree on everything and we’re all going to want to do things in different ways sometimes and we are all perfectly entitled to do so because we have a third each. When you bring back “do the right thing”, it kind of makes you think “okay, what’s really important and what should we being trying to achieve? And when is it right to take different paths and ways of doing things?”

When we have a flat structure, we have to put all our trust in the people that we hired and we have got to let them run their projects, make decisions, make mistakes. People will make mistakes and that has to be okay and we have to be comfortable with that as well. I think that is the bit that I try and remind myself at the moment.

Jason: We are also working with a client that is all about kindness, like a foundation about kindness…I know since working with them, I feel like “God, I need to be kinder and I need to put other people first at all times.” And I am definitely, acutely aware of when I don’t. I’m like “dammit, why did I say that or why did I do it that way?” So being kinder, I know that sounds lame, but I actually quite like that as a focus.

Kye: Congratulations on your first year of business. I’m sure many more clients will be flocking to work with you.

Go to forthepeople.agency to find out more about For The People.

Podcast: Luke Kellett on stimulating change through creativity

Luke Kellett, is the Principal and Managing Director from Headjam, a creative agency that exists to stimulate change. Streamtime Radio caught up with Luke to talk about Headjam’s creative process, their passions and the Newcastle creative scene.

Like this podcast? You can find other insightful episodes on iTunes or at streamtimeradio.simplecast.fm

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to read Luke’s insights, here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.

Company Philosophy

Kye Hush: Thank you for having us in your beautiful offices here in Newcastle. Headjam, how did it start? Why did you start it?

Luke Kellett: Headjam was founded about 13 years ago, in 2002. It now has two directors, myself and my wife Sarah. We’ve really founded the agency out of a desire to work within four key sectors. We have a big passion for health and education and so we work with a lot of research organisations, work on a lot of sexual health campaigns with some fantastic clients nationally, Sydney based like AIDS Council of New South Wales, New South Wales Health and a lot of mental health organisations as well.

“It’s about producing communication solutions that try and influence behavioural change within the Australian market place in a positive way.”

It’s really about producing communication solutions that try and influence behavioural change within the Australian market place in a positive way. That’s our philosophy. A lot of our team come from an arts background so the community and arts section of our four areas are really our passion of museums, galleries and the artistic community within Australia.

We try and involve ourselves and allocate around 10% to 15% of our capacity each year to collaborate with organisations, a lot of not for profits, to help them communicate with the outside world as well. It’s a good dynamic mix.

Kye: It’s a great dynamic mix and it sounds like it’s quite rewarding too… you’re not a slave to the client as such, you’re doing work that’s rewarding, enjoyable and has a meaning.

Luke: It’s definitely rewarding, the work that we produce within health and education. It has its other set of challenges. Some of those challenges are that we’re working on absolutely minuscule budgets and for a lot of organisations, the real challenges come in terms of managing those types of workflow schedules, deadlines and trying to always punch above our weight in terms of what we’re actually delivering from a digital element or from a traditional print element. That’s probably the greatest challenge that comes in outside of the commercial element, working with those sectors, but it’s fun.

Team Collaboration

Kye: With your team here, when you get a brief from the client or a potential new client, is it a whole team collaboration or are you all specialists in your certain areas ?

Luke: That’s a good question. We’re really small and nimble, we have ten full time staff. Our team is made up of usually two developers, three designers, the creative director, two broadcast individuals that work on a lot of video production, 3D animation, editing and then a management team of myself, my account manager and also a studio manager.

“We pull on all of those multi-disciplinary roles in the studio for whatever project comes through, whether it’s small or large.”

Generally how we’ll tackle projects is we’ll tackle it as a group. That kind of philosophy just makes sure that we have lots of different opinions at that beginning ideation stage. It means that we don’t become stagnant in terms of how we’re thinking and how we’re operating. That becomes really important so we try and pull on all of those multi-disciplinary roles in the studio for whatever project comes through, whether it’s small or large.

Kye: This must be great for the team.

Luke: It’s been a real conscious effort and probably that’s a really important element for us. Just making sure that everyone in the studio knows and in the agency knows what the type of work is, what we’re accomplishing and how we’re accomplishing it. We do simple things, not only involved in the elements, but every day or every couple of days we’ll get everyone at the end of the day to stand up and do a bit of a show and tell of what they’ve been doing for that day. They’ll talk about the projects they’re on, the challenges they faced and how they’ve overcome those elements. I think that’s really important to knowledge share and make sure that everyone’s on the same page, understands what’s going on in the studio environment and that just helps bring a collaborative environment together.

Kye: Yes, definitely understanding the challenges people are facing as well because if you’re doing your own thing and you’re not aware of someone else’s, you could potentially get quite frustrated that they haven’t done their bit.

Luke: I think asking for help is a big one. Communicating to everyone, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses so it’s just about open communication and dialogue.

Kye: Communication doesn’t seem to be a particular problem for you guys here as a team. Do you find it easy to communicate with your clients? Obviously because you’ve got some government clients and small startup businesses, they’re quite different. Do you approach them the same way?

Luke: It’s always understanding expectations. It’s probably one of the key things that we try to set in place. That could be as simple as how do you want to be communicated to? Do you want emails? Do you want a phone call? It’s something we’re always working and striving to improve, but it’s a challenge.

How do you get your staff to account for their time? 

Kye: We deal with a lot of clients that struggle with getting their staff to do timesheets. They’ve tried everything. Do you have that trouble or is it just an expectation?

Luke: Definitely we’ve had trouble. I think all organisations will have that… it’s a challenge. One of those elements is always that balance between business reality and the creative industry. Trying to encapsulate that and reign that into one thing is almost madness and an impossible task. Having time-tracking is a really important element, but it’s a constant challenge. We find if we have constant reminders and if we do a little name and shame exercise in terms of looking at the percentage of time based on what’s entered into Streamtime.

“It’s important and I think it’s about us educating the staff about how important it is.”

It kicks people into gear a little bit. If they’re sitting at 45%, 50%, on a Friday afternoon before we go for a beer, they might get a little stick from peers, a bit of peer pressure, a bit of gentle prodding. It’s important and I think it’s about us educating the staff about how important it is. One of the key elements that we drive home or try to communicate is that if you under track your time, we will then allocate that amount of time the next time for you and you will find yourself in a predicament where you don’t have enough time to complete the work.

Our whole business is based on the premise of looking at past jobs, looking at past invoices, making as best an educated guess as possible in terms of how long the projects will take, which is a very difficult thing to do. As you guys know, you might come up with a creative idea in 30 seconds, it might take you 30 years. Trying to quote for that requirement is quite challenging, but allowing the creative team to at least give themselves the correct amount of time and the correct amount of thinking time is really important. That’s generally our methodology, just open communication.

The Newcastle Scene

Kye: Is there a big creative network in Newcastle and would you socialise with other creative studios or is there not really that kind of culture here?

Luke: That’s a good question. Newcastle is a great creative town. One of the really interesting things if you look at Newcastle’s history is that it obviously comes from an industrial background, very blue collar working background. Not too dissimilar to other cities of the U.K. or the areas of America or Australia that have seen real growth over the years. It’s really in that transitional point where it’s finding its feet and it’s really only been in the last three years that it’s probably started to develop its own creative identity here. The city is divided in that capacity in terms of the old and the new and trying to find that direction.

There’s a great, creative community here. There’s a great series of amazing agencies, amazing small design shops and there’s some large scale advertising agencies here that work on national scale projects as well, so it’s a real boiling pot of creativity which is really exciting. We’ve made the conscious decision to try and communicate and build that culture and grow that. We moved into the building that we’re in now, with another creative agency called Mezzanine so the two brothers that run that are close friends of ours and we made the decision in terms of continuing that collaboration and knowledge share, which is really important. It might not be shared throughout the whole city, but I think in time that will happen and that’s what we hope.

What kind of clients are you hoping to attract?

Kye: You’ve told us a little bit about the kind of clients that you currently work for. Is there a domain or type of client or a particular client that you’re hoping to attract that you haven’t managed to lure in yet?

Luke: Sure. I think we are really very passionate like I said about behavioural change campaigns, whether it’s sexual health, mental health or physical activity. That becomes our primary focus, as well as collaborating with tertiary education and post-graduate education institutions throughout Australia.

We’ve been very fortunate in terms of building those relationships, but we’d like to continue to grow and collaborate with research teams around Australia, that’s a really important element for us. It’s really diverse work and it really means that we can make a real impact with the creative work that we produce, the digital work that we produce. That remains our focus and our drive.

Working with organisations throughout Australia that we really believe in or have quite a passion for is our focus as well. That’s working with startups, small local businesses or it could be collaborating with similar type businesses within Melbourne or Sydney. It’s a diverse mix, but it works really well for us. We want to keep going down that road.


Kye: It’s an admirable road. It’s a great road to be on. That leads me to… who or what inspires you to keep working and do what you do every day?

Luke: It’s probably, interestingly, our clients. A lot of our clients are really pushing the boundaries of what should be able to be done with the budgets that are allocated to them or what they can do with the small resources that they have. Collaborating with people that are trying to always constantly push and evolve those processes, those elements for the greater good or the development of behavioral change is really important. We take a lot of inspiration from that.

“A lot of our clients are really pushing the boundaries of what should be able to be done with the budgets that are allocated to them.”

We take a lot of inspiration from Australian design as a whole. There’s a lot of incredible work that goes on here. Whether it’s within the fashion industries, whether it’s within the printing industries or other creative agency studios, obviously, a big inspiration in that community is built. Inspiration as well is probably the latest digital technologies. So, probably one of our other strengths is that we have an internal development team and that development team means that we can accomplish a lot of different development projects and understand. Being small, we can adapt quite quickly and nimbly to changes in app development and web development, apply different methodologies and kind of move forward.

Probably the key people that inspire us there are things like Smashing Magazine in The States, anyone that’s pushing or sharing knowledge in that space and different developers, that type of thing. It’s a real mix.

Working within a tight budget 

Kye: Back on budgets and small budgets, I imagine working for some government agencies, in health and things like that, the budget is small and it’s particular. Do you ever find yourselves going, “Uh, it’s pretty much a charity, should we slash our rates a little bit?” or do you try and stick to a standard rate across the board and just try and make it work, do what you can do within the budget?

“We’re going to be no good to our clients if we slashed a lot of rates and then in 12 months we don’t exist.”

Luke: I think probably the stance that we take there are… our number one priority is making sure that we can survive and exist so that we can influence this change over a long period of time. There has to be a point where we pragmatically looking at that and we’re going to be no good to our clients if we slashed a lot of rates and then in 12, 24 months we don’t exist.

Our mentality has always been that and we keep a pretty standard rate across the board. We do have two brackets of rates that we utilise and that second bracket would probably be for the research based projects, a lot of RND and there’s a lot of work that we can and hope we can get back from government initiatives as well with RND projects where we get a little kick-back from tax and things like that. They can counter that. But it’s really important for us to ensure that our hourly rates and our hours are tracked, they’re taken on as a commercial project. That’s important so that we can continue to do the work for the next decade, 20, 25, 30 years.

Kye: The reason I asked that question is, I’ve just been investigating a lot and I see this a lot, where people, particularly startups are just starting out and they want to do anything to get the work and then they’ve got a body of work and they can build on that. But they’ll do it for free or they’ll have a rate-cut, they do all this extra work that doesn’t get billed and things like that. I guess they’re making a rod for their own back because then the client will expect that all the time.

“It’s really important for us to ensure that our hourly rates and our hours are tracked, they are taken on as a commercial project.”

Luke: Yeah, you’re right. I think that we’ve been around for 13 year so we definitely went through what I would describe in that capacity as growing pains of some capacity throughout that period of time. If you under quote, if you under-bill once, that’s the expectation level. It’s really important for us to make sure that that’s really nice and clear and upfront, just making sure that we’re on the same page.

If we ever do do work pro bono and there will always be an associated quote and invoice sent to the client for example, that outlines what has been provided in terms of the hourly rate, the total cost of what that would have cost in the commercial sense. I think again that’s really important for the expectations so that they understand what’s being provided.

We’ve started doing really basic things like creating memorandums of understanding, what we’re getting out of the relationship, what the client wants out of the relationship, if we ever do do work at a discounted rate. The majority of the time our rates mean that we have a price point that we can work with these type of organisations and they also understand that they want us to be here in more than five years.

Best piece of advice

“Your entire career will be defined by the times you say no”

Kye: Finally I’d just like to finish off with, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Luke: This is a good one. I have one for this. This was given by a photographer that I used to work for when I was an assistant in the U.K. She was called Sarah Mango. She told me that my entire career would be defined by the times you say “no” and that is incredibly true. We carry that on today in terms of turning down a lot of work and making sure that the work we do take on is the work that we want to produce.

Kye: That was a wonderful piece of advice. I might take that on board too. Thank you for sharing it with us and thanks for having us in your studio today.

Luke: No worries, thanks for coming.

Images courtesy of Headjam.

Thinking of upgrading to El Capitan?

As you might have heard, Apple have released ‘El Capitan‘, their newest operating system for Mac.

We have received word from FileMaker today that no versions of their software are currently supported on El Capitan. As a result, if you’re a Streamtime user we do not recommend upgrading your work machine or server at the moment, as you may encounter issues for which we don’t yet have a solution.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know.

Streamtime Radio ep 06 – featuring Flyn Tracy

In this episode of Streamtime Radio, we catch up with Flyn Tracy, Industry Program Manager for Tractor, Organiser for CreativeMornings Sydney and Founder and Host of Australian Design Radio.

Over a couple of glasses of red wine at the Streamtime Sydney offices, Flyn shares his views on education in the Design industry and why he started the CreativeMornings Sydney chapter and Australian Design Radio.

Like this podcast? You can find other insightful episodes on iTunes or at streamtimeradio.simplecast.fm

Are you going to Sex, Drugs & Helvetica?

Sex, Drugs & Helvetica has been described as “industry espionage” and “work experience at six studios in one day”. It’s an opportunity to not only be surrounded by other like-minded creatives, but to meet and talk with six renowned designers from Australia and abroad.

The killer lineup of speakers for 2015 features Business Strategist and Communication Designer Cheryl Heller (US), Cannes Lion winner and Koto Founder James Greenfield (UK), Interbrand Creative Director Ben Miles, Eskimo Founder Zoë Pollitt, Projects of Imagination Founder Nick Cox and August Co-Founder Daniel Banik.

The first event kicks off in Brisbane next Friday 4th September, followed by Melbourne on Friday 11th September. If you don’t have tickets yet get cracking as it’s sure to be a sell out!

Streamtime Radio ep 05 – featuring Finger Industries

In this Game of Thrones themed episode of Streamtime Radio, I catch up with Marcus Kenyon and Rachael Exton from Finger Industries.

Over drinks and dinner at Grain Store, London we talk about their animation techniques, the importance of Production Managers in a creative agency and running a business up near ‘The Wall’.

Like this podcast? You can find other insightful episodes on iTunes or at streamtimeradio.simplecast.fm

How to increase your agency’s profitability: step 3 the right tools

In the final part of our profitability series we take a look at how Streamtime can help you increase your agency’s profitability.

Capturing costs

The only way to ensure you are going to be profitable is to invoice your clients correctly. The only way to ensure you are invoicing your clients correctly is to review the costs on your jobs. The only way to know your costs is to track them all! Time spent on jobs, in-house printing, taxis to meetings, lunches and gifts for clients, couriers, catering at shoots, these are just some of things that make up the costs of your jobs.

Streamtime Web makes it simple to enter time and expenses whether working from your desk or on the run. With the click of a button you can record that three minute phone call with your client or add that courier expense straight onto the job.

See our ‘Adding expenses to a job’ article in the Streamtime knowledge base for more information on capturing costs.

Change of scope, client amendments and charging for extras

How many times do you make a “really quick change” at your client’s request? How many times do you charge these changes onto your client? If the answer is rarely or never, you should reconsider. You are undervaluing your time by not charging these on to the client, and according to the The Wow Company‘s survey results, you could also be losing out on potential profit.

In Streamtime, we recommend sending a revised quote to your client if the scope of the job changes. This way you’re being totally transparent with your client about the additional charges, so there will be no surprises come invoice time.

Our knowledge base article, ‘How can I capture & invoice client amendments’ provides further information on how to effectively do this in Streamtime.

Reviewing your jobs

The best thing you can do to increase your profitability is to review your jobs regularly, not just after they’ve been invoiced, when it’s potentially too late. There are several ways you can review your jobs in Streamtime.

The financial overview screen in Streamtime is a great way of seeing all figures associated with a series of jobs. This view shows what was quoted, your job costs (time and orders), the value of your time and orders, what was invoiced, as well as your Gross Margin (invoiced less costs) and Gross Profit (invoiced less supplier costs).

If you want to focus on individual jobs, the JCR (Job Cost Report) in Streamtime allows you to review each individual cost on a job, and check whether they’ve been invoiced or where you could reduce costs.

If you’re a Streamtime user you have already taken the first step in increasing your company’s profitability. You can get more tips from our blog or feel free to contact our team for advice or take advantage of the remote training that’s included in your Streamtime subscription. To book remote training email training@streamtime.net.

Other articles in this series:

How to increase your agency’s profitability: step 1 pricing
How to increase your agency’s profitability: step 2 measuring profit


Danielle Wilson loves her job. In fact you won’t come across anyone more enthusiastic to help customers work more effectively and efficiently. She is very passionate about the environment and Bloody Marys. Just don’t try and serve her fast food from a multi national!

Best Design Awards – Streamtime are announced as finalists

We’re absolutely chuffed to announce that Streamtime Web is a finalist in the 2015 Best Design Awards, an initiative of The Designers Institute of New Zealand.

Streamtime Web is project management for creative studios, and we’re finalists in the best interactive design, applications category.

Congratulations and thanks to our awesome design and development team: Cam, Aaron, Pius and Kevin for making this all possible.

If you haven’t already, try Streamtime Web for yourself.

Podcast: Ross Floate & Josh Kinal on dressing for success

For this episode of Streamtime radio we’re in the studio with the impeccably dressed Ross Floate and Josh Kinal from Floate Design Partners. We discuss their approach to solving problems, working with Clover Moore, meeting Gene Simmons and how Josh loves doing timesheets.

If you’re fans of The Nudge, you’re going to enjoy this podcast. Warning: Parental guidance recommended.

Like this podcast? You can find other insightful episodes on iTunes or at streamtimeradio.simplecast.fm

The evolution of Streamtime support

Providing exceptional support has been a key value from the early days at Streamtime. Making each individual Streamtime user better at their jobs, and helping them become experts as effortlessly as possible is a vision we try to apply to each client interaction.

We are constantly looking at ways to improve this experience, so we recently spent some time reviewing our current process, where it could improve and what things we wanted to change. After long discussions with our team, review of our support metrics, investigation of the more successful support interactions and a look at how other organisations who provide great support work, we decided to remove the option for inbound phone support – effectively guiding our clients to a brand new support landing page.

From a client perspective, no longer being able to call us seems like step in the wrong direction. We don’t see it that way and here’s why:

Our metrics show that Monday mornings, Wednesdays and Thursdays are the busiest times for support. At these times, it was common for all of us to be on the phones which meant callers getting our voicemail system – not a great experience.

Some of our staff have naturally gravitated towards certain areas of Streamtime and become experts in that area. Having that expert answer your specific question means the question is answered, a clear explanation provided and what steps to avoid in future discussed. Our contact page will get all our client questions to those experts in the quickest way possible.

• This change does not mean you will never speak to us. We recognise that for more in-depth questions, a phone call is best. So the best person will be responding to certain questions via a phone call, on average within minutes of receiving your request.

Things go wrong in every piece of software in the world. Fixing those problems efficiently is vital. Having all questions come through into the one area means that our entire company have eyes on the requests. Everything is automatically logged and, if required, easily passed to development. This means faster resolution, and allows us to see trends which highlight troublesome areas.

 Our metrics also show that the majority of questions asked over the phone were training questions (our support is a mix of technical and ‘how to’). Often, scheduling a session with a trainer provides a better understanding of the area. Being able to differentiate between those two questions means our clients are not being ‘handballed’ to different people in the quest for an answer.

We want our support to continue to separate us from our competitors and help more individual users become experts. We believe that this change will allow us to provide a far more consistent support experience for all our clients, getting the answers they need faster.

How to get the best from your creatives

Every studio has one, a creative diva, that Eyeore type that grumbles and moans about every task, hates whatever they are doing, yet doesn’t really do anything about it.

Why are they like this? Well, they do live in a daily environment of design by committee, where they constantly get told to change, change, change their masterpiece – until it’s diluted down enough to meet the client’s satisfaction.

Everyone has a design opinion and creatives feel this more than most, as theirs usually sits at the bottom of the heap. When looking at the situation this way it’s actually quite easy to understand why they feel stifled and frustrated.

Yet unlike a portion of other designers who ‘drop the baby’ and allow the client to do whatever they like, just to get it out the door and move on – these ones don’t. Their incessant bellyaching drives everyone around them wild but it’s actually a sign that their passion still lies beneath, a sign of suppressed creativity.

So what are the keys to engaging these people and making the environment painless for everyone?

1. Allow them to be unproductive – to do the absurd and fail. Innovation comes from experimentation and exploring outside the parameters. Expect the costs that come along with this but in the long run it will be cheaper than losing clients through not staying ahead of the game.

2. Don’t constrain them – performance will be better if they’re allowed to work autonomously. Don’t force them to follow unnecessary processes or hover over them, asking what they’re doing or how they’re doing it. Creatives are easily distracted so keep them away from emails, IMs and phone calls. In short, don’t interrupt the creative process. Allowing them to work outside normal hours is also beneficial as they will often prefer to be left alone.

3. Don’t criticise the bad ideas – Make them feel important. Creatives are used to criticism but it often cuts deeper than you think; they can often feel crushed. Not noticing that special effort spent on a job will do you no good, as their opinion will be verbalised and bad energy can affect the whole team. Be lavish with the praise but also be sincere about it.

4. Consider carefully before allowing them to manage others – your most talented creatives may be wonderful at their jobs but this certainly does not mean they should be managing others. Actually it’s rare that natural innovators have good leadership skills, (a number of extremely successful business owners have identified their own leadership deficits and brought in others to make up for it, Mark Zuckerberg for one). A study showed that the most talented creatives also exhibit psychological characteristics such as being rebellious, being independently motivated and low in empathy.  All can inhibit them from being effective leaders.

Understanding what really makes your creative divas tick will help you to build an environment where they can flourish and truly allow their brilliance to shine.

Image courtesy of Bryant Arnold.


Becca Stevens wants to live in a world where clients stick to the initial brief and designers go home on time. As a Studio Manager, she’s been subjected to all kinds of job juggling, patience testing and deadline moving situations. When she’s not training other agency folk how to use Streamtime to harness the chaos, you can find her poking around antiques and vintage places, finding curiosities to treasure. 

Podcast: Rhys Gorgol on the importance of collaboration

For episode 03 of Streamtime Radio we’re in the studio with the delightful Rhys Gorgol, Creative Director at <strong>Kye:</strong>. We talk about the importance of collaboration, standing behind the value of design and trusting your instinct.

Like this podcast? You can find other insightful episodes on iTunes or at streamtimeradio.simplecast.fm

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to read Luke’s insights, here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.

The TCYK Philosophy

Kye Hush: Tell us, how did The Company You Keep get started?

Rhys Gorgol: TCYK started three and a bit years ago. I had been working at various other studios around town and then freelancing and kind of thought, “Well, now is the time that I really want to do my own thing.” I suppose I really want to create a culture around a studio rather than just do whatever work come our way. But really control, I suppose, the environment and team dynamic. And a huge part of that for me is the people that we choose to work with on a client side. And so that’s kind of how it all came about.

Kye: So when you’re starting out, can you be so picky with the clients that you want to work with or do you have to take what comes and then flitter away the ones that maybe aren’t so good?

Rhys: It’s a bit of a balance. I’m a big believer in having a vision and then following through to that, and so not just necessarily taking things. But at the end of the day you do need to pay your rent, so there’s always a balance of those things. We’ve been really fortunate in that we’ve had some really long-standing relationships with some of our clients, which has afforded us the ability to be able to say “no” here and there and really craft, I suppose, that client roster.

“I’m a big believer in having a vision and then following through to that.”

Kye: That sounds like a nice position to be in. So do you actively go out and seek the clients? Or do they just find you? Or is it a word-of-mouth thing? And what are the kind of clients that you’re attracted to?

Rhys: It’s a mixed of both in terms of actively seeking the clients we choose to partner with, but also having clients find us along the way. I’m always kind of surprised at how it’s not necessarily the sector that someone may be working in that makes a relationship interesting. The glamorous things of fashion or galleries or hospitality they, on face level, feel like the perfect job. But when you actually get into those relationships, they aren’t necessarily as creatively rewarding as you thought on the outside. And then you meet people that might be doing something totally different to anything you thought you’d ever be working in.

Like we’ve worked with a couple that used to own a bottle shop down the road and then sold that and started a maternity bag company. So basically a company that puts all the stuff you need to have in a bag when you go to the hospital to have a baby, and then they sell that because people always forget all the different things that you kind of have to take.

And that is something that I have no experience in nor would have ever considered. They were a great people to work with, they had a huge amount of faith in us. And that sector didn’t really have, I suppose, a lot of that design thinking prevalent in it and it allowed us to have a big impact. Not necessarily within that sector, but within their business and see a real return on investment to them, which is great. It was really rewarding for us, as well.

Kye: How do you go from owning a bottle shop to “I know what we need…”?

Rhys: They’re great. They are definitely not the kind of people you would think would start something like that when you meet them. Troy is a big burly bloke who’s great, who you’d imagine would own a pub or like a bottle shop. But yeah, it’s pretty funny.

Starting the business

Kye: So you were freelancing and then you decided to go out and do your own thing. You’re going from working for someone else and designing, design is the only thing, but now you’re the business owner and you’re responsible for people and paying the bills and things. How does…

Rhys: Yeah, it is tricky. I’ve always been slightly business minded or enjoyed that side of things, not necessarily just the creative side of it. But I’ve always enjoyed, I suppose, the business aspect of things. So recording, invoicing, seeing how it all plugs in, from woe to go. All those sort of different bits and bobs. And, I suppose, it does have those challenges, but I felt like I was seeking those challenges.

“The hardest thing to manage has been moving from a process of being responsible for yourself to having a bigger team and having layers of structure underneath that.”

What I found, I suppose, the hardest thing to manage has been moving, or transitioning, from a process of being responsible for yourself or a smaller team to having a bigger team and having layers of structure underneath that and then managing people within managing other people. And how you can kind of, I suppose, do that in the most efficient way where everyone shares the same visions through all those different layers. But we’re getting there, it’s good.

Kye: I feel like you’re quite unique. Not in your vision of a business, but as a creative that quite enjoys the business side of things.

Rhys: Yes, a lot of people definitely don’t like doing that. It’s funny with our team, as well, because I have quite specific opinions about designers project managing their own projects and being really, really heavily involved. And, I suppose, pushing things forward and understanding the hours that they have to do a job, but also managing the day-to-day with the clients. Because I think that fosters relationships and rapport, which allows the creatives to get inside the heads of the clients more to give more appropriate responses. And cuts down on, I suppose, that Chinese whispers between account management and designers. So yeah, on certain days the design team don’t share my love of the business side of things.

“I have quite specific opinions about designers project managing their own projects and being really, really heavily involved.”

The hiring process

Kye: It’s to be expected. So talking about the type of business that you’re running and the fact that you’re sort of cutting through the account managers sort of stuff and getting the creatives to be involved in that. So when you’re hiring, are you looking for a particular kind of creative? Do you bring that up, that they’re going to be dealing directly with the clients and they’re going to have to project manage their own jobs? How do you go about the hiring process?

Rhys: I suppose I feel that I’m pretty transparent about those things. Not necessarily in a super direct way. But transparency, I suppose, is a recurring theme through the business, and making sure that the design process and the designers are transparent to the client so they can see who’s working on their project and kind of have the dialogue. In terms of hiring, I’m more focused around culture and people, and fit, and wave length. Which is a bit hippie-ish and not necessarily going back to that business side of things, but it is I hire from the gut more so than the head. In those sort of instances people feel right. And if they feel right, they usually are right. And I’ve got it right so far. So yeah, fingers crossed I keep getting it right.

“In terms of hiring, I’m more focused around culture and people, and fit, and wave length.”

Everyone has a design degree, so that’s part of it. We’ve got two people who work in the client services side of things: so Monica, who heads it up, and Anya. And both of them studied design. So everyone has a really solid understanding of design and its role and can talk design regardless of what side of the fence they sit on, whether they are design or a client. But it’s more around wave length and fit, and whether they kind of get things that we get and like the same sort of stuff.

Kye: You can teach people how to do things, but it’s more of the gut feeling, whether they’re going into fit into your culture or not.

Rhys: Exactly. Yeah. You can’t teach that, and it’s this invisible thing that you can’t even necessarily articulate to someone else. You just kind of got to feel it out. But yeah, if you have an eye and you have the basics in design, that’s a skill that can be taught.


Kye: Is collaboration important to you?

Rhys: Totally. That’s why the business is called what it is. I suppose going back to that initial point, our company is about the company that we keep both internally and externally. So collaborators, clients, but also the internal team. It’s all about these relationships. So we collaborate with a whole bunch of people, from printers to architects, to writers, to illustrators. And I really like, I suppose, fostering those relationships, obviously sparking new ones. But it’s great to kind of continue a dialogue with, I suppose, a solid group of creatives that you can sort of really get into a rhythm with.

“Our company is about the company that we keep both internally and externally.”

We’ve done that a few times with Simon and Jenna from Hungry Workshop, who’ve been great to collaborate with on the printing side of things. Going to them and going, “Hey, we’ve got this idea. What are you working on? How does that work with this? What are you thinking of these sorts of things?” And we did that with PDA recently, as well, where we were just working on our new website. We kind of have this rough, loose thing and we were like, “Hey, we’re doing a new website. Here’s some thoughts. What do you think?” and bringing them to the discussion about the design of this thing. It’s really interesting.

Kye: In recent years, collaboration seems to be…

Rhys: The buzz word.

Kye: …the buzz word. But it seems to be working for people. People are realizing that they don’t have to squirrel away their designs and their secrets. If they share them out a little bit they could make them better or learn from other people.

Rhys: Yeah. And what you give out into the world you get back ten fold. So if you don’t give anything out, then you’re going to live in this vacuum that just kind of decomposes, I suppose.

“It’s great to kind of continue a dialogue with a solid group of creatives that you can sort of really get into a rhythm with.”

Kye: And so when you started the company or had this idea of collaboration, how did you go about making your connections? How did you get to work with all these awesome people?

Rhys: A lot of it was initially in any sort of case is your immediate network. So people that you know or people you know know, that kind of one step removed scenario, that you start to build a little bit of work up from and then from there word of mouth kind of grows and you start getting a bit of press and those sorts of things. So definitely it was leveraging my close network, which has been really, really supportive of what I’ve been out to do.

A lot of my immediate friends who we’ve done work with, are business owners that I kind of catch up with as, not necessarily mentors, we just kind of catch up and talk about running businesses and the challenges and the highs and the lows and all that sort of stuff. And a lot of them, from Nick who runs Broadsheet to Michael who runs The Everleigh, which is a bar. They are some of my closest mates and they’re all young business owners in different sectors. Which it’s kind of good to have that support network to not only help spruke your business and what you’re doing, you can do it vice versa, but lend each other’s skills to each other, has been great.

But we have, on another note, gone out and targeted certain people, as well. Like Seven Seeds‘ Mark and Bridget, I’ve had a lot of respect for what those guys have done in terms of the coffee game and how they’ve run their business and have been so committed to their craft. And so I really wanted to work with them. So yeah, we targeted people who are like that to work with, which has been great. Because I knew that they were going to be on a similar wave length before I even engaged in that relationship. So we were kind of setting up that relationship on the front foot to get a great outcome.

“What you give out into the world you get back ten fold.”

Kye: Well, I guess it’s like the hires, it’s the gut feeling.

Rhys: Exactly.

A word of advice

Kye: Do you think it’s easy for designers to branch out on their own these days and start a business? And do you advise that? Or do you think there’s definitely a period of time where they should be getting in there and working in organisations where they can be mentored and then perhaps branching out?

Rhys: I think there’s no right way nor wrong way to do it. There’s businesses out there that have started straight out of university where they haven’t had time in another studio or under another creative director that have been incredibly successful and I have a lot of respect for because I know that I couldn’t do that and it wasn’t for me. Studios like three60 and Büro North and Motherbird that have been extremely successful off their own from day one.

“I really wanted to work under a studio and a creative director that I really, really admired.”

I was freelancing prior to taking a job and decided deliberately to take a job, took a pay cut to take a job. Because I really wanted to work under a studio and a creative director that I really, really admired to build a skill set to further evolve my thinking and my practice and my process. And I’m really grateful that I made that decision because it was the right decision. And it’s definitely played a huge part in, I suppose, being able to talk and articulate design and think about it in the way that I do.

The thing with design and starting businesses straight up is that it’s really cheap to do, so lots of people do it. Because all you need is your computer, which you have probably already got, internet connection, power, and a couple of programs, and all of a sudden I run a business. What people fall in the trap of is, “Do they actually really want to be doing that?”

And that’s what I’d urge people to think about before they just go, “I’m going to start a business,” is what do you want from design and what do you want from your life and to achieve? Because there’s kind of a bit of responsibility with starting a business because if you’re going to enter a professional relationship with your clients, you need to be reliable in there. You can’t just go, “I’m going to start, I’m going to leave that and go do something else.” That’s not necessarily fair on the client relationships that you’re forging.

“What I’d urge people to think about is…what do you want from design and what do you want from your life?”

And, I suppose, making sure that you have a full understanding of what you’re getting into, that business side of things that we went back to before. If you don’t really enjoy that, then you better have a business partner that does enjoy that. Otherwise there’s going to be a whole party of business that’s just kind of floating through.

The value of design

Kye: An experience I’ve had in the past, where I’ve worked at start-ups is the amount to charge a client…

Rhys: The age-old question and the designers’ guilt around that, which I always find really funny. “I’ve got to send you an invoice, I’m sorry.”

Kye: Did you find that when you started out, did you get that guilt or have you been quite clear about the value you’re bringing to the client?

Rhys: I think that’s something that you always get more and more comfortable with. It’s something that, I suppose, I’ve always had it drilled into me, the value of design and standing behind the value of design. And taking a role in educating, I suppose, other sectors around the impact of design and treating that, not necessarily as a cost, but as an investment, and there’s a return on that.

I feel quite comfortable around having those conversations. And I think you have to if you have a business because it’s a commercial entity. In the same way you got to feel comfortable if a printer come to you and says, “This is how much it costs,” and you have to convey that to a client. That’s kind of what makes the world go around. But you have to have the confidence in understanding what you’re doing is actually injecting value into a client’s business.

“If you can have confidence around having those conversations and be transparent about how you got to that figure, people respond to that quite well.”

So if you can kind of stand back as a branding or design agency and go, “Well, what I do injects value and there is a return in our investment and you can see that here, here, and here. Then why would you not be paying me this rate?” We’re quite transparent, as well, about how we build our quotes.

Rightly or wrongly, we base it on hours spent, almost the tradition of design being this trade kind of base thing rather than, I suppose, an executive kind of thing. So in that it doesn’t have this figure that’s pulled out of the air. It’s like, “For you it’s going to be $20 million for your brand.” It’s like, “No. For a brand identity it’s going require a designer for 40 hours. It’s going to require a creative director for ten hours. It’s going to require an account manager for this many hours.” They have an hourly rate and that equals an output.

So if you can, I suppose, have confidence around having those conversations and be transparent about how you got to that figure, people respond to that quite well.

Kye: Would you work for for free?

Rhys: Yeah, totally. We would love to engage in pro bono work with the right client, it’s just a matter of finding the right fit. Being a small business, it’s kind of hard to take those things on, so you can’t take them on willy-nilly. So making sure when you do take it on, it’s the right one. And I think, with that, I’d want to ensure that it was a long-term, ongoing relationship because that’s where I would really be able to inject that value rather than, “Hey, here’s your brand or your postcard, go off into the world.” It’s like, “What are your objectives and how can we meet those objectives?”

What inspires you?

Kye: What inspires you and what do you do to stay inspired?

Rhys: I don’t know what inspires me, to be honest. People? I suppose that’s why I’m so fixated on surrounding myself with people that I like and I think are interesting and I can jive with or have dialogue with, because I suppose that’s where I get that inspiration or that enthusiasm. I don’t necessarily look to any one particular thing, but definitely people and the relationships that they spark.

“I’m so fixated on surrounding myself with people that I like and I think are interesting and I can jive with or have dialogue with, that’s where I get that inspiration.”

I kind of think about myself… I’ve thought about this a little bit sometimes, about why I don’t connect with certain people and why I do connect with certain people. And this is probably really blatantly obvious to other people, but for some reason it didn’t click in my head. But it’s almost like playing tennis.

If someone is on the right wave length and you have a dialogue with them, you’re hitting a ball and they’ll hit it back to you. But when you’re kind of hitting the ball and the other person on the other end just doesn’t get it and doesn’t hit it back, that drains inspiration and energy from you. But as soon as someone’s hitting it back to you and hitting it back harder, you’re like, “Oh, shit, this is great.” And you amp up and everyone amps up. So I suppose that’s what I look for for inspiration, is that kind of dialogue with those people.

Diversity of clients

Kye: How did you end up collaborating with the Broadsheet guys and then the Broadsheet Restaurant?

Rhys: Broadsheet is an interesting one. I have a really close relationship with Nick, the Founder. We’ve been close mates for ages. And even shared a flat together back in the day. And so it was kind of an organic thing to work together. And then since then we’ve moved our separate ways and years go on. I’ve moved in with my partner, but we share an office. We used to share another office. Our team is really, really tight-knit, which is, I suppose, just kind of fell into that. Again, it’s that personal network thing.

The same with Dave, who’s a close mate who we work with. I met him through another mate and he’s introduced us to Schweppes, who we’ve had a really good relationship with. And then that has allowed Schweppes to be introduced to Broadsheet, which means we’ve worked with them together, so it’s kind of this incestuous thing, but this web where you never know where the next job is going to come from or the next opportunity kind of thing.

And so if you just surround yourself with like-minded people, they want to surround themselves with like-minded people. And so you innately kind of meet them, and then that kind of spider-webs out, and spider-webs out, and spider-webs out.

Kye: Someone like Schweppes, that’s a corporate, big name brand. Are people like Schweppes hiring sort of like-minded people that get the business that you were trying to create?

Rhys: Yeah. Again, it’s people. Only because the relationships we have with other people that we work with there. That does that for the creative flexibility to achieve the outcomes that we want to achieve with them. Because we are on the same wave length, that has allowed us to foster trust. It gets to the point where they might come to me with a brief and I’ll be like, “Well, you don’t need that. I’m not going to just take your budget from you because you want that, that’s not actually going to achieve your outcome.”

“I don’t think it’s the size of the client that you’re working with that determines the amount of creative flexibility.”

And so they kind of respect those sorts of things so that when you come to them next time and they’ve got something they don’t have the budget for, and you say, “Well, you really need to invest in this. And this photographer is right, I know they cost more. But you’re going to get the right results with this person and not with this person.” It allows you to achieve those things.

So I don’t necessarily think it’s the size of the client that you’re working with that determines the amount of creative flexibility. In the same way, I don’t think it’s necessarily the sector that that client’s in that determines the amount of creative flexibility we get. It’s about the people that you’re working with. You can do some really creative stuff for some really dry companies, which is infinitely more interesting than doing creative things in an industry that’s so saturated with that sort of stuff.

And we’ve found, colloquially, that some of the smaller operations, the start-ups, are harder to get your thinking across a line because innately there’s a level of personal investment on their behalf that it’s like, “Oh shit, I’ve saved up a lot of money for this thing, it better work, so I’m not going to take the risks.” Whereas someone that has a bigger company that has the ability to sort of build that trust and take that risk with, I suppose, much less barriers allow you to achieve those outcomes with much less selling those sales.

Kye: I guess it’s also that level of trust. And I guess being as transparent as you guys are, it’s probably a lot easier to trust you with that than people that aren’t as transparent.

Rhys: Partially so, yeah. You have to build that. And that’s why, I suppose, we like to work with people that want to foster a partnership with us. It’s a relationship, it’s not a transaction. You’re not coming to TCYK for us to execute your poster or your postcard because I’m going to cost you too much and it’s not going to be how I’m going to inject value in what you do. You’ll come to TCYK and you’re like, “Okay, I’ve got an objective and I’ve got this product, and let’s work together to really find the essence of what it is that makes us tick, and our product or our service tick, and our audience tick and how we can make these things connect in a way that’s interesting and new and brings result.”

“We like to work with people that want to foster a partnership with us. It’s a relationship, it’s not a transaction.”

Kye: Have you ever walked away from a job? Where you’ve taken it on and then you haven’t been on the same wave length and you just know it’s not going to work out?

Rhys: No. I’m too stubborn. “We’ll make this work out. You will like me. We will find a way.” No, I haven’t walked away from anything as yet. But there’s people that run other studios that I’ve worked with that have done things like that, that I have a lot of respect for and admire. And I do think that there’s definitely a time and a place to kind of, not necessarily draw a line in the sand, but to make sure that, I suppose, a relationship is right for both partners and again, it’s a partnership, it’s not a transaction. So being true to that.

If you feel like, “Hey, we aren’t the right people to get these results for you,” then you need to kind of be open to that. But I’ve always felt that there’s always a way we can work with our client to achieve a really good outcome, whether it’s the easiest process or not so easy, is up in the air.

Best piece of advice

Kye: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“If it wasn’t fun, we didn’t do it.”

Rhys: I could be waiting for it. It’s not necessarily advice, and “mantra” is not necessarily a word I really want to associate myself with. But I read this thing the other…not the other day, but a few months ago. I forget where I saw it, but it said, “If it wasn’t fun, we didn’t do it.” And that kind of has resonated with me. It’s always kind of gone through my head since then. It’s like if you enjoy doing it, you’re going to do a good job. And if you enjoy working with people, then it’s going to be a good outcome. So that, I suppose, is not necessarily a bit of advice, but I suppose something that’s rattling around up here.

Kye: I like that. On that note, thank you very much for having us in your studio today.

Rhys: Thank you. Cheers.

Is collaboration good for business? An agency view

According to The Wow Company’s 2015 Benchpress Review of the UK’s independently-owned agencies, 47% have committed to strategic alliances with other agencies in the coming year.

Forming relationships with someone originally thought of as a competitor can feel uncomfortable. Guest blogger, Ruth Kent gives her thoughts and experiences on this tricky but potentially lucrative approach to growing business.

While it’s true that inter-agency partnerships come in a variety of ‘flavours’, the most common set-up is where one ‘leads’ and the other ‘supplies’. It’s this arrangement that we’re going to explore here.

To start here are the possible benefits for each agency and, of course, the client.


Possible Lead Agency Benefits

• Access to niche/specialist skills/expertise within the supplier

• The supplier agency is an agency too, so can ‘hit the ground running’ and scale steep learning curves quickly and successfully.

• The supplier agency can be relied upon when time is tight or when internal resources are already fully engaged, thus enabling the lead agency to offer uninterrupted service to their client.

• A supplier agency is a more flexible and less risky ‘turn off and on’ alternative to growing in-house capabilities/teams.

• Partnership with a supplier agency enables the lead agency to offer a fuller range of services.

• There’s often an opportunity for ‘mark up’ on the supplier agency’s rates.

• The supplier agency can become a very useful, knowledgeable ‘trusted advisor’ to the lead agency.

• Partnering with the right supplier agency can enhance the lead agency’s overall reputation.


Possible Supplier Agency Benefits

• Access to desirable clients via the lead agency and the chance to ‘grow the portfolio’.

• Possibility of lower project/client acquisition costs (the lead agency can often be less demanding re: new business proposal requirements, for example).

• Lead agencies can make very good ‘repeat customers’.


Possible Advantages for Clients

• Ease of management of a variety of skillsets (especially if the lead agency is the primary point of contact, filtering down to the supplier agency).

• Good agency partnerships mean cohesive/consistent work – especially from a brand perspective.

• Agencies can ‘educate’ one another in their respective specialism/offerings, thus generally driving up standards.

• The whole ‘two heads are better than one’ aspect of bringing partner agencies together – leading to better ideation.

• A little ‘healthy competition’ between partner agencies can enhance execution and end results.

• Scope for cost saving opportunities.


But what are the issues you might experience and how do you avoid them?

• It’s possible that agencies may be unable to align successfully because of their differences (values, culture, processes, etc). Agency partners can avoid this with one or more mutual ‘credentials and chemistry’ workshops, before the partnership is put into practice. We’d advise socialising with one another too!

• There might be a disconnect in the general quality of each agency’s output. Again, getting to know one another is an invaluable first step here. You’ll soon get the measure of the output of your potential partner agency.

• Clashes of ego! The easy way to inoculate against this is to have clearly defined roles/responsibilities across the inter-agency partnership and also to avoid ‘doubling up’ on roles.

• The possibility of messy communication and confusion. Avoid this by using the right collaboration tools and communication techniques, along with clearly defined roles/responsibilities. This should all be nailed down before the agency partnership becomes a working one.

This post has been a quick jaunt through the likely workings of an inter-agency relationship. There are pros and cons to any relationship you might form but for Contra it has been a success on a number of levels.

Take heed of their sage advice and you’ll hopefully see why 2015 is the year of collaboration.
Ruth Kent is Client Partner at the multi-award winning creative agency Contra.

Image courtesy of The Wow Company.

Agency Management: Five top tips for how to boss it!

My experience in various studio management roles and later operations taught me it doesn’t matter how big or small your agency is; besides running a profitable studio, you will also be expected to be all things to all people and your feet are unlikely to touch the ground for more than two minutes at any given moment.

This is why a solid infrastructure is your best friend and can mean the difference between leaving work with a smile on your face or a massive headache. Here are my five top tips:-

1. Equipment
Ensure your team have the necessary tools to do the job; nothing worse for a designer than a Mac with insufficient memory that keeps crashing ahead of a tight deadline. This leads to frustration, missed deadlines and will impact your profit margin.

2. File storage
Get a pre-defined file structure in place for all projects files; if your team are unable to quickly locate job assets, it will cost your agency money. A good example of this would be  Date > Client name > Job number/name. This also makes your annual archiving  a less daunting task. A shared drive on a rock solid internal server will minimise downtime from service dropout.

3. Organisational Chart
It is important that everyone knows who is responsible for what and who reports to whom. A transparent chain of command makes communication more efficient, which in turn makes your agency more efficient (and profitable). It’s particularly important that your Project/Account Managers are reliably communicating client feedback to your creatives; poor communication makes more work for everyone.

4. Studio workflow
Develop a considered and practical process for managing jobs in-house; it should be simple but structured. Think about what happens once a new project comes into the studio; how does this get communicated to the studio? Don’t forget the number one thing that frustrates creatives; a job without a brief. The brief should clearly define the project expectations and constraints (description, budget, deadline etc).  Consider introducing  job management software; this will help with the structure and management of workflow as well as providing a central go to place for all concerned with that job.

5. The right team
Having the right team in place is the deal breaker for any agency; for example a good digital project manager can mean the difference between a website build running to schedule and within budget (increased profit margins), to it losing you lots of money.

Studio Management is all about the behind the scenes stuff with none of the glamour of pitch winning and client schmoozing; but if you can make the studio the most productive it can be, with the least amount of pain to your team, then that is certainly something.

Podcast: Simon Hipgrave on the joys of the letterpress

For this episode of Streamtime Radio we’re in the studio with Simon Hipgrave Founder and Creative Director of The Hungry Workshop. We talk about the challenges of starting a business, the joys of the letterpress and printing with Vegemite.

Like this podcast? You can find other insightful episodes on iTunes or at streamtimeradio.simplecast.fm

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to read Simon’s insights, here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.

It started with a passion

Kye: I cannot tell you how excited I actually am to be here, you guys can’t see this but we are surrounded by the printing presses and I am just in heaven. So, I guess I just wanted to start with, what drove you to start this business?

Simon: It started off as a hobby really, as a passion project. We had a neighbour who was venturing up to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, we lived in Brisbane at the time and she would go up and do letter press printing at an old historical village. Jenna got talking to her and it sounded interesting to her so Jenna started going up as well. Jenna and I, we have a creative background we both studied design and she was working at a design studio at the time and I was working at an ad agency. She would go up every weekend. It was the kind of place where they had an old dairy, where they had all the old machinery and there was an old engineering shop where they would fix up trucks and things like that and then they had the old print shop. The old print shop was the only place there that was really, really kind of humming along. I used to rip on Jenna a little bit and ask if she had to speak in the Old English when she was there. I didn’t really get it.

She coaxed me into going up one weekend and I went into this print shop, it was a little tin shed in rural Brisbane, out of skirts Brisbane and it was just humming, the whole place was full of machinery from floor to ceiling and these two old retired printers, Ken and Bob, were in there and they were really passionate about what they were doing. They would just print and they would teach anybody who was willing to learn and kind of pass on their art, their life’s work. They were very contagious people.

Kye: That sounds amazing!

Simon: Yeah, it was really, really good. So, Jenna invited me up and I came up and had a look around. They showed us some of the equipment, we got printing. We started going up every Saturday, then we started going up every Saturday and Sunday, then we started going up in the evenings and we got a bit carried away with it. It was just a hobby forever and like I said the shed was full of equipment and one day as we were leaving, they were like, “You guys really like this printing stuff, don’t you?” and we said, “Yeah,” and they said, “Would you like one of these printing presses, we’ve got too many.”

“We started going up every Saturday, then we started going up every Saturday and Sunday, then we started going up in the evenings and we got a bit carried away with it.”

Kye: No way!

Simon: Yeah, so we laughed and left and kind of joked to ourselves, wouldn’t that be crazy, if we got a printing press what would we do with it, where would we go, where would we put it, because we lived in a little two bedroom apartment and the printing presses are one and half tons. We had nowhere to put it, so we just kind of laughed it off, and then in the morning we thought actually we should do this and two weeks later we had a crane truck lowering this printing press into my parents living room, which was much more accessible then our two bedroom apartment, and told them it would only be two weeks,it was there for a while. Yeah, that’s kind of how it all got started, we started from this offer of this printing press and we thought you know what we could do this, make a job out of it.

Kye: So, then the move to Melbourne, how did that come about?

Simon: Yeah, so, we had been kind of working our jobs for a while and we had just gotten married and we kind of already had set in our minds that we were going to do something else. Initially it was going to be a move to the US where Jenna is from and the GFC happened and it kind of kyboshed those plans. So, we were mentally prepared to leave and try something else. So, when we decided to start the Hungry Workshop. We thought, “Look let’s do that somewhere else, let’s do it in Melbourne.” So we kind of started the business and moved all at the same time. It took us about eight to twelve months to get down here and get up and running properly but it was a really good journey.

Kye: That’s an amazing story. Did you just originally start it to be a letter press business or was the design side always going to be a part of it?

Simon: Yeah, the design side’s super important to what we do. Part of the joy that we first discovered when we were up there printing was getting the design project, your own creative work, your own idea, you’ve designed it, you’ve put a lot of thought and effort into it and then actually going and producing that and it was that complete picture that really lit us up, from a design perspective…from an advertising perspective where I was working at an agency, it was a reasonable sized agency. We’d spend months and months and months and thousands of dollars and there would be arguments and there would be tears and people would be turning grey and it would all boil down to 30 seconds of airtime.

“There is something really physical and tactile about getting back to basics of just producing something that you printed yourself or designed yourself and having a hand in manufacturing it.”

It was so intangible at the end of it. It was a really fun process and I really, really loved working in that industry but there is something really physical and tactile about getting back to basics of just producing something that you printed yourself or designed yourself and having a hand in manufacturing it. The design is really important and we love design, that’s kind of why we moved to Melbourne because there are so many great studios to work with down here. We get really excited when we see other people’s design, we get really excited about having a hand in bringing that stuff to life. I think, the design is just as important as the making.


Kye: When you collaborate with other design studios and they come in with their work, is there ever a case of envy? Do you ever say, “Oh, I wish I had done something that”?

Simon: All the time, that’s kind of what gets us excited. We love working with guys like TCYK and Rhys. Everything they send our way usually blows us away. I think that’s the other half of the reason to get up in the morning, is to see all this work before anybody else gets to see it and work with people we admire and…

Kye: Bring it all to life…

Simon: Yeah.

Kye: When it comes to clients, are you choosy? Do you take whoever comes along? Do you have a particular kind of client you are trying to attract?

Simon: Look, with the way that we print…letter press printing is really labor intensive, it requires a lot of resources to do it properly. It’s not the cheapest way of producing stuff. The work that we get is naturally people’s best work. They’ve got a client that they love, they’ve put a lot of thought and effort into the design. They really want to finish a project with a super high level of attention to detail and finishing and make it look fantastic. So, you naturally get clients who are really driven and really excited about their projects, so they are a good quality client, usually.

Kye: I guess when a client comes to you, they have their final product vision of it and how it’s going to look and stuff. Do they quite often know what kind of stock they want to use and things like that or is that where you guys can come in and…?

Simon: Yeah, we help them with that. There’s stocks and design for letter press printing which work really, really nicely. One of the beauties of letter press printing is the fact that it’s just such a simple process. It’s just relief printing so you get a reverse image and that’s converted into a raised plate, that plate is inked and pressed into the paper. It’s like a giant stamping machine. So, what that means is, we can feed any paper through the press, it works off a flat bed, so the paper doesn’t go around a roller. So we can print on 1200 gram box board all the way down to super thin paper like the yellow pages. We can print on anything, which is quite fun. I think you can be expressive with the paper that you choose. We did a project on yellow pages which was fun. We’ve done projects where we’ve got children’s storybooks and cut the spines off and fed that paper through the press. You can be really experimental with that as well.

Printing with Vegemite and wine

Kye: Tell me about the Vegemite.

Simon: Vegemite that was a really great project. A friend of mine who I used to work with at Brisbane was working down here at an ad agency and we kind of collaborated on the job to print with Vegemite for Vegemite. It was a really great job. Again, that’s another one of the advantages of this process is that the ink goes in an inkwell up the back, there’s no propriety cartridges, anything that’s kind of inky and gooey, you can put it in the inkwell and give it a crack. So, we’ve printed with Vegemite, which was super fun and a real kind of bucket list project and we’ve also printed with wine before. We’ve boiled wine down and created an inky kind of substance, so that’s always good fun to experiment with that kind of stuff.

Learning the business of the business

Kye: Okay, so you and Jenna are designers, from a design background, you were working for other people and you started this business. Did you find the business side of things challenging to stay creative, you want to do all these amazing things, but you’ve got a business to run?

Simon: Yeah, totally. The business side of things was definitely challenging, it was something that we had to learn as we went. We are really fortunate to have found a really great kind of management consultant. It was really funny we were actually printing up business cards for a guy called John Calabro from The View from Here. He’s a really fantastic designer, he designed these cards and sent the job to us. We were printing them and literally the card was coming off the press and I picked it up, read the card and was like, “I need to call this lady,” and I called her up. So, she’s been very helpful with all sorts of management duties and helps us understand the business side of things.

“There’s a vast difference between having worked with people and worked in teams than there is to working with people and managing teams and managing people.”

There is absolutely a huge learning curve. Like I said before, there’s a vast difference between having worked with people and worked in teams than there is to working with people and managing teams and managing people. So yeah, it’s definitely been a learning curve. I think we’re kind of fortunate that Jenna and I have different skill sets and different approaches. We’re both from the creative industry, the creative field, but my experiences with our direction was more conceptual big picture stuff. I worked in a team where we had finished artists and designers, so I could do the rough, get it down and send it off. Whereas Jenna was working in a really small studio that was about four or five people there and had to do things like spell check their documents, which I often neglected to do. Jenna is much more detail-oriented and I’m much bigger picture, which means we’re not always fighting to do the same sort of tasks. She’s always kind of had a penchant for filling out forms and admin stuff so she took control of most that stuff, which was really fantastic.

Kye: Do you have any advice for people that might be wanting to start up and progress…you know they might just be a sole trader for now but down the track they might get a bit busier and might only ever be two of them but it’s still a business that they’ve got to run.

Simon: Yeah, I think take it slow, that would be my advice, take it slow and don’t over capitalise.

The future of AGDA

Kye: Yourself and Jenna are involved in AGDA. I deal with AGDA from time to time and I know that funding can be a bit of a problem, they are always looking for sponsorship to put on these amazing talks in the different States, the Biennale and stuff like that. Do you think an organisation like AGDA is still relevant today?

Simon: Yeah, absolutely. Jenna has been on AGDA committee for four or five years straight. She did three or four years in Brisbane and I think a year or two down here in Melbourne. So, we’ve been in and around AGDA for a long time. I believe that it’s an organisation that we desperately need as an industry and I think it’s the kind of thing where the more you put in the more everybody will get out. I think it’s a real community issue. I think if AGDA is doing a bad job then we’re doing a bad job as an industry. I think they are a body that is supposed to represent us and if people think they…I know there was some criticism about their relevance or if they’re doing a bad job or…I think it’s all a reflection of the industry at large and if you’re feeling under represented or under serviced, then get in there and change it, pitch in and help out and do it for everybody.

“It’s an organisation that we desperately need as an industry.”

Kye: I feel like there seems to be so many organisations and things that are just popping up and offering creative talks and creative advice. I feel sort of like there’s a lot of competition at the moment. Every other weekend there seems to be a seminar or something design-like on and they aren’t cheap. Particularly for someone who has just graduated. It fees like today’s creative needs to pick and choose which events they are going to go to. Having said that, I’m from Sydney and I have seen some fantastic talks. I know AGDA Victoria are coming up with a new design business thing in September and that sounds fantastic as well. I just wanted to know from someone who’s been a part of that…

Simon: I think there was a time where AGDA were the only people doing those kind of talks and I think they really paved the way and created the market for them. Now that they do have competition I think their job is done in that space and now they can move on to other stuff. I don’t think they need to be competing with those people. I think AGDA did a really great job in creating that. I’m not saying AGDA shouldn’t do talks, but I’m saying it shouldn’t be their focus. One of big things…you look at other industry bodies and I think AGDA could take a note from the architecture industry, what the architecture industry does to support and control their industry is really, really fantastic. And I think accreditation would be really wonderful just considering how accessible design is becoming, with the proliferation of the tools, the tools are becoming easier to use. To have someone who really puts the time and the effort into to thinking about a brand or thinking about design, thinking about a project, I think accreditation would be really, really valuable and I think that’s potentially the next big challenge for AGDA.

“I’m not saying AGDA shouldn’t do talks, but I’m saying it shouldn’t be their focus.”

Kye: Hopefully they’re up to it, I know they would be.

Simon: Yeah, I know there’s going to be talk about it for some time now but the industry is changing and AGDA needs to change with. It will change if the people who are practicing are involved in it. It will always reflect the people who are involved in it.

Inspiration and mentorship

Kye: What or who inspires you, to get up every day and come in here to create this beautiful work?

“The industry at large in Melbourne is really inspiring, there’s lots of fantastic work being produced.”

Simon: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I think on a day-to-day, current inspiration, I think just the industry at large in Melbourne is really inspiring, there’s lots of fantastic work being produced. We love being involved in it. I get excited about getting emails and seeing artwork before and seeing how we can help people bring it to life. I think mentorship is really important and I’ve had some really fantastic mentors over my career and I always think back to what those guys would do in my situations and they’re always a big inspiration for me, that would be Bob and Ken who taught us how to print. They taught us the right way to do it and then they taught us how to break the rules and kind of push the boundaries with it, which was really fantastic.

Kye: Yeah, mentorship I feel like it’s a very important thing. Not a lot of people are lucky enough to have a good mentor and I think there’s a lot of people out there who would like to mentor people…

“I think there’s always a case for doing work that builds your portfolio but there’s also a case for working in a place that builds you as a person.”

Simon: I think whether you have a formal arrangement or not, everybody has a mentor. Everyone who is in a senior position is essentially a mentor to those who work under them.

Kye: Well, they can be, if they choose to be.

Simon: You either get a good influence or a bad influence. I think it’s really important for people who are starting out in the industry to find a place where they want to work, but particularly find somebody who they want to work with, who they value their opinions of and who feel like they can teach them a lot and kind of grow and improve and be better. I think there’s always a case for doing work that builds your portfolio but there’s also a case for working in a place that builds you as a person and builds your skill set as a wider idea.

Best piece of advice

Kye: Finally, what’s the best piece of advice that you’ve been given?

“Try everything twice.”

Simon: Try everything twice.

Kye: Nice and simple, I like it. That’s a great bit of advice. Well, thank you so much for having us, I could talk to you all day…

Simon: Oh, it’s a pleasure, thank you for coming down.

How much should I be charging my clients?

The rate you charge your clients is the most important calculation you can make for your business, as it plays a key role in your company’s profitability. At the recent Jacky Winter Gives You The Business seminar in Sydney, Linda Jukic, Creative Director at Hulsbosch talked through the key factors to consider when determining your hourly rate.

Step 1 – Calculation
You should start by working out the initial calculation. According to Linda, there are four aspects to take into consideration when working out your hourly rate.

• Labour Costs – salary, super/pension, annual leave, public holidays
• Statutory – payroll taxes, workers compensation, insurance
• Overheads – space, equipment, utilities, materials
• Profit Margins – margin, gain, return

Step 2 – Variation
Once you have worked out the initial calculation, there are a lot of variations to consider. For example, you shouldn’t have one standard rate.

If you have different levels of expertise in your business, don’t charge the same rate for them. Charging out a senior designer at the same rate as a junior, undermines the senior’s experience and talent. Similarly, if you charge a junior out at senior rates, there’s a high probability that the junior will take longer to do the work, therefore potentially taking you over your budgeted hours.

The same principle applies for standard work versus rush jobs. If a client briefs you in the appropriate time frame, then charge them your standard rate. If they expect you to drop everything and turn something around in a near impossible time frame, then you should charge a higher fee or rush rate. This isn’t just compensating you for the potential overtime or the extra staff that may be required to complete the work on short notice, this is also a way to educate your client. Let them know if they want it done fast, then they have to pay a premium. That way they will only ask for rush work in an emergency, and when they do, you will be compensated accordingly.

You should also consider charging different rates for concepts versus corrections. Concepts are your creative ideas and the reason the client has hired you, so you should charge accordingly. So if you charge the same rate for an award winning concept and a small change to some text, the client won’t differentiate between the two. While corrections should definitely be charged for, they should be charged at a lower rate, again educating your clients on the value of the idea.

Other variables to consider when determining your charge out rate:

• Frequency of work
• Length of contract
• Reliability of payments

If a client gives you a lot of work, a lengthy contract or they simply pay their bills on time, that could also be an incentive to reward them with a reduced rate.

Step 3 – Evaluation
Once you have your calculation and you’ve taken into consideration the variations, it’s now time to evaluate. Linda says when evaluating your hourly rate it’s important to think about:

• Who is your audience? – size, scale, standing
• How do you compare? – budget, mid, premium
• What’s your worth? – experience, expertise, effectiveness

When you present a client with your idea and they buy into that idea, that’s where your true value lies. So consider your audience, how you compare and your level of experience and expertise when calculating your rate.

Step 4 – Reconciliation
The final thing to consider is reconciliation. Linda says, “it’s really important to keep timesheets”, and we couldn’t agree more. Timesheets are the foundation to reconciling your hourly rate. You should be tracking your jobs, keeping an eye on estimated time versus actual time and making sure you invoice the time accordingly.

While it’s important that you have value based pricing ($ = Time + Value), Linda’s final bit of advice when working out your charge out rate is, “don’t take advantage, people do talk and it becomes quite apparent that you’re at a higher markup.”

It’s also important to remember, once you have worked out your rates, that you agree to the terms of those rates, especially regarding the number of hours required to do the work.

If you have value based pricing and you manage your client’s expectations, you will have the winning formula for a successful business!

Managing your team in Streamtime

For the final webinar in this series, Streamtime Aces Adam Kensington and Lindsay Schofield show you how to manage your team in Streamtime. They share tips on creating tasks and using Streamtime’s scheduling tools; a must watch for studio managers.

Missed this series of webinars? Don’t worry, you can find our earlier webinars on our website or follow us on vimeo.

We’ll back with a new series of webinars in September.

In the studio: a new Streamtime video series

At Streamtime we’re genuinely interested in our clients and what they do. In this new video series we head into the studios of some truly talented people to discuss design, inspiration and what makes them tick.

First up is Luke Kellett, founder and general nice guy from Headjam. He talks about working in the health and education sectors, and helping their clients push the creative boundaries despite their sometimes limited budgets.

You can hear the full interview with Luke on our podcast Streamtime Radio.

Managing your sales pipeline in Streamtime

In our latest webinar Streamtime Aces Mark Cooper and Lindsay Schofield show you how to manage your sales pipeline in Streamtime. They share CRM tips like managing contacts, creating and managing opportunities and they also share some reports to help you track your progress.

Want more webinars? It’s not too late to register for the last webinar in this series:

Managing your team and their time
In this session we’ll be showing you how to create tasks, use Streamtime’s scheduling tools, track time and report on what your team is spending its time on. A must for studio and account managers.

Wednesday 10 June 3pm GMT. 30 mins

Or you can find some of our earlier webinars on our website.

How to increase your agency’s profitability: step 2 measuring profit

We’ve already shared our tips on pricing and how important that is to your profit. In the second part of our profitability series we are going to share some tips on the tools you need to measure your profit.

The results of The Wow Company’s survey of creative businesses in the UK showed that 18% of companies do not know how much profit they are making. This is alarming. It’s very important that you have steps in place to measure how your business is tracking.

So how do you measure profit? Here are 3 steps to get you started.

1. Work out your billing capacity.
To start, you should work out your billing capacity (your day rate x number of people in your team x days in a month) and then compare it with how much you are actually billing. The results may surprise you.

2. Manage your jobs
If you are a creative business and you want to know how profitable your jobs are, it doesn’t matter if you’re a company of one or 100, project management software is essential. Timesheets, in particular, are one of the most important (and easiest) things you can use to measure profit. By doing timesheets you can ensure you know exactly how much time jobs take, so you can quote and charge your clients accurately and take away the guesswork.

An interesting stat from the survey was the increase in creative companies using project management software from 2013 where it was 53% to 77% in 2015. So don’t be left behind. If your peers are using software to help measure their profit, you should be too.

Below is a selection of the software used by those surveyed to help manage their projects.

If you are in the market for project management software there are plenty of options to choose from, you just need to do some research. Remember: before purchasing software from any company make sure you get a demonstration or give it a test run before purchasing. It’s important you get software that is the right fit for your business.

3. Get the right accounting software
While project management software is there to help you manage your projects, accounting software will show you your true profit and loss. In the past, accounting software has been quite complex and expensive, you may have also needed a degree just to use it. But times have changed, they are now more cost effective and much easier to use.

By far the most popular accounting software for those companies surveyed was Xero. There are other products out there, just do your research and get rid of those spreadsheets.

Having the right tools at hand is important for measuring and increasing your agency’s profitability. For more information check out The Wow Company’s webinar, where Peter Czapp shares some of the results from the 2015 survey.

Slides courtesy of The Wow Company and main image by TaxRebate.org.uk and used under Creative Commons license.

Other articles in this series:

How to increase your agency’s profitability: step 1 pricing
How to increase your agency’s profitability: step 3 the right tools

Streamtime Radio hits the airwaves

We’re very excited to announce the arrival of Streamtime Radio, a series of podcasts where we head into the studio with creative agencies to discuss design and inspiration.

For our first episode we’re chatting with Luke Kellett, founder and general nice guy from Headjam. He dishes the dirt on their creative process, their passions and the Newcastle scene.

You can find us in iTunes or at streamtimeradio.simplecast.fm


Help! I’m new to Streamtime

Are you new to Streamtime? Then our latest webinar is for you. Streamtime Aces Mark Cooper and Adam Kensington share their tips on what Streamtime does and how.

Want more webinars? It’s not too late to register for the remaining webinars in our series:

Creating and managing your sales pipeline in Streamtime
Our training aces will show you how to get more out of the CRM functions of Streamtime. Managing contacts, creating and exporting contact lists, creating and managing opportunities and some reports to help you track progress.

Wednesday 3 June 3pm GMT. 45 mins

Managing your team and their time
In this session we’ll be showing you how to create tasks, use Streamtime’s scheduling tools, track time and report on what your team is spending its time on. A must for studio and account managers.

Wednesday 10 June 3pm GMT. 30 mins

Or you can find some of our earlier webinars on our website.

Happy viewing.

Top tips for financial reporting in Streamtime

In our latest webinar, Streamtime Aces and all round nice guys Michael O’Riley and Miel De Rycke share their tips on financial reporting in Streamtime.

What you’ll get in this Streamtime webinar is a quick overview of invoicing, an explanation of the financial terms we use, a run through of how figures are calculated in Streamtime and we also look at key reports that will help you analyse your data.

You get all that and the smooth voices of Michael and Miel, so what are you waiting for? Watch the webinar now!

Want more webinars? It’s not too late to register for the remaining webinars in our series:

Creating and managing your sales pipeline in Streamtime
Our training aces will show you how to get more out of the CRM functions of Streamtime. Managing contacts, creating and exporting contact lists, creating and managing opportunities and some reports to help you track progress.

Wednesday 3 June 3pm GMT. 45 mins

Managing your team and their time
In this session we’ll be showing you how to create tasks, use Streamtime’s scheduling tools, track time and report on what your team is spending its time on. A must for studio and account managers.

Wednesday 10 June 3pm GMT. 30 mins

Or you can find some of our earlier webinars on our website.

Happy viewing.

4 tips for managing client expectations

One of the many highlights of the recent Jacky Winter Gives You The Business seminar in Sydney was a session with Bianca Bramham on Managing Client Expectations. Bianca had some great advice on how to create harmonious relationships with clients. Here are our key takeaways.

1. Define the brief
When taking a brief from a client it’s your responsibility to ask questions and clarify it. Where possible take the brief in person or over the phone, never via email. Speaking with a client allows you to build a rapport and Bianca says, “it will help minimise the risk of misunderstandings.” Once you’ve taken the brief make sure you relay it back to the client. This is your chance to work out any misunderstandings, but also it shows the client that you’ve heard what they’ve asked for, you’ve gained their trust.

2. Define the scope
Be clear with what is involved to complete the brief, in particular make sure you cover the specific conditions around your estimate. How may revisions are included? What are your payment and cancellation terms? Most importantly, put it all in writing and get the client to provide written approval. You don’t want to do all the work and be out of pocket.

3. Define the process
There’s a chance the person you are dealing with has no idea how long things take in the creative process. Spell it out for them by guiding them through your process and how long each step will take. Bianca calls it “bringing your client on a journey of your creative process.” By doing this they become part of the process and it will be a much more harmonious relationship going forward.

4. Define the schedule
When defining the schedule it’s important to not only think about how much time you need to complete the job but also how much time the client may need to get you feedback and approval. Discuss this with your client and be clear about what you need from them. Remember your client is just as busy as you are. Once you’ve completed the schedule, go through all the key dates and make sure they are comfortable meeting their deadlines. This gives them accountability.

Other things to help the process run more smoothly:

• Communicate what can and can’t be changed once you move onto the next stage.

• Ask for consolidated feedback, there’s nothing worse than getting feedback in dribs and drabs. If there is more than one stakeholder, tell the client you require all the feedback at once.

Communication is key to managing client expectations. Be clear and upfront and you’ll have a better, more collaborative working relationship with your client. Bianca summed it up best when she said, “by investing in time upfront, you give yourself the space and the freedom to do what you do best.” We couldn’t agree more.

How to increase your agency’s profitability: step 1 pricing

Every year our friends at The Wow Company run a survey so creative businesses in the UK can benchmark themselves against their peers. The results for the 2015 survey have been released and Wow’s Peter Czapp shared some of their findings in a recent webinar. Here we share Peter’s tips on pricing and how it can help your business to be more profitable.

Should I be increasing my prices?
Pricing is a key component to running a profitable business. 51% of companies surveyed plan on increasing their prices in 2015, which is a wise move. Think about it, suppliers are not reducing their rates, utilities and rent aren’t going down either. Peter says, “if you’re not increasing your prices regularly then your margins are getting squeezed.” So if you’re part of the 49% that won’t be increasing your prices this year, that could have serious impact on your profit.

How much should you be charging? 
To increase profit it’s important to look at your charge out rate. The survey showed the average charge out rate in the UK is £86 per hour. If your hourly rate is below the average in your region, then you should consider increasing your prices.

Sure a competitor may have a lower charge out rate, but are they providing the same quality of work and service?  As the saying  goes “you get what you pay for”, so don’t sell yourself short. Do your research, calculate your cost rate and outgoing expenses to work out the correct charge out rate for your business.

How should you be charging?
When surveyed, 45% of companies said they used fixed pricing. While this can be quite a profitable way of charging, you can also lose out if you do not scope your jobs properly.

Scope is very important when it comes to how you charge your clients. Remember to take everything into consideration. What might seem like a lucrative job to begin with might not be so lucrative after you’ve spent many additional hours completing the work. As Benjamin Franklin said “time is money”, if you put in the time, you deserve to be paid for it.

Should you charge for extras?
In a nutshell, hell yes! The survey results showed that 57% often or always charge for extras and the remaining 43% rarely or never.

Again remember what our friend Benjamin Franklin said. If you spend the time making amendments these should be charged for.

If you manage a client’s expectations and communicate clearly with them at the very beginning of the job, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise when you charge them for something outside the original scope.

Peter did some further analysis on this and found that there’s a correlation between charging for extras and profit, with those that charged often for extras making 10% more profit, than those that rarely do.

So if you’re in the 43% that rarely or never charge for extras that’s something to think about.

Pricing plays a massive role when it comes to profit. Our advice, look carefully at your rates and the way you charge your client, that could make all the difference.

Slides courtesy of The Wow Company.

Other articles in this series:

How to increase your agency’s profitability: step 2 measuring profit
How to increase your agency’s profitability: step 3 the right tools




The work around the work

We post about timesheets quite a bit around here, but here’s a slightly different take on timesheets from our friends at Floate. In his article for Dear Design StudentRoss Floate talks about the “work around the work” being the actual work. In other words, the design work that you do is only part of your job.

We have a strange saying at Floate, “The work around the work is the work.” By that we mean that timesheets, meetings, phone calls, conversations in Basecamp or any of a million other things are part of the fabric of what we do. This work around the work comes with the territory and get ready for this one crazy thing they didn’t tell you in design school — if you are bad at this stuff then you are bad at your job. Period.

Have a read of “Q: Do I really have to do all of this paperwork? Can’t I just, you know, design?

We’re back with a new series of Streamtime webinars

Following on from the success of last year’s series, Streamtime’s fantastic webinars are back. These sessions will be focussed on diving deeper into Streamtime’s features, helping you understand how it all works and how to get more out of it.

Presented by our very own Streamtime Aces, this will be the perfect opportunity to sharpen your skills, pick up some handy hints and tips and ask any burning questions of our experts.

Best of all these sessions are free. So what are you waiting for? Register today!

Gaining better financial views in Streamtime
In this webinar we’ll cover a quick overview of invoicing, explain some of the financial terms we use, how figures are calculated and step you through a few key reports to help analyse your data.

Thursday 21st May 2:30pm GMT. 45 mins

New to Streamtime
In this webinar we’ll give a brief overview of what Streamtime does and how. We’ll show you how quotes, tasks, jobs and time entries are related and the reports you can use to get more out of this information.

Wednesday 27 May 3pm GMT. 45 mins

Creating and managing your sales pipeline in Streamtime
Our training aces will show you how to get more out of the CRM functions of Streamtime. Managing contacts, creating and exporting contact lists, creating and managing opportunities and some reports to help you track progress.

Wednesday 3 June 3pm GMT. 45 mins

Managing your team and their time
In this session we’ll be showing you how to create tasks, use Streamtime’s scheduling tools, track time and report on what your team is spending its time on. A must for studio and account managers.

Wednesday 10 June 3pm GMT. 30 mins

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Note: These webinars will be run from our London office (GMT). If you can’t tune in don’t worry, we’ll also be recording these sessions and posting them to our website.

The wonderful world of Wes… in a bar

Here at Streamtime, we’re big fans of Wes Anderson, so imagine our delight when we discovered that he has designed a bar.

Complete with formica tables, a juke box and a Steve Zissou pinball machine, Bar Luce is part of the Fondazione Prada, Prada’s new art and culture complex in Milan.

This isn’t the first time Wes has worked with Prada. If you haven’t seen them already, check out the short films Castello Cavalcanti and Candy, both done for the fashion house.

Agency: a satirical web-series about advertising and stuff

If you’ve ever worked in the creative industry (and if you’re reading this blog then you probably do) get some Agency playing on your iDevice right now! It’s “a satirical web-series about advertising and stuff” made by some awesome folks down in New Zealand. They’ve got 3 episodes out to view now, with a bunch more to come.

Watch the first episode below, or check out the rest here.

3 steps to accurate timesheets

We’re often asked what is the best way to get staff to do their timesheets. The other day, I took a call from a client asking how they could force their staff to enter a minimum of eight hours every day in Streamtime. What they wanted was a way for Streamtime to prevent staff from doing anything in the software until their timesheets for the day were completed.

This question isn’t uncommon and certainly not irrational. Like all feature requests we have given this our consideration, but we have decided against it and here’s one of the reasons why.

Kye, from our Sydney office, used to work at an agency that was really strict on timesheets. By 5pm Monday, all timesheets for the previous week were to be completed. No excuses, three strikes and you’re out! So what happened? Come Monday afternoon 4pm people would start to panic about last week’s timesheets and they would just add time to random jobs – anything to get to the required 40 hours. As a result of this strict policy, they found time was often added to the wrong jobs, totally defeating the purpose of timesheets.

This company scared staff into a panic mode, which resulted in unreliable timesheets. While other companies can be a bit too relaxed in their approach, resulting in incomplete timesheets. We discuss timesheets every day with our clients and we have discovered there’s an art to getting accurate timesheets from your staff. Here we share the three steps we believe will get you results.

• Educate your staff
There is a lot of animosity towards timesheets, people tend to think it’s their boss’s way of keeping tabs on them. There are plenty of reasons to do timesheets, that you can share with your staff. However it’s really important to communicate clearly with them and be totally honest. Be transparent about the finances of individual jobs. You don’t have to share all of the details, hand pick the jobs that best illustrate how much money was (potentially) lost by not completing timesheets. Don’t just point fingers at those who caused the problem, open their eyes to the common goal of your agency and make everyone part of the solution.

• Make it easy for them
Since time entry is such an important part of a designer’s day, give them a simple and flexible way to enter time. Most solutions these days allow staff to time work as they go via a phone, tablet or their desktop. If they don’t have time at the office, they can enter time on the go or at home. If you invest in a system, that has that flexibility, there can be no more excuses.

• Give them an incentive
Arguably paying someone a salary should be enough incentive, but sometimes staff need a little extra push. There’s two roads you can go down with an incentive, reward or shame. JWT Brazil reward their staff with the beer fridge while Razorfish shame timesheet offenders by posting their photos in the building’s lobby. Our advice? Have a little fun with it and make timesheets part of your company culture, you’ll definitely start to see results.

We’d love to hear how you get your staff to do timesheets.

Effortless time entry with Streamtime

Today we released an update to Streamtime on the web that makes time entry even more effortless. In fact we’ve made it so easy to enter time you don’t even need to use your mouse!

Use the up and down arrows to browse through weeks, and use the left and right keys to move back and forward days. Hitting ‘t’ will return you to today’s date. Once you’re on the day you need, selecting ‘n’ on your keyboard will create a brand new time entry where you can tab through the fields, type in what you need and searching as you go, and then finally just hit enter to save your time entry. It really is that simple.

A full run down of these new features can be seen in the video below.

If you’re not already a customer of ours why not try Streamtime on the web for yourself.

If you’re already a Streamtime subscriber and want to use Streamtime on the web, our knowledge base has all the information you need to get this up and running, or you can always give our support team a call for assistance. We’d love to help get this in your hands.

Remember with Streamtime on the web you can enter time from anywhere anytime.

Rainworks: Street Art that only appears when it’s wet

Peregrine Church has created a form of Street Art that will only activate when it is wet, or raining.

Rainworks is the brainchild of Peregrine’s imagination. He uses a super hydrophobic substance which he then stencils onto the sidewalks around Seattle. Once that substance gets wet, the artwork is revealed. Perfect for a place like Seattle, where there is a high chance of rain all year round.

He figured since it is always going to rain, why not do something fun with it? Why not use this as a chance to brighten someone’s day?

What a great sentiment. Let’s hope we start to see Rainworks popping up in other cities around the world soon.

Until then, see Rain.Works for locations of his artwork around Seattle.

Friday Inspiration: Great title sequences

Like most people I’m looking forward to the return of Mad Men to our screens. It’s been part of my life for the last eight years and with every new season I get that buzz of excitement.

But what drew me in in the first place? Being an ex “Ad Gal” I was interested to see Matthew Weiner‘s take on the Madison Avenue advertising executives of the 50′s & 60′s, but it was the opening title sequence that got me hooked.

Never before had I seen anything so simple yet so elaborate for the opening titles of a TV show. The mesmorising spin of the fan, the subtle shift of the trouser leg, and that stomach turning free fall. It was so elegant in its execution, it totally blew me away.

Main title sequence for ‘Mad Men’, produced & created by Imaginary Forces. Editorial by Caleb Woods.

Of course these days we’re used to seeing titles that mirror the quality of the show, True DetectiveHouse of Cards and Breaking Bad come to mind. But this opening title sequence created by Steve Fuller and Mark Gardner and produced by Imaginary Forces was something totally new for the times. Matthew Weiner’s vision of a man trying to find himself was perfectly executed by Fuller, Gardner and their team.

For full details on how this beautiful sequence came to life check out this wonderful interview with Cara McKenny, Steve Fuller and Mark Gardner by Art of the Title.

I’ll be sad to see the end of Mad Men, but like everyone else I can’t wait to see the final chapter in the lives of Don, Peggy, Roger, Joan and Co.

Beeldr develops custom planning tool through Streamtime API

It’s always awesome to see our clients make the most of their Streamtime solution and even better to see them think outside the box with it. Beeldr are a team of nine people that specialise in brand, design and interaction, who operate out of a floating workspace in Amsterdam. Apart from their great work, we’ve always known them to be a fun bunch of people with just the right amount of crazy.

They’ve been happy users of Streamtime for almost 3 years, but something seemed to be missing for them. “We’d been struggling for a while to determine how to manage our tasks in Streamtime” says Martijn Koek, co-owner of Beeldr. “Each morning, we have a short team meeting, where we look at what’s going on in the studio for that day. Our projects get broken down into tasks, but when we make a website, one task in Streamtime could get broken down in 100 tiny little to dos. So we felt we needed to have better insight into the status of each task. It would allow us to get through our morning meeting quicker and more efficiently.”

After investigating a series of possibilities, they decided to build a custom application, using the Streamtime API. Tasks from Streamtime are now synchronised with a separate mysql database, where they get assigned a status: To Do, WIP, Complete, Test. The extra status level makes it easier to keep track of what’s going on with each of the tasks. It also makes it easier to see who’s working on what and what tasks are still in the backlog (not started). Through a custom web interface, they can consult the workload at any given moment.

The main area shows the scrum board, with all the tasks they are currently working on. Tasks can be dragged and dropped in different columns to assign or change the task’s status. Each tasks showing the Streamtime job number, job name, client name, task/material, estimated time, used time and task notes. Buttons at the top of the page allow to quickly filter the scrum board on staff members.

Another area is to check capacity and shows all staff in the studio and their workload (in hours) for the coming weeks. “With the work we’d already done, it was pretty easy to create this overview, so it was like a bonus. However, when I’m meeting with a client, it does allow me to quickly assess our workload and set expectations for delivery dates”, says Martijn.

The third area is the planning board. It shows a classic calendar, listing each person’s tasks per day.

Keen to create your own tools using Streamtime’s API, then check out our documentation online.

Streamtime is No 1 in the UK: we reveal the secrets of our success

We’re well chuffed that Streamtime is officially the leading project management and time tracking solution for UK creative agencies.

The Agency 2015 Benchpress Survey was conducted by The Wow Company in February 2015 and is the UK’s biggest survey of independently-owned agencies.

So what’s put us at the top of the table? Obviously we have a product that people enjoy using, and that’s something we’ve worked really hard to achieve. However having a great product isn’t the only reason for our success. Here we outline a few of the key ingredients that we believe have helped make us the UK’s leading project management and time tracking solution.

Loving our clients and their work - we spend a lot of time with creatives. We talk to them every day. We attend and sponsor the events they go to. We immerse ourselves in design. We share inspiration via our blog.

Understanding agency culture - we understand that adding time to timesheets isn’t high on a creative’s list of things to do. We make it easy to add time so that the experience is as effortless as possible.

We also have a team of aces that have mostly come from an agency background and have our own inhouse design team.

Helpful but not overbearing - We want our clients to be experts in using our system and will help them in whatever way we can. With dedicated support and training teams on both sides of the globe, we make it easy to get the help they need, when they need it.

We listen - we encourage our users to feedback on their experiences with our product and service. We send a simple yearly survey, offer client reviews and collate feedback from support tickets and calls, this gives us an opportunity to see how clients are using Streamtime. We also encourage users to let us know if there are features they’d like to see included in our development road map. Every feature is considered by our CEO and development team.

All clients are equal - whether you’re a start-up with a couple of employees and growing, or a multinational design agency, we aim to give you the same experience and support. We also understand that needs vary and we adapt our advice and suggestions with this in mind.

We love our team - what makes Streamtime a success is our team of aces. We are very lucky to have a great work culture where the team have a lot of fun together. Whether it’s through organised work events like monthly TeamTime activities, Friday afternoon beers, personal training sessions and trips aboard or impromptu activities like a trip to the cinema after work or making a last minute video for the boss’s birthday, we’re a team that really enjoys hanging out together and we believe that is reflected in our work.

If you’d like to find out more about The Agency 2015 Benchpress Survey, you can view the survey results here.

Streamtime top 2015 creative industry survey. Again!

Streamtime is officially the leading project management and time tracking solution for UK creative agencies for the second year running.

The Agency 2015 Benchpress Survey is the UK’s biggest survey of independently-owned agencies. Conducted by The Wow Company in February 2015, the survey looks at all aspects of a creative business from how many members they have in their team to how much they charge per hour.

We’re delighted with this recognition and special thanks must go to our team who have been working really hard to bring our clients a product they can love.

If you’d like to find out more about The Agency 2015 Benchpress Survey, you can view the survey results here.

Friday Inspiration: JR

There are some of us at Streamtime that have a bit of a crush on JR. You see JR is an artist who owns the biggest art gallery in the world. He’s responsible for amazing projects like Face 2 Face in Israel and Palestine, Wrinkles of the City in Cuba and Women are Heroes in Brazil. He’s a photographer, a film maker, and the man has even done a Ballet!

While all of his work could be considered inspiring, what really stands out for me is the Inside Out Project. In 2011 JR won the TED Prize and with it he created the people’s art project. He said, “I wish for you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we’ll turn the world inside out.” And just like that, the Inside Out Project was born.

Here JR outlines his plans for the Inside Out Project at TED 2011.

The project has been a huge success worldwide, with people taking up the challenge in places like Tunisia, Taiwan, Nepal and the North Pole. HBO have even made a documentary about it.

JR is someone that’s taken what he loves doing and used that to make a difference. He’s not only shared his incredible talent with the world but he’s encouraged the world to join him and that to me is pretty inspirational.

If you want to be inspired daily by this man, I recommend you follow him on instagram, you won’t be disappointed.


New Feature: Send and approve quotes online in Streamtime

Get in touch with our team of aces to get quoting online!

Send your clients professional looking quotes right from the web in Streamtime. Clients receive quotes instantly when you send them online, and they simply click a button to accept the quote. Add internal messages for your team, and even allow clients to comment and discuss the quote.

So what are you waiting for? It’s free for Streamtime subscribers, and we’ll help you with the setup. Get in touch with our team of aces to get quoting online!

Dublin based illustrator designs limited edition Jameson bottle

When asked by Irish Distillers, Jameson Irish Whiskey to design their fifth annual limited edition bottle, Dublin based illustrator Steve Simpson jumped at the chance.

Steve has been plying his trade for the last 30 years, so how did he feel when he was asked to pitch for the 2015 limited edition bottle?  ”I remember thinking ‘I really, really want this – if I don’t get it, it won’t be because I didn’t put enough effort into trying’. When I won the pitch I was the happiest man in Ireland. I’ve lived here for 25 years and it feels like I’ve been adopted,” he said.

Steve Simpson enjoying the fruits of his labour

Jameson has been brewed in Dublin since 1780 and Steve drew heavily on the themes of the city, with the new label featuring images of famous Dublin landmarks like Trinity College and O’Connell Bridge.

The label also includes illustrations of some Dublin icons, that Steve holds close to his heart. This video, takes a further look at the inspirations behind the design.

Daniel Lundberg, global brand director for Jameson, says: “Jameson is synonymous with its hometown of Dublin – both are steeped in heritage, have infectious, welcoming personalities and are leaders in contemporary craft, so this limited edition bottle is our way of paying homage to this great city.”

The new limited edition bottle is available now.

For all the behind the scenes work that went into this 21 month project, check out Steve’s Behance page.

Images courtesy of Steve Simpson.

Friday Inspiration: Greenpeace campaigns

Can you remember why you became a designer? That joyous day where you realised you could make an actual living out of being creative, the promise that every new day would be filled with fun and inspirational ways to meet new, stimulating briefs – all stuff that made you excited to get out of bed.

Are you still living that dream? I bet the reality for most of you is that dream has been squeezed into an awkward gap inbetween corporate stuffiness and brand guidelines. Well, last week my inspiration was reawakened, I had that feeling again – the one where you are inspired to make a difference, to contribute to something, to give something back, to change the world.

The reason for my inspiration? I was privileged to be able to listen to an incredibly motivational man, John Sauven, the Executive Director of Greenpeace UK. A well known, international environmental charity, famous for their contentious campaigns, purposefully created for maximum impact. Campaigns to cause reaction and more importantly to drive results, results like reducing deforestation figures from 27000 sq kilometres down to 4000 sq kilometres in the last 15-20 years. These staggering results mean Greenpeace are truly a force to be reckoned with.

How did they do it? Did you know that rainforests don’t have any corporate value until companies like Cargill (an international food conglomerate) destroy it to make room to grow soya beans? It was shocking to hear that they seem to have the monopoly on food production and how Greenpeace were able track the supply of soya beans from Cargill’s farms in Indonesia to Liverpool and then into McDonald’s restaurants. Fascinating, but somewhat frightening!

The vastness of this problem meant they needed the help of some of the greatest creative brains in the industry. After launching a campaign that lasted a mere 24 hours, Greenpeace got a call from McDonald’s who then committed to sign an agreement not to touch chickens that were fed on Amazon soya. They are now in the 8th year into the agreement – all of this off the back of a powerful campaign managed by a creative force for good, which not only inspires but causes action!

Similar stories can also be told for giants such as Procter & Gamble, Colgate Palmolive, Johnson&Johnson, Kelloggs, Shell, and Unilever, but the list certainly does not stop there.

This hard hitting video was asking Nestlé to “give rainforests a break” and again the campaign was a huge success.

When was the last time you had complete freedom to create design without boundaries, to be devil’s advocate and deliver a strong, fundamental message? No I can’t remember either, but your luck might be in. In his closing statement, John mentioned that they are always looking for talented creatives to join their team – so what are you waiting for?


Becca Stevens wants to live in a world where clients stick to the initial brief and designers go home on time. As a Studio Manager, she’s been subjected to all kinds of job juggling, patience testing and deadline moving situations. When she’s not training other agency folk how to use Streamtime to harness the chaos, you can find her poking around antiques and vintage places, finding curiosities to treasure. 

How do you get staff to do their timesheets?

Getting staff to do timesheets is not always easy. JWT Brazil have an awesome way to reward their employees for completing their timesheets, by having an electronic lock on the beer fridge, that won’t open until all timesheets are completed.

We’d love to hear how you get your staff to do their timesheets. If you’ve got any tips simply comment below and we’ll share them in a future post.

Image courtesy of JWT Brazil.

‘The dress’ used for anti abuse campaign

In a powerful campaign for the Salvation Army in South Africa, advertising agency Ireland/Davenport have used the hype surrounding ‘the dress‘ to highlight domestic abuse.

For the full story see BuzzFeed News.


We’re sponsoring CreativeMornings London

In 2008, Tina Roth Eisenberg started CreativeMornings, a free breakfast lecture series for the creative community in New York City. Since then the CreativeMorning’s phenomenon has grown to 106 cities worldwide.

We think it’s important to support the creative community, particularly in the cities that we live and work in. Back in November, 2013 when there were only 60 chapters, we teamed up with CreativeMornings Sydney and now we’re proud to announce that we’re also sponsoring CreativeMornings London.

So if you’re lucky enough to have tickets to see environmentalist and executive director of GreenpeaceJohn Sauven speak in London this morning, we’ll see you there. If you missed out this time or would like to know about CreativeMornings in a city near you, then check out the CreativeMornings website for up and coming CreativeMornings.

Vince Vaughn poses for stock photography images

Need a stock image of a business environment, but your client doesn’t want to pay the fees? Well iStock might have just what you’re looking for.

To promote his latest movie, Unfinished Business, Vince Vaughn and his co stars have posed for a series of stock photography images, available for free download from iStock.

So images like “successful applauding executives sitting at the table” (seen above) can be all yours, for free!

Courtesy of Adweek.

Humans in honey

For his latest project Preservation, Blake Little has photographed the human body covered in honey, to produce some truly stunning imagery.

The folks at designboom have more on this fascinating work.

Image © Blake Little.

Friday Inspiration: ImageBrief

Every day when I open a new browser I am greeted with a fantastic, unexpected image from a professional photographer I have never heard of.

Photographer: Allison Achauer

It’s become a little ritual that I look forward to each morning, as the images are varying, quite beautiful and inspire me to view life in a more creative manner.

Photographer: Michelly Rall

The Google Chrome extension I use is called ImageBrief Daily, from ImageBrief.

Photographer: A K Dayton

ImageBrief do not provide your standard stock photography service. Instead those seeking a professional image for a project will submit a brief and budget.

Photographer: Mat Rick

Photographers from around the world in ImageBrief’s network compete for the work. It’s an interesting, fair, simple and sometimes very generous process.

Photographer: Erika Szostak

The by-product of this system is the Google Chrome extension. If you’re looking for a burst of creativity each day, I highly encourage you to look into it.

New in Streamtime Web: Save a quote as a PDF

We’ve just released an update to Streamtime Web, adding more features and improvements to online quoting.

Through Streamtime Web you can now create a PDF of a quote and send that directly to your client.

A full review of this feature can be found in the video below.

If you are not already a customer of ours why not try Streamtime Web for yourself.

If you are already a Streamtime subscriber and don’t have Streamtime Web, our Streamtime knowledge base has all the information you need to set this up, or alternatively give our support team a call for assistance, we’d love to help get this in your hands.

Friday Inspiration: Chie Mihara

Breathtaking – that’s how I would describe a pair of Chie Mihara shoes. Yes shoes are subject to personal taste, but Chie Mihara doesn’t just create shoes, she creates works of art.

Inspired by her Portuguese upbringing and her Japanese culture, Chie has created shoes that are feminine, fun and most importantly comfortable. A combination that can be difficult to get right.

She is also involved in every aspect of the design process. It starts with a sketch, then she hand picks the fabrics and materials making sure everything is the best quality. Every detail is carefully considered.

This video shows Chie and her team in action and gives you a real feel for how much love goes into a pair of Chie’s shoes.

Chie Mihara shows that no matter what you do, as long as you show commitment and passion, the results are bound to be amazing. For me, that is inspiring.

If you want to get your hands on a pair of these beauties, or even just admire them from afar they are available from the Chie Mihara online store. If you’re lucky enough to be in Sydney, check out the spectacular The Cook, His Wife and Her Shoes. Their Chie Mihara range is exclusive to them as they choose the colour combinations and designs personally for their store.


Friday Inspiration: Sons & Co.

Sons & Co. produce stunning work, there’s no question about that. In 2014 they picked up one gold, one silver and five bronze at New Zealand’s Best Awards and three out of four distinctions in the AGDA Design Awards Digital Design category.

But it’s not just their designs that inspire, it is also their philosophy. Speaking at AGDA NSW’s Small Talk in Sydney this week, Tim Kelleher and Matt Arnold delighted the audience with their no BS approach to business and web design.

While website design is what they do, Sons & Co. have chosen not to have a company website. They don’t have a logo, they don’t have stationery and they don’t do social media. Instead they’re all about doing great work for their clients. Matt says, “we may appear amateurish and goofy from the outside, but we put it all in behind the scenes.” As a result, they get most of their clients through word of mouth and that is just the way they like it.

When they get a brief they don’t look at it as website designers and developers, they look at it from a graphic design point of view. Tim says when they design a website they “take stuff out of the browser and ask does it work as a poster etc.”

They also have quite an unusual business philosophy. In a nutshell they:

Only work with clients that are interested in what they do.
This makes for a more harmonious relationship.

Want to be approachable and affordable
Tim and Matt believe that they can do fast, cheap and good work for clients by eliminating unnecessary workshops and meetings.

Say yes to everything that doesn’t matter
By doing this, they believe that when they say no to a client, the client knows they are serious.

Try to be social
Despite being out of their comfort zone, they realise the importance of being social. Matt says, “if you want to work with people you need to start hanging out with them.” They also believe that “if you really want to work with someone, you should just ask them.”

Don’t take themselves too seriously
If you meet Tim and Matt in person it is evident that while they take their work and commitment to clients seriously, they are down to earth, relaxed and unpretentious guys.

When they started Sons & Co. back in 2008, Tim and Matt wanted to create the kind of company that they knew they’d still be running when they were old. With this philosophy towards business and design, it looks like they’ll be in business for a long time indeed.

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