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TBWA Europe Feature

Me & My Partner

By The Drum | Administrator

August 14, 2003 | 6 min read

Cameron Grant & Julie McGarvey

It may seem that Cameron Grant and Julie McGarvey have been on the PR scene forever, but they preside at one of Scotland’s newest and most promising PR consultancies, 3x1, which has just picked up the Grand Prix at the Scottish PR Awards. Here they talk about how they met and why they stick together.

Julie on Cameron

I first met Cameron about eight years ago outside an LEC pitch (which he won), then in Paris kilted out at an awards ceremony (which he also won). I knew he was a star and kept my tabs on him.

I was MD of The Communication Group’s Scotland operation and a few years later we needed a heavyweight director. So I called Cameron, we met, got on quite well and he joined as deputy MD.

Our relationship started politely. But within days we discovered we shared the same mad Glasgow sense of humour and laughed ourselves silly preparing for our first pitch – Scottish Enterprise’s biotechnology account – which we won. I remember thinking we don’t understand any of this but account director Clare Meikle soon put us to shame.

Within a year I went to head up TCG’s London consumer team. After two years of weekly commuting, I was frustrated only getting back to Edinburgh on Fridays. And as the business grew we were becoming number crunchers and less hands-on.

Late 2000 we decided that, since over 80 per cent of business was through personal referrals, it made sense to set up on our own – so we took the plunge and 3x1 was born. Two years on, we’ve got fantastic clients and been lucky enough to scoop awards, including the recent Scottish PR ~Awards’ Grand Prix.

I like Cameron’s “work-hard, play-hard” ethos. He’s hugely conscientious (on non-hangover days) and popular with clients as he’s got the gift of the gab and is very creative, underpinned by solid marketing experience. He’s also streetwise and keeps his ear to the ground.

We have quite complementary skills. We’re both competitive and while he’s a risk-taker, I’m more of a cautious, strategic planner. But we’re both obsessed about quality of client service and delivering what we promise.

Cameron’s an ace golfer (so he says) and has a wide network of friends (who call him the “babbler”) and he loves boasting about hobnobbing with royalty, London’s top politicos and the great and good. He’s just married a lovely, brainy Norwegian lawyer and now fancies himself as a “cosmopolitan” Scot, despite the fact he can’t speak any foreign lingo!

While his untidiness and disorganisation drives me mad, my nerd IT brain drives him insane. But at least I don’t annoy everyone by sending e-mails at 07.30 a.m.

Cameron’s a scream. He’s one of few people who make me shriek with laughter – it’s the Glasgow patter. Talking about screaming, I know we’re demanding to work for as we have strong personalities and we irritate staff as we bicker a lot – mostly in jest – as you really need a sense of humour in the world of PR.

Cameron on Julie

I first met Julie at the IPRA awards in Paris (how ab fab, darling) about eight years ago. I was working with Tony Meehan at the time and we had won the overall award so drink took over and I don’t remember anything else.

Little did I think or know that we’d be business partners today, but then she probably thought exactly the same. As she refers to me as a “clown” (that’s the polite version) all the time, she’d probably never worked with one before.

August 11, 2000 was a defining moment for the two of us. We were out celebrating her now husband’s birthday (I was probably paying) the day before I was going to Norway on holiday. Some people spend years planning their own start-up – however, within minutes of discussing it that night over a bottle of wine (or three) we’d shaken hands – there was no going back.

I wanted a partner I could trust and work with, one who would preferably do all the work. Julie, from the second she agreed, was always going to be the perfect foil (even although she was much older and wears a Celtic strip to the office). I knew all my faults but so did Julie – so there wasn’t going to be a problem with my dysfunctional approach.

I knew Julie’s strengths – perfectionist, organised, experienced, a nit-picker (commonly known as pain in the arse), technological whizz-kid but, most of all, fun to work with, and we shared the same end standards for our clients.

There were a few early shocks – it was great to know, working in the communications business, that your partner could barely switch on her mobile phone but I’m sure it was, and still is, a ploy to get me to take the weekend calls. Her PowerPoint presentations are legendary, they now include arrows and she still brings cheese in for her mouse.

Gauging Julie’s moods can be tricky. One minute she’s the committed PR totally focused and oblivious to everything but then in a flash she can become a shrieking five-year-old. God help us.

Starting out from Julie’s kitchen table was tough, eating leftover soup and out-of-date biscuits for lunch typified her unstinting generosity. Looking back, however, we’ve never laughed so much and it’s important not to take yourself too seriously. After a glass of wine, Julie could never be taken seriously anyway.

At the end of the day, however, we’re both 100 per cent committed to the business, working with clients we want to work with and having fun. There’s nothing that we wouldn’t do to help each other out and so long as Julie’s on the bell at the bar that’s what matters. Our business motto is “courage and bottom line” – working with Julie, you need the first one.

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