The creative world can be the most stimulating, frustrating and enjoyable of all to work in. It is driven by some of the nicest, most insecure and most talented people. It sells itself short continually, is undervalued by many clients and the public, laughed at sometimes and occasionally it shoots itself in the foot. It has enormous influence, however, and is more than capable of changing the quality of life for everyone and making our country more successful on a world stage. We need to promote ourselves in a more considered and thoughtful way and we need to work even harder to understand business in more depth if we are to be heard. We need our politicians to demonstrate a concern for the generation of wealth rather than arguing about how to spend our diminishing cake. We need to be better at negotiating and we need to overcome our constant desire to please. We worry far too much about what other people think of us instead of being steadfast to our own principles and our own ideas. We need to cherish and nurture more than we do. We need to be more interrogative with our clients, their businesses, their real needs, their hidden agendas, their insecurities and their goals. We need to sell strategy and demonstrate value more than style. We must spend time admiring success and learning to emulate it rather than constantly knocking successful people and businesses. We should study and really understand what makes great design, what makes a great car, a piece of communication, or a building. We need to aspire to higher ideals than binge drinking, junk food, a good night out and how to pay the mortgage. We need to use our brains to think, study, learn, communicate and be confident and ambitious. Masai warriors complete lung-bursting runs for miles and miles, then stand on one leg leaning on their spears for a long time. They do this to allow their souls to catch up. Maybe we should learn from them; how to run and how to think.
If we want the best fruit at the top of the tree we need to take the necessary time to learn how to climb and, perhaps even more importantly, to ensure we have built strong supports. Great creative people advance culture change. They do not simply evoke benefits, personalities or emotions. They advance causes. They are resolute in their stance, use stories to communicate ideas and new ways of living. They treat everyone with respect; they listen and consider. They argue, challenge and provoke their clients. Great clients stretch us, are loyal and work with us. Treat them as you would a good friend, with honesty and helpfulness. Some clients always complain, are never satisfied and are always difficult. They argue about money, can’t spell loyal, don’t communicate and erode value. You are better off walking away.
Budgets are part of trust. Great clients want you to succeed, they want great work and they are prepared to pay for it in a healthy relationship.
Icons are important. Think of great Scots; there have been many and we need to treasure them, learn from them, work with them. Help them if they are young and enterprising, and promote our cities and our country along the way. I can think of no better city in which to live than Edinburgh and, on a sunny day, the West of Scotland is the most beautiful place in the world. On a recent visit to the Monterey peninsula in California, I thought East Lothian was remarkably similar and would be a nicer place to be. Why do we always think that what others have, sometimes far away, sometimes 393 miles away, is better than what is staring us in the face?
Seek out leadership. It’s pretty rare. Good leaders are born with brainpower and love what they do. If there is a concrete wall in front of them they go through it or round it and never give up. They handle conflict easily, come up with solutions, ideas, consult and persuade. Disloyalty is the worst of all traits. If there is a bruise on the apple, cut it out and focus on the good parts and get rid of team-busters.
When Tayburn started, there were six design businesses in Scotland. The last time I checked, there were 632. The result is self-evident – massive over-supply and fewer opportunities. Technology has changed so much of what we do, not always for the better and at a huge capital cost. It has undoubtedly lowered creativity. Work is faster, cheaper and more accurate. I’m not sure our industry has really benefited from this growth and these changes, though clients surely have. In 1982 we did a marvellous job for BP. I came across the invoice recently. The cost was £70,000. I reckon the same job today would be done for £30,000. In the early 1980s there were nearly 200 quoted companies in Scotland, now there are just over 60 and very few with a market cap of over £100m. The latter are superb global businesses. We need them desperately and we need them to commission high-quality work in a very professional and considered way. We can learn from their ambitions and be stimulated by their international success. Scottish Enterprise’s International Development Programme is to be applauded and encouraged. We need to spread our wings. Most of Tayburn’s business today comes from outside Scotland. I know the same is true for many of our best creative companies. Our behaviour is therefore more relaxed, stimulating and is more enjoyable.
What does the future hold? More amalgamations, as the country is too small and shrinking to support the over-supply in our sector. More polarisation, in size and speciality and, hopefully, not more fragmentation. More international work. I trust in the resilience of good people and in their ability to form good relationships. I hope that creativity, common sense, clear thinking, sound behaviour and intelligence rule – and bureaucracy, money and technology are servants, not masters. Oh, and that Hibernian win the Cup.
We need creative leadership, business expertise and good advisors. We need to study, learn and think about our principles, behaviour and aspirations. In a positive, constructive and enjoyable environment.
Tayburn has been, and is still, very lucky in those respects. Hopefully, all those people who passed through our modest portals en route to their own businesses, sometimes with the partners, wives, husbands and friends they met through Tayburn, can say they learned a lot along the way.
Happy 25th Birthday!