Creative International Expansion San Francisco

5 learnings, 5 years after setting up in the USA

By Karen Crookes | Vice president

Across the Pond


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June 17, 2022 | 5 min read

Karen Crookes is vice-president in San Francisco for Across the Pond. Here, she tells us how she headed to the US with only a laptop and a bag full of optimism. She tells us the five things she learned from setting up the agency’s new outpost in the USA.

Across The Pond on the five lessons learnt since moving to San Francisco.

Across The Pond on the five lessons learned since moving to San Francisco

I’d dreamed of living in San Francisco since first visiting as a teenager while backpacking across the USA. Five years ago, I made it happen when I set up the San Francisco office of Across the Pond. Starting a new business was challenging both personally and professionally, but the lessons I’ve learned in the last half a decade have been invaluable.

Our business revenue and team have increased ten-fold, we’ve won awards and our work has evolved as we’ve taken on multi-national integrated briefs. Personally, I’ve learned about resilience, networking and the power of authenticity. As Across the Pond celebrates five years in San Francisco, I’ve been reflecting on what really helps when starting over in a new place.

#1 Be authentic

When I moved to San Francisco, I tried to adopt a human way of working. Being salesy isn’t in my nature (there are few Brits who can pull off ‘slick’ and, frankly, I’m not one of them).

Instead, I wanted to approach new opportunities with real authenticity. It worked well. Being authentic helped me stand out, be memorable (the British accent certainly helped there too) and ultimately build much closer relationships and friendships. I even found myself invited to clients’ milestone birthday parties or weekends away exploring California.

#2 Build your network

Take any opportunity to meet other people in the industry, even ‘competitors.’ Clients, suppliers and talent can come from anywhere, so be open to meeting people in any environment. I’ve made connections at communal tables in restaurants, at industry events, at meet-ups with friends, and even on Tinder.

This less formal way of networking rarely happens in London (you’re allowed to talk to strangers in the US without being considered a lunatic), so it was an adjustment in mindset. As soon as I began to realize that everyone here is equally invested in building a community, it became easier, from a work and a personal point of view.

#3 Be vulnerable

There’s something freeing about building a life from scratch. I embraced being new and asking people for help. Don’t be afraid to tell clients your story and get them invested in your journey and what you’re trying to achieve. They may just help you get there.

#4 Nurture your resilience

Being away from ‘home’ can be hard. Some days you’re going to feel homesick. You might be missing your friend’s wedding, or you may have got a work problem and everyone you know who could help you solve it is asleep in a different time zone.

During these moments I often turn to writing gratitude lists – you are living the life you dreamed about and made happen, but sometimes taking a moment to remind yourself of this is needed. Or I try to get up from my desk and explore the city as I work. I still make a point of working from a different cafe, different neighborhood or a sunny park at least once a week. It’s great for creativity and a really good way to get to know the city – or find hidden gems, which you can then share with others.

#5 Build a strong team

Build a strong team around you. Hiring people who are positive, proactive and you enjoy being around, especially when you’re small, is super important. You need to be with people who buy into what you’re doing and where you want to head – and work with people with whom you can be authentic, vulnerable and ultimately enjoy the rollercoaster ride with.

There’s something so freeing about having a fresh start. No one knows your history, so you have the chance to write an entirely new chapter, whatever age you’re at. Embrace it, and I hope you enjoy rewriting the book as much as I am.

Creative International Expansion San Francisco

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Across the Pond

We’re a global, independent creative agency helping tech brands create a better world. How? We make the complex, human.

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