Three-headed Annual Report 2012

First off: apologies for breaking all the rules of blogging and writing a long article! But 2012 was a big year, and it’s worth a few more words than usual.

Ten years of three-headed existence
Back in 2003, I wasn’t 100% sure that the three-headed business model would catch on. Would clients want to work with a consultant confessing to a personality disorder involving skills in research, communications planning and writing? Especially as “writing” covers everything from brand bibles and advertising copy to film-making and speech-writing.

Ten years on, the model is alive and well. 2012 was the best proof yet that it works, especially for clients who don’t need a massive agency for every brief.

The research head was extra busy last year. Highlights include working with Fusion in East Africa to understand the private equity marketplace there. As the year ended, it was great to be working with my old friends at The Nursery exploring opportunities for a post-RDR direct investment brand. (Thanks to other old friends at Projector for introducing me to this fascinating project). Watch this space.

The communications-planning head has also had a stimulating year. 2012 began with repositioning work for a design body impacted by the cuts, alongside the relaunch of Ibacas, a boutique process consultancy. By the summer, I was working with my long-standing Big Four client based in Amsterdam, structuring an Economic & Tax Summit in Vienna. Sounds dull? Not at all. Tax and tax advice may have been a dry subject pre-2008, but in recent years has become a fascinating communications puzzle, charged with politics and controversy.

The writing head has been misbehaving again in 2012, and straying into non-verbal territory. Alongside the usual crafting of business cases, presentations, marketing platforms and customer-facing copy, I was lucky enough to write-and-direct two fascinating films. One was a business documentary exploring The African Growth Story. The second was for the life insurers Bright Grey, looking at the impact of cancer on the surviving partner. Not an easy film to make, and the third in a tough series. There are others in the series here and here. The latest one has yet to be released.

Lessons from 2012
First: that flexibility is key in a tough marketplace – clients on tight budgets need partners who can go beyond their core discipline to deliver what’s needed. Second: that the virtual team is where things are moving – and fast. In 2012, I worked with designers in Toronto, Nairobi, Wandsworth and Newcastle. And lately, I have been working with clients based in all five continents without leaving my converted garage in the suburbs. I can’t see either of these things changing as we look ahead.

A huge thanks to everyone who made 2012 a great three-headed year. As we three said at our office party for one:

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.