Profile: John Sandom

What do you currently do? 
I lead a team of 70  people who offer creativity into commerciality. Businesses are willing to  embrace creativity now as long as this creativity is there for business or  brand growth. From a personal perspective, my role involves getting the best  possible team together and promoting the  awareness of our offer.

Who is your inspiration in business? 
That’s an easy one – my Father. He started with nothing, and was a true entrepreneur. He started out doing commentary at Reading speedway, and instead of only doing the commentary he started selling the advertising space between races. Within a few years he had a Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, Advertising Agency. He was a man who saw opportunity in the days when opportunity was encouraged.

Whom do you admire?
People who have stuck to their guns – who have had a brand belief and have managed  to see it  through to delivering commercial results. It may sound a bit clichéd now, but people like Conran and Dyson were the forerunners.

Looking back, are there things you would have done differently?
Not really. I got into the creative world after being too restless at Art College (which in turn got me thrown out). I then linked up with a very embryonic Holmes and  Marchant, two gentlemen  who instigated the business  of creativity with regards to packaging. We grew and grew and managed to take the business public. The mistake we made was that we ended up chasing value for disinterested stakeholders, who just wanted to see the business become more profitable at the expense of the quality of the product. That’s why I broke away 16 years ago to start afresh.

What defines your way of doing business? 
People. When recruiting I always look for human talents, talents that makes sure we get to build a strong internal creative community as well as business relationships. When you get that people relationship right, it is very much easier to share creative ideas without always feeling you are just trading to satisfy the mechanics of the business engagement. The other thing is that creativity isn’t tangible so the stronger the relationships, the easier it is to convey the mystery of selling the intangible. I also think the size of an agency is important. Our agency is just about at the right size so that we benefit from having a strong voice in the industry, but we are able to change and have the agility to adapt according to market need.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Starting anything in a recession…. It’s an interesting time to start. Ensure a lot of good, hard, solid thinking has to go on, and you have to identify a point of difference. When you have a point of difference, and you can validate it with clients, stick to it, and hold those views right the way through. If you lose your values along the way or get too distracted as to what is going on to the left and right of you, you can find yourself losing the sense of purpose with which you started the company.