After leaving Saatchis I took almost a year off. I went travelling. I trekked and climbed mountains and went through the painful process of disentangling Kate from Saatchi Kate.
When eventually I had to turn my mind to how I was going to earn a crust, I decided that I wanted to work for myself. The question was what do I have to offer, what do I do that is of value, that a client might possibly want to pay for?
I had built my career to that point as a team member. At Saatchi, ‘there is no ‘I’ in team (but there are two in ‘idiot’)’ was an agency mantra, so this was not an easy question to answer. Eventually, and with help from colleagues and friends, especially Kim, I worked out that am good at crystallising and simplifying problems and working with others to see where solutions might lie. More than fifteen years later, that still lies at the heart of every project I do.
Over the years I have worked on hundreds of projects with clients of all types and sizes in all sorts of different industries and markets facing all sorts of different challenges and opportunities – from Unilever in India to a small school in Hawke’s Bay. I have learned that there is no magic process, no matter how clever or how snappily named, that will get you the solution. Process is a huge help, but it is people that do the work and bring strategy to life. Without being able to bring people together and have conversations that matter, strategy is just words.
I believe that building empathy and earning trust is at least as important as strategic and intellectual horsepower. A client once asked me ‘are you good at banging heads together?’ My answer was a qualified yes – but only as hard as is really necessary and with minimum impact on the heads and egos involved.
The part of my work that I enjoy most is the people I meet and the things I learn. My aim is always to work with people who want to make progress in some way that matters, people I can learn from, who I can enjoy spending time with and with whom I can build trusted relationships (and in some instances, lasting friendships).