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Things I am glad I was told

Mark Gorman shares an informed (and humorous) insight on business management in the creative industries.

Given that Creative Edinburgh is essentially about sharing (knowledge, experiences, contacts, opportunities and pizza) I thought it incumbent upon me as the Chair to share a few of my own personal insights gathered over nearly three decades as a creative practitioner.

What follows are the slides from a PPT deck that I created a couple of years ago for a talk I did in Newcastle. Although most of my career has been in advertising I believe the lessons can be applied to any creative business (in fact any business whatsoever).

Some are more serious that others.

And yes, some are clichés. So let’s start with one. This goes without saying. Read How Google Works a great new book sharing the experiences of Googles CEO and a senior VP and you’ll soon see that it’s all about spotting and hiring the best talent you can afford. If they are better than you then great. You’ll get better.

This is a favourite of mine paraphrased from Sun Tzu’s timeless clkassic “The Art of war.” If you spend your life and mental energy trying to win every argument/confrontation you face a) people will intensely dislike you and b) you will eventually lose the war.

Take defeat with grace (even if you know you are right. It will come back to bless you at a later date. This applies in your personal life too I have to say.)

In the words of the dear departed Ivor Cutler. “Stop prevaricating about the bush.” Life is too short.

Go ahead, make mistakes and learn.

That’s what Lean/Agile business is all about.

Cliché alert #2.

Cliches are clichés for a reason though.

Bill Bernbach did anything but trade in clichés but this one is attributed to him and it’s a great guiding principle for life in the creative industries. You need to know when thinking “Just take the money” actually means “Sell my soul to the devil” and be able to stop yourself. Just. In. Time.

Are you compromising yourself? Only if it’s with two competing clients. As the Saatchi Bro's famously found away round this moral dilemma by declaring yourself a specialist.

Then everything’s OK.

The next one may be slightly more controversial. It was coined or certainly used by an old pal of mine, Rob Morrice, what he means by this is forge your own path as a leader, make your own decisions. Be ruthless in seeking out your goals.

But be nice about it along the way. Some of this Steve Jobs practiced.

Next up.

Comfort zones are boring.


Blagging is fine. Bullshit isn’t. And neither is lying.

But a nervous blagger is a failed blagger.

When you’re being creative about describing your resource, be creative with gusto.

Trains, planes and buses have ears.

I know this to my considerable discomfort.

Keep your business chat to private places.

You have been warned!

I have coined the idiom “Cobblers’ Children Syndrome” for , and especially marketing, businesses.

‘Cobblers’ children are seldom shod’ is the original idiom, meaning that cobblers are too busy making other people’s children’s shoes to make them for their own.

Don’t forget that you have a business to sell and be creative about, not just your clients’ and customers’.

Following on from the previous point you’ll never grow your business in secret. Get out there and sell it.


Come to Creative Edinburgh gigs.

We all know that, right?


This was the first words uttered to me by my first ever accountant and it served me well in the early days. It doesn’t mean don’t spend anything it means releasing of pounds should be done on merit. We aren’t working in Guantanamo Bay.

Are we?

The word’s of my business partner, David Reid’s bank manager father, Norman, on reading our first business plan draft.

I’d factored in three company Audi’s.

He factored them out.

Cliché alert #3.

Stop talking. Start listening. Rule #1 in sales.

Oh how it irks me when I talk to creative businesses with no process who say that process stifles creativity.

Not true.

In fact the opposite is true.

Read the Lean Start up by Eric Ries if you don’t believe me.

It’s a privilege to be employed in the creative industry and it’s fun.

Don’t beat yourself up about having fun.

It’ll make you more creative.

Find out more about Mark Gorman here. Follow him on Linkedin / mark-gorman Twitter / @markagorman

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