Day one at Proof. I remember it clearly. 7th January 2005. We started a business. I walked into an office the size of a small cupboard and was faced with two desks, two phones and two laptops. I was the first one in and I sat, taking in the silence. Wondering what was to come. Having left a perfectly good role at a decent agency to start a new one, I had my worries. Would it work? Would anyone want to hire us? Would we ever make enough money to pay the mortgage? I forgot to ask myself the most critical question of all – what will I learn during this experience, however long or short it may be?
12 years on and it is time to say goodbye to Proof. Starting, growing and eventually handing over the business I started with a friend nearly a decade and a half ago has been one of the greatest adventures of my life. It’s been fun; disappointing; euphoric; devastating; exciting; stressful; energising; challenging and just plain wonderful. But things evolve and eventually it becomes clear that it’s time to take that break you’ve been promising your family you’d take for years. Time to just stop for a while and get the headspace required to move forward again with renewed gusto and vigour.
A lot has happened in 12 years. A lot has changed. I have been lucky enough to work for some of the most incredible organisations, seen amazing things, met amazing people, and helping truly outstanding clients in close partnership to ensure they achieve their goals. I’ve been left breathless by the excitement of what’s happening around me and felt the shove of adrenaline more times than I can remember.
I could use this final blog to wax lyrical about the impact of social media on our industry on the last 10 years. Or I could relay some more detail surrounding many of the unique experiences that a career in STEM communication has offered me. I could future-gaze about the increasing integration of the marketing mix and how it will change the way people buy our expertise in the future. But you know all of that already and that’s not what’s really on my mind.
When I consider my time at Proof the single greatest reward I can identify is the change in my own attitude towards the people who have worked in this business. I started Proof determined to be ruthless, feared and authoritative. I came armed with timesheets, processes, a firm hand and desire to own the perception ‘he who must not be crossed’. I leave with a greater understanding of how wonderful and important it is to have talented people around you every day of the week. That finding great people and giving them the space, time and the freedom to chart their own destiny brings with it greater opportunities and far greater rewards than the close of a new client contract or the buzz of a national press hit.
I know how employees are treated in some of the other agencies across the PR industry. How hard the whip is cracked. How little emotional reward is offered. I get that there is pressure to perform and succeed – I’ve been there. I have felt it. But too often in our industry companies are unable to see the value of the people right in front of them because the client and the ruthless charge towards a target blinds their vision. So I would implore anyone running a PR agency or managing a team of PR professionals – think long and hard about how you treat the people that work for you. They are the value in the business and they are the ones you rely on. Show them respect, give them freedom, and offer them the opportunities they deserve. Your staff are not wild horses that need to be broken and tamed. They are the fuel that fires the engine inside your business.
Today, as I leave the office for the last time, I’m incredibly proud of the people-focused ethos that presides here at Proof. I’m delighted we have created an environment where people want to come and work. Where they stay and thrive. Where they feel empowered and respected. Where they grow and shine. And where they gain memories for life. That is the legacy we always wanted to leave behind. I know it’s safe and sound in the hands of the current April Six Proof leadership team, and why I believe this will always to be a special place to work long after that door shuts for the last time.
Co-Founder, AprilSix Proof