Be authentic to your brand. So many times, I have seen success prevail when you go back to the fundamentals of your business, getting everyone on the same page and demonstrating the grit to see that through will make all the difference.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Platt.
As the CEO and Chief Creative Officer of LO:LA, Nick Platt is carrying out a lifelong ambition to not only re-imagine advertising creative that resonates but is also “Made with Love.” With a career spanning two continents and three decades, Nick Platt creates magic in the moments that matter.
Prior to founding LO:LA Nick was Executive Creative Director at RAPP, responsible for all creative output produced in the agency’s Los Angeles office, including creative campaigns for clients such as Toyota, Nescafe, Bank of America, Flemings, Roy’s, and Mattel as well as pro bono work for the Special Olympics and Stand Up to Cancer, among many others. His particular focus was on delivering creative solutions that are simple, relevant and original. He also worked in that role for the past 14 years, 6 years of which he spent in RAPP’s London office, where he was responsible for managing accounts including NSPCC, Apple, Sony, Barclays Bank, and CRUK. During his 30 years of experience in advertising and direct marketing, he has worked at a range of prominent agencies, including Saatchi & Saatchi, Proximity, and TBWA\GGT, among others. He has won numerous industry awards, including the Grand Prix at the New York Festivals, Gold at the ECHOs, D&AD, John Caples, DMAs and London International Advertising Awards.
Nick is proudly a big agency ex-pat determined to prove that independent creative shops can be nimble, fast and cost-efficient without sacrificing quality. He’s making outstanding advertising available.
Thank you for joining us Nick. Can you share your story about ‘grit and success’? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
After 30 years at large, global ad agencies, I decided to open LO:LA in 2017. LO:LA stands for London:Los Angeles. We bring big agency and in-house experience matched with the flexibility, attention and “outside the box” thinking of an independent shop. We are a modern, creative agency and specialize in helping B2C and B2B businesses engage, evolve, and most importantly THRIVE.
Our mission is to ensure our clients always have access to quality creative for their budget. We always want to make good ideas accessible and experiences meaningful. This is our noble purpose. Through it, I thought it would attract the right people to the business, both clients and staff, and in turn it would foster a strong culture. Looking back now, perhaps that thinking of only good people would want to be a part of this was a bit naïve. So, there we were, with the business barely started, busy trying to attract new clients and projects and produce work that lived up to our noble mission. But it became clear other forces were at work that were undermining us and putting the agency in a bad light with partners, vendors and clients alike. This created a “do or die’’ situation where our reputation and very existence were at stake. It was a time when I felt very alone and at a loss for what to do.
It was only the action of stopping and going back to the purpose of the business that I could see a way through, becoming disciplined and doubling down on our mission, rejecting anything that couldn’t be held up to our highest standards. Success after this epiphany did not happen overnight and the road was very bumpy, but it was the true north we needed to guide us to a better place and lay the foundation for all business moving forward.
Earlier this year when COVID-19 hit and changed business as we know it, we stuck to our mission of making good ideas accessible and experiences meaningful. We did not lose focus, but rather made the necessary shifts and pivots to go where our services were needed (and valued). We are not out of the woods yet, nor are any of us I suppose, but it gives me the focus and energy to keep going, move forward. This firm belief in the purpose of a brand and how it behaves has a fundamental part in one’s success. For LO:LA, it is what guides all that we now do and the mindset we expect from everyone we work with and for. Being ardent about its implementation has meant we are now attracting the right people, no longer a romantic thought but a DNA for our perspective, attitude and mutual success.
Where did you get the grit and drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Grit is something that I learned early on. As a boy, I was involved in a bad car accident, which left me in a coma with a fractured skull and while in hospital I contracted meningitis. My recovery was difficult. After the coma I had to learn to walk all over again as well as lost the hearing in my right ear due to the meningitis. The world had fundamentally changed for me. I was faced with the prospect of succumbing to my situation or to fight and try to get back to how I was before. Grit and determination are, in my mind, the key factors that made the difference. My recovery wasn’t quick, it wasn’t pretty, and it had many setbacks. But focusing on what I wanted and making sure that nothing stopped that goal from becoming real made the outcome all the more attainable. The idea of simplifying what you want to achieve and discarding anything that gets in the way are rules that I recommend to any leader as they are faced with tough times.
So how did grit lead to your eventual success? How did grit turn things around?
To me, grit involves passion. And passion is infectious. But it’s what you do with that passion. I often say “do” is greater than “say”, for it’s your actions that show more clearly than anything that’s intended. When you concentrate on your talents and strengths, and match that with your passion, people will hanker to be a part of that. I believe by buckling down, going back to why I opened LO:LA, and focusing on what we do best has been the key to our success thus far. And we have really just embarked on a path to some amazing things. Like I tell my team and our clients, what we get to do every day…it beats working for a living!
When in doubt, I always turn back to the work being produced. It’s the product that people want, and you can control everything else out of your hands. We use the phrase, ‘made with love’ as our contract of quality with our clients, if it’s felt it’s not made with love, we have an opportunity to get things back on track, an unwritten rule we live by.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop grit? (Share a story of an example for each)
- Be authentic to your brand.
So many times, I have seen success prevail when you go back to the fundamentals of your business, getting everyone on the same page and demonstrating the grit to see that through will make all the difference.
- Trust your gut.
When times are tough, you will get advice from everyone, solicited and unsolicited. It may be well-meaning, but often those giving the advice never have a full understanding of the whole situation. You do. Therefore, trust your gut even if it says do nothing listen to it.
- Never give up.
Giving up will always be a 100% guarantee to lose. Even if the temptation is strong and when things look their darkest- push on and stick to your mission. Then revel in the work and see what happens!
- The only way out, is through.
Just as giving up is not the answer, there is no other way than to go but through. It might be tough and stressful but it’s the only way to get to where you want to go. And often there is a reason why or lesson to be learned by doing so.
- Trust the process.
It might feel like one step forward then two steps back at times, but embrace the process. Be open to things not going as planned. Eventually you will see light at the end of the tunnel.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?
Ian Haworth was my creative mentor and leader for many years in London, I also reported to him when I came out to Los Angeles. Ian was always there with encouragement when things got tough. There was one time when I was involved in running the day-to-day of the London agency’s creative department and where we had a long and successful relationship with a large utility company. Over time the relationship had started to fade, and a review was called. I led the creative response for this review, and unfortunately, we failed to retain the client. Needless to say, I was quite distraught. But Ian had a tremendous ability to see the bigger picture, to not get caught up in the obvious moment of regret, but rather to keep our eyes on our vision, the future. He showed me to accept the situation for what it was, learn from it, and then focus on were the agency was going and the type of work we wanted to create. He clearly saw that what the client wanted and what we wanted no longer aligned.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I always try to share my perspective and experience with those I feel people will most benefit. Recently I have been helping a great group of people called Upcomers, an incubator to help young people looking to get into the creative business. Although someone trying to get their first job in the business might not feel their situation is the same as mine, I find there are always parallels that can connect, and how having this same focus can benefit them as much as it has me.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We have recently started working with a SaaS startup that specifically helps independent, small businesses thrive by introducing tried and true operational processes. A great company (and founder) with a real purpose, solutions built from real-world experience. We are building out their brand voice and then applying to their website, sales materials, and marketing content. I feel what they have to offer can really help any budding entrepreneur that needs the guidance and support to turn their dream into a thriving business.
What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?
My advice is simple: stay the course and be disciplined, accept (and learn from) the bad as well as the good and remain focused on what you want and why you want it!