Marketing In Times of Recovery

Marketing In Times Of Crisis has changed its name to Marketing In Times of Recovery. It's still a bi-weekly interview-led podcast series featuring inspirational built environment business leaders but more with a look to the future. We’ve had to weather crisis’ before and podcast listeners hear lively conversations, jam-packed with hints, tips and takeaways that you can apply to your business now. Hosted by Ayo Abbas, Founder / Consultant, Abbas Marketing. Subscribe now, rate, review and help us to spread the word.

https://www.abbasmarketing.com/mitc-podcast

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episode 21: Ep 21: People, Projects and Digital Technology with Stephen Melville and James Solly, Format Engineers [transcript]


Hello and welcome to the latest episode of Marketing In Times of Recovery.  I’m your host Ayo Abbas, a built environment marketing consultant and founder of Abbas Marketing. 

Today’s guests are the highly talented engineers Stephen Melville and James Solly who run Format Engineers.  I know both of them from when I worked at Ramboll many moons ago. 

In our discussion, we talk about a host of things from: 

  • how they stand out from traditional structural engineering firms
  • why they love being involved through all stages of a project and why they feel it’s so important 
  • and finally the types of marketing tactics that have worked for them. 

 If you’re a regular listener to the show – make sure you subscribe so you never miss out on an episode and help us to spread the word. 

This episode was recorded on Thurs April 01 2021.

Rate and review us

Please don’t forget to rate and review us if you’re listening on Apple podcasts as it’s lovely to hear what you think plus it helps us to spread the word

Resources
Format Engineers
Abbas Marketing
Stephen's RIBA Journal article


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 2021-07-02  28m
 
 
00:05  Ayo Abbas
Hello, and welcome to
00:05
Marketing In Times of Recovery.
00:08
This episode goes live on
00:08
Friday, July the second and the
00:12
next day, Saturday July 3 is a
00:12
very special day as it's our
00:16
first birthday. So, before we
00:16
kick off the show, I wanted to
00:21
run a little competition for my
00:21
UK based listeners. I've had
00:24
some rather nifty Marketing In
00:24
Times of Recovery branded mugs
00:27
made up in honour of our
00:27
birthday. If you want to get
00:30
hold of one, all you need to do
00:30
is leave us a review, ideally,
00:34
on Apple podcasts, or Castbox.
00:34
If you're not on there, just say
00:39
what you think of the show or a
00:39
particular episode or me as the
00:42
host. Anything you want, really.
00:42
And before you hit post, take a
00:47
quick screengrab of it, then
00:47
post it. Then share what your
00:53
screengrab on social media and
00:53
tag me. I'm on Instagram and
00:57
Twitter and LinkedIn so you can
00:57
easily find me, I have a bass,
01:01
which is about A-Y-O, A-B-B-A-S.
01:01
Then once you've tagged me, I
01:08
will drop you a line to get your
01:08
details and your mark will be
01:11
winging its way to you soon
01:11
after. If you want more details
01:15
on the competition. This can be
01:15
found on my website, which is
01:18
www.abbasmarketing.com d. And
01:18
I've got 15 mugs to giveaway.
01:25
Anyway, that's enough of the
01:25
competition. And now on with the
01:28
show. Today, my guests are the
01:28
highly talented engineers,
01:33
Stephen Melville and James
01:33
Solly, who run Format Engineers.
01:37
In our discussion, we talk about
01:37
a host of things from how they
01:41
stand out from traditional
01:41
structural engineering firms,
01:44
why they love being involved
01:44
throughout the life stages of a
01:46
project, and why they feel it's
01:46
so important. And then we
01:49
finally talk about some of the
01:49
kind of marketing tactics that
01:51
have worked for them as a small
01:51
practice. If you're a regular
01:55
listen to this show, make sure
01:55
you do subscribe so you don't
01:58
miss out on an episode. And now
01:58
I'll stop talking and let you
02:03
get on with listening. Enjoy.
02:10
Hi, Steven. Hi, James. Welcome
02:10
to marketing times of crisis. So
02:15
my first question to you is, I'm
02:15
going to start with you, Steven,
02:18
can you give me an introduction,
02:18
Introduction to format
02:20
engineers, who you are and your
02:20
role?
02:24  Stephen Melville
Format
02:24
Engineers are primarily
02:26
structural engineers, but
02:26
structural engineers, I suppose
02:30
coming at it from a slightly
02:30
different angle in that we feel
02:35
traditional structural
02:35
engineering is all very well.
02:39
But engineers have a great skill
02:39
sets in geometry, coding,
02:43
mathematics, science, etc. We're
02:43
all brought up with a very broad
02:47
science based background. And we
02:47
like to apply those to
02:52
engineering, we like to go
02:52
further than traditional
02:57
engineering and apply some
02:57
original research. To do our own
03:04
coding to help architects and
03:04
other designers and things. We
03:07
don't structural engineering it
03:07
or at least not traditional
03:10
structural engineering. So
03:10
that's been our ethos. Since we
03:14
started, we did start in 2014.
03:14
So we're relatively young
03:18
practice. But in all ready,
03:18
we've grown to the point of
03:22
reasonable size. And I suppose
03:22
in terms of the kind of work we
03:26
do, it's 50% international, I'd
03:26
say and the remaining 50%
03:33
probably split between local and
03:33
national work, and it's a huge
03:37
range of stuff. Yeah, I'm sure
03:37
James will have more of what we
03:41
do in detail.
03:42  James Solly
Yeah, I am, I am
03:42
the other director, the non
03:46
founding director of Format. And
03:46
I joined the practice now full
03:51
time, oh gosh, two years ago.
03:51
Yeah. Having been involved for
03:57
throughout the sort of creation
03:57
of Format from a distance before
04:00
that.I think we largely we both
04:00
work on a mix of everything. But
04:05
I'd say our projects split down
04:05
into some housing projects and
04:09
like high design, like very well
04:09
and very carefully designed
04:13
housing projects. Yeah, we do a
04:13
lot of art and sculpture, which
04:18
is a big part of the workflow
04:18
that we really, really enjoy
04:21
being part of. And we do quite a
04:21
lot which of fabrication
04:26
detailing and design for like
04:26
bespoke metal staircases and
04:29
things like that. So that gives
04:29
us a real understanding of the
04:33
final detail of of creation, not
04:33
just taking up to sort of scheme
04:38
level and passing off to a
04:38
fabricator, we get involved
04:41
throughout that process to
04:41
literally installing things on
04:44
site.
04:45  Ayo Abbas
So you actually go
04:45
and visit the sites as well and
04:46
you're involved in that kind of
04:46
aspect of making sure it's doing
04:49
what is meant to do
04:50  James Solly
when global
04:50
pandemics allow, then yes.
04:57  Stephen Melville
I think it's
04:57
worth saying that's an important
04:59
part of our make up as well,
04:59
which is, you know, we get
05:02
involved in very unusual,
05:02
challenging projects. But if you
05:05
take the stance, that we're just
05:05
going to do the concept design,
05:10
and then you don't gain if you
05:10
don't gain the experience of how
05:13
these things are actually built,
05:13
and installed then losing vital
05:18
feedback and how you design it.
05:18
So yeah, we are, I think that's
05:23
one of the taglines, one of our
05:23
marketing says, we're equally
05:26
interested in the act of making
05:26
as we are in the act of
05:29
designing, because one informs
05:29
the other.
05:31  Ayo Abbas
Absolutely. And do
05:31
clients really like the fact
05:34
that you're involved all the way
05:34
through, I'd imagine they would
05:36
wouldn't they?
05:38  James Solly
Yeah, I think it's
05:38
also interesting talking to our
05:41
peers. And so speaking to some
05:41
professionals working in within
05:45
education, where I also also sit
05:45
sometimes. And they were saying
05:50
it's interesting looking at our
05:50
firm as one that if you consider
05:55
the traditional line of sort of
05:55
design, then engineering, then
05:58
fabrication, we've sort of grown
05:58
gently outwards in both
06:02
directions. And we do very much
06:02
crossover with design. And we do
06:05
very much crossover with
06:05
fabrication, which means
06:07
sometimes we're the group that
06:07
are informing the early stage
06:12
design of fabrication criteria.
06:12
So because we have that
06:16
experience in the fabrication
06:16
side, we get to do some early
06:19
input on the requirements of
06:19
fabrication, before you end up
06:23
getting an actual fabricator
06:23
involved. And that's from
06:27
learning from the variety of
06:27
amazing fabricators, we work
06:30
with really regularly, you know,
06:30
we try and learn as much as we
06:33
can from them.
06:35  Ayo Abbas
Yeah, I can imagine
06:35
the early stage involvement also
06:38
is a huge benefit to the client,
06:38
isn't it? Because it's like, you
06:40
get in early, that's when you
06:40
actually, you know, the design
06:43
is more on track of what is
06:43
actually going to be built,
06:45
isn't it? So it must be quite a
06:45
huge benefit of value to them.
06:50  Stephen Melville
Yeah,
06:50
absolutely. And, you know,
06:52
clients want to employ engineers
06:52
and designers that would be I
06:56
suppose, as a safe pair of hands
06:56
that can develop their vision.
07:01
And they also want people to you
07:01
know, have skin in the game and
07:05
not, you know, cop out halfway
07:05
through because they're only
07:08
doing concept designs. So I
07:08
think it is a, you know, clients
07:13
very much do appreciate it. And
07:13
we're not going to stop doing
07:17
it, we're always we, we tend to
07:17
almost insist on being involved
07:22
in the later stages if we can,
07:22
because often these projects are
07:26
our babies, and we want to see
07:26
them through. But also we want
07:29
to soak up that experience of
07:29
building things.
07:33  Ayo Abbas
Yeah. That's a great
07:33
USP. It's brilliant. And in
07:37
terms of, I guess, lockdown, as
07:37
we're sort of transitioning out
07:40
of the current one, how has that
07:40
been for you? And how have you
07:43
found work? And how how's your
07:43
business been operating?
07:47  James Solly
We've gone through
07:47
about three stages of discussion
07:50
on this, honestly, because we
07:50
were already set up from the
07:54
very beginning format,
07:54
everything was born in 2014. We,
07:59
I mean, a lot of that technology
07:59
is now being used, and
08:02
businesses are panicking and
08:02
trying to onboard their staff to
08:05
use these tools, because they
08:05
need to, we were just using
08:08
because when we started, they
08:08
were the best tools for the job.
08:11
The best way of starting up a
08:11
business was not to have a
08:14
server sitting in the corner of
08:14
the office, but was to have all
08:17
your documentation already in a
08:17
cloud server. So Format from the
08:21
start was made up of well, one,
08:21
it started at the right time
08:25
with technology. And also at the
08:25
very beginning, there were
08:27
people working everywhere. I
08:27
think there was only really
08:29
Steven, one specific office
08:29
place. So we were like working
08:34
anyway.
08:36  Ayo Abbas
Yeah.
08:37  James Solly
Even though over
08:37
the years, we've been ended up
08:40
more with a team sat in an
08:40
office together. The minute we
08:43
all had to go home, it actually
08:43
wasn't a problem. Everyone just
08:46
picked their laptops up and
08:46
left. And then obviously over
08:49
the next week, we got monitors
08:49
moved around and things but it
08:51
really wasn't stress. So from
08:51
that point of view, we were
08:54
really lucky. Yeah. And then the
08:54
first was kind of interesting.
08:58
It was great. We were thinking,
08:58
yeah, this kind of works. But I
09:01
think Steve should probably
09:01
start doing this. But I think it
09:04
dawned on us throughout that as
09:04
much as we were able to do it.
09:07
And while some people were
09:07
panicking, we were fine. isn't
09:11
actually how we like to work.
09:12  Stephen Melville
Yeah, I must
09:12
confess I wrote an article about
09:15
this for Building Magazine, no
09:15
it was the the the RIBA Journal
09:20
And I wrote the article at the
09:20
beginning of the pandemic,
09:25
actually, I was a little bit
09:25
kind of evangelistic about it is
09:29
is great remote working is
09:29
proved to work, etc. But
09:32
actually, I think the problem is
09:32
when you're designing things,
09:36
and you're designing things at
09:36
quite a pace, you miss that the
09:41
nuances of working with people
09:41
and those little kind of side
09:45
conversations, those little
09:45
things that you latch on to that
09:48
spark imagination. You miss all
09:48
that. If you're remote, as much
09:54
as I think these tools are
09:54
brilliant and they prove
09:58
themselves as James said since
09:58
we started, I don't think you
10:02
still can't be face-to-face
10:02
human interaction in designing
10:07
things.
10:07  Ayo Abbas
Yeah.
10:08  Stephen Melville
And even
10:08
yesterday, I was talking to an
10:11
architect about a potential new
10:11
job we have. And he was saying,
10:14
I'm going to come and I'm going
10:14
to my team is going to sit at
10:16
your conference table for two
10:16
days, because frankly, we can't
10:20
do this without interaction. And
10:20
I'm fed up with doing things
10:23
remotely. So I think, as you
10:23
know, with the tools as James
10:29
said has completely a mesh of
10:29
what we do. But I think the big
10:33
difference is as designers, is
10:33
you need to have a strong
10:37
element of face-to-face
10:37
interaction. Yeah, I think it
10:39
will continue.
10:41  Ayo Abbas
I guess it's that
10:41
creativity element, isn't it as
10:43
well. It's that yeah, it's not
10:43
the same online. Sadly. You can
10:48
do a lot though. But it's not
10:48
the same.
10:50  James Solly
I think the legwork
10:50
bits you can just go away and
10:55
do. And I think that's something
10:55
that's fine. The bit where it's
10:59
very much hands on creative. And
10:59
I think another addition, I want
11:03
to add is that we we have a very
11:03
nosey and inquisitive team, I
11:06
think that's the sort of people
11:06
we are drawn to as well. And
11:09
it's, it's useful to overhear
11:09
something going on in the office
11:12
and be Oh, I've got an input on
11:12
that. Yeah, you kind of got you.
11:17
We, you know, like many others,
11:17
we use chat for the office. But
11:22
that's still it doesn't work in
11:22
the same way. Even if you're
11:24
sort of listening into all of
11:24
the type of conversations. It
11:27
still doesn't work the same as
11:27
sort of overhearing something
11:30
and your brain starts firing and
11:30
you shout out, and I think that
11:33
works better.
11:34  Stephen Melville
But originally
11:34
original question was, how are
11:38
you faring in COVID times? So in
11:38
terms of the way we work? I
11:43
think we're getting back to more
11:43
of an equilibrium now. Where
11:46
more of us are together? Yeah, I
11:46
think that was interesting. When
11:50
the pandemic started, I think
11:50
our workload dropped off,
11:54
dropped off the cliff. And we
11:54
thought oh dear, this isn't very
11:58
good. And then a week later, it
11:58
climbed back up again. And then
12:03
two weeks after that, and then
12:03
it was higher than it was before
12:06
the pandemic. And then, ever
12:06
since it hasn't really let up to
12:13
be honest.
12:13  James Solly
No, we've
12:14
had it's still mixed. But no,
12:14
this it's mostly bounced back.
12:19
Yeah. And been quite full on it.
12:19
And very full on at times
12:22
mid-pandemic
12:23  Stephen Melville
And what was
12:23
interesting as well, you look at
12:25
the type of work because, you
12:25
know, we have gyms that we do,
12:28
we do lots of contemporary
12:28
houses, we do lots of works of
12:31
public works of art, we do
12:31
things, some of which could be
12:36
counted as in a way vanity
12:36
projects, you know, if your your
12:40
public work of art, is it is
12:40
strictlyly needed in the time
12:44
of desperate austerity? And you
12:44
think well, you know, maybe
12:48
that's the first thing to go.
12:48
But actually, no, it's the
12:50
opposite.
12:50  James Solly
Yeah, it has been,
12:50
I think there's been a real
12:52
focus on bringing culture back
12:52
post pandemic, which we're very
12:57
happy to be involved in. I think
13:00  Ayo Abbas
That's such a lovely
13:00
thing to hear. Actually, it's
13:02
quite positive, isn't it?
13:02
Because you kind of think open
13:04
spaces you want all of that come
13:04
back, don't you and still be
13:07
vibrant, and, and going? So
13:07
anything in particular to market
13:13
yourself I guess, in the past
13:13
year, or is it mainly been word
13:16
of mouth? How do you How does
13:16
your business come to your
13:18
doors?
13:20  James Solly
I think we have an
13:20
absolute mix. And I'm glad that
13:23
we don't just have one recourse,
13:23
ways we get work. Absolutely. We
13:30
get local work through word of
13:30
mouth, I think. We get repeat
13:35
work, which we're really proud
13:35
that we we keep working with
13:39
previous clients a lot. And as
13:39
they grow, we grow. Which has
13:43
been which is lovely thing to do
13:43
with people. We make use of
13:49
social media, we've had a few
13:49
projects through that. So not a
13:52
primary cause of work. I
13:53  Stephen Melville
I think social
13:53
media is good from a
13:55
reputational point of view. I'm
13:55
always quite impressed and quite
13:59
proud that people in France have
13:59
heard of us, for example, and
14:03
there is or there are people I
14:03
wouldn't have expected to hear
14:09
of a small practice that only
14:09
start in 2014 have heard of
14:12
this?
14:12  James Solly
Yeah, I agree.
14:13  Stephen Melville
And I think so
14:13
social media is read this
14:15
fantastic reputational tool.
14:17  James Solly
That's good. I
14:17
think that's absolutely true.
14:19
And I think it also reminds
14:19
people sometimes that we're
14:23
there, or they see all these
14:23
guys could help with that. You
14:26
know, so personally, that's been
14:26
a big part of our we're very
14:30
deliberately we're both I think
14:30
slightly media, social media
14:34
sceptics, the two of us, but we
14:34
have to work hard at
14:39
deliberately putting stuff out
14:39
there or we tend to forget
14:42
because we get sucked into doing
14:42
projects, which is what we enjoy
14:44
doing much more than we enjoy
14:44
shouting about projects. I think
14:49
so we both definitely have to
14:49
rely on some of the younger
14:51
members of the team to remind us
14:51
to actually put stuff out but I
14:55
think that's something we've
14:55
worked worked harder on
14:59  Stephen Melville
Yeah. So yeah,
14:59
it's a bit of social media. It's
15:02
a little bit it's repeat
15:02
business and, you know, clients
15:04
that we've known for many years.
15:04
And I think this is word has got
15:09
around. To be honest, it's quite
15:09
interesting. The word has got
15:11
around that we're getting
15:11
recommendations for people we
15:13
don't know, because they've
15:13
heard of us. And they've heard
15:16
we're the people who kind of
15:16
won't blink, often a tricky
15:20
challenge we're the people won't
15:20
blink. So, you know, you you get
15:24
people come to you out the
15:24
blues, I want this massive
15:26
project to be designed in 4
15:26
weeks for a festival and it
15:29
doesn't get donewe're all dead.
15:29
And we go okay. All right. And
15:32
we're the only people go, Okay,
15:32
all right. Yeah.
15:35
Yeah. And then you don't sleep
15:35
for four weeks?
15:37
And then we don't sleep for four
15:37
weeks yeah absolutely.
15:39  James Solly
I think we like to
15:39
sort of maybe an important thing
15:41
says we say yes to any early
15:41
discussion, almost universally,
15:47
that doesn't necessarily mean
15:47
that then the project will be
15:50
something that happens. But I
15:50
think we, we've always been
15:54
quite strong and just going,
15:54
what will help you talk about
15:57
it, and will offer you some
15:57
advice. And then a lot of the
16:00
time we do end up doing those
16:00
jobs. But we're always open to
16:04
that first meeting, I think
16:04
we're always open to that first
16:06
meeting.
16:07  Stephen Melville
think, also,
16:07
we've established a niche in the
16:11
sense of, you know, we don't
16:11
consider ourselves a normal
16:15
structural engineers, you know,
16:15
we've got a huge expertise in
16:20
digital design. Yeah. Yeah,
16:20
digital modelling, to a point
16:26
where, you know, we don't offer
16:26
as an additional service is a
16:28
part of what we do, it's
16:28
everyday what we do. And that
16:34
is a that is still quite a small
16:34
world. But we're known well
16:39
known in that small world. So we
16:39
tend to get lots of
16:44
recommendations for projects
16:44
just as being, you know, famous
16:48
in that world. Because the hope
16:48
is that world will expand as
16:52
digital modelling and
16:52
computational design becomes
16:55
more widespread. So I think, I
16:55
think one of the important
16:59
things is, in marketing is
16:59
having an identify having an
17:03
expertise that you feel
17:03
passionate about, you haven't
17:06
just made up because it makes it
17:06
makes money, and then just going
17:10
for it and relentlessly going
17:10
for it and being really good at
17:12
it. And that pays off.
17:15  Ayo Abbas
Which is what you've
17:15
been doing, isn't it? Yeah,
17:17
definitely. And so in terms of
17:17
your social media, I just got a
17:23
question. So do you kind of I
17:23
mean, how often do you post, are
17:28
there particular things that
17:28
work particularly well for you
17:30
on social media? Or you're not?
17:30
Sure? Well,
17:34  James Solly
OhhI guess we're
17:34
still finding our feet, we're
17:35
certainly not good at this.
17:35
Maybe, hopefully, my image, our
17:41
project work actually speaks for
17:41
itself, rather than the way we
17:45
use the media, which perhaps is
17:45
something that we're lucky for.
17:50
I would say, we have found that
17:50
more, we've actually found who
17:54
we really like that actually, in
17:54
the more technical side of our
17:57
work, tends to get more
18:01  Ayo Abbas
clients and
18:01
engagement
18:03  James Solly
something like
18:03
whatever. Than sometimes the
18:08
things that we think look
18:08
glossier, so we'll put some
18:11
images up thinking they look
18:11
really cool and crisp and clean.
18:14
And then yeah, they kind of get
18:14
some reaction. And then we put
18:17
something up, that's maybe a bit
18:17
rougher, but shows some
18:20
technique we're using or some
18:20
more process on toy that we're
18:24
fiddling with on part of a
18:24
project. And actually, that
18:27
tends to get a much bigger
18:27
reaction we found. And so that's
18:30
something we're trying to make
18:30
sure we do more of is capture
18:34
the work in progress stuff like
18:34
how we're using, why we're using
18:38
tools, and we're, I think that's
18:38
something we're only just really
18:40
getting to grips with is making
18:40
a very conscious effort to put
18:43
more of that stuff up.
18:45  Ayo Abbas
But you've captured
18:45
it completely. Because one of
18:47
the things I'm always saying to
18:47
clients is actually people are
18:49
interested in the process,
18:49
what's it like to work with you,
18:52
not necessarily the end result,
18:52
it's much more about this is how
18:56
we take you through this is how
18:56
we use digital design and
18:58
computational design. It'll be
18:58
all of those types of things and
19:01
the types of things that you're
19:01
tinkering with and thinking
19:03
about. That's the stuff that
19:03
people will really like, Oh, I
19:06
hadn't thought of that. Or could
19:06
you tell me more. And, and
19:09
that's how you start having
19:09
conversations, which I think is
19:11
what you're after on social
19:11
media, rather than you blasting
19:14
out. Oh, here's a completed
19:14
project. It's much more about
19:17
how do we have two way
19:17
engagement and conversations
19:20
with people?
19:21  Stephen Melville
Yeah, it's
19:21
interesting that we definitely
19:23
find them? Yeah. I think we can
19:23
be rail against the idea of the
19:28
glossy photograph. Guys, it's,
19:28
it's not fun, as you say, also,
19:34
you want to be known as the
19:34
thought leader, that the company
19:38
out there doing the thinking,
19:38
and the pushing. If you if you
19:42
put up your processes and some
19:42
of the stuff you're thinking
19:45
about that then by default, you
19:45
are the person who's out there
19:48
thinking about it.
19:50  James Solly
The other thing I
19:50
think has worked well for us is
19:51
actually acknowledging where we
19:51
work with others. I think
19:55
there's far too often that we
19:55
see people going it's an amazing
19:58
thing we did and you're with us
19:58
nonsense, you've definitely
20:01
didn't do that by yourself. And
20:01
actually, I do think that
20:04
there's been we've done a fair
20:04
few times recently, we've used
20:08
the methods on our projects that
20:08
are taken from academia, where
20:11
we've read a really interesting
20:11
academic paper and we've gone
20:14
oh, that's cool. Let's, let's
20:14
try and deploy that out here in
20:16
the real world,
20:17  Ayo Abbas
which is brilliant.
20:18  James Solly
Yeah, I'm crediting
20:18
the different people involved
20:22
and saying, Oh, we took this
20:22
amazing work from this person.
20:24
And I think that's definitely
20:24
posts where we've managed to do
20:26
that, and really had a lot of
20:26
kind of, they've spread really
20:30
well, because I think those
20:30
people you mentioned, then,
20:32
presumably, you know, the people
20:32
involved, they're kind of
20:35
excited to see their work being
20:35
used. And when we credit,
20:39
credit, other people we work
20:39
with, we also obviously get seen
20:43
by the people who follow them.
20:43
And I think, I think we've
20:45
definitely found that almost,
20:45
sometimes the more people
20:49
involved in a project, you kind
20:49
of include, when you talk about
20:52
the work you do, then the
20:52
greater that is, and I think it
20:56
feels more real as well, it goes
20:56
deeper involved in getting this
21:00
thing built that feels far more
21:00
sensible than one creative
21:03
genius.
21:05
I think that helps
21:06  Ayo Abbas
completely. And I
21:06
guess as well, if you're
21:08
involved in all stages of a
21:08
project, and this be so many
21:10
people who are going to be
21:10
chipping in with different ideas
21:13
and different inspiration, and,
21:13
and so yeah, that solution isn't
21:16
just one person it never is. So
21:16
nice. That sounds like a great
21:21
idea. And then that's what
21:21
social media is about, to be
21:24
honest. So you're definitely in
21:24
the right direction. So that's,
21:28
that's my 10 cents worth. And so
21:28
in terms of I guess, but any,
21:33
because at the moment, I guess
21:33
there's lots of spin off
21:35
practices and new practices
21:35
coming to the fore at the
21:37
moment. So are there any tips to
21:37
any practices who are starting
21:40
out at the moment that you give?
21:40
I think it was 2014. Again,
21:46
right? Take yourself back,
21:47  Stephen Melville
I think the
21:47
the biggest thing is, like I
21:50
mentioned already, which was
21:50
establish workout, what you are
21:55
very good at and establish a
21:55
difference. And then focus on
22:01
that difference, and invest in
22:01
research, investing time invest
22:07
in people who are good at that.
22:07
And I think, then not to simply
22:13
promote it, but it's telling the
22:13
world about it. So, you know,
22:16
we're brilliant at digital
22:16
technology. So we don't, we
22:20
don't necessarily focus on that,
22:20
and exclusion of everything
22:22
else. But we are saying that we
22:22
are the kind of the first
22:26
generation of engineers who are
22:26
post digital technology, and
22:29
we've absorbed this. That's
22:29
done. Now we're applying it. And
22:34
that's what we're telling
22:34
people. That's what I'm about,
22:36
but identifying it. So I think I
22:36
do see some small practices
22:40
start up. And they all say, oh,
22:40
we're great at doing concept
22:43
design. And we'd love to work
22:43
with you soon enough. What do
22:49
you offer that's different?
22:50  Ayo Abbas
You know,
22:50  Stephen Melville
what, what do
22:50
you offer this interesting to
22:52
people and they will learn and
22:52
clients will get excited about?
22:56
And I think that's that kind of
22:56
that kind of bugs me when I do
22:59
look at some of the young
22:59
practices, etc. Having glossy
23:02
photographs of the projects you
23:02
worked on in your previous life
23:05
is not enough. What are you
23:05
about?
23:08  James Solly
That's it? Yeah, I
23:08
100% agree. The other thing I
23:11
wanted to put in is if you're a
23:11
small practice, I've seen 14,
23:14
maybe it's old business practice
23:14
to go there's business and then
23:16
there's personal, I think, yeah,
23:16
with a small practice. And I
23:20
also think that acknowledging
23:20
that you are certain people, I
23:24
hate nothing more than a website
23:24
that doesn't say who you are.
23:28
That is the worst. But if you
23:28
have a website where we are
23:31
young practice doing this and
23:31
that and it's like, please get
23:34
in contact info at x y z.com.
23:34
And there's no Who are we who
23:39
are you going to be dealing
23:39
with, I think, as a small
23:41
practice, accept that people
23:41
want to work with people, they
23:46
don't want to work with a
23:46
machine. Absolutely. This and I
23:51
do think that like,
23:51
acknowledging that when someone
23:54
brings up they're going to work
23:54
with I mean, in our case, one
23:58
or other of us is involved in
23:58
most of our projects, or you
24:01
know, one of the rest of the
24:01
team. And I think we acknowledge
24:06
that straight away and say yes,
24:06
you'll be working with this
24:08
person or with James or with
24:08
Steve or whoever. And going is a
24:12
truly personal choice. You know,
24:12
you'll work with an individual
24:15
lead engineer and others if the
24:15
project is big enough. But I get
24:19
really cross when I see it just
24:19
being a complete black hole,
24:23
like you shout into the abyss
24:23
and engineering work comes out.
24:26
I don't know how that's supposed
24:26
to work. I would double down on
24:29
the people involved in the
24:29
practice it particularly now,
24:33
when people I think are craving
24:33
human interaction even more. I
24:37
think that's something we I
24:37
mean, we didn't even think twice
24:39
about putting all of our
24:39
pictures on the website. When we
24:42
first started. It was just
24:42
immediately natural. But I've
24:44
seen more websites than not that
24:44
don't have that.
24:48  Stephen Melville
Yeah, I
24:48
completely agree. I think the
24:51
other the other thing and this
24:51
may be a personal way that I
24:54
operate is I suppose I'm sort of
24:54
controlled arrogance in you say
24:59
right We are the best. Yeah, I
24:59
think to succeed, you've got to
25:04
think you are the best. And tell
25:04
people you're the best without
25:08
actually being in your soul in
25:08
your face in their faces, they
25:11
think you're arrogant, you know,
25:11
this is a fine line between the
25:13
two. But you've got to have a
25:13
level of self confidence.
25:17
Honestly, when you're starting a
25:17
small practice, you're gonna
25:19
have a really high dose of self
25:19
confidence and belief that what
25:24
you're doing is the best thing.
25:24
So therefore, that you will do
25:27
well, and I think you promote
25:27
that and also people. I think
25:32
one of the things I learned from
25:32
my previous employers was,
25:38
people don't like bad stories
25:38
people like they like to engage
25:41
with people who are positive and
25:41
have positives. And I think keep
25:46
that mantra up as well.
25:48  James Solly
Yeah, I totally
25:48
agree with that positive
25:50
stories.
25:51  Ayo Abbas
How have you fed in
25:51
previous recessions? Or I guess,
25:54
are we still in recession? Now?
25:54
I'm not entirely sure. Are we
25:57
out of it?
25:58  James Solly
We haven't read the
25:58
previous recession as Format
26:01  Stephen Melville
We're too
26:01
young to be in this recession?
26:04
Yeah. So far, this one this one
26:04
this? I mean, some people and
26:08
there are some practices we know
26:08
who are would you who have
26:11
suffered who are do have an
26:11
excellent people,
26:13  James Solly
and people, I think
26:13
that was my biggest fear, by far
26:17
was whether or not if it all got
26:17
bad, we'd have to shrink. And we
26:22
really didn't want to do that.
26:22
And I'm only like, well, we
26:26
worked really hard. But I'm
26:26
grateful that that was something
26:28
we didn't have to do. Yeah, we
26:28
grew we grew we actually grew.
26:32  Ayo Abbas
But it's actually so
26:32
certain sectors, isn't it? It's
26:34
like not all of the art sector,
26:34
but certain pockets of it. Or
26:37
it's really kind of disjointed
26:37
as to who's doing who's doing
26:41
well, and who isn't. And parts
26:41
of hotels are still going well,
26:44
others aren't. It's just, it's
26:44
very up and down in terms of
26:47
who's who's doing well, and who
26:47
isn't. It's not just a one
26:49
blanket thing.
26:53  Stephen Melville
The arts
26:53
sector appears to be holding up
26:55
very well, to be honest.
26:58  Ayo Abbas
I guess I'm gonna go
26:58
to my final question, which is
27:02
basically, what one tip would
27:02
you give to a business leader
27:05
about how to market themselves
27:05
during this current time?
27:10  Stephen Melville
I think I
27:10
might just repeat what I said
27:12
which is, emphasise what you're
27:12
good at and why it's different.
27:19
And have a supreme level of
27:19
confidence that you're better
27:25
than anyone elses.
27:27  Ayo Abbas
Fantastic. And over
27:27
to you, James.
27:29  James Solly
I think look at any
27:29
spare time you get when you do
27:34
get a, let's say a slight
27:34
slackening in work, like do
27:39
invest in that and spend some
27:39
time researching something doing
27:44
something fun or saying that's
27:44
gonna add to what you do and
27:47
exactly what Steve said
27:47
specifically, make sure that
27:50
what what you pick aligns well
27:50
with what that core direction
27:55
that you the way you're telling
27:55
the world about your
27:58  Ayo Abbas
Brilliant, thank you
27:58
so much for coming onto the show
28:01
and being interviewed by me and
28:01
putting out internet
28:05
connections. Thank you so much,
28:05
James, and Stephen
28:17
Thanks so much for listening to
28:17
the latest episode of Marketing
28:19
In Terms of Recovery, and I'm
28:19
your host Ayo Abbas If you want
28:22
o find out more about the bi-
28:22
eekly show do check out the
28:25
how notes which will give you
28:25
ore information about who the
28:27
uests are and all the things
28:27
e've covered. And if you're
28:30
istening on Apple or Spotify,
28:30
ake sure you hit the subscribe
28:33
utton so you don't miss out on
28:33
n episode. Until next time,
28:37
ye.