Series 2, Episode 1 of Snippets of Genius has arrived and it’s a belter with industry legend Terry Tyrrell. We are taken on a whistle stop tour of his risk taking, BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) and his lucky breaks, we cram 40 years of pivotal moments into 40 minutes! Get ready for the first 20 minutes to set you up for huge growth.
To this day, Tyrrell’s three values are: gutsy, grounded, and curious. Prepare your notepads, as Tyrrell recounts all his tried and tested secrets using these values as his guide to navigate the lucky breaks, and his actionable strategies to start, scale and build a global business.
We go on a journey from the back room of an Ad agency office in Old Burlington Street, Mayfair to 23 offices around the world. This episode is jam packed with insights into achieving BHAGs.
Tune in and you’ll learn:
- How Terry Tyrrell and Sam Sampson went from design graduates to scaling to 23 offices around the world
- Why these three values: gutsy, grounded, curious. were the building blocks to it all
- What you must consider when opportunity comes a knocking!
- The genius moves to keep building a brand and a business they loved
- What made the big boys, including Sir Martin Sorrell himself, sit up and take notice.
- Expert advice on when to take the big risks on your startup (and when to think twice)
- What to watch out for when you decide to go all in!
- Why you will need to pay your team more than you pay yourself!
- What you need to know to keep fame growing over an extended period of time
- The 2 critical ingredients you need to build a thriving culture and your critical starting point.
- Who you need on your team to scale and the attributes they must have
- The must read book for all CEO’s …and more!
And, after you’ve heard his amazing story, be sure to get in touch and tell me what you think were the critical factors behind Terry and Sam’s runaway success?
Are you clear on your values and how to navigate the toughest decisions you are bound to face?
If it’s a ‘hell yes’! Then please share with me how you will put his words of wisdom into action by your own rules.
Need some help with defining your values and growth strategy? Sign up for my next FREE Masterclass and let me show you how.
Last. but my no means least, make sure you get this book on your reading list today.
Built to Last – Jim Collins Jerry Porris: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies
Read the full transcript here:
Caroline Kay: Welcome to the Snippets of Genius Podcast. I’m your hostess Caroline Kay, Business & Success Coach, and I’m delighted to be back with Series 2.
Today we have the Industry legend Terry Tyrrell, one of the masters of brand and corporate identity who is going to take us on a whistle stop tour of his risk taking, his big hairy audacious goals and the lucky breaks he’s had along the way, and we are going to cram 40 years of pivotal moments into just 40 minutes. So that’s right guys we have got 2 episodes this time round, first half and second half there we go!
To this day, Terry has not only inspired me but excited me in what’s possible in defining cultures and building and scaling global businesses. I’m really excited for you guys to tune in and hear from his words of wisdom. So Terry, thank you so much for being here.
So Terry, thank you so much for being here.
Terry Tyrrell: Caroline. Thank you very much for inviting me. I’m delighted to have this opportunity of having a chat with you, which is great.
Caroline Kay: Oh, the pleasure is definitely all mine.
Tell, tell the listeners just a little bit about
How you really do drive the power of brands.
What has been happening in those 40 years?
Terry Tyrrell: Well, that’s, you know, my life started when I left art school. I was a graphic designer and yeah, I was, I was a graphic designer and I started. My career, if I can call it that [00:01:00] with actually an amazing guy. FHK Henrion we never, his first name was Henri, but it’s quite hard to say Henri Henrian so Mr. Henrian, and he was the sort of father of what we, we later call corporate identity and I, I was. I say privileged to really have, I guess, the post-graduate training with him. He’s an incredible guy.
When you say he was the father, how did he get that name? Or how did he become known that way?
Terry Tyrrell: He was he was a Polish Jew that left Poland at the beginning of the war. And set up in the UK as a commercial artist. I mean, well you know, there were no such things then as designers, he was a commercial artist and he would do posters for different types of organizations, one-off posters, and a work of art that would then be printed and become a piece of commercial art for that company or that organization.
So that’s how he started up. But then companies started to approach him and say, look, what can you do for us? And gradually he started to develop a system. And that’s really where, you know, what we now call corporate identity, you know, branding for companies started. And I was lucky enough to work on some amazing organizations like I mean, believe it or not before British airways, BEA. British European Airways. We worked on that Tate and Lyle, the sugar people Volkswagen. We, we redesigned the Volkswagen logo. It was incredible sort of introduction to that world. And that’s where I met the guy who was eventually going to be my business partner. A fella called Sam Sampson’s cause he, he was also a graphic designer.
We both worked with Henrian and I was there for about four years. He was there for about five years. We went our separate ways. And then one day he called me up and said, Terry, there’s an advertising agency who just won, this big account. And they need somebody in there as a graphic designers to actually help them work on it.
And, you know, maybe the agency would like to set us up in business and surprise, surprise they [00:03:00] did. And they gave us a back room in their agency in old Burlington street in Mayfair. Literally it was next to the kitchen and next to the toilet. So without this time, just, just the two of us, the project that the agency we’re working on, they won the account for what was going to become British Gas.
But actually it was when it was at a time and I’m talking 1976. So a long time ago, right. This is when all the regional gas companies in the UK were coming together under one umbrella called British Gas Corporation. So one organization and 40 different regional gas companies. And we got the job of designing and creating the original brand for British Gas. The advertising agency did the advertising and that’s what got us going. And we are very cautious.
Caroline Kay: Can I ask you, Terry, were you a business within a business or were you sort of, part of that larger advertising agency there?
Terry Tyrrell: No, it’s a good question though, the the agency allowed us to create our own company. But they took a pretty major shareholding in the company. Obviously had the faith in us. And so we were in charge and it was our own show, but we were obviously given free rent in the building.
We were allowed to work on our own clients as well. So I was lucky enough to have a few clients that I brought with me from my previous job. After I left Henrion. As did Sam and Sam Samson and myself literally set up the business and it was so scary and so frightening because we moved from a secure world to becoming what you would call nowadays a startup, but we didn’t use those words.
And luckily by then Sam was married, but I, but I wasn’t. So it wasn’t such a big risk for me, cause I didn’t have dependence or anything like that. So it was worth taking the risk and that was the start. And then. 10 years later in 1986, we’re up to about 30 people.
Caroline Kay: That’s a familiar name
Terry Tyrrell: Yeah, a familiar name, and we were the fourth company that he acquired. So before any of the big ad agencies, et cetera, et cetera. And we, we were called Sampson Tyrrell and you know, we, we decided that we will continue with that name because it’s still the two of us, although we’d got about 30 people, but being part of WPP really enabled us to grow. And invest in the business.
Caroline Kay: How did you find that opportunity or did the opportunity find you
Terry Tyrrell: I’d love to say that’s the truth, but it wasn’t actually, it was he had a couple of stockbroker scouts who were looking out for companies to buy.
I mean, I’m putting this rather bluntly. We we’d had a pretty good track record and we’re making good profits over the 10 years. We’d got going. And he could see that. Obviously we were ambitious. We’d done well in 10 years. We’d made good margins. So this particular stockbroker put our name forward.
And then we, we met with with Martin and in fact it took about a year for us to sort of be convinced that he would allow us to, to carry on. Basically as we were which he did. And of course, with his backing, we were able to develop the business even further. And we went through a period of sort of ups and downs because when you have started a business and you are in control, and then you’re trying to scale that business up.
Caroline Kay: I think it’s so interesting that you sort of say two guys working together doing your thing, and suddenly you’ve got 30 people around you.
I mean, how did you manage that? Navigate that growth in those early days?
Terry Tyrrell: That’s a great question. And when we got to 30, we were still a family. I mean, we all knew each other. We knew each other socially as well because you know, what, what we did is we hired good people, really good people. Our view was.
We didn’t want to be bosses. We just wanted to be a, a small group of people that got on with one another admired each other, and we’re a team and we used to meet every Friday, we’d go down the pub, et cetera, et cetera. And it was only in the UK, but then. After WPP, we started to acquire businesses in Europe and, and in other parts of the world.
And, and to do [00:08:00] that and control it, you can’t do that yourself. So we, we had to start hiring people that were much clever than us. Who were actually much more experienced than us and actually who we had to pay a lot more than we were even paying ourselves to run the business. And you know, over the years we had several different CEOs until the point where we decided that we didn’t want to, we didn’t want to be famous ourselves.
We wanted the company and the people to be famous. So we dropped our names.
Caroline Kay: Wow. That’s a big decision there. Yeah. Did it take a lot of work to build up to that or did it feel kind of more of a natural step for you,
Terry Tyrrell: Do you know Caroline, Simon. I weren’t very good at, you know, being sort of in front of the media and all that sort of stuff.
And we, we didn’t have big, how can I put it without sounding arrogant? We didn’t have big sort of egos, I guess. And we wanted. We wanted the people we worked with and our team to be the heroes of the business, not us. So we decided we would not promulgategate, the cult of the individual.
And so we dropped our names and we actually went through two phases of name changes. One was we. After we dropped Samson Tyrrell it became Enterprise IG, which sounds a bit like a car company. I mean the story behind that was ridiculous because we, we were teaming up with some people in the States.
So another agency that was part of WPP to do a big pitch and we had to appear to be joined up. We’d hardly met these other people. So we, we, we decided that we would do some business cards with this name on it Enterprise IG, because it sort of sounded, you know, enterprising and it was just an awful piece of branding to be honest. But we pitched for this big job. We didn’t get it because it was obvious. We hardly knew each other. But we went on to join up after that and [00:10:00] become one organization with these, these guys in the States. And soon after that, a few, a few years after that we decided that we wanted to be, you know, up there in the top of the alphabet.
So, and we wanted, if we could to have the word brand and our name, and we found out that WPP had a dormant company a company they had acquired that was called Brand Union and that was run by a couple of great guys who eventually became part of our organization, Glen Tutssel and Dave Brown.
And, they integrated into our business amazingly and we were allowed to take on the name Brand Union and you know, that I guess became a lot easier to for us because we, we have Brand, In our name,
Caroline Kay: you got your wish, put that intention out there.
Terry Tyrrell: you know, we were able from that point to grow to a point where we became something like 500 people in 23 offices around the world I became chairman
Caroline Kay: I mean that is just a huge story of, of [00:11:00] scaling and, you know, going global and integrating with other businesses. There’s so much that’s happened there. And one of the things I picked up on right at the beginning was how you talked about. How you wanted to grow that business in those early days, working with like-minded people you respected, admired, and bringing them together and all go down the pub on Friday and having a nice time and enjoying the journey and the ride.
And that’s so connects with how I feel about building my own business, many entrepreneurs do, they don’t want to have that big corporate machine, but lo and behold, Build something brilliant at the beginning, it can scale and become part of, one of the biggest global advertising agencies in the world.
And I suppose the question is, how did you stay on track in terms of building a great business and really building what that meant to you, what it is to build a great business?
Now. It’s easy to have fame in a week, but to keep fame growing and going over time is really, really hard. And I think what did it for us was a recognition that, if we could try and build an organization that had people in it that all admired one another and inspired one another.
I mean, I’m not very good at inspiring, nor was Sam. I don’t like the word very much because it sounds like, you know, follow me to the top. Oh, the Hill. You know, and, and get behind me guys. Well, that’s not how we did it. We did it by nurturing people caring for people deeply and building a culture. Through our values and our values were very simple.
And they, they were the values that actually led us forward. And they were:
and we would hire people that were gutsy grounded and curious, and you know, that’s sort of how we did it. And we sort of knew when we met somebody who was good at what they did. Normally they were actually better than us if I have to say I mean, I thought I was a good designer, but when I met some of the people who eventually joined us, they were a hell of a lot better than me.
Or dare I say, Sam as well. And, and that’s really what we did. We made them the heroes of our business. I was quite good with clients and so I would try and build strong relationships with clients, but we relied heavily, obviously on the people we built a strong culture and, you know, I, I do call it a lot of work now, helping organizations.
Go through brand led culture change. And what I’ve learned is that
I mean, there’s a lot of data out there that shows that. So, you know, my advice to anybody, who’s trying to sort of build a business, build the culture first, you know, start from the inside and work out. Don’t work from the outside in.
Caroline Kay: That’s brilliant advice
Terry Tyrrell: There’s a guy, two guys I really admired. Who wrote a book back in 19? What was it? 1994 or 74, actually, I think it was called ‘Built to Last’. And it was a book written by two Stanford, professors, Collins and Porus.
And they, they examined companies that had survived the ups and downs of time.
And what they found was these companies virtually massively successful when compared with others, it didn’t make it. They had a deep rooted belief system. And they had what they called BHAGs, I didn’t know what a BHAGS was.
Caroline Kay: I think, I know
Terry Tyrrell: Well everybody now knows cause it’s famous, but you know, they had big, hairy, audacious goals and they were prepared to take risks and we sort of were, I was naturally curious, but quite not very, I was quite risk averse.
Sam. Was not risk averse and we’ve prepared to actually do things differently. And indeed some of the people that we came that came on board to run our businesses, people like Dave Allen and John Mathers and Patrick Smith that were all, they’re all CEOs in their time with us. [00:15:00] They took those . Risks for us as well.
I mean, I’ll never forget one of the hairiest things I ever did was when we were just, just beginning to get known.
We said to each other, what could we do to really get our name out there? Right. How, how can we compete with those big agencies? So what we did, we took advertising space in the Economist and in all the leading European in flight magazines.
Can you imagine this? A brand agency spending, we spend a fortune on this, right?
The ad said, ” don’t waste your money on corporate identity” for a brand agency to say, don’t, you know I think it got people to ask the question, what’s this all about?
Caroline Kay: Why would they say that?
Terry Tyrrell: And in the corner ad, this is going back before the days of digital you could cut a coupon out. And if you sent the coupon off, you’ve got you’ve got a book in the post and the book was all about why you should invest in corporate identity, of course, but we were getting 250 coupons a week from people who’d read the, [00:16:00] the economists who obviously the potential clients we wanted to speak to and hear who were reading in flight magazines and traveling around the world.
And we made so much new business out of that. And it was one of the riskiest financially things that we ever did, but it just shows you
Caroline Kay: I think you’re being quite humble there because I think you also had a brilliant ideas. Which was a really effective marketing strategy. You could get out there and hook them in. Yeah. I think a lot of a lot of times people say, Oh, when should I invest in advertising? And is it the right time? And I think if you’ve got the right message and you’ve got the right way of communicating, then. Get that message out there to the masses is the right way to go. But perhaps if you hadn’t tested that message, then yep I would say that would have been a risky move.
Terry Tyrrell: Well, we were, luckily we got it. Right?
So some breaks sometimes, which is great.
Caroline Kay: You’ve talked about some of the good fortune you’ve had along your journey.
If you could go back and give yourself. Your younger self, some advice, what would you say?
Terry Tyrrell: I guess I would say take more risks. I think if I’m quite honest with you, Caroline, Simon, I you know, we were humble graphic designers. We weren’t used to really spending money and taking risks, but we were lucky enough to have people who would actually be prepared to come out and do that and work with us. So , if I was thinking back to those days, I think for the first 10 years we really were ultra ultra cautious. And it was only really when we started to spread our wings a little bit and get people around us who could go with us and take the risk with us that, and WPP, obviously we’re able to do that. That made a hell of a difference.
And the other thing I wish I’d done earlier would start my own business earlier. And it was only that opportunity that. That gave us the agency gave us to start the business. [00:18:00] That was the trigger that allowed us to do it, but I would have liked to have done it five years earlier if I could.
Caroline Kay: Definitely, I think good for anyone sitting on the fence, wondering if it’s now’s the time it’s, don’t wait till later,
Terry Tyrrell: Just get on with it. And if you fail, you fail. Right?
Caroline Kay: Yeah.
Don’t take such a risk that it’s going to wipe you out, but face the prospect of failure in the face. And you know, that’s what we did. And we, we had lots and lots of failures over time, but you know, we’d learnt that failure is the mother of success