Shaper: Daniel Robey

Show aired on 14th April 2018

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Good morning I am Elliot Moss, thank you very much for joining. Jazz Shapers is where you can hear the very best of the people shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul and the different spin on that is that we also bring in someone who is shaping the world of business, we call them Business Shapers. I am really pleased to say that my Business Shaper today is Daniel Robey; he is the Founder and CEO of Think Jam the entertainment and marketing agency. Daniel thank you for joining.

Daniel Robey
Thank you for having me, it’s very nice to be here.

Elliot Moss
Good I am pleased, you look comfortable, relaxed as creative people often do, a nicely buttoned cardigan and the like. Tell me what does an entertainment marketing agency do when it’s at home and what’s it been doing since 2004?

Daniel Robey
We look after film companies, TV companies, book publishers, public game companies and essentially we help them craft a strategy to launch their product, in the main movies and create assets, create communications and get the word out there is its simplest.

Elliot Moss
So tell me, go back to 2004. Why did you set this business up? What did you think you were going to be doing to the world of communications because it wasn’t short of a few agencies or two even then?

Daniel Robey
It wasn’t short of a few agencies but it was short of some digital agencies actually and I started my business because I was made redundant and I was made redundant because the agency I was working for didn’t want to pursue digital and I did. So I… your eyes are glaring?

Elliot Moss
Well in the sense that you know, looking now you are 2018 and the notion of not pursuing digital is such a ridiculous position isn’t it? Which you obviously felt as well?

Daniel Robey
To be fair to the company that I worked for, they were a brilliant agency and they stay true to what they believed in and their values still stand today as a very successful agency but I wanted to take the path of digital, PR coms, creative and all those things for film studios. So I took a punt.

Elliot Moss
And what does taking a punt look like when you start a business like that? Because which bit of it could you do? Could you do everything or were you… which side of the business have you been on historically?

Daniel Robey
I’ve done a bit of everything which I think is quite important when you are running a business because you’ve got to know what all of the parts of the whole are and experience each one of those. Back then, well before my job, I was a designer, I did some development and I felt very comfortable when I started managing clients and accounts, doing account management. So the client relationships are what I had and started building and then I brought in lots of people smarter than me to do design, development and publicity.

Elliot Moss
And just before we go to some more music, first client? When did you get it or did you have one right at the beginning?

Daniel Robey
I started with a client and my first client which I probably can’t say who it is but it was a big job with a cheque for £220 for my first week’s work and that was the beginning of the business.

Elliot Moss
2004, one cheque £220 – how do you build that Daniel though because it always impresses me that people move out and you moved out, you were made redundant as you said which was good because it forced the issue but to then go off and build something and bring in people and all that stuff. Tell me a little bit about the early days and the sorts of obstacles you had to overcome?

Daniel Robey
The early days were lots of trust, lots of ambition, lots of excitement, trying to surround yourself by good people, lots and lots of beer and wine with clients, entertaining clients all day long which was and is the foundation and bedrock of the business and how many of the relationships are still there today actually.

Elliot Moss
What the beer and the wine?

Daniel Robey
And the clients yeah.

Elliot Moss
But are the clients there because of the beer and the wine – no they are not. Are they there because… I’ve read about your business that you have a very strong set of values and values on a piece of paper never quite do justice to what happens in real life but loyalty, results, innovation, enthusiasm, team work sound pretty good to me.

Daniel Robey
Yep.

Elliot Moss
Have you inculcated your gang with that right from the beginning or have those emerged over the years?

Daniel Robey
They were always there but we’ve crystallised them in recent years and formalised them in all the communications that we have internally and what we talk about within the business, people’s reviews are based on our values and people are in interviews talk to about our values and have the belief in our values to have a bought in view of the business.

Elliot Moss
The buzz early on? So I imagine that’s what you are saying, it was difficult and full on but I imagine you are quite… you look like quite a, a person who has got energy, creative energy and you are twitching for things to happen. Is that what you think has enabled you to grow this business?

Daniel Robey
That is a good observation, I am quite twitchy and I am full of energy.

Elliot Moss
I don’t mean literally twitchy…

Daniel Robey
No, no.

Elliot Moss
…but I just sense that there is a lot going on straight away on meeting you?

Daniel Robey
Yeah there’s a creative agency and a coms agency can’t survive I don’t think without energy and without excitement, without innovation, without change, without trying to disrupt stuff. Not trying to use those words to be clichéd but using those words because that’s the real part of the business. We are changing stuff, we are innovating, we are trying to push clients, we’re nudging clients, we’re making mistakes, we’re failing, we’re trying again and nothing is ever perfect. We strive for perfection but we, I don’t believe we will ever get there because otherwise it’s perfect and you can’t get to perfect. So the energy in the business is really, really important across the teams.

Elliot Moss
And finding those people must be critical for that?

Daniel Robey
Yes which we do in a number of different ways but you know, we’ve got an amazing team at the moment and we always have had. We have lots of different people from lots of different backgrounds with lots of skills which I think is important. I sometimes call us a little bit of a Glee Club, with clearly reference to the show.

Elliot Moss
It’s one of my favourite shows.

Daniel Robey
There you go.

Elliot Moss
Who would you be in Glee?

Daniel Robey
Oh that’s an unfair question.

Elliot Moss
It is, carry on Daniel, I don’t really… you can think about that, we don’t have to come back to it.

Daniel Robey
But we are a mix of people with different backgrounds, we are not trying to be cookie cutters, everyone needs to come with a different background, interest, energy or passion which makes up the whole.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from my Business Shaper, that’s Daniel Robey talking about the importance of mixing different ingredients from different kinds of businesses and different backgrounds. He’s coming back in a couple of minutes but before that some words of advice for your business from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss. Every Saturday I am very lucky because I get to meet someone who is shaping the world of business, doing something interesting, making a dent in the universe. If you would like to hear of other dents in the universe from people I have met in the past, you can, if you haven’t already enabled your Alexa, say ‘enable Jazz Shapers’ and then say ‘play Jazz Shapers’ and magically the latest programme will appear. British Airways is another destination for you, as is FT.com as well as Cityam.com – lots of places. Right now though the place to be is here because Daniel Robey is my Business Shaper; he is the Founder and CEO of Think Jam, an entertainment marketing agency. They are full of things like PR and digital and much more. We were talking about different backgrounds and different people. How do you get the best out of all these different people? How do you ensure that when you put them in the room they are at their best and they feel safe and yet they feel also pushed?

Daniel Robey
I think there is two parts to that. One is trust. I have said a few times in the business I’ve never really… I’ve never ever thrown anyone under the bus or shot anyone for making a mistake or doing something wrong, or screwing something up. People learn by those mistakes but they know, and I hope they know, that they are surrounded by lots of people who will protect them, educate them, help them, guide them to get to the right places but a lot of it does come down to trust in people and empowering people to do what they are good at and taking natural paths, not trying to shoe horn people into roles that don’t quite fit.

Elliot Moss
Do they say it’s Daniel’s agency? Do your team go ‘it’s his business’ or is that the vibe?

Daniel Robey
That’s a tough question.

Elliot Moss
I mean in the sense do they look and go that’s the standard, he’s got energy, he’s client focussed, he understands how to run this business, he’s open to new ideas. Is that… are those the standards you are trying to push?

Daniel Robey
I’d like to. When I am in the office I like to see people flourish and drive and make them feel… hope that they are feeling part of the business. We have a really low extrician, we don’t lose lots and lots of staff so people clearly want to stay for a reason – it’s not just the tea and coffee – but when I am not in the office I am hoping it is running on its own and I am hoping they feel proud to be part of the agency and proud to be part of the team and proud to work for the type of clients we want.

Elliot Moss
And what do you think they… how would they describe Daniel do you think when you are not in the room?

Daniel Robey
Twitchy.

Elliot Moss
In a good way.

Daniel Robey
I like change, I like asking awkward questions, I like challenging people, I like coming at things left field, I like mixing things up, I like saying things that are testing and I hope they see that but I also, I also think they see me as a supportive, open boss who is always there to help drive the business forward.

Elliot Moss
They are not exhausted by you Daniel?

Daniel Robey
I think many of them are very exhausted.

Elliot Moss
But they don’t go anywhere, they like it. It’s kind of… it’s slightly masochistic; they know they are getting something good, it’s like good medicine.

Daniel Robey
It’s like good medicine.

Elliot Moss
But seriously there is a sense of you know, you are one of those people in the industry, I believe you are a regular judge at Eurobest which is part of Cannes Line, you are on the Cleo Awards Panel, you are one of those people the industry are saying ‘he’s one of those creative individuals’. That must be hard to be around all the time?

Daniel Robey
But I think that’s bigger than just me and Think Jam. I think that’s the industry as a whole because the entertainment industry it’s on fire right now, it’s changing. It has been on fire for many years. There’s always, there’s continual evolution so all the people we work with, our clients, we’ve got really, really smart clients, they are pushing us, that means I’ve got to push my team, that means my team have got to push my clients so it’s an ecosystem of energy I would guess.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more echo system of energy type things from Daniel Robey, he’s the Founder and CEO of Think Jam. We just made that up, it was good, you’ve just got a whole new… there’s a whole new genre of stuff going on in this part of the world. Time for some more music right now, Curtis Mayfield with Move On Up.

Curtis Mayfield with Move On Up. I am talking to Daniel Robey today, he is my Business Shaper; Founder and CEO of Think Jam. Daniel there is something that strikes me, you’ve got this creative business that you set up and you know, in a nice way glossed over the difficulty behind this creation, you fall back on the fact that you are a creative person, the fact you want to innovate and stuff. You took yourself off to Harvard for a long programme of studying business specifically for entrepreneurs like you. I’ve met many people and not many of the people, over the three hundred here on Jazz Shapers, and not many of them would do that so as much as I buy the creativity bit, there sounds to me like underneath that there is a sense of a desire for robust thinking, for knowing stuff that really sets you apart? Is that a fair point?

Daniel Robey
It’s a fair point. I am hungry, I’ve always been hungry to learn more. I realised about five or six years ago that I was running this business, I was responsible for these people, I had ideas for other businesses and I had absolutely no business education or formal business training so that’s why I decided I needed to go off to Harvard. I read a few business books that were… some were good, some were a bit crap – am I allowed to swear on radio?

Elliot Moss
What was the good one? If you’ve got one good book if someone is listening today, well tell me that book please?

Daniel Robey
The best book I’ve read and I’ve read it a couple of times is a book called The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz and it’s about his growth from zero to a billion dollar business but it’s not business frameworks and it’s not formal business practices, it’s his stories and it’s the trials and tribulations of CEO and the loneliness on the journey and how he has achieved those things.

Elliot Moss
And that loneliness was that true for you?

Daniel Robey
Very, very true. Part of that was why I went to Harvard, part of that is why I created an advisory board and I surround myself with people who are, who have walked the path before because running a business is really lonely. I don’t have business partners, I make my decisions, I work with my team, they give me advice but ultimately everyone needs someone to talk to and someone to get support and guidance from. Believe it or not I haven’t done this before so it’s quite good to surround yourself with people who have done it before.

Elliot Moss
The other business you set up back in 2014 which I am interested in because I think it is a very smart thing to do in addition to the creative element of what you do which is massive, is this data business, called Fuel Intelligence. Tell me a little bit about that and why you did it?

Daniel Robey
We set it up because, we set it up because we were really frustrated that there was no alignment in data or metrics across our clients so lots of agencies putting lots of reports into clients and there was no benchmark, there was no even playing field so no-one really knew what good looked like, no-one really knew what the numbers were and everyone was following a different hymn sheet. So we built this platform – probably my second punt or another punt – where we…

Elliot Moss
These punts are paying off quite well Daniel. You are good at this punt thing.

Daniel Robey
I should have been in horseracing. Where we built a platform and the platform would align metrics and it allows an even playing field for agencies working for different companies. Off the back of that it evolved into analytics, insights, audience profiling, defining audiences relative to brands that they like so it’s grown and developed and it’s now I think in a place where lots of people are talking about data driven marketing, data driven creativity, creativity based on metrics so it helps that journey.

Elliot Moss
I am with Daniel Robey just for a few more minutes. I hope I use them wisely. Is the money important to you, Daniel? Business turning over around ten million quid. It was a £220 cheque fourteen years ago. Does it drive you?

Daniel Robey
Is the money important – no. We never had a business plan, we’ve never had big goals, we’ve never tried to reach certain numbers. I mean clearly we have budgets and we work as a proper business but actually…

Elliot Moss
You quickly add there.

Daniel Robey
Unless you think otherwise…

Elliot Moss
No business plan is interesting but I hear that quite a lot as well.

Daniel Robey
It’s… by the time it’s finished on paper it’s out of date. For us it’s about doing what we love, we’ve stuck very true to film and entertainment, we’ve stuck to being creative, we’ve stuck to being innovative, we’ve stuck to trying new things. They are the things that excite me, they are the things I get out of bed for in the morning and seeing some of our campaigns, seeing some of the films we’ve worked on out there in the public domain is clearly a big high five on our hard work.

Elliot Moss
And then if money isn’t the objective and the great work is the objective are there ever times when you can, and you say perfection is and you are never going to get to perfect. When can you ever sit back and go ‘this is good?’ Do you ever stop and just say ‘you know what, I’m going to enjoy the moment?’

Daniel Robey
Never ever, ever. I never and you can ask my wife. She is the one that tells me, ‘stop, look back, look at what you’ve achieved from reasonably humble beginnings’. I never really stop. I am happy with what I have achieved but I also think there’s lots to go. I say to people many times, the party hasn’t really started yet, there’s still a whole world in front of us, I’ve got a lot of energy, I’ve got a lot of years left hopefully. So it’s, it’s an infinite process.

Elliot Moss
And you are in London, you are in LA. Plans for global domination or is it about just doing better work with more clients?

Daniel Robey
It’s not just about spreading our wings country by country. The entertainment industry has certain pockets, it’s about making sure we are best in class in those pockets.

Elliot Moss
What would your advice be to someone who is thinking about doing what you did fourteen years ago because it strikes me, and you said it earlier, the entertainment industry has never seen so much disruption, I mean it is literally changing on a daily basis, ownership of a big platforms, platforms themselves, speed of broadband, competition from left right and centre. What would you say to somebody?

Daniel Robey
I’d say take a risk. I’d say take, well we’ve used the word punt, take a punt. I think the success of my business I would like to think is based on my ambition for success and loving what I do. So I think if someone loves what they do, they have a passion for what they do, there’s a real model there and arguably it can be scaled to something they are happy with – take a risk.

Elliot Moss
It’s been really nice talking to you. The king of punts and risks and in a good way though because you’ve obviously built something pretty special and I hope you continue to do so. Just before I let you go Daniel, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Daniel Robey
My song choice is Mir and Sebastian from La La Land and I didn’t chose it, my kids chose it so we are in the entertainment business, I watch lots of movies, I watch a lot of movies with my kids, my kids are very into music, my son has a saxophone scholarship, my other son plays trumpet, we watch these movies together and I asked them and they chose this.

Elliot Moss
Excellent, here it is just for them and for you.

That was Mir and Sebastian, the theme tune to the fabulous film La La Land, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Daniel Robey. Talk about taking a risk, he was the guy who said that it’s worth a punt and that’s a fabulous message for anyone thinking of setting up a business. A person who understood super creative approaches to client’s problems and finally someone who had abundance of nervous energy and that as a creative person and as a leader is really, really important. All great stuff. You’ve been listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss, I do hope you’ve enjoyed the programme. Stay with here on Jazz FM for more jazz, blues and soul.

 

Daniel Robey

Daniel Robey graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 1997 with a first class honours in Interactive Multimedia & Design. He was Director of Digital at Empire Design until 2004, where he then founded and became CEO of Think Jam, in London. Think Jam is an award-winning digital creative and PR agency which services UK, US and international clients, in the film, TV, arts, gaming and publishing sectors, and was founded as a result of Daniel’s passion for entertainment and his desire to evolve the practice of marketing films. In 2013, Daniel studied Business at Harvard Business School, where he enrolled on the Owner President Management programme. In 2017, he was asked to join the Board of the British Independent Film Awards, and he is also a regular judge of Eurobest, a festival and awards that celebrate the best in European creativity. His passion for the disruption of marketing practices has seen him invited to participate in numerous panels and events, including the Youth Marketing Conference, where he has sought to instil his commitment for digital innovation in a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

“I’ve done a bit of everything, which I think is important when you are running a business. You’ve got to know all parts of the whole and experience each one of those.”

“A creative agency and comms agency can’t survive without energy, excitement, innovation, change and without trying to disrupt.”

“We are changing stuff. We are innovating. We are trying to push clients. We’re making mistakes but we’re trying again and nothing is ever perfect.”

“We have lots of different people from different backgrounds with lots of skills which I think is important. I sometimes call us Glee Club, with clear reference to the show.”

“We are not trying to be cookie cutters; everyone needs to come with a different background, interest, energy or passion, which makes up the whole.”

“People learn by mistakes, and I hope they know that they are surrounded by people who will protect, educate, help and guide them to get to the right places.”

“I like to see people flourish and drive and make them feel… I hope that they feel like part of the business.”

“I like asking awkward questions, I like challenging people, I like coming at things left field, I like mixing things up, I like saying things that are testing.”