Shapers: Nick Giles

Show aired on 22nd August 2015

Transcript

Elliot Moss
That was the Staple Singers with I’ll Take You There, a lovely way to start the programme. Good morning, this is Jazz Shapers and I am Elliot Moss, thank you very much for joining me. Jazz Shapers is the place where you can hear the very best of those people who are shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul alongside their equivalents in the world of business, a Business Shaper. I am very pleased to say that my Business Shaper today is Mr Nick Giles. He is the co-founder of Seven Hills; the campaigning communications business. I actually interviewed his partner, Michael Hayman a while ago. They are doing fantastic stuff and reinventing what communications looks like in the 21st century. Lots coming up from Nick very shortly. In addition to hearing from Nick, you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya, some words of advice I hope for your business and on top of all of that, of course, some great music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul including music from Israeli sax player, Amit Freidman, vocalist, Sarah McFarlane and this from the one and only Bobby Womack.

Bobby Womack and California Dreaming. Nick Giles is my Business Shaper today, he is the co-founder of Seven Hills, as I said earlier. They are a campaigning communications business, set up I think about five years ago. I am going to have to double check that.

Nick Giles
Five and a half.

Elliott Moss
Five and a half… wow. Nick, thank you so much for joining me.

Nick Giles
Pleasure to be here.

Elliot Moss
Give me a one-liner on what Seven Hills does and who it does it for?

Nick Giles
Well, you’ve got it exactly right, we are a campaigning communications business. We launched at the beginning of 2010 and primarily we work with entrepreneurs, the founders of high growth businesses and we help them to tell their story to the market. Help them generate scale and achieve the momentum that they’re looking for. We launched with a clear view that in 2010 we needed entrepreneurs to build businesses, realise their ambitions, achieve the scale that we needed, create the jobs, create the opportunities, and we figured we could help contribute in that national effort to get the economy back on its feet.

Elliot Moss
And give me a sense of some of your clients, the ones that you are allowed to tell me about.

Nick Giles
We work with a number of high-profile entrepreneurial founders. We work with Paul Lindley, the founder Ellis Kitchen, a business that will be having its 10th anniversary very soon and has gone from an idea to the number one baby food brand in the UK in that short space of time. We work with Lord Bilimoria of Cobra Beer, who I believe has been on the show previously.

Elliot Moss
As has Paul Lindley.

Nick Giles
As has Paul Lindley. We work with Peter James of Dragons Den fame and many others. And around those founder led businesses, we work with many large organisations that are seeking to stimulate the growth of entrepreneurial firms, so everything from Tech City UK to the British Business Bank and large advisory firms that are seeking to help founders achieve their ambitions.

Elliot Moss
That is an amazing array of people and I am not just saying that because we have interviewed half of them here but seriously, those are fast growth businesses. Those are businesses which have purpose, they are interesting, they are well known. You were working for other agencies before you set up this one. They were good agencies and I think you know they are all relatively well known and all that, but they weren’t stand out. What made you think that you could do something special, Nick? Why you? Why you and your co-founder, Michael? What gave you the chutzpah to believe that you could reinvent what was and has been a relatively flat and uninteresting category, if we’re honest about it?

Nick Giles
Well I think chutzpah’s the word. Actually Michael and I met in the late nineties, just a couple of doors down from the studio here, and we met when we were in our mid to late 20s. We had a clear view that ultimately we would like to be running our own business, we spent quite a lot of time daydreaming about what that might be. But it took us quite some time to actually be in a position to do it, so we probably had ten years apart working with big international agencies, specialist UK agencies, great client base, but as you say it was, it was a category full of good agencies that were delivering but we figured we had the opportunity to create something that would be singular, that would be distinctive, that would be remarkable. And I think it was a combination of the point in our lives that we launched. We had had fifteen, twenty years’ experience in building our networks, our connections, but also a shared view on what we wanted and what we didn’t want, and the very fact that we were having that conversation in 2009, in the depths of the recession and we had a clear view that we wanted to be in business at the beginning of 2010. That discussion really got us on to this topic of entrepreneurship and how important it would be, and so the fact that you have interviewed so many of our clients I think it speaks to the fact that actually entrepreneurs, founders are the new rock stars of the business world. They are the people that have the idea, have the courage to get something going. We often talk in terms of kind of the heroic phase of actually taking an idea from a page or a presentation and actually turning that into a business that employs people, that serves customers, serves clients. And we got going in 2010 and we had a clear view that we wanted to be a remarkable, defining.

Elliot Moss
So you just need a bit of belief and a tonne of chutzpah as well. Lots more coming up from Nick but now it is time for some music, this is Amit Freidman, with the Amit Freidman Sextet, and it is called La Refarela.

That was La Refarela from the Amit Freidman Sextet. Nick Giles is my Business Shaper today. They set up their business with his co-founder, Michael Hayman. It is called Seven Hills, set up five years ago and you use the word ‘remarkable’, Nick and it is remarkable. Your business has grown, it has got amazing accolades, you know, Global Agency of the Year for this and that, you keep winning new clients. When you set it up you, you obviously you know, said it was going to be remarkable. Saying and doing and delivering are two very different things. Why do you think you’ve pulled off the vision that you had? What makes you two so special, so to speak?

Nick Giles
I think you touch on it in your opening question. The very fact that there were two of us and we have a shared vision about what we want to achieve is, is so helpful and so important. When we launched, lots of people were saying that actually partnerships are a tricky thing to pull off, and we found it incredibly reinforcing to have a, a shared traveller on the journey. Someone that you can bounce ideas off, something that you can have as an anchor point or somebody to challenge you and provoke you, and I think we’ve… we set the business up with an ambitious view of what we could achieve. We didn’t just want to create another marketing communications PR firm, and the entrepreneurial element of that, the fact that we knew who we wanted to work for and we knew why we wanted to work for them and what we ultimately wanted to do, has been the absolute core of Seven Hills from the start.

Elliot Moss
But that… you talk about partnership and I buy that, and you talk about some kind of focus, obviously you are not going to say, ‘and we are really talented as well’, but you must be. What else has gone into building your business? Because, how many people work in the business? About forty people is it?

Nick Giles
It is about forty yeah.

Elliot Moss
Forty people, good few million pounds turnover, there’s more and more clients coming on. What else has gone into creating the day-to-day success of the business that you are now running?

Nick Giles
I think the underpinning has been the sense of team that we want to build within the business. We’ve been really focused on actually amassing a group of people that can win those clients, that can do a fantastic job, but ultimately I think it comes back to the founding principles of the business. We want to work with entrepreneurs. We want to help those people that are building businesses scale them quickly, and we have a strong sense of the contribution of founders to the broader economic fabric of the UK, so I think we have both worked in many agencies, and it’s often difficult to have that common view of what you’re there to do, what you are for. You are in many cases there to provide a service and do your thing efficiently and, and to a high standard, but I feel that what sets Seven Hills apart is a very clear sense that we are focused on growth. We want to back businesses that are scaling. We want to work with organisations that are on that journey and also want to help businesses accelerate.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from my Business Shaper today, Nick Giles; he is the co-founder of Seven Hills. Latest travel in a couple of minutes and before that some wise words from our programme partners, Mishcon de Reya, for your business.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss. Every Saturday morning I am incredibly lucky because I get to meet someone who is shaping the world of business, a Business Shaper. If you’ve missed any of the 180 or so Shapers that I happened to have interviewed over the last few years, go to iTunes, put in the words ‘Jazz’ and ‘Shapers’, you will find some there. British Airways – if you’re flying soon then look us up. We are also on there on BA Highlife. And there will be other places like CityAm.com as well. Lots and lots of places for us to appear for you. Nick Giles is my Business Shapers today, co-founder of Seven Hills. They are a communications and campaigning business and they have been going for five years to great success. Nick, we were talking about what it takes to run a great business and obviously vision is important; the team that you put together is important. You are a very proper person in the sense that if you could see Nick now, he is in a tie, he looks very, he looks very nice. His hair is perfect! But you are very clear on what you stand for and, you know, we’ve met each other a lot of times, and I get a great sense of consistency. Is that hard when you are an entrepreneur to always be consistent and yet be fluid enough to see the thing in front of you and duck and dive and go left and right?

Nick Giles
Actually, no I don’t think it is. I think if you have a clear sense of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, then it is much easier to be consistent, and I think it’s important not to be blown off course. Yes you do have to be agile and yes, you do have to respond to the changing conditions, but it’s always been our belief that we know what we are here to do. We know why we are doing it. We will innovate and come up with new ideas and change course from time to time, but ultimately we know what Seven Hills stands for. We know the profile business that we like working with. We know that essentially we are about apply creativity. We have got to come up with the big ideas that are going to help our clients and so I think it ultimately is about being authentic to who you are and, and not getting deflected or distracted and wild goose chases that can blow you off course.

Elliot Moss
Do you still learn every day something new about your partner, Michael? I mean is there ever a sense of, ‘That surprised me. I didn’t see that one coming’, or is it all a bit, ‘Yeah, I kind of know what he is going say when someone says that’?

Nick Giles
I think we know each other incredibly well. We’ve been in close cahoots for coming up for 20 years now and obviously we’ve seen each every day for more than five and a half years. I think I touched on partnership earlier and why that has been important to the business and I think many people that know us well will often comment that we are very different characters. We are often described as chalk and cheese. But I think it’s very complimentary and I think, yes, I think we surprise each other most days, if not every day. We Are constantly out meeting people. We are constantly talking. We are constantly coming up with ideas and presenting those, and I think the great joy for me in building the business over the last five and a half years is working with someone like Michael who is a brilliant communicator, a really confident character, somebody that is never happier than when he is on his feet presenting and selling an idea and I think he does that with great charm and charisma and together I think we have been able to harness that, harness our shared creativity to build something that’s really significant. So, yes, I think there are surprises day in, day out and I think that’s what keeps the business moving forward, keeps it fresh, keeps it exciting.

Elliot Moss
Lots more coming up from my Business Shaper today, that’s Nick Giles. Time for some music though, this is Lost Tribe from the Avishai Cohen Trio.

That was the Avishai Cohen Trio with Lost Tribe. Nick, we have been talking about all sorts of stuff, and I have said, ‘Oh, we’re doing very well. Successful business, growth, growth growth’ – it can’t all have been easy? Difficult times when you and Michael have been up against it. How do you manage that? Because you’re both pretty upbeat guys. I imagine that isn’t the same behind closed doors when there is a really serious problem. If there have been any serious problems, or has it all been a bed of roses?

Nick Giles
No, there has not been serious problems. I think we have had a remarkably good run over the past five and a half years. I think inevitably there are moments where you do have a business challenge. You do have something you have really got to overcome, and I think it comes back to the underpinnings of the business. We have a shared view. We are in it together. There’s none, there’s none of the tension or the fall outs that you often hear about with founding partners or many business, so I think what we have been able to bring to bear is a unity, a collective view that this is something we are going to get through together. This is something that we can tackle better together, and there is no point going at something as a pair of individuals. We are a team, we are a founding partnership, and we have got a business of forty plus people to bring along with us now, so I think as a founder you have to be confident. You have to be optimistic, and I think the word ‘optimism’ has actually run through Seven Hills like a stick of rock. We have always had a grand ambition on many of the things that we have done whether it was creating the UK’s first national festival for entrepreneurship in our very first year, whether it was co-founding the Start-up Britain campaign that the prime minister launched in 2011. We have always had a view that we will bite off perhaps more than we can chew, and we’ll deliver it. We’ll deliver it in spades, and we’ll enjoy the process. So, we have always liked a challenge. We have never been fearful that something is going to be difficult or beyond us, and I have come back to the point, I think that is where actually having a partner reinforces that confidence, makes you believe that actually we can do this and why shouldn’t we?

Elliot Moss
We will have our final chat with Nick today plus play a track from Zara McFarlane. That is after the latest traffic and travel here on Jazz FM.

That was Zara McFarlane with Night And Day, Best Vocalist in the Jazz FM Awards in 2015, also the Best Jazz Act in the MOBO’s in 2014, just in case you didn’t know. Just for a few more precious minutes, Nick Giles is my Business Shaper, he is the co-founder of Seven Hills. They communicate on behalf of fantastic entrepreneurs and fast growth businesses and they have done it rather well. In fact so well, that they have written a book – a book which has been published relatively recently by Penguin Random House – it is called ‘Mission’. I guess it captures all the things that you and Michael have observed, have seen first-hand. You have talked very, very successful entrepreneurs both here and the other side of the pond. Did you enjoy writing a book?

Nick Giles
We did, and it was no mean feat. It was actually about eighteen months in the making. The reason it came about was we, through the work that we have been doing over the last few years, had got to meet the guys at Penguin and they were very interested in the possibility of a book that was looking at entrepreneurship broadly, and so the book we have published is ‘Mission – How the best in business break through’. And what we tell in that book is a series of stories around some of the most inspiring breakthrough businesses of the past few years and actually look at some of those organisations that, that came before them. So we have interviewed people such as Joe Gebbia, one of the co-founders of AirBnB, a business that formed a few years ago and is now valued at north of 25 billion Dollars. We spoke to John Mackey, the billionaire founder of Whole Foods. Michael interviewed him in Austin in Texas where the business hails from and what we have really observed is the strong sense of a driving mission that underpins so many of those brilliant businesses that break through, that capture our attention, that win mind share and market share and connect with us as consumers. And so we told that story through ‘Mission’, and it has been doing very well since it went on sale at the beginning of July.

Elliot Moss
And in fact it leads to my, probably my last question before we ask you what your song choice is. You have achieved so much, I mean the last five years have been fantastic. You have written your book now. You have got it on there. It feels like the bit in Jerry Maguire where he’s telling the guy he’s got his 10 million over three years. What do you do next, though? I mean your business is flying, you have done the book, what is going to happen? Is it just more of the same? Are you going to be selling this business? Are you not going to run it? I mean where, where is your head at?

Nick Giles
Well I think we are absolutely at the foothills. I think we are just getting started. We are only five and a half years in. We feel that we have just passed the start-up phase. We are now at the position where we are looking at how do we scale the business? How does it become what we, we set out to build, which was a remarkable, defining business in our field. With regards to the book, we are busily promoting that at the moment. We have already started to think, is there a second? Is there a third book in us? And I think what we love about the area that we are working in, is it is full of great stories. It is full of drama. It is full of the heroism of people thinking they have got an idea that they can take to market and building a firm off the back of it. So, I think there are plenty more stories to tell.

Elliot Moss
I have got a feeling I am talking to the Sylvester Stallone of book writing here. We are going to be looking for some sequels. Nick, thank you so much, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the programme. Just before I let you go, what is your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Nick Giles
My song choice is In The Morning by Nina Simone. It is simply a song that I have loved from the moment I first heard it. I first became aware of Nina Simone probably in my teens. I started to build up something of a, a vinyl and CD collection and In The Morning was one of many Nina Simone songs that stuck with me, and this is the one that I will sing to myself when I am strolling along the streets or driving in the car. I think it’s, it’s such a beautifully uplifting piece of music, and I only recently realised it was actually written by Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees, who wrote so many songs that Nina Simone actually performed beautifully, and so it is one of a number of favourites from Nina Simone. A brilliant singer, and one of my personal favourites.

Elliot Moss
And here it is, just for you. Thank you so much.

That was Nina Simone with In The Morning. The song choice of my Business Shaper, Nick Giles. A focus – how important is that if you are going to make your business work. His has been entrepreneurs and the world of entrepreneurialism. Optimism – the importance of being optimistic even in the face of adversity, absolutely critical. And finally for him and his partner, Michael Hayman, the power of a partnership and being able to look someone in the eye and say, ‘We are in this together’. Fantastic stuff. Do join me again same time, same place. That is next Saturday, 9.00am here on Jazz FM. In the meantime stay with us, coming up next it’s Nigel Williams.

Nick Giles is co-founder of Seven Hills, the highly acclaimed campaigns firm and co-creator of SUMMIT, a series of events exploring the sectors and trends with the potential to drive growth.

Nick co-founded Seven Hills alongside business partner Michael Hayman to generate momentum for Britain’s explosive growth companies and most exciting entrepreneurs. The firm has been named the Best Corporate Consultancy in the World and one of the Top 10 Global Fast Movers by the communications industry monitor The Holmes Report.

Follow Nick on Twitter @nick_giles

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

We launched in 2010 with a clear view that we needed entrepreneurs to build businesses, realise their ambitions and create jobs and opportunities. We figured we could help contribute to the national effort to get the economy back on its feet.

We wanted to be running our own business and we spent quite a lot of time daydreaming about what that might be.

Founders are the new rock stars of the business world.  They are the people that have the idea and the courage to get something going.

Chutzpah. I think we are blessed with a fair amount of that.

We found it incredibly reinforcing to have a shared traveller on the journey. 

Michael and I are often described as chalk and cheese.

What sets Seven Hills apart is that we are focused on growth: we want to back businesses that are scaling.

If you have a clear sense of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, then it is much easier to be consistent. It’s important not to be blown off course.

We’ve always had a view that we’ll bite off more than we can chew, and we’ll deliver it. We’ll deliver it in spades, and we’ll enjoy the process.

We are just getting started – there are plenty more stories to tell.