As the Founder and CEO of Brash Agency, John Brash operates at the forefront of leading-edge thinking in the creative industry. In this interview, John talks to The Industry Leaders about his wish for all Creatives to be able to travel as part of their career and why, as leaders, it's vital to allow people the room to make mistakes.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
The answer is simple: hard work. This combined with optimism, insight and the ability to cut through complexities, overcome challenges and see opportunities with fresh, creative perspectives.
Of course, none of this would have been possible if I didn't work with the best companies, people and clients – people that truly inspire me and bring out the best in me. By connecting with clients and delivering exciting projects over the years, I've become the trusted advisor that I am today. In fact, it was a client who suggested I set up Brash as a business because they saw the unique value I bring as JB.
What kind of work does your role involve?
As Founder and CEO, I essentially bring ideas on how to grow our business and that of our clients. My curiosity and personality have enabled me to get close to some of the most reputable business leaders and entrepreneurs worldwide. The strength of this ecosystem is manifested through the insights I bring to the table, which are invaluable when identifying fresh opportunities, often in places unimagined.
With my experience working in the creative industries, I also ensure maverick solutions are considered and designed to deliver the desired impact.
What gets you excited about your industry?
Working in the creative sector means you are in the industry of 'creation'. This means creating and shaping new 'realities' every day. This in itself is an exciting thought, as we take and 'own' this responsibility. As creatives, we see new opportunities for creation every day with the excitement of not yet knowing what is or could be.
For example, this week, we will share our ideas for designing a livery and interior for a UHNWI client's new private jet. We are also presenting a brand concept for a major tourism destination in Oman, followed by a meeting with a company that is developing London's most exclusive and expensive residential project in Mayfair.
The variety of clients and complexity of different stakeholders and markets keeps the team sharp. It's both exciting and rewarding to see how we can inspire our clients, gain their trust and then partner to develop their brand and business. Most people only get to see and experience the brand's promise - but we know its story, the challenges, the hard work, the battles, and the glory.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Know what you want, work as hard as you possibly can and never give up. Perhaps this sounds cliché, but if you are smart, curious, and determined about your objectives, you can achieve them.
Passion keeps you focused and helps you find the energy to overcome challenges along the way. But also, stay true to yourself as 'pretending' is never a sustainable option!
How do you support aspiring leaders in your field?
Showing trust and confidence is key. It is equally important to empower aspiring leaders, so make sure to give them the space to learn and develop. Allow them to make mistakes but ensure they learn from these moving forward.
Inspire them, value their opinion and support them in their beliefs and actions, so in turn, they feel motivated to show you their very best work.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
Keeping up to speed means doing some research, staying informed about the market and the ongoing trends. However, I make it my aim to get ahead of the game to give Brash a competitive advantage. Keeping the dialogue up and staying connected with the business ecosystem I've built over the years enables me to understand what's changing and why.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
There's a new challenge every day in the creative sector as there are so many moving parts in our business and clients' projects. For instance, situations where clients suddenly stop or put on hold a project when you have already planned for that income is definitely tough. As a business leader, you start to wonder - how do you fill that hole?
Getting through the 2008 financial crisis was challenging as it happened so quickly and unexpectedly. Our revenue from one client dropped from $2m to $29k year on year – a massive hit for any business. But you live and learn, and, truth be told, it prepared us well for the Covid pandemic. We have adapted our business model and are now conveying our energy and emotion via Zoom!
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
I'd do the decent thing and find out who had lost it!
To be honest, I'd handle the money as if it was dividends from the business - re-invest 30% in the Brash business, keep 30% in the bank/secure investment and use the other 30% to invest in a start-up business and my own new concept ideas.
The remaining 10% I'd donate to charitable causes as it's the right thing to do. The only luxury investment would be a 1970's Mini Moke!
How do you switch off after a day at work?
If you're passionate about what you do, it is impossible to switch off. Good ideas don't come at a fixed time. However, work never feels like 'work', and Brash feels more like a lifestyle - I socialise a lot and visit places. It's the change and diversity of environment and people that bring balance and harmony in my life – I would not want that to switch off.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
Working in the creative industries has never meant working from 9 to 5. Everyone knows that, yet it's not valued or reflected in the average recognition and reward package.
Creatives, the ones chosen and hired to deliver valuable content, are often undervalued and underpaid; they spend hours behind a laptop with little or no time to get 'out there and get inspired'.
As such, my wish for the industry would be to allow creatives to travel to NYC, Tokyo, London or somewhere else, where they can get educated, motivated and improve their wellbeing (once the travel restrictions are lifted, of course). Creatives tend to put so much of themselves on the line day in and day out – indeed, research published in Scientific American also shows that artists and writers are more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder or depression.
Sending creatives to different locations would show appreciation for their work and value and let them experience the world outside of the office/home walls. It would help them reconnect with the inspiration that brought them into the industry in the first place.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. The author is such a fabulous, interesting chap who provides witty and enlightening insights into the culinary world. It certainly made me change some of my dining habits!
How should people connect with you?
I easily connect with people – and vice versa, but I have no time for 'wannabes'.
People that survive and thrive 'despite' quickly earn my respect – people that are 'hungry' and passionately driven inspire me and excite me. It's their company I enjoy most.
For anyone who wants to chat, you can find me on LinkedIn or through Brash's website and Instagram.
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**Looking to level-up your leadership skills? Check out our article on the best self-help books for business leaders and entrepreneurs.