I’ve been asked lots of times over the years why I have stayed so long with Next Fifteen. And, having spent over 20 years at Next Fifteen with 5 years at Text 100 and 17 years at Bite, I guess it’s a fair question! The reality is that I’ve stuck around so long because I have consistently been given new and fresh challenges that have been both motivating and stimulating. That, and the fact that I’ve been lucky enough to work with some truly inspirational people, including the Next15 Board of Directors, Matthew Ravden and Aedhmar Hynes, since I first walked in the door at Text 100 back in June 1990. Luckily, I’ve had more highs than I care to remember although there have been one or two painful lows (to be clear for the conspiracy theorists out there, the latest low is not linked in any way to the news in this blog!) but overall the journey so far has been immensely fulfilling.
I’m now at another point in my career though when I have been presented with a new opportunity within Next Fifteen. Partnering with two other long term Bite colleagues, Paul Mackender and Dan Sands, I’m going to start a new international business for Next Fifteen in January which is focused on creating actionable, high value insights for clients. It’ll mean utilising rich data and digital expertise, traditional research capabilities and deep market experience to help clients drive amazing marketing campaigns. It’s a challenge and a change that I’m really excited about. Having discussed the new business with Tim Dyson at Next Fifteen for some time now, I’m also anxious to finally get started! However, it does mean that my time as CEO of Bite is also going to come to an end. Having been a co-founder of Bite back in May 1995 and having led the business since August 1998, this is a highly emotive move for me; I’ve been lucky enough to have been an integral part of the team that has grown the business from the five people that started it in a serviced office in Richmond to the 300 people who work for it today across 15 offices. And the thing that I am proud of the most is that so many of Bite’s alumni have gone on to forge amazing careers within the marketing industry, across the world. I’m also pretty pleased that the business retains the character and personality that defined it back in 1995 even now it is so much larger. In short, its culture has endured.
So what of the future? Well, I’m delighted that I am able to hand over the reins of Bite to a truly amazing marketer and communications professional; Andy Cunningham. For those of you that don’t know who Andy is, take a look at her bio here. And for those of you that have read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, she’s the lady who is referenced on numerous occasions throughout the book. Quite simply, Andy has an amazing pedigree and we’re lucky to have her in the business. Andy came on board in Bite North America about a year ago and has quickly driven change and impetus through our business there. She mixes a strong set of values with a brilliant consultancy mind and is also very commercially astute. This is a rare mix in PR and comms people! In short, Andy is all the things that the next CEO of Bite needs to be. Most crucially, she absolutely gets the direction that the communications and marketing industry is moving in. So she understands why we have been on a journey to diversify our skill base, add deeper digital capabilities and drive more strategic engagements with our client portfolio. And she is the best person to now go on and accelerate Bite’s transformation into a truly integrated marketing and communications consultancy.
While I may no longer be CEO of Bite from January next year, I’m delighted that I’ll be retaining a seat on the Bite board and I look forward to being an enthusiastic supporter and advocate of the business as Andy takes over as CEO. So, to conclude, another chapter starts for me and also for Bite but I’m convinced the future looks more exciting than ever. I can’t wait to embrace it.