Why did I set up The Word Factory? I guess partly because I had worked all the hours God sends for someone else and it was time to see what I was capable of on my own. Not that I’m complaining, of course, I had huge faith in the guy who persuaded me to move to Nottingham and I learnt a great deal working with him. But even though there was the company car and I wore great suits and worked with some special people, I had been given the opportunity to share my expertise with my own clients so it made sense to grasp it with both hands.
When I left the vast jobs market in London and came to Nottingham there were just a handful of PR agencies in the city, hardly anyone knew what a copywriter was and there were certainly no journalism jobs outside of the Evening Post. So it was a case of sink or swim.
People have asked what has driven me for the last 25 years. I have to say an insistence on quality in everything I do which means quality for the client – the phone calls, e-mails and meetings are a delight, the work is produced to an exceptionally high standard and the turnaround is exactly as required. No client has said they didn’t like my attitude or my punctuality, no client has ever thrown a piece of work back at me and told me to start again, and no client has ever ended the relationship on a bad note.
Sure, many people have thought that The Word Factory was such a great company name that they started up businesses under various versions of those words, but the sincerest form of flattery is when someone purloins your ideas, acknowledging that it is indeed a name they wish they’d thought of. I always contend that I dreamt the name up in the ‘80s, started the business in the very early ‘90s and made it Ltd in the early noughties. I never bought all the different domain names when they came out, I didn’t even bother getting a dot com because people told me that was for Americans, and I never thought for a second that someone would buy the obscure suffixes just so they can use my company’s name. Let them get on with it I say but, clearly, originality is not their strong point.
Have I achieved my dream in a quarter of a century? Not really. I used to have visions of banks of desks of writers servicing businesses all over the world, working closely with designers and translators to expand on the top quality copywriting that The Word Factory would produce day in, day out. How much of an ego thing that was I’ll probably never admit but I think the alternative worked out pretty well in the end… great clients, great experiences, an incredibly wide variety of industries and messages and strong relationships with some brilliant people – far more eclectic than I could ever have imagined.
This might sound odd to some people but it’s the truth – the thing I can’t help about the clients I work with is that I admire each and every one of them. I admire their talent, their creativity, their approach to life, their personalities and the way they do business. The beauty of running your own outfit is that you choose the people that you work with, which is why I can’t count the problems I have had with clients even on one finger.
I never disrespect them. I don’t utter expletives when I put the phone down after a conversation (which, believe me, I have seen done many times), I never patronise them and I sure as hell never think I’m better than them. Quite the opposite, in fact.
So anyway, what will the next 25 years bring? Hopefully, more wonderful experiences, more excellent clients, more fascinating and mind-stretching subjects to write about. Will I become rich? I seriously doubt it but that – genuinely – has never been the goal. Does that mean I lack ambition? Nah, not at all. It just means that after I worked all the hours God sends, and many that he never intended, I decided that you should work to live and not the other way around. I never wanted my kids to say “Dad’s never here, he never comes to my school performances or parents’ evenings, he’s always working, he’s always too busy.”
Believe me, that has made a difference to all of our lives. But it also means that clients were never my number one priority – family always comes first and everyone I have worked with has agreed with that approach.
So, here’s to the future…!