Both Hooper and Jacobs believe that it is an interesting but challenging time to be starting out in the industry. Both have lived through the era where presenteeism reigned and sitting at your desk late into the night meant you were the best person in the business. Regardless of if you were actually doing anything useful while you sat there.
What we have seen taking place across the industry, as Hooper so succinctly puts it, is that “the focus is on work life balance not work hard, play hard.” As a business leader, you gain more respect from your employees by acknowledging that they’re real human beings with life outside the office rather than offering them a free drink down the pub on a Friday. “The free booze bubble has burst,” Jacobs decades pithily.
Jacobs believes that, although they started the business focusing on the work, “the best part of the job is about what you create internally.” It brings a level of pride that, Jacobs says, he never expected to feel. This all stems from the two ideas they’ve put at the heart of the business: “freedom and accountability.” They are, says Jacobs, how they structure the business; that’s how they run Wax/On. The freedom is only possible because of the accountability; “it’s all built on trust,” he adds.
This is also the only way that flexible working can be successful in a workplace, something that Jacobs acknowledges has to be led from the top. It’s a careful balance though, explains Hooper, between “this idea of flexible working and people working from home, being remote versus creating a culture.”
Success breeds success
Collaboration, community, sharing of stories; these all feel like the hallmarks of a modern agency, one that recognises the power that stems from coming together. It’s a sentiment that many across the industry have echoed, a solidarity that comes from sharing both the good and the bad. It is, says Jacobs, an example of “success breeding success.”
This desire to invest in community was a large part of Jacobs’ decision to set up a peer-to-peer community of start-up business leaders with the Drum Network. Every couple of months, a dozen or so agency leaders meet to swap learnings. As Jacobs says, “It’s actually just become cheap therapy.”
Another project that lives within Wax/On is the agency’s weekly podcast, something the team are immensely proud of. It’s also something that was always part of the plan since they launched. As Jacobs explains, “We always knew, as a creative led business, we wanted to be making our own stuff.”
Yet they are also acutely aware of the demands of our always on and at times unforgiving marketing ecosystem. Both are eloquent discussing the perils of social media, emphasising that true connection takes place face to face, when you’re sitting next to a real human and, at the same time, acknowledging their humanity.
It’s notable that the pair share that they have got better at listening to one another, of simply asking how each are doing. As Jacobs says, “it’s as simple as that [because] you forget you are real people.” It’s that humanity, that focus on the importance of active listening and collaboration that stands these agency leaders in good stead for the future.