Not sidetracked by the side-hustle

Why Here Be Dragons is backing its employees to become entrepreneurs.

Paul McEntee, Here be Dragons



Often a professional resume can be ‘sexed up’ with a side-hustle. Employers like to have staff who are culturally engaged and whose minds are broadened beyond the boundaries of ‘work’, in the belief that this delivers a more rounded, satisfied and inspired worker back in the ‘office’, whatever that term now means.

No doubt the side-hustle took a beating in 2020 as work went into panic mode and livelihoods went into protection mode. Bosses were less forgiving, less generous with distractions from the job and noses hit the grindstone.

But what now that we are returning to a sense of normality? Are side-hustles back? And how is the next gen approaching ‘work’ in 2021?

Building a new future for work

At Here Be Dragons we’ve been very interested in how the pandemic has shifted the sands around work - from an agency perspective, from a client perspective and from a talent perspective 

We’ve just launched our latest Tailwinds report, looking at the ‘Future of Work’ across four themes - Remote 2.0, Digital Native Learning, The Great Pause and Collective Works. One of the insights to come out of ‘The Great Pause’ was that a record number of new businesses were set up in 2020 (according to ONS) and there was a 72 percent increase in 16-20 year olds registering as sole traders between February 2020 and February 2021 (The Accountancy Partnership). This told us that the next gen, far from panicking, were responding to the pandemic by creating their own opportunities - new businesses.

This insight arrived at a pivotal moment. We noticed that, after a year of lockdown in 2020, some of our junior staff were getting the jitters as we went into another prolonged lockdown in 2021. Some of these junior staff joined only shortly before or even during the first lockdown. Throughout 2020 we looked after all our staff’s wellbeing to the best of our ability, kept them engaged, and did everything in our power to give them hope. But despite our best efforts, some of the juniors quite rightly used lockdown to reassess what they really wanted to do in life. And if that meant their future lay away from the agency, we had to face up to that.

So we’ve launched our ‘post pandemic package’ for staff who decide to start a new business venture. Aimed solely at young employees with entrepreneurial ideas of their own, the initiative helps them to follow their business dream with financial backing, ongoing business and marketing advice, while also retaining their company laptop.

The scheme has already been taken up by one staff member, who decided to take up the initiative outside of work at Here Be Dragons, recently founding jewellery business That Dress Up Mood.

We really want to be known as a people-first agency and if that means looking after our employees, even if they decide to leave the business, then so be it.

Paul McEntee, Founder of Here be Dragons

Not everyone has to leave in order to qualify. It is open to existing members of staff who might want to take up something new or indeed start their side-hustle. But lots of agencies have impressive internal initiatives, and we’ve built our business offering on ‘navigating change’, so it felt like a Here Be Dragons thing to do to embrace the change in our junior staff - and support them for it. 

Putting people first

We really want to be known as a people-first agency and if that means looking after our employees, even if they decide to leave the business, then so be it. We’ll do everything to make them stay, but we also recognise the bravery required to ‘go out on your own’, so we’d rather reward that entrepreneurialism and give them a helping hand at the start of their journey.

We have to take a long term view on people's development. Doing the right thing now can pay dividends further down the line. Many juniors will go on to great things - making their business a success or indeed re-entering the world of marketing / PR in a plum job in-house somewhere years from now. They might, one day, become decision-makers in awarding us new business. Or they might refer us to prospective new clients, or talent. How you behave when someone leaves the agency needs to be unemotional and driven by understanding and goodwill. The industry is too small and too incestuous to fall out and create negative sentiment if things don’t go your way an an employer. We need to own the problem.

With this new initiative, hopefully Here Be Dragons can set the bar a little higher for how we plot the trajectory of junior staff, with no strings, no hidden clauses and no false pretences. Certainly now, really ambitious and smart talent are as much interviewing us as an employer, as we are them, as a potential candidate.

If we can interview the next legion of talent and say to them honestly that we’ll train them up, give them a competitive salary, give access to some great brands and, if it doesn’t work out and they want to scratch that entrepreneurial itch, then we’ll also support them - that should be a compelling package to a 20 year old that is wondering what their ‘work’ options are in a post-pandemic world.

Guest Author

Paul McEntee, Here be Dragons



Paul founded Here be Dragons in 2015 (then known as Mc&T) after over 10 years at big agencies. The agency’s clients lead or disrupt their industries and Here be Dragons devise strategies and creative campaigns to keep them punching through the industry chatter, connecting them with audiences via a mutual understanding of the real relationship between brands and public - mutuality, respect, value-exchange.

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Future of Work