Hicklin Slade & Partners the sadness lingers on?
In 2004 I was forced to leave the agency I helped found; Hicklin Slade & Partners. The relationship between myself and my partner Justin Hicklin had broken down to the point of crisis. The driving force to all our woes being money or rather a lack of cash in the business. Today's news of our ex-Financial Director (Sharon Bridgewater )being convicted of a £2 Million fraud against Hicklin Slade & Partners is a bitter coda to the whole affair.
I have always said the future is the answer. The past being stuff that happened. But boy, today is a tough reminder of quite what was left behind in that whole sorry mess of 2004.
What lessons have I learnt from my downfall at Hicklin Slade & Partners? - well apart from the obvious of not appointing convicted fraudsters as your FD (In mitigation she was appointed by our auditors Kingston Smith, who one would of thought need to study there recruitment criteria a bit more)
Slade's Six lessons for any Creative Director going on the board
1. Which Business partners? - You are going to spend more time with them than your partner/wife/children. have some values in common, because when it all hits the fan you will need points of reference to each others private worlds.
2. Why are you getting into business together? Again during total melt down you will find the needs of school fees & divorces clash mighty with agency ideals and creative standards.
3. What does the business mean to you? Call it sad, but at the time the Hicklin Slade brand was the most important thing in my life, ever. We had built it from scratch, together. Why would anyone ever consider breaking it up? Losing it was like a death in the family.
4. Could you step away from success? (see above) In my new role as consultant I often advise companies in crisis to consider a pause or at the very least letting senior directors go on sabbaticals while a fresher team focus on a fight back strategy. But as Seth Godin has so recently pointed out, sometimes you have to quit. Its simply the smarter move.
5. Never stop learning. Everything you do builds on what you could archive tomorrow. Joe Strummers mantra of The Future is unwritten must be used to mend any broken hearts. It took me the best part of two years to get over losing Hicklin Slade. But what drove me on was the excitement of tomorrow and what 'might be'
6. Can you add Perspective? Advertising is just mucking about with peoples buying habits. No one dies. OK Sharon stole £2 million quid from us, but at the time we didn't know we had it. I felt like killing my partners and there misguided advisors when i was forced out. But the relationship was over.
Today? well I still don't talk to Justin Hicklin or Matthew Brown but Hicklin Slade is still going, They are now run by Mark Runacus, a really top chap. Me? A bunch of consultancy clients and a new role as CD of a small agency called t7F London.
Never give up.