As I sit with a thick pink milkshake whilst contemplating the choice of chips on the menu, there is something about the noise of the sports bar and grill just near Marylebone station that reminds me of the underlying chatter broken with occasional exclamations of joy or dismay that filled the huge open plan office I used to work in; an environment quite different to the calm and comfort of my home office. It’s not something I miss, but something I know I shouldn't forget.
Natalie* is the familiar face in the crowd and as she orders her milkshake, talk quickly turns to work. We share discreet updates on what we’re working on, we chat over industry news and events, then we pick over the similarities and differences of being in-house and freelance PR professionals whilst considering how we approach different situations and projects. Early on in our monthly mentoring meetings, it became clear that corroboration, and pooling our knowledge, our contacts, and our vision together made us more confident, and helped increase our ability to deliver great work.
This is more than two friends casually chatting about work; this is two industry practitioners mutually mentoring each other and sharing best practice so we can be better in our roles.
It was here in the grill that after months of deliberation and weighing up all the pros and cons, and of hearing what it was like from the other side, that I decided the time was right to go it alone. We all have people (and to some extent games and studios) who inspire us, but it was thanks to the power of mentoring that I finally reached a very personal point of knowing the exact nature of work I wanted to do in this industry, and more importantly felt empowered to go after it. I learnt in detail about the risks and challenges I would be taking on, knowing I had a support net of expertise, advice, and friendship beneath me.
This is going it alone without going it alone.
It’s evident in some of the more successful studios founded with people who are familiar with each other’s work, many of whom at one time or other have been part of AAA studios, and who have broken away to follow their own paths and hearts’ desires whilst committing themselves to helping each other through whatever lies ahead.
Knowing what you can do alone is just the beginning – actively finding the right people who can help you when and if you need it should become an important part of your work. Knowing those people WILL help you is the key to your success. This isn't just advice for start-ups. Bill Campbell, a sounding board to many of Silicon Valley’s chief execs sadly passed away this month yet his reputation and legacy as a mentor has, and will continue to have a resounding impact on the tech and games industry globally.
When I started my new company I knew I had mentors I could actively call on to help me get over any hurdles and I continue to call on them. Being elastic in what I can offer clients has already given my business a boost. Natalie is an expert at understanding and driving communications for community-led development, my skills lie more in delivering corporate and social communications for start-ups. Having the option of combining our skills has allowed us to offer a deeper level and range of expertise and support to meet our clients’ needs so we all benefit from this collaboration. I consider my mentors to be some of the most valuable assets to my business.
Let’s shed our thick skins here; the value of your reputation and skills is important, but combining your abilities with other talented people who are aligned with and can contribute to your business can have a dramatic impact – there’s a reason the Avengers assembled!
Mentoring and collaboration encourages future entrepreneurs and studios to create work within our industries and leads to an unrivalled matrix of expertise where everyone can enjoy success. Having a mentor should be one of the most important tools in your box. Plus, making your office a place where they serve milkshakes and chips is no bad thing…
Tracey McGarrigan is founder and CEO of Ansible PR & communications
*Natalie Griffith, CEO Press Space Ltd
*Natalie Griffith, CEO Press Space Ltd