Discussing the delicate relationship between an agency and its business | #CompanySpotlight

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When Gautam Narang founded Visual Smugglers in 2017, it somehow felt right. Gautam has always been behind the camera. The Founder was lucky enough to find the perfect team to support the agency's ambitions – with less talk, more visuals​.

According to Gautam, an agency owner is more than simply a formal figure at the head of a business. An agency owner is the personification of the company itself. Their beliefs must be the agency's – their core values, the team's. There's no way around it. Focused on purpose and on defining the company's values more than ever, Gautam now complements the team as much as Visual Smugglers complements its owner – a passion which shines through the interview below.

In this Company Spotlight, we are learning more about a much ambitious production company with Gautam Narang, CEO and Founder of Visual Smugglers.


How was your company born and where are you based?

Visual Smugglers was born in 2017, in Toronto, where we are currently based. I’ve always been behind the camera. 

Most kids were into toys and sports. For me, a cow pattern camera was mine. The passion developed into being a photographer and then switching to filmmaking. In 2017, Visual Smugglers was born. Less talk, more visuals is the mantra we live by.

What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?

Finding clients, when you don’t have the business. You have to wear all the caps. When your When you are on set, editing or working on things you’re not finding new clients. When you get the growth you can wear more hats. 

Which was the first huge success that you can remember?

Getting published by National Geographic for one of my images for a book.


What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?

Finding the right talent. You want to attract and have a diverse group of ideas around you. This is how you grow. People help you get to the next level. Social media has created an infinite eco chamber. So by having different opinions you can get a different perspective and bright your own opinion to something. I’m a big fan of people

Can you explain your team’s creative process? What makes it unique?

We work as a collective to figure out a problem or solve a problem. Let’s say we’re working on a client. We all work together work on the same Google Doc. Each of us, focus on one aspect of the document. We work as a swarm to finish tasks. We also don’t believe in the concept of judgement when it comes to ideas.

It’s ying and tang with different opinions. We complement each other and we need minds that think the opposite. To challenge our way of thinking. We love to use critical thinking in everything we do and have an intention and when we say something we do it. We keep each other accountable. 

How does your team remain inspired and motivated?

We encourage you to follow other passions in your free time, we challenge you to challenge yourself. Do you really believe in what you’re saying? Have you seen the problem from a different perspective? We believe in investing in learning and exploring passions. 

How has COVID-19 affected your company?

You have to focus on your why more than ever. We are living in a world of mass production, but rarely hear anything authentic or relatable. So covid-19 forced me to really figure out who I am and who I want to work with and be more intentional. Before covid, I was just going from one client to the next and never thinking about what I’m doing. 


Which agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

Sagmeister and his agency. He inspired me with his design and has a message for his advertising work. This inspired me to be authentic. Not tell clients what they want to hear but rather make something that would connect with people on an emotional level. That takes a lot of courage. 

What is one tip that you would give to other agencies looking to grow?

Focus on your core values and you as a person. The owner of an agency is basically the company. You got to practice what you preach, that’s why your company core values have to believe in what you believe in. You also want to attract the right talent to help build this empire. Self-reflection is how you develop and how you develop is how your company develops. 

How do you go about finding new clients/businesses? (Pitching, work with retainers, etc.)

I’m experimenting with LinkedIn sales navigator. You can focus more on the person that you want to target. You can qualify your prospective customers and find out information on them and start a more natural conversation. I’m not a fan of these mailing lists, these are just emails and phone numbers. That don’t tell you about the person, how do you start a conversation with just pure data?


What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?

To go back to more authentic story-driven content. Where we forget about hard selling and really do try and connect to the person. We want to see a world where advertising makes you think. 

Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?

I’m currently reading Made to Stick by Chip Heath & Dan Heath. The best place to find good books to me is. Do lectures, some of the most fascinating books I’ve encouraged have been doing lectures at STANFORD on Youtube. I’m a huge fan of human psychology. You just got to go down the rabbit hole. Ted talks are also a great way to learn new things and open new doors. I think you just have to be a curious person. 


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