Continuous is a brand agency backed by 25 years of experience from parent company Uniform and it’s on a mission to help clients “adapt, thrive, and create a positive impact in a constantly changing world.”
This week, we spoke to MD Stephen Ardern to discuss their journey.
How was your company born, and where are you based?
Through the pandemic, we noticed that the needs of our clients had changed. We already knew that the pace of change was significant for most businesses; however, the pandemic created an urgent need for almost every business to pivot and adapt.
We felt these needs weren’t captured in the existing agency structure, so we re-positioned the agency into two specialist offerings. Continuous focuses on helping ambitious brands grow through responsive, agile, scalable strategic and creative support.
Although most of our team resides in our Liverpool studio, we have remote workers across the UK and Europe, plus a network of affiliate partners and freelancers.
What was the biggest challenge to the growth of your company?
Client spend. Client confidence is low, due to some significant economic headwinds. Many businesses are going through challenging changes and many are protecting EBIT by cutting marketing spend, which is having an impact on decisions.
Which was the first huge success that you can remember?
Our first retained client. It was a big milestone for the business and allowed us to rethink how we work with clients and the impact we need to create to build long-term relationships.
What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your company in the next year?
The integration of new technologies. AI is allowing us to push further, think quicker and create the ability to reshape how we work. It’s an exciting time.
Can you explain your team’s creative process? What makes it unique?
Many processes are built on similar principles, albeit badged in different ways. Our approach is very responsive and focused on making it easy for our clients to move forward quickly.
How does your team remain inspired and motivated?
That’s a tough one. It’s been a challenging few years for everyone, and staying motivated is difficult. Creativity requires a sense of freedom, and stress and anxiousness are creativity slayers.
We have recognised that sharing is the easiest way to inspire. With so many different interesting people in the business, it’s easy to forget how much we can encourage one another.
Whether it’s a weekly team meeting, a dedicated team chat channel, or lunches, we find time to share inspirational ideas, thoughts, skills, and hobbies. It takes little time, next to no investment and brings the team together.
How has COVID-19 affected your company?
It forced rapid transformation across every aspect of our business, from recruitment to ways of working, client collaboration, operational processes, and especially new business. Avoiding a fixed mindset, and finding individuals who are able to cope with uncertainty and constant change, is the only way to thrive in this new era.
Which agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
I don’t seek inspiration from other agencies, although I love nosing at the work. I typically follow pals in the industry to see what they’re up to. I do follow many of the sector leaders on social media though, and I love all things Rory Sutherland. He has such a broad view on the world.
What is one tip that you would give to other agencies looking to grow?
Firstly define your growth, how much do you want to grow and get a comprehensive understanding of what you’ll need to get there. New clients and bigger teams can often require operational changes. All of which become significant distractions. So you need a comprehensive and clear plan and clearly understand why you want to grow.
Also think about growth beyond revenue. Think about profitability, think about expertise, sector experience. Bigger is often not always better, and there’s lots of satisfaction in other areas of growth.
How do you go about finding new clients/business? (Pitching, work with retainers, etc.)
That has been the single greatest challenge since the pandemic, and many reasons exist. Firstly, it’s more challenging to reach people (cold), and especially connect face-to-face. There’s much more reliance on video conferencing, personal communications, and a shift away from central company contact details.
The second is economic uncertainty, slowing decisions down, or having a negative impact on budgets. And the third is job security. Many decision-makers are not risking the move away from incumbent relationships, even if they’re not working. Better the devil you know.
The old principles are really important but are still often overlooked. Be very deliberate about who you are targeting and why. Everybody is currently time-poor, so ensuring each engagement or interaction is of maximum value is critical.
Also double down on referrals. Think about how much revenue comes from referrals vs how much budget gets allocated to driving them. It’s always disproportionate, something that we’ll get around to. But they’re the warmest leads you have.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?
That the best work is still ahead of us.
Do you have any websites, books or resources that you would recommend?
Book - Range, David Epstein
Book - Fooled by Randomness, Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Both great books for everyone thinking about how to adapt to change.
The World Economic Forums’ latest whitepaper with Accenture - Jobs of Tomorrow: Large Language Models and Jobs, is a must for anyone leading a business as it outlines the possible changes AI brings into design.
This is a brilliant one-stop site for navigating the changing landscape of design tools now available - www.toools.design