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Ben Scoggins on finding your place

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Corporate culture can make a huge difference in your career's success.

For some people it can take a while to find the right fit when it comes to working at an agency. Managing director of Organic Ben Scoggins knows this first-hand, after moving from London to Devon to find his dream role.

This week we are Getting to Know a passionate leader, one with many a great story to tell.

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Tell us a bit about your current role.

I am the Managing Director of Organic, a digital agency based in Exeter & Holborn. We help brands use technology to better connect with their audiences, and we define all of our activity as ‘human-centred thinking, tech-centred doing’. We are driven by a philosophy that digital should be a force for good in business. As such, we partner with an anti-bullying charity called Cybersmile and we are a proud B Corps. Our clients include Sainsbury’s/Argos, PwC, Heinz, Capita and New Look.

How did you get to your current position?

Luck and legwork! After nearly 20 years working in large London agencies we wanted to move out of the capital, and decided on Devon because we love it and we have family here. But it wasn’t a straight-forward move! Headhunters and recruiters seemed unable (and in some cases unwilling) to help and I spent a long time talking to lots of agencies, and some clients, about roles before finding the right home. In the end, Organic hired me and built a role around my skills, which led to me taking on the position of MD.

What was the biggest challenge?

Finding a place with the right cultural fit. After spending half a career working in fantastic agencies surrounded by fantastic people, I was conscious that I needed to find somewhere equally skilled and ambitious. I wasn’t ready to slow down (in fact, the opposite) and I wanted to continue working with the biggest brands, on the most interesting projects, and with the most talented agency people. In Organic, I got very lucky!

What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?

As a kid, I was passionate about business and commerce. (When it came to doing the ‘find a career’ stuff at school, it identified a path as ‘management consultancy’.) At university I studied Management Systems, followed with a Masters in Marketing, so in some ways I was always heading towards my current job. But the real awakening for me was stepping into an ad agency for work experience - I loved the creative output, the passion and energy of the people, and the solving of multifaceted client problems. I instantly knew I wanted to be part of it.

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

If I hadn’t found advertising and the ‘commercial arts’, I expect I’d still be in a business-centric role because I’ve never really wanted to do anything else. Over the years I’ve toyed with life as an entrepreneur making everything from ethical trainers to artisan ice cream to funky garden offices but let’s face it, if I wasn’t in an agency I’d probably be a management consultant (just as the ‘find a career’ stuff originally predicted.)

What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

I have always loved working with creative people and solving problems with creativity, and it remains a massive driver for me. But as my career has progressed I’ve become fixated on how digital can be harnessed to address marketing challenges, and how I can build the best teams to do brilliant work for great clients.

How do you recharge away from the office?

I live 30 seconds from a small beach (life’s tough) and since being here I’ve got into paddleboarding, so I go out whenever I can. I find it’s a great way to switch off and to think about something totally different (full disclosure: usually the thing I’m thinking about is not falling in). I also practice Pilates - I started a decade ago as a way to help manage a bad back but now it's as much about taking a mental breather.  

What is the one bit of advice you would give to those looking to be successful in the industry?

Seek out work environments where you are surrounded by people who are talented, driven and nice.

What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

There are lots of individual pieces of work that I have been really proud to be part of over the years. However, my biggest achievement these days tends to be as much in helping clients to understand and frame the actual problems that need solving, as much it is about helping them to solve them. (Perhaps I should have been a management consultant after all?)

What’s your one big dream for the future of the creative industries?

A lot of my work involves digital transformation; helping clients to better understand and apply technology in order to create better marketing. My one big dream is that we don’t lose sight of humanity in all of this. Our business is about emotionally engaging and connecting with people and, while that can be facilitated through technology, it’s still reliant on people and creativity to make it effective. 

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