"If I were you, I would be myself!" – With the Founder & ECD of HarrimanSteel | #GettingToKnow

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If you've come looking for an interview packed with inspiring insights, you are in the right place. As hard of a sell as it may sound, the Founder and Executive Creative Director of HarrimanSteel certainly has much to tell and his expertise in the industry shines through every single answer in the piece below.

Immersed in a multi-faceted role, an eye constantly on daily challenges and the other one on the horizon, Julian is used to spinning many plates at once and it's easy to lose a bit of yourself when doing that. In truth, we believe Julian has never lost his true self; independence is still at the core of his business, his empathy helps make an impact as a team, and as a creative leader, he prefers to focus on the here and now, on the present moment, on solving rather than selling. Hard to find another professional more motivated by the power of identity and distinctiveness.

Today we are Getting to Know incredibly inspiring Founder & Executive Creative Director Julian Harriman-Dickinson, to learn more about HarrimanSteel and his daily role in the company.


Tell us a bit about your role! Is there a “typical” day?

Being a Founder involves spinning many plates. There are the immediate challenges that present themselves on a daily basis while always having to have one eye on the horizon. Essentially my role is multifaceted, but I enjoy the creative oversight and encouraging people to be push and challenge themselves creatively.

What was the biggest challenge in getting to your current position?

My biggest challenge has actually been to build a powerful Culture within our agency and keeping it strong. Culture is a mercurial thing that I wish I could bottle. When it is present it is tangible and real, galvanising the team and creates focus. Creating a sense of belonging. Culture is built on trust, empowerment, honesty and encourage people to fly. This is no easy task, it is somewhere between Alchemy and Rocket Science.

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

I have always been into sports from a very young age, both team sports and individual pursuits. It has taught me that consistency and commitment is the only way to real success. As well as some blood, sweat and tears, but that is not enough on it’s own. Consistency and commitment will win the race in the end.


What is your biggest career-related win? What is your biggest loss?

The biggest win is seeing our employees grow and surpass even their own expectations. Seeing their personal growth, confidence and creating thoughtful and impactful work, the kind that I wish I had done. That is a good day, when that happens.

Biggest loss… to me this isn’t about one big moment or thing. This is something that is incremental, lots of small things that you can feel but are also almost imperceptible, they have an accumulative effect that can be quite destructive. I see this like paper-cuts, the first one hurts, but won’t kill you, but if you receive enough papercuts… It’s hard to come back from that.

What’s your secret to remaining inspired and motivated?

My secret is that I stopped looking over my shoulder a long time ago! There are so many talented agencies and people out there that it can be quite destructive to draw comparisons or even inspiration. I think focusing on what ‘we’ can do and how ‘we’ can affect change from within is the most important. If we can be 1% better as a business every week, that could be 52% better by the end of year. It is with this in mind that the small things really do matter and inspiration within a creative business can come from anywhere and anyone.

Which individuals and/or agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

I think my answer to the previous question says it all. I think drawing inspiration from your peers and competitors can be quite destructive and limiting. But I do draw inspiration from agencies that manage to retain independence and keep their creative output consistently high. This is very commendable and to be admired.


How has COVID-19 affected you?

After the initial panic where most of our work fell off-of-a-cliff!,Covid-19 has actually had a very positive effect on our business and team. Galvanising the team to pull together to really help the business in a time of need. But it also made us focus on what is important to us, both as a business and personally and reconcile both. We are in a privileged position where we have Creativity as our weapon of choice. We believe creative thinking can deliver positive change and a measurable impact for all. 

If you could go back to your teenage years, would you have done things differently? Do you have any regrets?

I don't think is healthy to dwell too much on the past or what could have been. But to focus on the here and now and what we can control. I am a strong believer in intuition and following and trusting your instincts. That way you won't have too many regrets. We can’t change the past, but the future is yet to be written. So let's make it a real page turner.


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

At the age of 16, my careers advice teacher told me I should become a Thatcher. (Putting straw roofs onto quaint cottages) I told her I wanted to become World Moto-X champion. The alternatives to that were furniture designer, film director or architect. My father told me a long time ago, that whatever you do, you must enjoy it as you will be “a-long-time-doing-it” 

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

Less selling, more solving. There are so many amazing creative thinkers and problem solvers in the creative industries, that it would be nice to think that we can come together and be more collaborative in solving some of the bigger issues we will all have to address in the very near future.


What is your one piece of advice to aspiring creative professionals?

“If I were you, I would be myself."

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

I draw my inspiration from listening to music. As a kid I always gravitated towards my Dad’s record collection, singling out the Album covers that spoke to me, that had provocative imagery. Not even knowing or caring what the music was like, the image was everything. I was like a moth to a flame. Music and its subgenres continue to inspire me.


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