Unconventional, yet remarkably intuitive. This is the philosophy guiding each and every creative strategy, thought and move for BrandOpus, born as a start-up and now boasting offices in London, Melbourne, Chicago and New York.
Like many great things, it was all born from a dream. Like all great things, it was born out of risk. Two friends and colleagues, a designer and a managing director, coming together to leave the safety net of an established agency and found their own. That's the story Global CCO & Founding Partner Paul Taylor loves to tell – and one we find hugely inspiring for all the businesses out there.
Paul is an extremely inspirational and focused leader, caring enormously for his team and especially in these weird times. Today we are Getting to Know Paul and his story, including how he managed to learn start-up culture when co-founding BrandOpus.
Tell us about your current role!
I’m the CCO and one of the founding partners of BrandOpus. I’m responsible for the creative output of the agency globally. Making sure that everything we do answers the needs of our clients and actually works out there in the world through being unconventional yet remarkably intuitive. My role is split between working directly with clients, directing our approach to every project whilst judging the quality of the creative output and shaping our creative team to ensure we have the talent and skills required to tackle all challenges.
How did you get to your current position? What was the biggest challenge?
My career started at JKR where I spent 12 years developing my skills and experience in brands and learning how design can be utilised as a powerful tool to make them work more effectively.
Coincidentally, my first week as a junior designer would see me cross paths with Nir, our CEO and fellow founding partner. He had come into JKR as the managing director and given that we were both new to the agency, we found ourselves forming a strong working relationship that continues to this day some 25 years later.
I had to move from an established, stable agency to working in the mad, spontaneous and breathless culture of a start-up.
When Nir approached me with the idea of starting an agency, I jumped at the opportunity of moving to the next step in my career. This was my biggest challenge. Going from an established, stable agency with a support network I have a huge respect for, to working in the mad, spontaneous, breathless culture of a start-up where the buck stopped with me was a huge transition. The pace of work intensified and the responsibility changed completely overnight. I had to stay calm, believe in my ability and take strength from the support of the team around me. Through the successes and failures, I have learnt to trust my instincts, ignore the detractors and surround myself with a team that can inspire and challenge my thinking every day.
What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?
Being born and raised in West Yorkshire for my first 12 years gave me a grounding of always being open and straightforward. Values that have been key in creating and maintaining a positive culture for creativity and relationships in my role.
A dramatic change of life in my more formative years saw me continuing my education in Southend, Essex. It was here that I had the fortune of meeting my art teacher who, with a background of design himself, was able to see my potential, show me the education path that I should take, and even bring an A-level graphic design course onto the curriculum for the first time in the schools history.
I also had a very difficult relationship with my now estranged father. I believe the adversity and lack of belief he showed in my ambitions have been the catalyst to drive my determination to succeed. I will never forget his words when he took a cursory glance at the prospectus for my chosen degree course, “You’ll never make a career out of that”.
What’s your secret to keeping the team inspired and motivated?
I think it all stems from those northern traits of being open and straightforward whilst having a genuine sense of excitement and passion for both the challenge and the reward. We work in an industry that continues to demand higher quality at a faster pace and we can’t allow this to grind us down or impact our creativity. For me, this is the thrill, it generates the buzz that drives my desire to solve problems and make great work. So we aim to create a dynamic culture of togetherness that is attuned to people’s ever-changing needs, where everyone has a voice and a mindset that when the going gets tough, we roll our sleeves up and get stuck in.
How has COVID-19 affected you as a leader?
Covid-19 has been a huge challenge. It’s been a challenge on both a personal level and a professional level.
It’s become a bit unfashionable to praise the studio environment, but our lockdown experience has highlighted the necessity for real life contact to aid the ability to lead teams in an effective way.
Being removed from that environment made me feel that I was unable to exercise my duty to my team in the same way that would naturally occur in the spontaneous day-to day interactions that happen outside of the scheduled meetings and reviews.
Spending so much time on endless video calls created a struggle to connect with everyone in an informal manner by just being present, engaging around the studio and falling into unprompted conversations about the work.
What is your one advice to aspiring creatives looking to be successful?
Seek Critique. There is a huge contradiction in the desire for the creative to have pure ownership of their ideas when the reality is that the work will only be stronger if you open yourself up to how your idea resonates through the eyes of others.
Be fleet of foot. Don’t be weighed down by what you were thinking yesterday. The creative process will always have bumps in the road and curveballs. Be ready to shift and adapt with the natural flow and challenges that every project will inevitably throw at you.
How do you recharge away from the office?
For me, it is vital to decompress and switch off. Focusing my attention on family at the weekends is key. Spending time with my kids and immersing myself in their interests and passions works well. I love building Lego! I find it incredibly therapeutic and I have had to accept that I can no longer cover this up as a pursuit that is driven by my children, they lost interest a couple of years ago!
What’s your one big dream for the future of the industry?
That it never loses sight of the importance of a pen and a piece of paper. More and more, I see people’s ideas limited by the echo chambers of their web browser or their ability to execute defined by the limitations of the filters available in a programme. Draw, Sketch or scribble your ideas. Then you can work out the tools you will need to bring them to life.