Sketches of the future

We are at a time when it would be good if I knew clearly what my plans are for the future. Maybe that’s the wrong way round – maybe I need to find out what the future has planned for me 🙂

I know that I’m loving my work at NixonMcInnes and am very excited about being part of taking it on to the next stage of its journey. There’s a good amount of work to keep me busy for the next few years! I feel like what we are doing there is preparing to embark on the next 3- 5 year phase.

But yeah, the longer term vision is less clear.

The things I do know are more like threads, themes, hallucinations or sketches. Small pieces, loosely joined 🙂

These are some of the things I enjoy:

  • Nurturing and realising talent – in people around me and in myself
  • Having meaning and purpose
  • New-ness – harnessing the near-future and right-here-now
  • Creativity
  • Humanity – being ourselves, caring
  • Proving a new kind of organisational DNA is not only do-able but actually *better*
  • Starting initiatives, maybe movements
  • Brighton
  • Adventures in foreign lands (current wishlist: USA, India, China)
  • Doing things differently
  • Fear and being stretched and challenged
  • Engaging with groups of people – from the training room to standing on a stages
  • Helping people
  • Learning
  • Sharing the journey – working with partners like Tom, Pete, Lasy and Jenni (so far)

The family

One fairly known thing is I think I would enjoy creating some kind of family of organisations. NixonMcInnes is the motherlode – the founding partner if you will. I think it would be cool to apply some of the practices we’ve developed and lessons learnt to other endeavours to see how that’d work.

This would also be tremendous given the immense and at times overwhelming potential of the people in our team. They can and already are seeding ideas that become projects that can become independent things. See Datacopter, NMStereo, Tellyflux, CityCampBrighton, Happy Buckets and more.

From a selfish point of view, to see them running their own gigs would be hugely gratifying (inside or outside the family – but inside would be extra cool 😉 ). Just an amazing idea that makes my tummy fizz.

So why – in the future – can’t we create our own kind of Y Combinator or Idealab?

And then there are more concrete possibilities or things I’m attracted to…

…ideas of shapes of things in this future

  • Maybe a product company – more of a traditional ‘startup’.
  • Something to do with food! Maybe local, specialty, healthy, tasty, high quality?
  • Maybe something social enterprisey – better let Tom go first though!
  • A progressive business school – a new form for this new world
  • Some academic research or collaboration
  • Something in Music or TV or Film
  • Publishing interests me
  • Schools interest me

So yeah. Funny how when I write it down it all seems clearer. That’s better.

Behold the Golden Cockroach!

Behold the Golden Cockroach!

This gorgeous cockroach came to me as a metaphor when talking recently with the team about how well our little business is equipped to fare in the continuing global financial ‘long bath’ double-dip recession.

I love cockroaches. And foxes, seagulls, rats, honey badgers, that kinda thing – animals that thrive in changed circumstances. (I think this value is also why I love the Hexayurt, and keep going on about it).


There’s a lotta shit written about the future of business. And some of it is good shit. Particularly enjoying Makers by Cory Doctorow at the moment which speaks directly to this vibe too.

I hope that in our efforts to be different that we are designing NixonMcInnes to be a special kinda cockroach – our bejewelled Golden Cockroach. If it needs to, it will survive whatever comes next 🙂

Fears of a small company MD

NixonMcInnes is a tiny company. Teetering on twenty people, we are but a teeny sliver in the global economic market-thingy-bob.

And yet for those of us engaged in this endeavour, and certainly for me as a founder, this small company is *a very big thing*. A big thing in our lives.

As the company matures, I have stopped worrying as much about some things, at least in a detailed and weekly way – cashflow, the administration of our work, if not the results – stuff that is well looked after by team mates much better at it than me.

But there are always things to worry about, a bit like parenting I guess.

The fear I’m snuggling up with the most in more recent times is the fear of getting in the way, of stifling this brilliant thing, and blocking and filling all the spaces that better people and ideas could fill.

This is my new favourite fear, and I feed it with good evidence I have seen and heard of in my travels about agency-land in the last couple of years.

It is both horrible and deeply instructive to hear about well-intending and successful entrepreneurs getting in the way once their companies get to a certain phase or place, and to hear bitter recriminations about ‘how things really get done in company X’.

Given this awareness, I feel I know what I need to do but doing it will be hard.

I feel I need to balance giving what I have to give and being there with consciously making room for the other talented and grown up people in our team to have their impact, make their decisions – good and bad, and live out their ideas.

It is increasingly common that I find myself thinking ‘sheesh, the only difference between me and Tom and some of these guys is that we had the room to make a decision and put it into action’ when asked for my opinion on the right way to approach a problem. This isn’t coming from a critical or patronising point of view for the person asking for advice, but quite the opposite – it comes from a total confidence in their ability to make as good a decision as we ever could.

Given that I intend on being around for the next couple of years at least, this isn’t a problem for today so I can probably stop worrying about it and find something more productive to attend to.

But when the time does come balancing things won’t be simple.

When it is time to get out of the way, if I make way too soon, I risk moving too fast, leaving people feeling abandoned or uncared for, or leading to questions about my real intents or commitment. ‘Does he just want out?’.

And if I move too slowly, I risk poisoning everything that has been good about what we’ve built together. That would be truly sad…

I am completely committed at NixonMcInnes for its next phase of evolution, and having more fun than I ever have, learning more, and often feeling fulfilled. These are, touch wood, good times.

But my small company MD fear-du-jour is of spoiling the thing I worked so hard to forge by not knowing when to get out of the way. I must remember this when the the time comes.