Blog: Creative Breakfast with Whitespace

On Thursday 13th September, TRC joined forces with the wonderful folks at Whitespace for a Creative Breakfast exploring international opportunities for Scottish companies.

After being fed and watered, we handed over to our panel of internationally seasoned creatives who gave some top insights and advice on collaborating, forging relationships and winning business abroad.

The panel:

Caroline Newson – Project Lead at TRC

Charlie Bell – Creative Director at Whitespace

Sarah Drummond – Executive Producer at LS Productions

Richard Gill – Managing Director of Dentsu Aegis North

Glen Stocco – Operations Leader recently relocated from Canada to Edinburgh

TRC’s Caroline kicked us off with an introduction and some information on Cross Creative, which is currently open for applications. Next up was former Cross Creative delegate and Whitespace’s very own Charlie Bell, who tackled the issue of ‘conquering the world’ head on, and gave some tips on how we might endeavor to achieve a pretty daunting task. His advice?

Be less Scottish.

Wait, what??

While Charlie didn’t suggest literally handing over our Scottish identity in favour of another nation’s passport, he did touch on some national stereotypes that may be holding us back from achieving our dreams of worldwide domination.

Scottish folk aren’t typically known for shouting about our achievements- something we’ll have to do more of if we want to conquer the world. Charlie spoke about visiting Canada as part of TRC’s Cross Creative programme for digital leaders in Scotland and the lessons learnt from some of the innovative companies the group visited there. His key take-aways from the trip included being more open (to encourage innovation and ensure that we’re all constantly evolving) and being honest – with yourself and with your peers. Speaking with fellow delegates of the Cross Creative programme, Charlie said he realised that they all suffered from a bit of imposter syndrome. By being honest with yourself and those you work with, you’re more likely to step out of your comfort zone, and in turn more likely to…conquer the world?

Work Hard Stay Humble – This stellar mantra came in the form of a piece of artwork on the walls of Shopify’s Canadian offices in Waterloo. Words to live by.

Next up to speak was Sarah Drummond of LS Productions. Headquartered in Edinburgh and with offices in London, New York, Manchester and a newly opened base in Bangkok, LS Productions work with global clients, encouraging them to use Scotland’s stunning landscapes as the background for their art. Sarah and her team are often pitching against other countries to get big brands to work in Bonny Scotland, so she had a fair few tips up her sleeve when it comes to winning international business.

Above are the results of a recent business trip trip to Sweden. Sarah underlined that face to face meetings are key to winning business, as is doing your research and showcasing the product (and locations) in their best possible light.

Sarah said:

We go. We knock on doors. They love what they see. We make great work.

A simple but incredibly effective message on making new contacts and winning business.

Richard Gill, Managing Director of Dentsu Aegis North was next to take the mic. Dentsu Aegis is a global network delivering digital solutions for clients around the world.

Despite being a huge global network, Richard had some great advice that would be useful to any company looking to work internationally. Firstly, don’t underestimate how much work is involved in breaking a new market. The worst thing a company can do is to assume that the way things operate in the UK will be the same for other territories. Nope.

Richard used Airbnb’s new name in China as a brilliant, pretty awkward example of a time when a company got it wrong. The company’s new name in China received harsh online criticism from local customers, with more than a few users commenting on the fact the translation made the brand sound more like a sex shop than a property-rental site. Oops. (Source)

The key take-away from Richard’s talk was to ensure that you are aligning objectives with commercial interests and that everyone gets behind the project in the same way. Communication is key, especially when working across borders.

Last, but by no means least, to speak was Glen Stocco – a Canadian native who has recently re-located to bonny Scotland. As someone with first-hand experience of making the leap to live and work in a new territory, Glen gave advice on how best to approach entering a new geography as well as his thoughts on the Scottish entrepreneurial ecosystem.

From Maple Syrup to Haggis

Glen’s top tips:

  • Do as much research as possible. Find out about the key players in your new territory, your potential competitors and collaborators. Something as simple as sending someone in your new city a personalised Linkedin message can be hugely beneficial.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Glen says that since moving to Scotland he’s been struck at just how helpful and welcoming the Scots are in business, as well as the breadth of support on offer (name checks for Codebase, Seedhaus, TRC, TuringFest and EIE)
  • Look for a soft landing. Got your heart set on conquering the U.S? Why not try Canada first? Glen himself recently advised a North American-based client who had their sights set on London to try out Edinburgh. And they did.

Before the event drew to a close, we invited all of our speakers back for a Q&A, with discussion points ranging from language barriers in business, support from organisations like Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International and what makes Scotland an attractive destination for business.

A huge thanks to our brilliant speakers for an inspiring morning, and to all who came along.

If you’re working with a commercial creative business in Scotland’s digital/tech sector and would like to explore international opportunities, check out TRC’s Cross Creative – a 6 month training programme for digital leaders, which includes an international field trip to Canada. Applications close on the 24th September 2018.