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Meet the MD: Clive Lewzey of We are Fred

"To me, a good leader has the ability to step back and observe. It’s about empowering the people around you to help motivate and get the best results." We are Fred's managing director and co-founder speaks to UMi. 

What is it the company does?

We are Fred is one of the fastest growing creative agencies in the South East providing intelligent and specialist design and marketing services.

Our passionate and dynamic team combine creativity with commercial insight and industry knowledge to position a company in the right way and turn marketing into sales.

With an established client base and a fast-growing reputation, We are Fred prides itself in creating engaging and effective marketing collateral for clients across a wide range of sectors including property, recruitment, oil & gas, care homes, events spaces and charities to name just a few.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

My role very much focuses on building and cultivating client relationships whether they be longstanding dealings or brand-new ones. It’s a cliché because it’s true, but our client relationships are the lifeline of our agency. The second part of my role is focused on business development. We are Fred has been hugely successful in the two years since we started, but we have a lot more that we want to achieve. My role is also about bringing in new clients, looking for the right talent to recruit and making sure that our skill set is nothing but the best.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

My first job was in the reprographics department of a print office before going on to become a studio manager at a busy West-End design agency. But I was a frustrated creative, keen to use and develop my skills, so I decided to start my own print management company specialising in providing signage for property developers.

I had worked with Nick Street who is my We are Fred co-founder and creative director, a long time ago. We had always shared a vision of starting a creative agency which always put clients at the forefront of the agenda while delivering tangible marketing results through creative design. In 2016 Nick and I decided that the timing was finally as good as it was ever going to be and we opened the doors to We are Fred. To say we haven’t looked back since is an understatement as the agency has gone from strength to strength.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

Confidence and gravitas. You have to know what you’re talking about otherwise people will see straight through you. It’s about being comfortable and confident in your abilities and what you can offer without the need to try and be someone you’re not. I’ve often watched people who think that they need to be the loudest and brashest person in the room, but I don’t come from that school of thought. To me, a good leader has the ability to step back and observe. It’s about empowering the people around you to help motivate and get the best results.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

That there really just aren’t enough hours in the day. The problem with being in a position that you love is that you can just keep going and going and obviously there is the personal investment in We are Fred for me – not just financially but personally too. The results that We are Fred are enjoying are the product of a formula that is clearly working well for us and we want to take that and keep on growing.

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I can honestly say there is very little stress in my job! Perhaps over the years I’ve just learnt how to handle and work through difficult situations, but I’m also surrounded by a great support network. My co-founder and I are very different in our approach to things, but we have a shared passion for the agency and balance each other out sharing the risks as well as the rewards. Outside of the studio, the gym provides a good distraction and now my kids are older my wife and I have rediscovered our love of travelling. I’m also no stranger to the golf course!

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was very, very young I thought it would be exciting to be a lorry driver or a DJ – two occupations at completely opposite ends of the spectrum! Later in life as I approached my teens I wanted to be an architect or a graphic designer so I guess I wasn’t far off my vocation there. When I left school I enrolled on a graphic design course at college and the rest is history.  

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?

There is no place for rudeness. Good manners cost nothing and go a long way. I take pride in how I treat others and expect my colleagues to do the same. I also can’t abide laziness. Being your own boss means that you can choose who you work with and only surround yourself with good people – that’s employees but clients too!

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

I see a trajectory of managed growth for We are Fred. We want to ensure that we grow at a steady pace, maintaining our high levels of standard throughout. Often you see companies that grow way too fast too quickly at the detriment of the service they provide. The way we work with our clients is hugely important and high standards will remain our top objective.

The agency has grown significantly in two years and we are already having to consider larger premises to accommodate the increase in headcount. As we take on bigger projects we also need to find top talent to help deliver.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Do what you say you will. My three key values have always been honesty, loyalty and integrity. If you promise to deliver something to a client, make sure you do. Even if it comes at a cost. Be confident in who you are and don’t try to be someone that you’re not. Be mindful of the way you conduct yourself with clients and how you interact with them. Take time to judge the room and how best to engage with the people in it.

I also think that while it’s important to have a business plan, you shouldn’t be afraid to take other opportunities that come your way. When we started the business we thought we would focus on the property sector. If we had been rigid about the type of work we took on we would have missed out on some really good opportunities a long the way.  Opportunities that have proved to be quite lucrative, but also opportunities that have been good fun and great network building exercises that have gone on to open other doors for us.

What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?

When I first started running my own company someone told me to make a list of the top 10 people you think you might get business from. Then take the top three and move them to the bottom of the list. This will be a much better reflection of how things will pan out. Work won’t necessarily come from where you think it will but that’s no bad thing.

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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