Name: Bobby Byrne
Business Name: Ringers Creative
Position Held: Co – Founder
Business Location: Dublin City
In your own words what does your company / business do?
We work with leadership teams to solve the problems that are holding them back from reaching their true potential. We like to solve the sticky, persistent problems that other professional service providers can’t. We call them Proper Problems and we so far we have worked with commercial, marketing and sports teams to help them overcome obstacles and achieve a variety of goals.
What are your main priorities and goals in your role?
Build Ringers into a globally recognised company.
What are your biggest challenges?
Getting off the island. From the very beginning we wanted to work internationally. Covid has meant we couldn’t even get out of our houses, never mind off the island.
We have worked on projects in New Zealand and the UK, but back in April we lost out on working with a Premiership Club as we had to be there on the ground. At the time we could fly, but the client perceived our government as very reactive. It was felt the UK could be shut off from flights to Ireland at any time. It was a real blow. But it looks like those days are behind us now.
As a start-up whose growth has been stunted by Covid, our biggest challenge is now business development. Before Ringers we had spent our careers trying to be the best at what we do. Business development is a skill we are learning, the question now is do we need to bring in someone full-time on it?
How has your business strategy been adapted in the context of the Covid-19 crisis?
Eisenhower is often credited with saying “No plan survives contact with the enemy”. Mike Tyson put it slightly differently “Everybody has a plan until they got punched in the face”.
As a business owner, the new challenges are always coming at you, so the pandemic was just another punch in the face, or a series of sustained punches over an 18 month period. But ultimately, our plan did survive contact with covid.
So our strategy of keeping overheads low and the talent high still applies. We want to offer clients a different way of solving problems. Before Covid, there was more reluctance to try a new offering. But I think Covid has increased the demand for different solutions. Businesses are more open to approaching problems from different angles and working with different and new companies.
So we need to figure out the best way to grow to meet this increasing demand.
What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?
Bizarrely the biggest problem is convincing smart, strategic and creative people to work in the creative industry. The best strategists are being pulled in-house to big brands or into tech firms. So we need to figure that one out.
Once we figure that out, we need to make the case for Creativity as a viable and effective way to solve problems and grow businesses.
In a 2010 study, IBM interviewed 1500 CEOs across 60 countries and they all concluded that creativity was the “most crucial factor for future success”. So the need for human ingenuity is undisputed.
But today, like Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, the general understanding of creativity is inversely related to the amount of time spent talking about it. The consultancy firms are acquiring creative agencies with the same strategy that PACMAN uses to acquire fruit. And every organisation has an innovation department.
But during calving season you can find more creativity attached to a cow’s arse than in the trendiest tech incubator in Dublin. The genius Moocall device uses sim-card and motion sensor technology to solve a genuine problem for farmers. Improving their productivity and mental health. I can’t be certain, but I bet the creativity that drove Moocall into existence owes nothing to a brainstorm on multi-coloured bean bags in Dublin’s docklands.
Creativity is hugely valuable when it is understood and applied properly.
What new trends are emerging in your industry?
In recent years Ireland has been recognized as a centre of excellence for the business of creativity.
For a long time, the feeling was you had to go to London or New York for world class strategic or creative thinking. That is no longer the case. That is a reassuring trend.
What moment/deal would you cite as the “game changer” or turning point for the company?
Bank of Ireland asking us to solve a long-standing marketing problem for them. As a new start-up people advised us not to bother trying to work with big companies and brands. Small companies work with small companies was the accepted wisdom.
This gave us a timely boost, the project kicked off just before Covid and was a great distraction during those first lockdown months.
Business leaders are caring less about the scale of their service providers or how big and fancy their offices are. They now accept, even though they always knew it, that the critical factor is having the right three or four people around them to solve problems and deliver results.
What have been your highlights in business over the past year?
We picked up the Grand Prix at the 2020 European Sponsorship Awards in London for our work with An Post. We picked up the award in London and then went straight into lockdown at home.
During the last 18 months we didn’t grow as we had intended, but we delivered great work for our clients during what was a very difficult time for everyone.
During the Summer The Blues (Auckland based Super Rugby team) won their first trophy in a while. At the start of 2020 we had worked with Leon McDonald, Tana Umaga and the team to give them a shared language and help them unite around an authentic identity. The project was a huge success and we got great feedback. We only played a tiny role in their journey, but as Leon told us, we gave them an important piece of the jigsaw that they wouldn’t have found themselves. Seeing them lift the trophy was hugely rewarding. It was proof that what we do can be applied in any environment.
How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?
A term we may or may not have borrowed from the All Blacks – Whakapapa. We define it as leaving our clients and their companies in a better place than when we first meet them. Whether we work with them for a few weeks or a few years, it is vital that the layer of work we do has a positive impact on the organisation. It is important to us that the positive change is measurable and palpable.
On a personal level we are all GAA and soccer coaches for our kids, so getting to training midweek is also a measure of success for us.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
Not sure there are many less experienced entrepreneurs out there. So instead of shooting off a bit of advice I would ask a few questions and just listen to them. As entrepreneurs there are of course universal challenges, but the heavy stuff is usually unique to our business and situation. I found the IIBN Networking calls during Covid hugely beneficial. It was great to hear from others and share my own story. It lightened the load enough to keep going. So maybe my parting shot of advice would be to join the IIBN.