We talked to Daniel Andrews of the tree on how to integrate marketing with extraordinary ideas to help shape and grow all parts of your business and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Daniel Andrews: I’m well, and my family is okay, too. It’s a tough time, and everyone has had difficult moments over the year. But thankfully, we’ve endured and been able to work and keep supporting those around us who have struggled a little more.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded the tree?
Daniel Andrews: I’ve always been interested in marketing and even studied it for some time before realizing that the traditional academic approach wasn’t for me. While working at a menswear store in Bournemouth, I realized how much I valued a highly personal customer experience and wanted to replicate that.
I racked up a lot of experience working for ample leisure and retail brands, and then at Ten Alps PLC, one of the UK’s largest independent factual media brands. I headed up digital teams working with major organizations such as Lloyds and then worked for Octopus Group agencies.
the tree came out of my desire to build a modern, sustainable, responsible organization that was not just a great place to work but did great work for its clients. The marketing world is fast-paced, and I wanted us to be quicker to the punch than more significant legacy agencies. To this day, we move quickly and challenge everyone in the team to be interesting and interested. We think cognitive diversity is key to doing fantastic work.
How does the tree innovate?
Daniel Andrews: always looking to hire the best people, develop the people already in the business, and use the best tools to deliver the best possible service to our clients. But we also innovate ourselves. We developed a powerful single-screen CMS and eCommerce solution, the root used by some of our clients. We also innovate in our approach. We don’t restrict ourselves to what people understand by social-first digital marketing. We want to add value to the people who count on us.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Daniel Andrews: The pandemic has affected every business. Even those that stayed open have struggled, if not commercially, then logistically or even emotionally. Our only focus at the beginning was keeping our people safe. We created a remote-working handbook and extensive digital infrastructure to support them and make sure that they had the means to do their work and stay healthy during a difficult time. We’re fortunate in that we’ve had a terrific year, and we’ve expanded our offering as well as our team. We used the downtime to think hard about business owners who don’t usually have time to think. We adopted new tools and went through a successful rebrand. It’s been a challenging year for everyone, and we’re mindful of how much some people and organizations have suffered. But we’ve managed to have some real successes as a business.
We’re also launching our new brand positioning this year, based on the principle of delivering real-world outcomes through social-first thinking. It relates to our tech offering, which at the intersection of people and platform. We’re present in our people and the client’s future growth.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Daniel Andrews: Again, I think everyone did. Some people resisted the changes and lockdown. Others were saying that everything would blow over quickly. And then some people were predicting something completely different. We discussed everything honestly, we considered our team, and we acted decisively in what we felt were the best interests of our people, and therefore the business. What we’ve learned is the actual value of agility and culture. Some businesses were caught flat-footed, and they’ve had a tough time this year. Others, like us, we’re able to move quickly. And thanks to how cohesive our team is, we were able to sustain our level of work and our connection to each other while also empowering people in our team to use the extra time they had for personal development. Culture is so influential. We’re thankful we’ve been breading a culture of support and excellence for the last six years. This culture, more than ever, has shone. The team has taken their ‘in office’ family love for each other and been a virtual community of brilliantly kind and considerate bunch. It’s been so impressive to watch.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Daniel Andrews: Probably not as well as I should. The temptation could and often has been to wind down with a bottle of wine in the evening. But having a passion for self-improvement and wanting to be at my peak all the time, I do invest in fitness (not as much as I would like). I committed to a virtual PT session once a week, then gave me time for myself. And I’m a passionate golfer. When courses re-opened, I was out like a shot making the most of fresh air and some competitive golf.
I’ve always loved the idea of meditation, but I’ve struggled to develop the discipline to practice it regularly. That was until I found a way of gamifying it. Being a bit of a geek, I threw some tech into the mix: I’ve been playing with a Muse device for the last few months. It’s a wearable tech piece that reads brainwaves and gives instant feedback through an app as you meditate. It has helped improve my clarity and distance myself from my mind’s usual and regular chaos.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Daniel Andrews: We operate in a highly competitive market, but we try not to think about what’s going on around us in that way. We’re part of an ecosystem of businesses like everyone else, and we try to focus on doing what we do as well as we can. We don’t expect that approach to change, but we will always keep innovating and being bold in our ambitions for ourselves as individuals and for the business. I believe our proposition now sits in a new position, far away from other, more transient, social, and digital businesses.
We’re trying to use social and technology to help brands create real-world outcomes. We’re not just trying to chase clickbait or get the most followers using here-today-gone-tomorrow influencers. That is why our social offering isn’t just for consumable brands. We work with large-scale international corporates and progressive brands who understand the importance of social but need a strategic partner to deliver meaningful impact.
Your final thoughts?
Daniel Andrews: No man is an island! These crazy and isolating times have proven this more than ever. This year has been incredibly tough, but there has been a tremendous pleasure amid that challenge. I’ve held values at the heart of everything. Every Friday night, we’ve committed to a family Zoom, speaking to relatives from all corners of the world. I’ve fallen in love! My girlfriend has been a confidante and rock throughout this period.
From a business perspective, my business partner Ed and the team have been inspirational in their resilience and commitment to our mission. You can’t get through the good times or the bad times on your own. Being a leader is about bringing people together around you and letting them fly. My support network is everything, and I genuinely recommend it to anyone who takes the time to invest in the incredible people around them. They will not only bring you success, but they will bring you joy in what can often feel like a joyless situation.
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