It feels absolutely right to be interviewing Jack Hubbard whilst he is on the top of a mountain.
I received a text to say, “Kirsty I am stuck on a rock face, I shall call when I’m down” which was, quite frankly, the best text message ever..
The scene that Jack described from his mountain top office seemed expansive, free and full of possibilities.
And that’s Jack, he takes you to another place – to that place of possibility.
I first saw Jack at the Happy Start up Camp. He spoke, with a bunch of other entrepreneurs on his business, on his story.
Richard Wilkins (the Minister of Inspiration) says that there are two types of speakers – those that Impress and those who Connect. Jack connected. The energy in the room was palpable when he talked about his brother, his company and then ultimately popping dreams.
LS: So – Jack this seems a tad unfair. I am in Glasgow sitting on a sofa and you are on a mountain top looking over Mont Blanc.
JH: We have just climbed for 4 hours up on a sheer rock face on an iron track and I am now up above the clouds looking over at Mont Blanc.
LS: Of course you are….
So, between the howl of the wind we hear Jacks story.
JH: I took a lot of jobs, felt completely disappointed, there was no culture or boss that inspired me.
There seemed to be this weird unshakeable belief that business must be conducted in this serious Victorian tone. “Know your place boy” I was told. Bosses talking down to subordinates - it was haughty – everything was titled “to whom it may concern” and everyone seemed to be playing along with it but really not sure why.
So, in 2003, I’d had enough so I started my own company and because I was totally under qualified as an MD – I read loads of books and sought out mentors.
I couldn’t follow the conventional wisdom, the regular ideas just didn’t work for me. I was always searching for new ideas I could use, and inventing stuff.
Staff wellbeing was important from the start and we did loads of small stuff like pilates, meditation and fruit in the office – little things but it didn’t feel holistic as we were still setting, chasing and missing targets and feeling like failures. Just another average company chasing our tails around a hamster wheel.
A big turning point for me was when I lost my younger brother Luke, the victim of many years of bad living. It shocked me into the realisation that life was precious and I needed to live every moment to its fullest.
The reason we work is to make our lives better – we do, its sweeping but we do! We need to be safe, well, learn and grow and money is an enabler of that. Money should work to produce better life, better life should not sacrificed to produce money. But in the business world the tail is wagging the dog?
So I thought – how can I get it the other way around, how can we focus on the outcomes, not the currency, and make life better for everyone in the process.
So I got us a dream machine. When we hit target, we pop a dream ball and someones dream comes true.
Steve and Jim flew to Rio for the world cup, Alan rode his motorbike across Africa, Carla took her family on luxury ski holiday and Mark is producing sci- fi electro opera with a concept album and a stage show.
I threw out the old business plan now work to a bucket list. My objectives as a leader are the dreams of my employees.
I have an office full of amazing people who turn up and make life better for me everyday so I need to turn up and make life better for them. I do this by producing their dreams.
The story about Sophie and Namibia is so exciting. The intention to produce Sophie's dream has been set, and we are now watching the story unfold. This amazing project will be part of our life for the next 10 or so years. A major plot line in our story.
We could have called up the folks in Namibia and say “we are a marketing agency and we can get you blah blah blah”
But we said,
“We’ve got this dream machine and Sophie’s awesome, one of the rising stars of the digital marketing industry dreams of going on safari. She has a sabbatical coming up. How about she comes out and spends some time with you on safari, understanding your country, the economic conditions and together we develop some ideas to get more people knowing about your amazing country.
They said Wow. Of course.
So now we are developing a plan to put Namibia on the map and build a marketing platform that promotes Ecotourism across Africa.
This dream stuff gets people thinking. Some were lost for words, some had the regular tick box stuff, the northern lights, macha picchu, some had never contemplated it. But when people have reason to believe their dreams will probably become a reality, you see them up their dream game and start thinking bigger.
It became clear that my role as a leader was to inspire my team to dream bigger and use all available resources to making their dreams happen.
And having a loyal, inspired bunch of creative thinkers with the ability to dream up better visions of the future comes in handy when you are a marketing agency hired to make life better for our customers.
As a leader, it’s such a relief! Its like a weight has been lifted.
As the leader everyone is looking to you for the answers. We might pretend we know what we’re doing but we don’t. I used to feel like a phony, and was always full of self doubt. I’d think “I will get found out”. But now I know I am spending my time doing the right things. Now there is no pressure. It is effortless.
More and more, employees are valuing lifestyle and for me to retain a team of superstar employees it’s my goal be the global leader in employee lifestyle design.
Propellernet is a Marketing agency – with heaps of awards. One of which is the best small business workplace in the UK (great place to work institute 2013).
A good Friend and mentor Karen Smithson believes that it’s better to lead a business with your heart, than with your head. That’s an important idea.
Radical even for today but critical for future leaders to grasp if they want the rewards that come with full passion and commitment of their people.
It took me a while to get what Karen was talking about. Our heads try and reduce complicated things into simple thoughts so we can communicate them as rational logic. This makes us sound clever in business meetings but our conscious thought in our heads is pathetic compared with the powerful super computer of the subconscious.
The subconscious takes in the whole of our experience and guides us based on the values system we choose to interpret the world through. It just feels right, but we can’t explain why, so we might look silly in business meetings but we will ultimately create deep rich value. Do it for the love, not the money and you cant go wrong.
LS: What do people you know think about what you do?
JH: It's funny, because I forget this approach isn’t normal. Because it’s someone else’s dream its different it gives you a higher purpose than yourself and beyond money. That’s really motivating. When you come from that place, when you set that intention to make someone elses dream happen, it happens really quickly. It’s an unstoppable force, so if you can align that to business values it makes compelling business sense.
If you start from “What is the best way to get our numbers up?” then it’s not attractive to the outside world. You are setting the intention of taking something. We are bringing intention of giving and creating. That’s a much more attractive force.
When you put dreams out there – people want to be part of them. Its contagious.
LS: You talked about books and reading a lot – is there any one book that sticks out as a “go to” for you?
JH: Yes, that’s important to mention that – it’s “the Dream Manager” by Matthew Kelly. It’s a little book, a parable. A great articulation of how this can work – and it’s a really short read.
LS: What brings out your dark side?
JH: What do you mean?
LS: What pisses you off?
JH: I am currently standing in heaven, I have 3 beautiful daughters and we all live together at the side of a mountain, I love what I do and my business is going well. I can honestly say – nothing.
And that’s probably the best place to leave that story – that and the fact that the winds are really starting to pick up and we are worried for Jacks safety!
After the discussion, I feel like I have climbed the mountain too (and had 17 shots of coffee, 2 glasses of wine and a ginger shot!). My heart is filled up with possibilities and opportunities.
He makes you believe in the simplicity of it. You know what – he just gets it. He makes it simple. Actually no - he knows it is simple.
As someone who is styling his own version of leadership we feel it rude not to keep you updated on all things dream machine like. Next we shall be picking up with Mr. Hubbard about his own dream – Dream Valley – his alpine theme park for better business meetings.
Hop online and visit him there – you know you want to!
We were super lucky to get the opportunity of speaking with Sophie – yes! Namibia Sophie – to find out her take on Propellernet, dreams and all things safari.
When you speak to Sophie Coley you get, in about the first 5 nanoseconds, why she was crowned Young Search Professional of the Year at the 2013 European Search Awards and in 2014 was shortlisted for 'Rising Star' at The Drum Marketing Awards.
Her energy, vitality (expressed through feeling poorly!) and commitment are so apparent in how she talks about her job as Creative Strategist and her role in Propellernet.
SC: I started as an intern with Propellernet straight out of University and have worked my way up. I was mainly working in the PR space but realised I was better at the creative side and 2 years ago I switched jobs and I now work across the travel, retail, fashion and B2B side. I guide the teams in understanding the customers and offering gems of insight, coming up with killer ideas and seeing how we can assist them in standing head and shoulders above everyone else.
LS: And what is it like to work in Propellernet?
SC: An amazing place to be and we do amazing work. We have always been leaders and I am really proud of what we do and stand for. We are being nominated for big national awards and that is because the work we do is great.
Before I began working in marketing and I was studying journalism, I was hesitant to get into marketing because I didn’t want to be pushing stuff and forcing sales – and that’s certainly not the case at Propellernet! I’m able to be really creative and work on marketing campaigns that genuinely make life better for our clients’ customers. We never force a sale here.
Effectively I have been able to shape my own job here and there is an opportunity for everything!
3 others and myself are going to Helsinki in December. I found this Young creative competition and spoke to Nicky and now we are going.
LS: What is really striking in how you talk is that you sound like Jack. And, genuinely, not in a weird way!! – in a way that holds true to your values.
SC: You are right; it would be the same if you spoke to any of us. If we do sound the same – it’s genuine.
The place is full of nice people, and we all get on. I actually think I need to watch how I talk about work with my friends and my boyfriend because, this is not the norm.
LS: Wouldn’t it be amazing if it were?
SC: Yes, I have friends who are in jobs that they hate and employers who are really inflexible.
Here, you are treated as a person.
LS: How would you describe good leadership?
SC: Just that - recognising that we are not robots just sitting here making your business money. We are humans and not just humans sitting at a desk – Jack thinks about us outside of the desk – he knows what makes us tick.
LS: Like animals?
SC: Yes, Namibia is such an opportunity. I’ve always loved animals and in holidays I have always worked something into the holiday to involve animals. And, safari wise I didn’t really think it was all together possible.
It came about through conversation. I am coming up to my 5 years and in passing Jack mentioned if I had any plans. And I hadn’t really thought about it and up came this opportunity where we have now been liaising with Wild Dogs Safaris via Skype and we can really partner with them and add real value.
I am hoping to go out end of September next year on Safari as I can see the change when the first rain comes. The peak tourist season, as you say, is when the animals congregate at the water holes, and that’s largely September – actually, when the rains come (at the start of October, I believe) they all disperse (because water is abundant elsewhere) and that’s when the ‘flicked switch’ thing happens; the pregnant animals give birth (because there’s more food/water for the babies) but also the animals become harder to spot because they spread out all over the plains. So I’m hoping that I can get out there for the end of September which means I’ll catch the end of the peak tourist season (and see lots of thirsty animals at the waterholes) but also the first rains (less guaranteed sightings but more interesting things and more drama) – the best of both worlds I guess!! I can’t wait!
And neither can we! I get goose bumps even thinking about Sophie’s adventure and this is just through one conversation!
Can you imagine if this excitement and intent could be part of your everyday life?
What if it was?
Through talking to Jack I have explored some opportunities for growth with clients and already getting stories about what people are doing in making dreams come true. I received this today as I write this article.
Jack Hubbard – your work here is done…
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