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Talking Empathy and Adaptivity with Andrew Bloch & Associates
Andrew Bloch, probably best known as the founder of PR agency Frank, hadn’t quite planned to start a new business in the midst of a pandemic. Yet, in May 2020, he found himself doing what he had intended to do for a while: step back from the day-to-day running of Frank and set up a consultancy company.
Andrew Bloch & Associates was born at a challenging time, but Andrew found that this year more than ever, companies were in need of advice, support and consultancy. Andrew Bloch & Associates have been nominated as one of the Most Adaptive Small Businesses of 2020 by QuickBooks UK.
Hi Andrew! It’s a pleasure to meet you. Could you introduce yourself to our readers who haven’t met you yet?
Sure! My name is Andrew Bloch, I founded a PR agency called Frank 20 years ago. At the beginning of this year, I decided to move into a non-executive role so I could still be involved at board level and strategic decision making, but wouldn’t be involved in the day-to-day running of the agency. Frank was going really well and the time felt right, but I didn’t necessarily have a plan for where I would go next.
“I wanted to set up something that would make the most of my skills and experience, and say no to the things that didn’t.”
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, I was struck with a mixture of fear and panic, but also excitement and anticipation of what the world might bring me. In May, I set up Andrew Bloch & Associates. I now work across three different areas:
Advisory Boards - I’ve been advising fast growth companies like Propel and Phoenix51 to help them build their offering, develop their brand, design their sales proposition and manage their marketing. A large part of my job is connecting them to agencies and the right people that can help solve their problems. I’m working in the M&A space for PCB Partners, advising their buy-side clients who are looking to make strategic acquisitions in the marketing services area, and on the sell-side of the business, I’m advising marketing services agencies who are looking for an exit. I’ve also carried on with my work for Lord Sugar and his associated companies, who I’ve worked with for over 20 years.
Brands, agencies and celebrities - I’ve started an advisory service that helps brands, agencies and celebrities create new business relationships. I help brands find the right agencies, help agencies meet and win news clients, and help link celebrities and influencers with brands. I’ve also been doing a bit of work directly with clients. I’ve launched Cert - a new household cleaning product that can kill Covid within 60 seconds, and helped Tide Bank launch a charity fund to help small businesses that are struggling during the pandemic. At the same time, I’m helping brands find celebrity influencers and vice versa – I got Karren Brady to be the face of the Tide charity campaign, Fred Sirieix to launch campaigns for Bumble and Avvio, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Claude Littner to paint their nails pink in support of Future Dreams’ Let’s Nail Breast Cancer campaign and am currently working with Dillian Whyte to get sponsorship for his forthcoming heavyweight fight.
Charities and not-for-profits - This year, I joined The Prince's Trust’s business launch group panel - this charity founded by Prince Charles is helping young entrepreneurs start businesses, build confidence and get a job. My role as a business mentor on the panel is to ensure that the business plans presented are sustainable and viable. I’m also working with Big Community Records, an independent record label set up by the COO of Google that helps young black people from lower socio-economic backgrounds break-through in the music scene. On top of that, I’m mentoring at the School of Communication Arts and am an advisor to the School of Marketing.
That’s pretty much what I’ve been up to in the last five to six months!
A rather impressive curriculum you’ve got there! How do you think we can adapt to the new realities to Covid-19 this year and the next?
Part of my work with Andrew Bloch & Associates this year has been to make sure that businesses saw the opportunity to make change in a positive way. 2020 has sped up some strategic moves that businesses were already thinking of making, such as shifting to digital-first, working from home and focusing more on performance marketing.
With Phoenix51, for example, we’ve pivoted towards video-based interviewing and competency-based assessment models. With Propel, we have noticed that demonstrating results is more important than ever, and we’ve updated their evaluation and reporting techniques accordingly.
“I think it’s important not to go through this moment in time only to go back to normal once this is over.”
My aspiration for the future is that after a shitty year, we don’t start where we left off, but move forward in a new way taking on board new learnings, adapting and coming out stronger. No one likes change, it’s scary. But it would be a shame to return to a place of old habits when the pandemic settles.
What are your top tips for managing your business finances in 2020?
Cash flow is more critical than ever before. Cut your costs in the right areas and do all that you can to not be loss-making. If you need to make difficult decisions, deliver them in the most empathic, kindest, most generous way that you can.
And finally: rip up your targets and forget about this year. 2020 has been a tough year for so many business owners - you can’t beat yourself up for that. As long as you’re breaking even or ideally making a profit, however small, you’re doing well. Write the year off, but get yourself in the best place possible to make a fresh start next year and come out of the blocks strongly.
What are the main things that you think we’ve collectively learnt this year?
This year, we’ve seen a shift in the ways that consumers are interacting with brands. Corporate Social Responsibility is more important than ever; the ways that brands are perceived to behave is directly related to their business performance.
We’ve also gotten used to a more agile way of working: I, for one, have been much more productive not being in too many unnecessary meetings, and my work-life balance has been much better due to the flexible working hours and locations. I’ve had more time for my kids and myself and I’ve been able to use my previous commuting time in a more positive way. I think the office is still an important place of building a corporate and learning culture, but I reckon the future will be much more of a hybrid - part office-based, part remote-based.
“Life is not just about work - that’s one thing I hope we’ve learnt this year.”
And finally, I think one thing we’ve learnt this year is that we shouldn’t lose our sense of humour: even in the worst of times, there’s always going to be a place for light relief and a laugh. Consumers don’t want to hear about Covid every hour of every day.
And finally, tell us about the change in client/colleague relations that you’ve witnessed this year?
One of the things you see in a situation like this is how people and industries pull together. I’ve been part of several business networks that have come together to mutually share advice and support, and I’ve been having honest conversations with people about how they’re doing and how they’re coping that I wouldn’t otherwise have had.
The remote way of working has also enabled us to see our colleagues and clients in a more holistic light. People have had to leave for dog walks, we’ve heard screaming children in the background… Getting a glimpse into your peers’ personal lives has been a real builder of relationships.
“People as well as businesses have been more open in sharing their vulnerabilities, leading to deeper connections.”
I’ve noticed that people as well as businesses have been more open in sharing their vulnerabilities, whereas before there’s been a tendency to gloss over any challenges and present to the world that everything is fine. I really appreciate this openness - knowing that you’re not on your own is very helpful sometimes.
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This interview has been edited for clarity.