At some point earlier this month we celebrated our 20th birthday. It’s still hard to believe. Juice has been going a whole 20 years!
To prove that this is in fact true, we asked our founder and MD, Alan Poole, to regale some stories of yore, looking back at the challenges, key wins and lessons learned from running a creative agency for over two decades.
We are 20
“AP, write something about how Juice is 20 this year. Tell everyone how it began, how you’ve made it, what you’ve learnt etc. But don’t waffle on like you normally would. Oh, and get it done by mid-August so we can publish it in time for the anniversary in early September.”
In the beginning…
Juice was a mistake.
OK, maybe not the greatest opening line of a short piece to celebrate 20 glorious years (well, about 18 glorious ones and a couple of slightly crap ones).
Perhaps ‘Juice wasn’t the plan’ is a better opener.
It only really exists as a result of my inability to find a decent, honourable and interesting employer to work for. At the time, all those years back, I wasn’t especially bothered by the ‘creative’ industry. I was testing a few other career avenues first – trucks, ice cream, even Teletubbies bubble bath (a tragic low point for sure).
I worked for a couple of good people and companies but didn’t feel especially fulfilled. Looking back, it wasn’t until I founded Juice that I felt like I had finally found my ‘home’ – surrounded by people much cleverer and more creative than me. But like all good things, finding it required a bit of a hop, or maybe a gigantic leap would be better terminology. Especially after I walked out of my last ‘employed’ job with nowhere to go and three months from being a dad for the first time.
I sold my car, a silver Fiesta I really liked, sad – went to the local car auction, bought something cheap and unwieldy for a third of the cash and spent the rest on a Macbook (special mention to Apple – for you have been comprehensively rinsing us for all those beautiful devices for 20 years). I also bought one of those all-in-one, printer/scanner/copier/fax things that lasted about a year before one of the key functions – probably the printer – ceased to work. And then Juice … was a thing – in my spare bedroom with a crying baby next door. The original ‘work from home’. Literally.
We were a video production business (at least that’s what we told people). And for that I must largely credit my first partner in crime, Deane Thrussell. Deane was one of those guys (and still is) who could make a fully functioning edit suite out of a takeaway coffee cup, a ball of string and a small rodent. He would create magic whilst I duplicated DVDs all weekend on the kitchen table. Our one-MacBook-and-a-fax-machine business punched way above our weight but we worked, and worked, and worked, and drank a lot of increasingly excellent coffee to deliver for our first small collection of clients (Castrol BP was the very first and is still one today). In 20 years that attitude remains embedded in the DNA of this company. And we’re certainly known for our coffee.
This seems to be working…
The digital ‘arm’ of the business followed a few years later (again, formed by another bunch of people much cleverer than me). Our first ‘big fish’ being Williams Formula One and Accenture. I pulled together a team of enthusiastic and very talented freelancers. They seemed to like working with us, they stayed, and so built our fledgling digital business from nothing.
Of course, we have had many moments of stress, strain and humour over the years – like early on when the VP of a major client awarded us a project that ran into many £’000’s – a big deal for us at the time. He came down to the farm to check on progress and upon walking in, seeing all 5 of us, famously said ‘where the hell are the rest of you?’. 16 years later that client is still with us.
Or when we were developing our new offices. The bank manager came round, saw the scale of what we were building and said with a smile, ‘you’ll go bust’. We changed banks.
I always believed that we could go toe-to-toe with London. I refused to accept that creative excellence only existed within the five streets of W1. I find it especially ironic now that the message seems to be that ‘great work can be done anywhere’. Well, we were 20 years ahead of you all on that one!
Overall, we’ve done more things right than wrong, but we’ve never been good at shouting about it – we’re too busy – those awards forms are so tedious. Perhaps now that we’re 20, we might start entering some…I’m told ‘it’s a good thing’.
Great clients make great work easy…
We’ve worked with some incredible clients and people over the years. It’s said that you can’t claim to be true ‘partners’ unless you have a financial tie-in. That’s junk. It demands a mindset, and real actions on both ‘sides’ – get that right and we can all pull in the same, results led direction.
For me, it’s not that complicated. We stick to our principles. We won’t just work with anyone. Clients need to share our basic, collaborative beliefs. If you think we are ‘just a supplier’ – you’ll be disappointed. Our people, and their talents, deserve better than that.
I always felt that if we work hard at the basic stuff – paying people on time, being straightforward to deal with, being loyal, sharing success – we would be just fine. If you can do no more, sleepless nights won’t follow.
We work hard to treat our contractors, suppliers and freelancers – many of whom have been making us look brilliant for years – as if they are full-time Juicers. We’re always grateful, knowing you could do the same amazing things elsewhere, but you still often chose to do it with us over them. Thank you.
And to the Juice team members – who have, of course, changed over the years (although several are headed for the long service award – a Covid booster). You are, by a million miles, the single most important reason for our success and reputation.
We work hard every day to try to do right by you, inspire you and find you great projects to work on that you can be rightly proud of.
You. Are. Amazing.
As my elderly mum said when she came to Juice Towers (which is a pretty nice place if you’ve never been), ‘when are you going to get a proper job?’. These words are immortalised on one of the walls of our office. If your mum can’t keep you humble and grounded, then who can?
One day I might take her advice – that supermarket van delivery driving job awaits – but we have lots to do before then.