Advertising, Marketing & PR

Published: March 18, 2020 | Updated: March 18, 2020

Planning for the future and keeping the focus on Focal as directors batten down the hatches

Harry Gadsby, left, and Alex Frey, Co-founders and Directors of Focal. Picture: Dorset Biz News.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Like so many Harry Gadsby and Alex Frey began this year in optimistic mood.

In fact, 2020 got off to the best possible start for the directors of Focal when they landed a prestigious new client, Publicis Sapient, the digital business transformation company.

Suddenly it looked set to be the year the turnover of their video production and digital marketing business broke through into six figures.

And then a certain virus appeared on the scene and, at a stroke, the company’s fortunes took on a different look.

Harry, 23, who co-founded the Ferndown-based business with Alex, 24, in 2015, said: “Unlike some, we’ll be OK. It’s going to hit us although certainly not as hard as others.

“It just goes to show that you can never predict what’s around the corner.”

He’s now drawn up his own nine-point plan to help Focal deal with the inevitable turbulence of the coming months.

Perhaps it could help your business as well?

It includes:

  1. Avoid unnecessary expenditure – Restoration of normal workflow and consumer habits will take some time, from weeks to months. Your cashflow will take a ‘turbulent’ ride; keep an eye out and if you don’t need something, don’t spend.
  2. Stick to your strategies – Avoid disrupting any key strategic decisions for your business if you can. Stick to your guns when you can, but perhaps shift the timeline if you want to maximise the impact.
  3. Panicking Leaders – This virus is officially a pandemic, but that isn’t a sign to panic. Ensure your leadership team are making rational decisions during this time, it’s stressful for everyone but rationality is your strongest weapon (and hand sanitiser).
  4. Plan for normality – Sooner than you realise, normality will arise. Ensure you have a plan of action to phase back into normal conditions.
  5. Your customers – Think about your customers and how they’ll be handling the outbreak. For example, we’re planning campaigns to best manage the situation for our clients. We need to band together during this.
  6. The supply chain – Your suppliers may be bigger or smaller than you are. Ensure invoices are cleared if you can. You don’t want to start business as usual but discover one of your suppliers has gone under because of cashflow.
  7. Remote work preparation – Stress test your remote work systems before implementing this tactic. It’s better to know prior what your systems can handle if your entire employment moved to remote working.
  8. Plan for worst case and best case – The classic saying is “Expect the worst, hope for the best”. We’re going for a “plan for the worst, definitely plan for the best”. It’s important to stay agile and keep ahead of the game. You don’t want to be slow to catch up when normality resumes.
  9. Review – One thing we’ll certainly be doing is reviewing how our business handled the pandemic, learning how to do better. This will happen again and we always need to be prepared.

Whatever havoc coronavirus wreaks in the business world it will be just the latest obstacle to be overcome by Harry and Alex.

Their paths first crossed, unbeknown to them at the time, at infant and then middle school.

But it was at Ringwood School, and specifically the sixth form, where they formed what began as a firm friendship and became a business partnership a few years later.

Originally called Full Turn Pictures, Harry and Alex quickly established themselves as talented and creative video-makers with clients including Yogaia, Ufit and Saints Foundation.

“We were young and, if I’m honest, we learnt by our mistakes but we did build up a good showreel,” said Harry.

Fast forward to now and the company has re-branded to Focal – or its full name Focal Point Media –with an expanding client base.

Five or so regular clients are supplemented by a further 20 spread across the year.

They include the Blue Lamp Trust, Many and Naked Coffee.

Meanwhile the business, while still specialising in content creation, has pivoted towards digital marketing.

Harry now lives in London, with plans to open a second office in Kingston this summer, while Alex, as Creative Director, is in Ferndown.

The business also has two account managers looking after clients.

“London pays more for the same level of work but Bournemouth is cheaper in every aspect,” said Harry.

“It means we can bid for work at a lower rate, under-cutting London agencies, with Alex doing the work in Dorset.

“We sit down with clients and work out the strategy, the content required, identify the platform/s and then deliver it.”

Alex said Focal’s membership of BIMA – the British Interactive Media Association – had been a turning point, both in terms of becoming a client but also introducing Focal to other businesses such as Publicis Sapient.

And Harry singled out three specific individuals – Marcus Wincott of Startup Grind; Dan Willis, Strategy Director of Studio Republic and Co-founder of Well Good and Ryan England, Founder and CTO of Many – for their help and guidance.

“Inevitably coronavirus will have an effect in the short time but we’re going to use the next few weeks, when things may be quieter, to plan for the future.

“We’ll be ready when things really take off again,” said Harry.