Chalk + Ward’s Client Services Director, Lisa Prescott, is celebrating 15 years with the company. Normally, we would have had a celebration in the agency to mark this great achievement, but we have had to put that off for a while because of the current health crisis
What was your job title when you joined the company and where were you based?
I was a Junior Account manager when I joined C+W, based in Kings Wharf on Exeter’s Quay. I became part of the team as C+W had just won a sizeable law firm account and they needed an implementor with professional services experience (which I had). I had great grounding from my former agency but knew I wanted to get into a more strategic, challenging role, hence my career at C+W was born!
I had 3 years’ under my belt (before then I was at Exeter University studying for a BA in Business Management) so the Managing Director of Chalk + Ward, Robert Chalk, created a Junior Account Manager role specifically for me. Before then, they hadn’t had Juniors, only executives so I was more than happy to accept the challenge and set a new precedent for future C+W juniors. Within 6 months there were 3 of us and I always look back at those days with my peers fondly. It was hard work though, very fast-paced, continual multi-tasking (there is such a massive amount to do at this level), the need to absorb everything like a sponge whilst learning the skills of strategic and commercial thinking, it was full on! But most importantly it was fun, I had some great clients, some of which I am still working with 15 years later!
What are your current responsibilities?
Hugely varied, my time is probably split 60:40 – I am still heavily involved in client servicing, so 60% of my time is dedicated to overseeing retained clients and consultancy, with 40% running the business with my fellow directors. Although being a director has big responsibilities, I actually find it a lot less stressful compared to my manager days when everything was frantic, and you have things coming at you from all directions. I find it easier now, but I guess that is down to confidence, knowing you’ve proven your abilities and worked hard to earn that seat at the boardroom table!
What do you most enjoy about working with C + W?
The ability to be creative, seek new opportunities and think outside the box – I love every aspect of this, and I never tire of coming up with new commercial ideas to grow both our client’s businesses and our own. We work with clients who want to be challenged, so it’s amazing I get to do this every day with people I respect both professionally and personally.
How have things changed in the company’s work culture over the past 15 years?
Pretty significantly and I am so proud C+W have absolutely taken the reigns when it comes to mental health in the workplace. We take it really seriously and encourage the team to talk to us. whenever they need to. I have personal experience of mental health issues and know it’s essential to have the right network around you to help you through the dark days. When I went through a difficult time in my life, part of my network were certain individuals at C+W and without them, I hand on heart can say I wouldn’t be where I am now. Our culture is something we continually drive. It is a huge part of our success to date and will continue to play a pivotal role in our future.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Not having enough hours in the day sometimes! It does get bonkers, but that is the nature of our industry and we never compromise on our service levels so it’s pretty busy at times. When multiple clients need you, staff want to sound you out on ideas, there’s a stack of new business proposals to get out, the accountant has the monthly figures to share, you’re looking to launch a new business and there’s no milk for a cuppa it can feel pretty overwhelming! But, needs must, and you find a way through it. As a board, we are such a close-knit team and equally share responsibilities so there is always another director who steps in and takes a load off.
What’s the best part of your work?
There are a lot of brilliant things about my role and what we do but two things really stand out for me…
1. Seeing the team flourish and develop confidence – I love how people can grow when given the right leadership, mentoring, support and motivation, it’s so rewarding.
2. When clients say “that’s so C+W”, to me, that is such a massive compliment as they know what we’re all about and that’s because we’ve nailed our purpose and defined who we are and how we go about things!
What more can be done to encourage women to become directors of companies?
Be confident in who you are and your capabilities. Know full well that you can walk into a room full of men and be able to hold your own. If you think you can’t, then look to develop strategies that will nurture your confidence. Don’t let your sex define who you are.
How do you see the work of C + W changing in the post-Covid world?
Great question to ask and one that is pretty tricky to answer currently. I think if someone said to me your business needs to be fully operational from home within 24 hours, I would’ve said that was totally unrealistic and quite simply ridiculous! But clearly, it wasn’t an impossibility and we were set up and functioning successfully literally overnight and at no point have our service levels been compromised, which is all down to the hard work of the team. As a board, it’s made us re-evaluate our physical workspace environment and getting the work/life balance right, I am certain things won’t go back to how they were before lockdown but as yet I can’t make any solid predictions!
From a work and service perspective, we have seen digital marketing boom and clients needing our consultancy services more. The unpredictability of what lays ahead makes it even more important to know who you are and why you do what you do. Those with a strong purpose will be the firms of the future.