It was the first time when I had met Ian Finch when I knew that there would be something a little bit different about the digital agency he had built from the bottom up, 18 years ago. He didn’t seem the type to build something of a usual standard.
I had seen and heard about the work that Mando had done, and their positioning in both Liverpool and London as an agency. So, of course, when the opportunity popped up to speak with him — I already had a list of questions I was dying to know the answers to.
One hour is a short amount of time when you have a story to tell. I sat, I asked and I listened. Ian walked me through the timeline of Mando; sharing with me his ambitions for the future, their rebrand and how they’ve built an agency that breathes innovation and builds momentum.
Mando, tell us all about it.
We’re a 50-strong digital agency that simplifies complexity, builds momentum and creates business change.
We deliver large-scale programmes of work for well-known brands who wish to take their customer and employee engagement to a higher-level. This usually takes the form of websites and portals, line of business applications and intranets.
We’ve been going since 1997 and firmly balance creative customer-experience-led thinking and execution with rock-solid technology and delivery.
The agency has recently revealed its new brand identity. Have you come across any challenges when going through the process?
Most of the challenges actually came before the rebrand when we were trying to make the old brand work with a rapidly changing vision and evolving business following a management restructure. But, once we had committed to rebuilding our brand position from the ground up after 18 years, it was surprisingly straightforward.
We’re very very focused these days, and we thought it was important that our brand portrayed that.
Could you talk us through the new logo?
We went for pixel perfect precision and an engineering metaphor with the wheel, which indicates momentum and then deliberately warmed up the typeface to work against this and bring in a bit more approachability. We took the stamp of approval logo, which is so timeless and authoritative, and then paired it with a mad colour palette. Everything was about conveying trust, craft and focus but with personality and edge.
I’m curious about the culture of Mando. How would you describe it?
Truth be told, I could write a book on this. We’ve worked hard to build a team of 50 curious, collaborative momentum makers. We’re always challenging ourselves to think better, work together better and remove any obstacles we might come across.
We love each other and we are familial, but we are not a family. We are a sports team. We are here to win. ‘I’ don’t have to be right, but ‘it’ has to be right. We take pride in our work, but we are not ego-driven.
When you’re looking for people to join the team, what is it that you’re looking out for to know that they’ll fit culturally?
Another massive topic for us. We definitely hire on character over experience and we’ll wait, no matter how painful, for the right person rather than hire when we’re desperate.
We assess everyone against our core values and look for people who are willing to take personal responsibility and will work well within a team.
How do you identify, develop and nurture new creative talent?
If someone has that core DNA that will seize an opportunity and go for it then we’ll totally get behind them. We’ll provide them with training externally and internally, 1–2–1 coaching, regular feedback and opportunities to stretch themselves.
You hold ‘Provoke’ events that have been made to inspire and off-spring light bulb moments. Why do think they’re important for the agency?
It’s important to lead and to continually challenge the status quo and push our own boundaries. Our customers value it, our solutions are better as a result and we massively benefit from the self-challenge. It gives an opportunity for everyone at Mando to learn something new and build key skills, like presenting.
Collaboration and questioning always benefit. Doing these events with both, our customers and partners helps to unlock the opportunity to do great things together. The attendees have become regular over the last year and we’re building a nice cohort of collaborators.
You guys have been awarded for one of your personal projects, the ‘Timesheet Fridge’. This idea was sparked during one of Mando Play innovation days. Is dedicating time to ‘play’ just as important as work for you?
Arnold Toynbee rounds it up quite nicely. “The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play”.
What has been your proudest moment to date?
It would have to be getting ‘Agency Leader of the Year’ in the Drum Network Awards last December. We’d had a phenomenal 2015, after 2014 had been one of the toughest years of my life — personally, but also, particularly, in having to make some incredibly tough decisions to downsize Mando in order to make it stronger and to grow again. It was amazing to get that peer recognition for the journey you have to take sometimes.