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    Keenan Motto and Gemma Rees: Five lessons from five years of Fabric

    By Keenan Motto and Gemma Rees, co-founders at TBWA Group’s Fabric

    We co-founded Fabric in 2019, with a goal of creating work that unites strategic rigour, disruptive storytelling, and design expertise.
    Since then, we’ve built brand platforms and campaigns for some of Australia’s most iconic brands, and a team of brilliant people who are the heart and soul of our business.

    We started our working relationship knowing three things – we have a common moral compass that revolves around equality and respect; we acknowledge that our brains are wired differently (creative vs business) and to thrive we need to respect each other’s craft; and we sought to protect our friendship, but not at the expense of having hard conversations. These guiding principles formed the bedrock of our partnership, enabling us to navigate challenges and achieve our shared goals with integrity and mutual understanding.

    The first five years have been fun, challenging, liberating, and full of lessons in business, relationships, and leadership. For anyone thinking about starting up an agency, here are the five key lessons we’ve learned in five years.

    1. People first – always

    Our mantra is ‘people come first’, always. Our industry can feel a little ruthless and relentless at times and it’s easy to let the work get in the way of what makes you brilliant – your people.

    We believe that the more balanced you are in your life, the more you will thrive at work. We’ve put our principles into practice to help us get there:

    Culture is built together: When you’re in the thick of it, culture makes all the difference. We’ve co-created our culture with the team vs it being forced upon them. Our people are our culture.

    No compromise: We ask our team to state their individual ‘no compromise’ and share it openly with the team. For example, ‘no meetings before 9am’, ‘I leave at 5pm every Wednesday for Pilates’, ‘I’ll always be home for my kid’s bedtime’. In return, we ensure this is respected by the whole team.

    2. 60/40 partnership rule

    The 60/40 rule is based on the simple premise that each founder gets the final call on the areas of their own expertise. For us, that’s not to say we don’t ask for each other’s perspective; we just know who is going to make the final call.

    And, whatever the outcome, we’ll back each other on it. Not only does it reinforce mutual respect, it allows open space for honest and hard discussions. And it’s efficient. Together, we get to making decisions quicker. It enables us to play to our strengths, respect each other’s positions, craft, and expertise, and communicate with openness and without fear.

    3. Welcome feedback

    The good, the bad and the ugly. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own world so it’s important to actively seek feedback from diverse perspectives to help sharpen and improve your business.

    The good – surround yourself with people who support and believe in your vision. Their guidance can help reaffirm your direction and aid evolution. In tough times, these are the people who will be the fuel for your fire.

    The bad – seek out the sceptics. Their criticism can serve as motivation to reassess and reshape (and drive you to prove them wrong if you disagree).

    The ugly – embrace the provocateurs who challenge the status quo. Their honesty can be a catalyst for transformation towards growth and innovation.

    4. Evolve but remain authentic

    We’ve always had a clear vision for our business and the type of work we want to make. It has been fun and challenging to create something unique that didn’t exist in the Australian market.

    But we force ourselves to take a ‘conscious pause’ every 6–12 months to reassess our foundations and look to unlock new ways to evolve and grow without losing sight of our brand foundations. We aim to adapt without getting distracted from the core of why we exist and stay nimble and retain the start-up mentality to drive agility and positive change – and, importantly, future growth.

    5. Relationships are gold – protect them

    We firmly believe in the saying ‘show me your friends and I’ll show you your future’. So from the outset of our partnership, we made a pact to collaborate with individuals who align with our values and goals – both for people we are and the clients we want to work with.

    This principle extends to how we engage with and support our clients. As we integrate with them, they become part of our extended team, and vice versa. This closeness fosters trust swiftly, propelling us towards more innovative and successful creative outcomes.

    See also: First +61 film work for Telstra launches: ‘Pointless’

    Top image: Rees and Motto

    The post Keenan Motto and Gemma Rees: Five lessons from five years of Fabric appeared first on Mediaweek.

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