Our latest DWH story sees our oldest team member Jonathon Bright (known almost everywhere as JB) sharing his journey from Lichfield to London, and eventually back to the Midlands via Hong Kong.

 My wife always jokes that as I’ve got older, I only make one new friend every decade. Dave was definitely that when we met. As soon as I met him, we became firm friends. A shared love of Aston Villa, Star Wars (although for Dave this is more like an obsession!) and Black Sabbath helped, but we have a very similar view of work in general. The yin and yang of Dave’s designer mind and my marketing mind are very much in tune.

In the Navy

When I was at school, I kind of assumed I’d do what my parents did when I grew up—working in a factory or shop—but as I got older it became clear that I was going to have a decent academic career at school. No one we knew had ever been to university, so, from a young age, I was set on a career in the armed services as an alternative to the factory floor. I started meeting my recruiting officer from about the age of 13 and it was the Royal Navy (not my parents or school) that persuaded me to stay at school, do my A Levels, and join as a junior engineering officer.

When I was getting close to joining, I changed my mind at the last minute; I realised I was a bit anti-authority, a socialist and a pacifist, and in my limited exposure to the Navy I knew I’d never tolerate the shouting and the structure (despite it being a fine institution). It just wasn’t for me. I didn’t really have a Plan B but I was working part-time for Tesco and they offered me a place on their management training scheme. It also included a company car (I think it was a Montego—ask your parents!) which for an 18 year old was amazing. That gave me a bit of confidence and I started writing letters.

London Calling

In sixth form, we had to do a bit of work experience, so I chose a local bank. The actual work seemed a bit tedious, but the young cashier who took me under her wing for the week told me all about other things that you can do in a bank. She was ambitious and enthused me about the career that could be had.

I think I got an interview for nearly every high street bank at their regional head office in Birmingham. The team at NatWest asked if I fancied working in London, as they had a shortage of school leavers. When I was 18, a lot of processing was still done manually, and that year NatWest recruited 3,000 18-year-olds just in London. I went down to London for an interview and was offered a job. Two weeks after finishing my A Levels, I was working in the tallest building in the UK in the International Banking department of NatWest. It was an absolutely insane amount of falling on your feet! I look back now and am astonished by my good luck, good fortune and the set of coincidences that led me to that job.

As my career developed, I ended up doing quite a lot of analytical work and it was looking like I was going to end up becoming a credit analyst (basically looking at company reports and accounts to decide how much money they could borrow). Luckily, I managed to get a role as a strategic analyst in the marketing department of the international banking division and immediately felt at home.

From there I moved into retail banking, evaluating the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, which gave me a route into mainstream marketing. I began managing through-the-line campaigns with massive budgets in the millions, working with top London agencies with all the associated bells and whistles. I had a slight hiccup in my mid-20s when the promotions dried up. I was “advised” that further promotions would be difficult without some academics to back up my experience, so I did two degrees while I was working, including an MA in marketing. It’s a passion of mine now, and I always advise any youngsters to keep on top of continual personal development (CPD) and to never turn down training or new opportunities to learn something new.

Hong Kong Gardens

I went freelance eventually, mainly to get exposure to non-financial services sectors, and I’ve had a great time. I’ve worked for some great companies, worked with some brilliant people, and delivered some fantastic marketing launches, campaigns and projects.

An overseas job working for the Financial Times in Hong Kong proved to be a moment of reflection (and record breaking), and I started thinking about moving back home. About 25 years after moving to London, I ended up back in the Midlands, which I love. One of my first jobs was at an agency where Dave was working, and that’s where we met.

My Hometown

One of my recollections of that time was a client that the agency had almost written off. They had lots of meetings with no real work ever coming out of it. Dave and I took the time to really get to know the client and met with them frequently to develop the relationship. We identified a few of the client’s problems and were able to really help them with suggestions to change some of their existing marketing approaches. It really paid off, as the occasional jobs turned into more regular jobs and the budgets increased—all based on simple and straightforward marketing advice and amazing creativity.

That experience is kind of what we do now with clients; we only suggest things that the client needs to do, and things that will have an impact on their bottom line. I’ve worked both client-side and agency-side, and I hate agency flannel and bullshit.

We’re totally straight and we only suggest things that are going to work and that will move the client’s business forward. We are also total detail freaks—right first time is what we aim for. Constant back-and-forth over little details that should have been clarified before anything is produced is a massive bugbear of mine (and Dave probably even more so). My Grandad was a carpenter and always used to say measure twice, cut once. I always think of that every time I start planning anything.

I’ve been with Dave since he started DWH and work as much or as little as the business needs. With our wider flexible team, we can manage anything, and we totally love what we do. Marketing is simple: know your customers, do things they love, and deliver them with amazing creativity.