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How this Manchester video agency has used its network and a positive attitude to #ComeBackStronger

In our next #ComeBackStronger blog, we talk to Jack Leigh, director and creative lead of Manchester-based video production company Eight Engines. The business began life in 2015 as a TV production company, producing content for the BBC, and has since evolved into producing marketing content for companies including Help for Heroes, the Royal Shakespeare Company and various marketing agencies.

Here, Jack talks to us about how the business went from having most of its work being put on pause overnight when lockdown hit, to how he’s used the past few months to cement his relationships, utilise his network, and streamline the business.

How are you accelerating company growth in the current climate?

Turnover-wise, we’re actually doing better this August than we were last August. We made a conscious decision at the start of lockdown to spend the time expanding our network and reach, rather than panicking or taking our foot off the breaks. This has really worked for us, and we’re finding that it’s actually easier than ever to ‘meet’ new people. It’s loads easier to get someone on a zoom call rather than getting them to agree to meet you for a coffee – we’ve picked up a lot of jobs through doing this.

We’ve also done what it seems like a lot of other business have done which is really taking the time to look at our processes and make ourselves more efficient. We’ve been so busy, pretty constantly for the past couple of years, meaning that every process came out of necessity, which can sometimes lead to bad habits being formed. It’s only now that we’ve had the time to sit back look at more efficient ways of doing things.

Where do you see your future opportunities lying (without giving out key secrets)?

We started as a TV production company and over the past four years we’ve been on a journey expanding ourselves into a marketing production company - using the lessons we’ve learnt in TV to create high quality marketing content. Post-lockdown, there’s a lot of businesses pivoting and trying to get new, creative ideas into the mix and that’s who we work best with – people who are looking to stand out from the crowd and cut through noise. So, this really plays into the hands of where the business was going.

Throughout lockdown, everyone has realised the power of video and the fact that it now serves as an essential form of communication – whether that’s doing everything via zoom calls, or major news outlets being okay with running lower quality footage because of the circumstances.  Due to this, there’s now a sea of low-quality content out there, so we see an opportunity for us in helping brands and businesses find ways of creating better quality content (which doesn’t necessarily have to mean massive budgets) and getting noticed. 

What are you most optimistic about?

Now that we’ve taken the time to look at our structure and processes, I’m really excited just to get back to making films. We’re constantly pushing to make our content better and more streamlined, plus offering a better service than ever. With any big change in the way we live our lives comes innovation, and we’re seeing lots of people wanting to put out new ideas and pivot their businesses. During times like this, there’s so much room for creativity and thinking about new and exciting ways to tell stories; we’re looking forward to helping more clients do this.  

How are you remaining positive?

I like to think I’m quite a positive person anyway. Obviously, it hit everyone really hard at the start. As a company that makes its money by leaving the house and filming people and things, we lost a lot of business overnight which was worrying. But you’ve got to put things in perspective. After taking stock I realised negativity isn’t practical – if you want to survive, you can’t do it by sitting in the corner complaining. You have to take action and the only way to take action is to be positive.

We’ve found that by having a can-do attitude, overcoming obstacles and finding a way around them instead of letting them hamper the project. You need to stay positive to do this otherwise all you see is locked doors. Of course, it’s important to remain realistic too – so being aware of what’s happening and not underestimating that, but also looking at the positives. I recently went on a brilliant course called Greater Connected with Business Growth Hub, which really helped me to frame things in a positive manner.

How are you maintaining a work/life balance and ensuring family time?

I’m probably not great on that front. I try, but shutting off is hard when it’s your own business. I’ve been getting away to places like the Lake District when I can, even if it’s only for a couple of days, which helps - but I could definitely do better!

What have been your key learnings from the last few months?

I’ve probably taken three main learnings. The first is around building on your network. Here, I’ve found that’s it’s better to develop deeper relationships with contacts you already have and people that are ‘warm’, rather than trying to do too much and connect with lots of different people.

Secondly, it’s if you treat your clients well, they’ll always try to look after you where they can. I’m really thankful that we have some brilliant clients who have gone out of their way to support us as a small business and given us a lot of work over the past few weeks. 

And the third one might sound obvious, but it’s the importance of getting out of the house everyday for exercise and fresh air. Regardless of how busy I am, I try do at least an hour a day walking with a podcast.

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