Numero P

On 12 December 2012 I launched my own creative agency; The Dirty Dozen. Clever right? Launching an agency with ‘Dozen’ in the name on 12.12.12.

I actually ‘soft launched’ the company four months earlier. Setting up a company when there are thousands of similar companies out there already is not newsworthy. Launching a company with a clever name is no different. Launching a company with a founding client instills confidence.

In April 2013 I secured what I would call my first client ‘of scale’. It was one of the UK’s biggest brands by sales – a lottery provider. To help me win the business, I collaborated with a number of small independent suppliers.

To deliver the project, I had to pay my suppliers 50% of their project fee upfront, with an agreement to settle the remaining balance upon completion. That’s when I learned my first real lesson about running your own business. Cash flow.

I was that focused on the ‘here and now’, e.g. securing new business, that I hadn’t planned for tomorrow. I had not considered my suppliers needs. My mantra at the time was very much, ‘let’s just focus on winning the business today and worry about the detail tomorrow’. In business, these small details count.

In terms of value, I had secured a considerable amount of business for a small startup. Yet I had no means to pay my suppliers for the work that was required to get the project underway.

All the cash I had coming in from my other clients seemed to disappear rather quickly. I didn’t know exactly where or what I was spending the money on, but I knew I was living comfortably and enjoying life. It was only when my accountant presented my end of year accounts and the subsequent tax returns that were due that I realised just how much money I wasted and should have put aside.

On the one hand, I’d secured one of the largest brands in the UK that would guarantee a steady income for a year. On the other hand, I couldn’t even start the project until I had paid my suppliers their initial 50%. Another lesson I learned about running your own business. Client payment terms.

My client had 90-day payment terms and my suppliers had 30-day payment terms. Even after 90 days I still had to chase the client for a PO number and payment. So, I did what most people would do. I rang my business bank manager requesting a temporary overdraft, only to be told ‘the computer says no’. Why? Because I had been trading less than a year and had not yet established a sufficient trading history.

Realising the outcome was bleak, I decided to have a bit of fun. I asked my bank manager if he would mind holding the line for a couple of minutes whilst I checked some information. Whilst my bank manager was on hold, I searched ‘Lord titles’ online and effortlessly purchased the title of ‘Lord Matt Parkes’ within a matter of minutes.

I then grabbed my mobile, called my bank (whilst my bank manager was on hold on the other line) and spoke to a friendly customer service provider to inform them of a “change of personal details”.

The customer service operator was only too happy to help and indeed congratulate me on my new ‘title’. I was able to easily change my personal details on my account. I then hung up my mobile, picked up my home phone and spoke to my bank manager again, apologising for taking longer than expected. I will never forget what he said to me.

“I’m sorry Mr. Parkes, your account appears to have logged out and I need to refresh it. Would you mind me taking you through security again?”.

“Certainly” I replied. We went through the necessary security questions and passwords.

“Oh. That’s strange. It appears your personal details have changed. From what I can see it says you’ve recently changed your title from… ‘Mr.’ to… ‘Lord’? ‘Lord Matt Parkes’?”.

“Yes that’s correct. Under English Law I am now officially a Lord” I replied.

“Well congratulations Mr. Parkes, I mean Lord Parkes” he replied.

“Why thank you. Now about that overdraft facility. Do you think we will be able to resolve the issue?” I replied.

“No, my Lord. The computer still says no”.

Now I never got my overdraft facility – a temporary need. But what I did receive is a long-term benefit that is like a gift that just keeps on giving. A brand.

Firstly, I am one of the very few people you’ll meet who chuckles to themselves every time they speak to their bank. Why? Because they call me ‘Lord’. But more importantly, what I got out of this was a memorable social media handle. Lord Matt Parkes, abbreviated to ‘Lord Parkesey’ instantly became my social media brand for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. It gave me a ‘mask’ I could hide behind to say or do things differently – to have fun or be outspoken.

It captures people’s attention and imagination. Lord Parkesey is infectious. It makes people smile when they see it or hear it. It creates intrigue, inviting conversation. It leaves an impression. A story people can recall. How many Lords have you met? Do you even know a Lord? If you do, how did they become a Lord? Did they inherit their title, or did they create it? Who are you most likely to remember? The rich guy who was born with a silver spoon or the guy who became a Lord because he was refused an overdraft.

Copyright © Matthew Parkes 2020

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