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ten thousand hours

Ten Thousand Hours, 8,760 hours on

One year ago, Martin Richardson and Dom Garner set up Ten Thousand Hours. Martin Fullard finds out how their first year has unfolded.

A year ago I headed to the south coast to meet Martin Richardson (MR) and Dom Garner (DG), who had just started their own agency. They call themselves Ten Thousand Hours because it is believed it takes this long to become a master in a discipline. Maybe so, but how long does it take to make your first year in business work? I went back to find out.

How would you summarise the first year?

MR: We have five clients and after the first year we are near a seven-figure sum in terms of turnover, and we’re sitting on a six-figure profit margin.

It has been a hard year, and certainly nothing has just fallen on our laps. 

Have you evolved beyond just live events, that you’re almost business consultants?

DG: We have a clearer understanding of our expertise; where we started out as a live events agency, we are now able to more broadly describe what we do, and that has led us to communicate differently about what we do as a business.

MR: We implement a client’s strategy. Everyone will be involved in a strategy in some level within an organisation, whether creating or delivering elements of it, so are we business consultants? No, but our approach to projects is very consultative. We want to find out the brief below the brief.

What obstacles did you face; did you find that organisations were colder to you as a start-up over an established large agency?

MR: There was never a discussion about the small agency vs. the large agency, but it was a definite requirement to respond to the financial stability of the agency, which we were fully comfortably doing.

In winning a recent big brief, our proposal represented large agency thinking and practices. They brought in to the concept completely, so factors like box ticking became irrelevant. 

Do clients want to see measurable metrics to demonstrate ROI?

MR: If you’re doing an experiential activity you will be asked about ROI. If someone makes an investment they want to see how it is influencing sales. However, we like to say to clients that ROI is great, and ROE is fantastic, but have you considered the return on your reputation? By that I mean is the client presenting relevant content to enhance their reputation, and are they considering how they want the attendees to view the organisation in the longer term?

DG: One of the things our clients have enjoyed is the kind of evaluation criteria that we can help them identify for use, so reputation is a great example. 

When we identify the objectives of a campaign or an event, it’s around understanding what the valuation metrics that we can put in place are, therefore how does the programme respond to meet and exceed those objectives.

What does the next 12 months look like?

MR: I am keen to see more commercial collaboration with suppliers in our sector and particularly with other industries as I think there’s a great deal we can learn. 

A key thing is that we are looking for a mentor. It doesn’t have to be someone in the industry, but we are looking for someone with business experience who can help us define our business model to reach our long-term objective. 

Ten Thousand Hours recently unveiled their new look and website.