In just three years Phil Harvey and his fellow founding directors have grown media, design and advertising agency JPMH from start-up into a business generating £2 million of turnover each year, an achievement they attribute to their emphasis on customer service.
JPMH was established in 2002 and, according to Harvey (a veteran of international advertising giant Ogilvy), the need to focus on service was obvious right from the off. ‘When it comes to advertising agencies,’ he explains, ‘clients are always happy with the creativity, but the delivery can be more problematic. Projects are rarely completed within the agreed terms. Most aren’t completed on budget or on time.’
JPMH attempts to differentiate itself on such matters, with Harvey and fellow founders Sam Jeffries, Richard Parsons and Nik Myers placing themselves in the front line. ‘With the bigger agencies, clients don’t get to see many senior people and there are also a [far greater number of] internal processes that can complicate matters,’ Harvey comments. ‘For us it’s easier to deliver on service and one of the founding partners is usually involved in every project. We tend to hire more senior than junior people too.’
The strategy seems to be working. JPMH managed to turn a profit in its first year and hasn’t looked back.
At first, Harvey concedes, the contacts he and his fellow founders had already established were essential in securing business. One of the earliest wins, for example, came from food group Nestle Purina (with whom both Harvey and Myers had previously worked whilst employed by Ogilvy). Purina initially entrusted a few small contracts to JPMH and the relationship has blossomed. ‘We are now their online advertising agency for Europe and carry out some additional work for them too,’ Harvey says. Work has also been won from Gillette, Hasbro and Martell, amongst others.
‘We’re now where we thought we would be after three years,’ Harvey reflects. He does concede, however, that things will only get harder from now on.
So far, JPMH’s edge has been the hands-on involvement of its senior directors but as the business continues to grow it will become increasingly difficult to achieve this. ‘The biggest challenge for us will, therefore, be to bring in the right people,’ Phil Harvey concludes. ‘In the advertising field there’s a lot of false differentiation. In fact there’s very little difference between most agencies, so the key is to create some sort of edge – I think personality and relationships are a very important way of achieving this.’