Phil and Oli reminisce on 23 years at STM

Phil and Oli reminisce on 23 years at STM

10th September 2020
Meet the Team

As we settle into our new space, Phil (MD) and Oli (Founder & Creative Director) look back on how far the agency has come since the business opened 23 years ago and the impressive achievements the team have made along the way. Here you’ll learn the ins and outs, as they chat about everything from how they met, to their most memorable events and more. It’s one to read with a brew!

How did you both meet?

Phil: “We met in 2000 when I became a client of Shoot the Moon for 5 years. I’m not sure whether Oli suggested that I jump ship and try agency life because he wanted me on board or because he couldn’t take anymore of me as a client!”

Oli: “It was very clear from the beginning that we had the same drive and ambition to achieve great things both agency and client side – so we simply joined forces and made a stronger proposition.”

How long have you worked in the industry together?

Oli: “We’ve had a respectful and unique relationship for over 20 years. After setting up Shoot the Moon 23 years ago, it was clear that you can’t run a business purely from a creative lead.

“Creativity is characterised by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns and to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena. To generate solutions effectively, you need a business partner to allow you to have the freedom to do what you do best and leave the wider commercial backbone in safe hands.”

Phil: “25 years of working in the industry has flown by. In the last 15 years at Shoot the Moon, turnover has grown 10-fold and the team from 8 to 50+.”

What advice would you give to yourself when you started out with STM?

Phil: “You make your own luck. Going out of your way or doing that little extra pays back years ahead when you least expect it and often need it most. You can’t develop a business on quick wins, you need to create the space to throw seeds forward for the future. This business is about long term relationships, not isolated jobs. It’s all about adding value and reducing risk – preferably both.”

Oli: “Absorb everything. Listen to what others have to say. It’s very hard to take criticism and to tread a path that feels uncomfortable, but it’s the only way to gain more knowledge, trust and understanding within the industry.”

Can you name an industry movement that resulted in a big breakthrough?

Oli: “We were the first agency to put the entire studio into the middle of ExCel London and showcase a live working studio – from creative, photography and final production. This proved to be a game changer, many business owners had never experienced the importance of our industry, and most importantly just how unique STM is. We still retain this trust today, more importantly within the airline industry who were the first to approach the stand and have never left.”

Phil: “The 2008 recession. ‘When the tide goes out you can see who’s swimming naked!’ – a well-used adage, but it’s true.

“We were well positioned. We had some great, very engaged clients, a strong team, a nimble business model and always focused on driving value (not to be confused with cheap), so we were well placed to work with clients through the difficult period.

“Similar to the recent lockdown – it’s a time to step up, not retreat and support your clients. Oli set the work ethic from the start and it’s what I experienced as a client. He was and is relentless. If there is a way, we’ll find it.”

What’s the agency’s biggest achievement?

Oli: “It’s all about the team! It’s what we do, how we do it and the great experience it leaves with you – this is what defines us!”

Phil: “Running a group of studios needs achievement in all areas. It’s a living breathing thing that needs nurturing. Client wins are an achievement but only sustainable if everything else is in tune. The length of relationship we’ve had with clients and individuals who we’ve moved from business to business with is probably our biggest achievement. It means we got it right and continue to do so.”

What’s been your key highlight to date?

Oli: “It’s riding the STM rollercoaster and enjoying the ride! Every day is different. New challenges, new experiences and ever evolving trends.”

Phil: “Developing into a collection of specialist studios and seeing the team grow together makes me very proud. Seeing our roles change from the ‘do-ers’ to the ‘enablers’ is exciting, and more of this is on the cards to give the team more space and opportunity to grow collectively and individually.”

Why the Swan Buildings?

Phil: “We’d been looking for a new place for 3 years. We’d looked at a farm, a hotel, a derelict pub, various churches, Grade A offices and even demolishing our previous site and building a new studio. Ultimately, we wanted a workspace with some soul.

“We’ve been in Ancoats since 2004, so we’ve seen it grow around us. We love the community and we didn’t want to lose that, so the Northern Quarter was the perfect choice. The Swan Buildings was a large blank canvas (albeit a very ‘damp’ one) – once viewed, we immediately knew we’d found our new home and the team were on board with it too. It’s been a journey, with 2 years of complications, but in true STM fashion we’ve found a way.”

Oli: “It’s a great fit for the team and firmly puts us in the heart of the Northern Quarter.”

Name your all-time favourite events.

Phil: “Last to bed, first to breakfast. A few of the team are giving Oli and I a run for our money these days, so I think it’s time to pass the baton on!

“We’ve enjoyed some great social events over the years. We’ve eaten in some amazing places, found ourselves in some unlikely venues and enjoyed the travel. The team are much more up for some competition or new experiences these days – extreme ping pong, axe throwing and our own lock-in with a band have been memorable.

“I’ve promised to host another glamping festival after lockdown. We’ve done it before but many of the team weren’t with us then.”

Oli: “The virtual ‘Moon Inn’ bar on a Friday evening and we can’t forget the team quiz throughout the day – very competitive but I think the Social Content team have the edge!”

Which trend do you hope makes a comeback?

Oli: “Bold typography, black and white images and a sense of cheekiness.”

Phil: “I think the world has had enough ‘fads and trends’. I’d like to see more people enjoying a real passion with some longevity.

“Access to huge amounts of content and opinions have created generations that are gifted with information but, too often, simply overloaded.  Moments of contentment seem to be becoming rarer as we look to keep up. We should allow ourselves to enjoy the moment. With contentment, comes confidence, resilience and most of all, a bit more tolerance of others. Sorry that got a bit deep, but you did ask!”

What does the future hold for STM?

Oli: “As long as you look in the mirror in the morning and say ‘today, I’m going to create something special’ then anything is possible.”

Phil: “Plenty more ideas in the planning! We’re moving onto the next chapter as a Group, with the addition of Eat & Breathe and JGM. Ambition, enthusiasm and tenacity are qualities the team have never been short of, so watch this space.”

Laura Nuttall
Article by Laura Nuttall

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