Spotlight DataTalks Interview with Ian James, Co-founder and CEO at Silverbullet
Five questions to unveil the secrets to becoming an entrepreneur.
1.Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
I first entered the world of Advertising and Technology on the direct brand side, where I was the first Global Head of Digital for Bacardi. During my time with them, I adopted a huge passion for bringing digital marcoms into the broader business, using insights to drive smarter business decisions. This passion grew, as I went on to hold roles such as International CEO of Acxiom, and Chief Digital Officer for Starcom MediaVest Groupe.
During my time at Acxiom, I noticed that clients were becoming increasingly confused as to how best to make sense of all the new tech and data innovations they saw coming through, and I sensed that there was a real opportunity here. Subsequently, in 2016, myself and co-founder Umberto Torrielli launched the Silverbullet Data Services Group.
It has been one hell of a journey since Silverbullet’s founding six years ago. Where we began as a deep expert consultancy business, we now have a marketing services division who design, implement and manage first-party data centric strategies for global brands, alongside an incredible ‘post-cookie’ product called 4D, designed and built for the modern marketer looking to survive in the cookieless future.
2. How do you inspire your people on a daily basis?
You’re only as smart as the people you surround yourself with, and that is key in building highly successful and driven teams. We are a collective force of experts, salesmen, marketeers and innovators who live and breathe data, technology and all things digital.
In terms of how I inspire the team, well this is all down to the incredible leadership team I have surrounded myself with; I lean on these guys to inspire, encourage and enhance their teams on a daily basis. But, we also have a core set of values at Silverbullet, which we ensure stays true throughout our daily work. These are:
Be bold with integrity:
We are bold, honest and not afraid to challenge the status quo.
Our employees all strive to fulfil the group’s mission in being the leading data and digital transformation company, approaching every aspect of Silverbullet’s existence with bold ideas. We are a family, built from creative thinkers, technical pioneers and ambitious leaders, who all have a voice no matter where they sit within the organisation.
Diversity of Thought, Equal in Passion:
We are global thinkers, and have a shared passion for success.
In a world where virtual togetherness is just as important as face-to-face, our teams are more connected than ever, with a passion to create something really special for our clients by integrating diversity into everything we do.
Captivated by our Clients and Each Other:
We are captivated by our clients challenges and opportunities.
Silverbullet submerge themselves into our client and customer’s day-to-day needs, as well as their long term goals.. In a world surrounded by technology and innovation, our team understands the importance of humanity and support, no matter what the challenge ahead brings. We live and breathe data and technology, so our clients don’t have to.
Work Hard, Play Hard:
We have created a fun, cheeky workplace to make work less like, well, work.
Our team all work extremely hard to ensure the smooth running of a pioneering business. And there is always time for fun. We work hard and we play hard, because we believe that truly is the recipe for a great working environment.
3. What is the secret to your success?
The common thread that has sustained itself throughout the lifespan of Silverbullet, is how we attract very smart individuals. Hiring an expert team is the secret to our success. We have handpicked the best talent from the Marketing Cloud marketplace, the programmatic ecosystem and the general (m)ardech landscape. Without this team, we wouldn’t be who we are today.
Outside of the team, I have a huge network of founders, investors and genuine industry veterans who I learn from every single day. Running a business is no easy feat, especially in an industry that continuously goes through unprecedented change and challenges. It’s a noisy place to be, and so to be able to cut through the noise and offer something truly different to clients is hard.
I do believe that being willing to change direction, and listening to what your customers want is vital. We have been nimble and humble at every stage of our journey, and I believe that is the secret to our success.
4. How do you manage work and life balance? We often see leaders who work around the clock – How do you strike the right balance?
I am a true believer in taking time to recharge when you can. I actively encourage my team to have regular socials. We are working for a huge chunk of our lives, so why not make some friends along the way? Beers in the office, work outings and the odd fancy lunch can really help when you’ve had a tough week at work.
From a personal standpoint, I ensure adtech doesn’t run my life! I’m a keen scuba diver, and love to head out to the water when I can. I adore sports, particularly rugby and cricket. I try and ensure I carve out time away from my desk, to take those well deserved breathers when I can. It’s often where my best thinking takes place.
I find when you don’t balance your work and personal life as much as you possibly can, things slide, wrong decisions get made, and it doesn’t create the best working environment. It’s all within the word balance – find what works for you and do it.
5. What’s the best piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to step into an entrepreneurial chapter of their career?
Great question, and not one answer I’m afraid! I guess the first piece of advice would be to be brave. Sounds obvious, and of course there are many other factors to consider such as being a creative thinker, having a business head and understanding your marketplace like the back of your hand. But, having a fearless personality (to a certain extent!) will set you in good stead.
Both for the good, and the bad. Oftentimes being brave will enable you to explore avenues perhaps you wouldn’t in any other situation. Challenging the status quo in such a digital and crowded world is never a bad thing, and often pays off. But, in the same light, learning from failures not only builds strength in character, but often works out in the end in some manner. I would always celebrate the things that haven’t gone right, just as much as the things that do. It would be boring if everything was plain sailing, right?
So yes. My tip for the day is be brave and don’t be afraid of the challenges along the way.