On the up · 11 July 2016

Big Ideas Machine co-founder: “Go into business with people who complement you.”

Big ideas machine
Big Idea Machine co-founders: “We’re brutally honest and take a ‘bullshit free’ approach to things”

With Gordon Ramsay hailed as one of their business heroes for his “no nonsense” approach, entrepreneurs James Kaye and John Ozimek have a brand new take on what makes a good PR and marketing company tick. Their firm – Big Ideas Machine – launched in 2014, and their frank and honest attitude is proving a success amongst clients.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

Big Ideas Machine was started in 2014 as a hybrid business-to-business (B2B) marketing and PR agency focused on tech companies. Having spent most of our career working on business-to-business campaigns, we knew that simply doing PR and bunging out press releases wasn’t cutting it anymore. Far too much fluff. We wanted to create an agency that was forward thinking and that could actually achieve the right type of value with honesty as its core principal.

We’re often brutally honest with companies and take a “bullshit free” approach to things, which means that we’ve likely turned away far more work than we take on. This isn’t out of arrogance but largely because a lot of clients aren’t aware of the required investment (in money and resources) these days to succeed in B2B.  It’s also really important that we believe in the people and companies that we’re working with.

(2) How long have you been around for?

We opened shop two years ago after John and I left another agency we co-founded.

(3) How do you make money?

We work largely on a retained basis but do also work on specific projects with clients. We also run paid-for strategic marketing workshops for companies who may want to develop their marketing plans for the next six months or more. This often will transfer onto regular business to deliver the strategy.

(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?

B2B PR and marketing is fundamentally changing. There are more channels than ever with more ways to reach target audiences. The traditional methods are often not the right routes to take anymore.

It has moved from pushing out messages and“me me me – look at me!”to a pull approach that’s all about the customers seeking out information. This means producing a lot more helpful content and insight to help your client as well as make it work for SEO so that it is found with search engine results. We help to identify which way to go and build on content plans that help achieve goals. Oh and we’re honest (although people inherently mistrust anyone who proclaims themselves to be honest).

(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

We had to work our contacts really hard to drive a pipeline so it’s about networking, especially on Linkedin. We also had the conviction that there were companies out there who would want to work with us and value how we approach work. You’ve also got to look polished with a professional website and marketing materials. If you can punch above your weight and look bigger or more impressive than you are then it helps engender more trust in people.

(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Hitting the end of our second year with steady growth.

(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

With our last agency, there were too many people involved at a senior level for a small company. The dynamic wasn’t right. You need to ensure that you are going into business with people who compliment you.

(8) In five years’ time, I will be…

Wondering why we ever had so many screens around us.

(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?

Hire people who are better than you are. If you invest in great people, then they will help drive your company forwards. If we had a second tip it would be to be very frank and honest as most people tend to appreciate it.

(10) Who are your business heroes and why?

Tony Stark. Bruce Wayne. I’m slightly ashamed to say that I really like Gordon Ramsay due to his incredibly no nonsense approach. He says it exactly how it is. Business is often stifled by crushing politeness which can be damaging in the long-term.

Sajid Javid recently announced a £60m boost to innovativeUK businesses following the EU referendum. Read more here

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.