Do you believe in fate? Call me a crank, but I do. I believe that if you have eyes open to potential opportunities and the passion to execute, then you can turn fate to mutual advantage. That’s exactly what triggered our international strategy.
One James. A Jodi. And two Johns. My encounters with these four Js triggered Copylab’s international strategy.
I had no cunning plan to take Copylab overseas. Even the idea of it felt scary. There was a big enough market in the UK. I simply didn’t have the time. I had all the usual excuses off pat.
Then the phone rang.
“Hey Ross, it’s JP here.”
James started out as a client and had become a friend over beers and chats about cricket. He continued:
“Thanks for the beer last week. Good to catch up. Listen, we’ve got this problem and I wondered if you might be able to help.”
“Sure thing – fire away, James.”
“Well you guys have been doing a great job with our monthly commentaries. My colleague in New York, Jodi, heard what we’re doing with you and she wants to talk to you.”
Taking the Richard Branson approach of ‘say yes, then learn how to do it later’, I replied,
“Of course! I’ll talk to her. I’m sure we can do something to help.”
By the time the next quarter end had come around, we were working on 80 fund commentaries for Jodi in New York. It was tough going at times, especially being on call long into the evenings. Jodi’s team were understanding – we were looking after their commentary from the UK – but I sensed it wasn’t sustainable. (As it turns out, it is – our UK team still looks after Jodi’s commentaries five years later).
Meeting like-minded people is hugely energising
I wanted to visit Jodi to meet her, thank her and find out how it was working out from their side of the pond. But to make the trip from Scotland to the US better value, I tried to line up a few more meetings and explore whether there was more of a market for us out there. So I asked some friends in our global clients in London if they’d introduce me to their colleagues in New York so I could do some research.
That trip yielded no new clients. But I ended up taking the Amtrak to Boston to meet John Connolly, who was working for a client at that point.
We hit it off straight away. We talked golf, football (soccer), Europe – and investment writing. More importantly, I saw the same entrepreneurial spirit in John that I had myself. He recognised an opportunity for Copylab in the US. And I identified in him someone I could work with. We were both excited. The seed was planted.
What happens in Rio, stays in Rio
The seed geminated on the Copacabana Beach a couple of months later. While I was in the US, I was invited to join a Santander trade mission to Brazil. Brazil is not, admittedly, the most obvious place to start an international investment writing agency! But we had been mulling over the idea of taking our investment writing skillset into the world of investor relations. So that was the plan as I got on the plane to Rio (and still is, for non-native-English-speaking markets).
That week in Brazil was the epitome of ‘work hard, play hard’.
But the most important outcome of that experience was meeting another John (John Holmes). Sipping caipirinhas in the Hotel lobby while outlandish studs and outrageous divas filmed scenes for a telenovela, I shared our story so far. And John shared his journey as an international sales and strategy consultant.
“What do you mean Copylab isn’t opening up a Rio branch office, Consuela?!”
By the end of that week, I had taken a random collection of dots on a page, added a few more, and joined them all together into something vaguely resembling a strategy. Call me a bit slow, but it was only really then that I realised that I’d created an international vision for the future of our little agency:
“Our vision is to become the trusted investment communications partner to financial services companies, help them do business around the world and create opportunities for our people to build meaningful careers.”
So what’s in it for our clients?
We see a lot of great work being done by local marketing teams within global asset management companies. But we don’t see much of it being shared across the wider group of marketing teams in different regions.
Sometimes that’s for good reasons – local content may not travel well. But there are far more examples of content that is relevant to an international audience.
When clients partner with us globally, they can tap into our writing expertise in local markets. Not only that, our writers can help to make the connections between clients’ regional marketing teams and make sure content is shared widely.
How’s the international roll-out progressing?
Since 2015, it’s been a whirlwind of focused activity.
I set up Copylab Inc in the US, and John Connolly joined me soon after to run the show from our Boston HQ.
Copylab Asia came next, with Paul venturing out from our Glasgow office to set up in Singapore.
From these regional hubs, we’re trying to help join up the marketing teams in global investment firms and create great content for their clients. And around those hubs, we’re building a network of people that we think are great ‘Copylab people’. Like David in New York. And Sharon in Paris. There are still a few key places we need to find the right partners to complete our international network and give our clients access to our services in their markets.
We’re now working with 14 of the 20 largest asset managers in the world. That sounds impressive. But we – both Copylab and our clients – are still missing a trick. We’re working with these companies in too much of a piecemeal fashion. Only in one or two cases are we partnering with these firms around the world and helping their marketing teams to join up their communications – both internally across their regional marketing teams and externally to their client groups. If we can get this right, I believe we can create a huge amount of additional value for investment companies and their marketing teams.
We’re not quite there yet. But we’ll get there. Maybe I just need a few more chance encounters!