BB, BL Podcast Episodes|Better Business, Better Life - Tips|Better Business, Better Life!|BL Podcast Episodes

Be BRAVE with Duncan Shand – Episode 28

3 top tips from Duncan Shand

1. Be brave and think big

As business owners, we have to be brave. We have to set some big goals and not be afraid to set some big goals. I think New Zealand business owners often can get caught up in the day-to-day running of their businesses. It’s finding that time to step back, think bigger, and set some brave, lofty goals. And then articulate those, share them with the team, get everyone to buy into them. So they become real. They’re not real if they’re just living inside your head. They have to be shared.

2. Accept that we all make mistakes

No one gets it perfect. The road to success isn’t a straight line, there are ups and downs along the way. We got up to 40-50 people at one point. We’re at 35 now, but we’ve got 35 stronger, more senior people in the business than we did before. I think as long as you can accept that you’re not perfect, and as the owner and the leader, listen to feedback from others and learn from failures. Put plans in place, adjust and calibrate.

3. Hire great people and hire diversely

Make sure you surround yourself with great people. The only little twist I put on that is when you are interviewing, make sure you have a lens so you don’t get caught up in Make sure you surround yourself with great people. The only little twist I put on that is when you are interviewing, make sure you have a lens so you don’t get caught up in the hiring-people-just-like-me trap. I think we all have a tendency to hire people like us. In the early days, we had a lot of white – not middle aged, but white lads around the office because I could see myself in them. But we hired a woman Courtney, who looked after our HR stuff for a while and she really just held it up to my face and said, ‘Hey, not a lot of diversity going on here.’ So making sure when you are making a shortlist that you’re including others, whether it’s sex or ethnicity. We always make a concerted effort now, we have to have diversity on our shortlist. Sometimes we’ve been proactively hiring to recalibrate the diversity in the office. I think that’s really important, hiring great people and hiring a mix of people.

people, work, agency, business, hiring, new zealand, team, challenges, elevate, digital agency, clients, young, business owners, brands, life, interview, brave, years, marketing, grow

Duncan Shand, Debra Chantry-Taylor

Debra Chantry-Taylor  00:12 

Welcome to another episode of Better Business Better Life. I’m your host, Debra Chantry-Taylor. I’m passionate about helping entrepreneurs and their leadership teams get what they want out of business and life. On the show, I invite successful business owners and expert speakers to share their successes. They are open and honest about the highs and lows of business and also life as a business owner. We want to share those learnings with you to inspire you, but also to help you avoid some of the common mistakes. My hope is that you take something from each of these short episodes that you can put into action to help you get what you want, not only out of your business, but also your life. So good morning, and welcome to another episode of Better Business Better Life. Today, I’m joined by Duncan Shand, who is the founder of Young Shand, which was originally a digital advertising agency, but in more recent years has switched to a full service independent integrating advertising agency. So did I get that right, Duncan?  

Duncan Shand  01:06 

Perfect. Wonderful. Thank you.  

Debra Chantry-Taylor  01:07 

Thank you for joining us.  

Duncan Shand  01:11 

Yeah, thank you. It’s great to be here, Deborah. It’s nice to catch up, even though we have to do this virtually sad, isn’t it?  

Debra Chantry-Taylor  01:15 

Yeah I know it’s a bit sad isn’t it. So we first met I’ve got many, many years back when I was actually teaching at the Marketing Association, isn’t that right? Yeah. And that was many years ago. So I think back in those days, you know, you were just starting out on that sort of huge growth of the agency. I understand you’ve had about 35 staff. So you’ve kind of reached your, your goal in terms of being able at midpoint. Yeah. So before we get started, I’d love to hear about you know, where the journey that you’ve come along, because I know you’ve had a couple of interesting challenges along the way. But before we get started, professional and personal bests, what would they be for you, Duncan? 

Duncan Shand  01:53 

Look, you know, personal – professional and personal… Personal, you know, I’m a late runner. So I turned 50, a couple of years ago, and my brother had signed up to do the Auckland marathon. And he kind of challenged me to kind of do it with him. And, you know, basically, the conversation went along the lines of, look, if you don’t do this with me, you’ll never run a marathon in your life, doing a marathon at 50 kind of got a good ring to it, doesn’t it. And so after being baited for a while, I took up the challenge, and I ran my first marathon at 50 and actually loved it. So I’m not really a natural runner, I wasn’t a regular runner. But I’ve actually really enjoyed running and ended up, I’ve done three, since two more since then. So I’ve ran three marathons. So running more marathons would be my personal goal. Professionally, I think, you know, developing Young Shand into a really strong, credible integrated creative agency would have to be up there on my list of things that I put on that list. I’m really proud of what we’ve kind of achieved at the agency you know, we punch above our weight, we got listed as the as the fourth best creative agency in New Zealand, in their campaign, Brief Asia. In the work awards fourth place doesn’t really sound like anything to kind of get excited by but you know, when you’re comparing us on that list of people like DDB and Kenzo and others you know, I’m pretty happy to be up there as number four amongst a sea of agencies in New Zealand. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  03:40 

Agree. You said before you decided to start Young Shand, what were you doing before that? 

Duncan Shand  03:45 

Yeah, so as a corporate marketing guy, so half my career has been client side. And in businesses like in New Zealand, a biotech company ICP bio and as General Manager sales and marketing. I had the one of the original sort of challenger ISP is that a few years ago is now it’s been bought by Vodafone, so that brand doesn’t exist anymore. So as a marketing guy, you know, working with clients, before I kind of I had a period after I heard where I just kind of did consulting, and I worked on sort of marketing, branding, marketing plans and online consulting projects. And it was really in that period where I just kind of got hooked by this online marketing thing. And all my work came from the online after two or three years, all my work was in the online marketing space. And that kind of coincided with the GFC. So no one had any money to do big brand ads. And everyone thought that this dream of digital marketing, being cheap, free and driving results is something they should explore. So I had too much work to handle, and that’s kind of really when Young Shand started. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  05:04 

Wow. Okay, so it literally was just you, as a consultant, it started to grow bigger, you started employing people. So tell us, take us on the journey. Tell us a little bit about, you know, where that was, how long ago was that? 

Duncan Shand  05:14 

11 years ago. So I started the business with a guy being young. So we founded Young Shand together. And, you know, really, the first five years was really, really strong growth, you know, that was the heyday of digital marketing. You know, we started with two of us, and we’ve grown it to probably 40 people after five years, maybe 50 people after five years. And we hustled hard, you know, I think in the first 12 months, you know, we did something like 200, or 250, proposals to people, you know, and that’s a lot of coffees and a lot of meetings, you know, but through that period, we managed to pick up, you know, probably five or six foundation kind of clients that really drove the growth of the agency over that five year period, including people like, you know, Goodman Field, Watties and Lion New Zealand. So they’re great brands, and, you know, they really helped underpinning and sort of build the foundation of the agency. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  06:20 

Okay, so that is quite large growth in quite a short period of time, what were the sort of challenges in that time period for you? 

Duncan Shand  06:27 

Well, it was really just kind of keeping up with the work. And, you know, I guess, you know, it was evolving in probably over that, over the end of that five year period, probably the biggest challenge we had was realising and questioning whether just being a solely focused digital agency was the right strategic move for the future. So that was a kind of a fundamental challenge for us. And, you know, we had, we had one of our brands Lion, kind of just stolen out from under our feet, by DDB who, you know, we’re taking the business off originally, and then they pulled it back, you know, kind of three years later. And, you know, they, they’d gone through a process of learning and understanding digital after they realised digital marketing wasn’t going to go away. So that was a kind of a fundamental shift for us, was navigating and recognising how we needed to adapt and change as that kind of marketing landscape kind of changed around us. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  07:38 

Okay. And in terms of people, how did you choose? Because when you’re growing quite quickly, you know, you have to get people on board? How do you go about choosing the right people to join?  

Duncan Shand  07:48 

Yeah well, you know, having the right team is really important. And you know, without a doubt, we’re in a people industry, we are nothing but a group of talented individuals trying to do extraordinary things, to transform our clients. That’s kind of what we do. So without the extraordinary people, you’re not going to be able to do that. So bringing really good people into the team was important. I think in the early days, one of the challenges that we had was, it’s hard to bring really experienced people out of other agencies when you’re a new upstart, agency yourself, right? Because there’s a lot of risk associated with that. So one of our challenges in the early days was we had very young staff. So we had no problem hiring juniors, hiring young, talented graduates. And yeah, one of the things we learned very fast was, you know, you give a young talented grad an opportunity and they work hard. They’re smart, they get on with things. So we had no shortage of youth and exuberance and intelligence on the team. And, you know, I guess we always we looked for that, expected when we’re hiring we looked for, you know, we always had clear values established in terms of how we wanted to operate. So we’re looking for people that could kind of live those values. We had a vision of where we wanted to go, people were excited about joining. But I guess one of the challenges at the time was lots of people that were hired had lots of enthusiasm, but not necessarily a lot of experience. So that was definitely a challenge that we had to manage. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  09:29 

So how do you overcome that? Because I hear you, I mean that I’ve taken a few young grads myself, and they certainly are hugely enthusiastic and super smart. But at the end of the day, sometimes you need a bit of grey hair, to know how to handle certain situations and how to deal with people and worse, sometimes people just expect to be dealing with an older person. There’s that whole ageism and thing kind of going on.  

Duncan Shand  09:51 

So absolutely, yeah. I think while we were a new agency and digital, that youth was a positive, right because people we’re looking at digital and going, ‘Okay, these guys are new, they’ve got a young, dynamic, smart team on board, they know what they’re talking about.’ Right? So, that was an advantage for us. But I think as we transitioned from, I guess, the choice we had when we realised that we couldn’t just survive as a digital agency, we could choose to stay digital, but then we more become a production partner, for people that were wanting to implement things. So we’ve really become a Tech Shop. And agencies would be coming up with ideas, and we’d be implementing them for them. So we could choose to do that. But you know, that wasn’t really appealing to anyone, we wanted to have a seat at the lead table, we wanted to be making decisions, we wanted to be helping brands decide where they wanted to go. So the other choice we had to make was elevating and really becoming a full service creative agency. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  10:54 

So that’s a pretty massive kind of pivot, though, isn’t it? How did that? 

Duncan Shand  10:57 

Huge pivot, huge pivot and so you know, it didn’t work the first time around. So we tried it the first time around with our existing team with the enthusiastic young team that were kind of, you know, we’re willing to give it anything ago, but you know, that lack of experience on how to make a fully integrated campaign, how to do television production, you know, we all thought that’s just easiest, it’s nowhere near as hard as building a website or website’s code. This is just film. So you know, so we had an unrealistic expectation of how hard some of this stuff was, and a team that didn’t have any experience on how to do it. And then a few cases, clients, that weren’t really that forgiving, or nice. So it was really the first time rounds didn’t work. So we kind of retreated tail between our legs and said, ‘Actually, no, we just want to be a great creative digital agency.’ So it didn’t work first time around because of the inexperience of the team. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  12:00 

And what impact did that have on you as a founder? You know, because honestly, for the team, it wouldn’t really have an effect, but what about you as the founder? 

Duncan Shand  12:07 

Well, it’s definitely challenging, because you grow up with a vision of, you know, we are going to be the best at this in our heads. So, but I think it’s like anything, you go on a journey, you know, you have to understand that the world is changing. And, you know, I think you, you have to accept at some point that you’re going to have to change with it, otherwise, you’re going to be left behind. So sometimes you just have no choice. So you know, businesses sometimes have to adapt, if they’re going to survive. And that’s, you know, we had to go, it didn’t work, we thought we could retreat, but we very quickly realised that ‘No, no, we just had it wrong.’ We didn’t have the wrong clients, we didn’t have the right team on board. Actually, strategically, it was the right move to make, we just didn’t execute that move at that time. Right. So the second time around, we brought in more senior people that had been there and done that into the team to complement the kind of youth and enthusiasm with some experience and knowledge. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  13:15 

Okay, and so one quick question, going back to the first time, it didn’t work, what was the, how did you know? Because sometimes as entrepreneurs, we can really keep pushing and keep pushing and keep pushing and hoping that’s going to work out but there has to come a point where you go, actually, this does not make any sense, I do need to change. Do you remember what that point was? What was the nail in the coffin or whatever you want to call it this okay, this is not working, I need to change? 

Duncan Shand  13:40 

Yeah, I think, you know, Dan Phillips, who was in the business for eight years, he was really, you know, kind of superpartner. He always had an expression saying, you know, we are only doing this for one of three reasons. We’re doing it for fun, fame, or fortune. So you know, if we’re not achieving, you know, one of those three things, there’s no point doing that. And I think, you know, really, it was a realisation, we’ve made that move. We were trying to reposition the business to make us, I guess, more famous or be a credible player. We weren’t doing work that we liked. It wasn’t any fun. And we weren’t making any money. And we were losing money doing this. So you know, it didn’t tick any of those criteria. And really, the big thing was, it wasn’t any fun. You know, we had an agency that was kind of formed on a really great culture and spirit we’re excited to come to work, but it got to the point where we were beaten down, and it wasn’t fun. So it was kind of at that point where we realised this isn’t exciting. This isn’t fun. This isn’t working. And it was that we needef to make a change. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  14:54 

Perfect. Okay. And obviously that change, you’ve managed to execute successfully now. 

Duncan Shand  14:59 

Yeah. And I look at it, it’s a never ending journey. It takes time, you know, we brought in a woman in Emma Delton from Y&R. And she really started to set in place a kind of move to a new, integrated creative agency that we are now. We subsequently brought in Scott Maddox, who is a creative director and Ann Boothroyd. Ann’s amazing so, you know, we’ve promoted her to be our Executive Creative Director. So she’s really elevated our creative capabilities. And then, literally, end of last year, we brought in Andrea Long to head up our media team. And Ryan Sproul, to head up our strategy team. So now we’ve kind of got four really strong leaders. So you know, this real last shift has really been in play for probably three to four years. But it’s taken till the middle of last year for us to kind of have all the building blocks in place to be really confident about our offering today. So you know, these things take a while. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  16:08 

And so now that you have got those four strong leaders, and you’ve got the right people in the right seats, what difference has that made for you, again, as the founder of the business? 

Duncan Shand  16:17 

Well it’s, you know, I think, you know, you always want to bring in people that are smarter and smarter than you and to the business and my whole team have got way more advertising experience than I have. I mean, I’ve never worked in an advertising agency as a client side guy who started a digital agency. So my team has strong, you know, they have, they know what they’re doing. And they can, they can basically run the agency without me, so I don’t need to be in the agency day to day, my kind of key roles for me are around, you know, working with the team to set the direction and our plan on an annual basis, working with our key clients from a relationship, just a relationship point of view, you know, email looks, after all the day to day, I don’t get involved in the day to day work, I’m interested in seeing the day to day work, but I don’t, I’m not involved in a day to day work. And then also new business, you know, talking to new business owners understanding their challenges, their struggles, mean, what I like, you know, our purpose as an agency is to transform and grow. The clients that we work with, and I get excited by, you know, talking to business owners, and just understanding what their struggles, their challenges are, and understanding where their opportunities are, that we can help them kind of transform and grow. Yeah. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  17:34 

We talk about in EOS, you know, if you can delegate and elevate so we can get the right people around you in the right seats, you can finally delegate that stuff that you can elevate to the things that you really love doing with the people you love doing. Would you say that that’s where you’re at now? 

Duncan Shand  17:47 

Well, I’m getting there, I’m getting there Debra, I think there’s still a journey to go on. So Emma has recently been elevated to be general manager, she looks after the client service team. So she still looks after the client service team, but she does have day to day responsibility for the running of the agency. So she’s trying to step up, and I’m trying to sneak back to allow her to kind of elevate and grow. And that’s a transition. And we’re probably yeah, that happened less than 12 months ago, at the end of last year, the beginning of this year. Gosh, I can’t even remember when the actual date, I think it was the beginning of this year. So you know, that is a journey. And I think I’m probably half, we’re halfway through that journey. Still more work to do. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  18:33 

Fair enough. And so if people who are listening in who are kind of going through this growth themselves, what would be the sort of three top tips that you might give them to help them on their journey? Is there any sort of, you know, things you’ve come across you go, ‘Wow, that really changed the way that I built the business or my personal life?’  

Duncan Shand  18:51 

Yeah look, I think it might be a bit trite, but you know, I think as business owners, we have to be brave. You know, we have to set some big goals and not be afraid to set some big goals. I think New Zealand business owners often can get, just get caught up in the day to day and get caught on a day to day running of their businesses. And it’s finding that time to step back, think bigger, and sit some brave, lofty goals. And then articulate those, share them with the team, get everyone to buy into them. So they become real. They’re not real if they’re just living inside your head. They have to be shared. So I think being brave, and thinking big would be my first one. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  19:38 

Yeah, it’s interesting because I kind of relate that to our current situation with our COVID plan at the moment. It’s like I think that if people can understand what the plan is, even if I don’t necessarily completely get it or completely agree with it. If it’s written down, if it’s articulated and communicated, people can get behind it, and then they understand when it changes because they you know, they’ve told why it’s changed. But if you haven’t actually got it out of your head. This? Yeah, nobody can. Nobody can read our minds yet. Okay, so brave, read, be brave and think big love it. Yeah. 

Duncan Shand  20:08 

I think you know, accepting that we all make mistakes. Yeah, so you know, no one gets it perfect. The road to success isn’t a straight line, you know. We’ve had lots of ups and downs as an agency, you know, we got up to, you know, 4050 people at one point. We’re at 35 now, but we’ve got 35 stronger, more senior people in the business than we did before. So there are ups and downs along the way. And, you know, I think as long as you can accept that, you know, you’re not perfect and as the owner and the leader, listen to feedback from others, and learn from failures. And put plans in place. And, you know, that adjust and kind of calibrate? Yeah, that’s a good thing. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  20:58 

And how do you sort of stop yourself from beating yourself up? Because you know, we do make mistakes and things do go wrong? How have you personally stopped yourself from, you know, taking that and taking it all on board as being a failure yourself? 

Duncan Shand  21:11 

Yeah, I think it’s really interesting, I think, you know, I kind of come across these almost two types of people. I always look forward, I never looked back. But you know, some people do get caught up in looking back and getting hung up about why we didn’t do this, or why we didn’t do that. You know, when you’re in that moment, and that point of time, the only thing you can do is think about where you want to go and the next steps are going to begin to get you there. Makes no difference to anyone dwelling on or beating yourself up about a decision that got you where you are today, as long as you can learn from that lesson, and then make the right next steps and adjust, then it’s about moving forward. So you know, I’m always looking forward. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  22:01 

Yeah, I must admit, I agree. I mean, I’ve had some pretty massive mistakes in my life, if I’m honest, but you have to just kind of go well, that it was what it was, what I learned from it, how do I make sure to enter it again. Okay, last, third and final tip. 

Duncan Shand  22:12 

Look, I think it’s make sure you surround yourself with great people. And the only little twist on that I put in is, you know, when you are interviewing, make sure you have a lens, so that you don’t get caught up into the end the hiring people just like me trap. You know, I think we all have a tendency to hire people like us. I know, in the early days, we had a lot of white, not middle aged, but white lads around the office because I could see myself in them. And I go ‘Yeah, great. come on board.’ But you know, we hired a woman Courtney, who looked after our sort of HR stuff for a while and she really just held it up to my face and said, ‘Hey, not a lot of diversity going on here.’ So I think, you know, it’s very easy to kind of, you know, to get hung up, and kind of hire in your own image. So I think you know, making sure that you are making a shortlist, that you’re including others whether it’s sex or ethnicity. You know, we always make a concerted effort now on our shortlist, we have to have diversity in our shortlist. And sometimes we’ve been proactively hiring to recalibrate the diversity in the office. I think that’s really important. So hiring great people and hiring a mix of people. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  23:37 

Sure. And I suppose I was talking to some students the other day, and he was saying that they actually get all of our staff involved in kind of interviewing people, and to get that diversity of interviewing as well as just diversity of people. What’s the process that you go through with your people? And how do you make sure because, you know, you’ve got values, and you can tell people, ‘Hey, are you brave?’ And I go, yes, absolutely. But how do you sanity check that to make sure they’re not just saying it? 

Duncan Shand  24:01 

Yeah, it’s hard. I think you’ve got to have, obviously, two to three interviews, you know, with anyone and interviewed, as you say, by different people. For certain roles, we actually ask people to do a bit of a project and do a bit of work because we want to actually see capability. Because it’s one thing to have skills on your CV, but it’s another thing to be able to demonstrate. So we often give people an exercise or something to do. And we often do a bit of a group interview at a final stage to bring to allow the person to kind of meet some of the wider team, because I think an interview is a two way thing. You know, I think people need to buy into us and they need to, we can tell them how, how exciting the officers and how great the culture is, but if they hear that from other people, and give other people the opportunity to have a bit of a chat to them and raise any flags. Then there’s an opportunity for both for both sides to raise a flag and to either proceed or not on a hiring basis. So I think it’s having two or three interviews first until you’re certain, having someone do some work. So to show you how they work, and then having a more of a social interview, to kind of pick up some of those cultural traits and cultural aspects. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  25:25 

Right. So what’s next? What’s next for the agency? 

Duncan Shand  25:29 

Look, I think, you know, we just want to get through this lockdown and get to Christmas. You know, I think for us, yeah, we’ve got a really good fat foundation in place. Now we’ve got a really strong team, we’re really focused on helping our clients find the sweet spot, you know, kind of between creative human led ideas and in leveraged digital art, so kind of bringing that that newness of that kind of creative agency and that heritage of the digital agency bringing it to life. We really want to work with new, those mid-market, New Zealand brands that are really ambitious and want to grow. I mean, that’s what gets me out of bed every day as I want to help. New Zealand brands that are kind of either taking on the big multinationals are exporting or just growing. Because you know, that’s what I want for the business and for my kids is a more dynamic, more exciting New Zealand commercial environment. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  26:24 

Completely agree. Well, that’s fantastic. So if anybody listening would like to chat to you, how would they get hold of you, Duncan? 

Duncan Shand  26:30 

Well, they can just google Young Shand and they’ll find They’ll find my phone number on the site, or they can find me on LinkedIn, just Duncan Shand on LinkedIn. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor  26:44 

Hey, look, it’s been really good to catch up with you. And it’s been a long while. So I’m looking forward to perhaps catching up once again. But thank you for sharing all that with us. It’s been really interesting. It’s really cool to see that you know, the, the growth of the agents in the ebbs and flows, but that you’ve now got an amazing team on board, as you know, I know a couple of those people quite personally myself. So yeah, I know that you’ve got good people. Look forward to seeing where it comes to next time. 

Duncan Shand  27:06 

Cool. Thanks, Debra. It’s been great to chat.  

Debra Chantry-Taylor  27:09 

Thanks again for joining us for Better Business Better Life with me, your host Debra Chantry-Taylor. If you enjoyed what you heard, then please subscribe to this podcast. And let us help you to get what you want out of business in life. Each week we release a new short episode which will give us success story and three takeouts to put into action immediately. These will help you take your business from good to great. The podcast is also supported by free resources, templates and useful tools, which you can find at I am a trained entrepreneur leadership and business coach, a professional EOS implementer and an established business owner myself. I work with established businesses to help them get what they want. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to have a chat about how I might be to help you. Or if you’d like to join me as a guest on this podcast. Thanks again to entered audio editors for producing this podcast. See you on the next episode. 

Debra Chantry-Taylor

Professional EOS Implementer | Entrepreneurial Leadership & Business Coach | Business Owner

#betterbusinessbetterlife #entrepreneur #leadership #eosimplementer #professionaleosimplementer #entrepreneurialbusinesscoach

Professional EOS Implementer New Zealand

Professional EOS Implementer Australia

Professional EOS Implementer UK

Professional EOS Implementer NZ

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.