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Unprecedented with Benjamin Catley-Richardson

Published 2nd July 2021

At Unprecedented, we had the opportunity to speak to Benjamin Catley-Richardson, Strategic Director at Brand Clear, who spoke to us about what leadership means to him and the impact Covid-19 had on his business.

A background into you and your business?


Over the last 17 years, I’ve been a videogames journalist, a stakeholder manager, and a strategic copywriter. However, I only found the role I was born to do in March 2020, when I joined Brand Clear, alongside my business partner Sean Masters.


Brand Clear’s goal is simple. We help B2B businesses who provide boring but essential products and services to better understand their market, stand out from the competition, and make more money.


What does being a leader mean to you?


The leaders I’ve admired have all been more interested in the people around them than in the steps on the career ladder above them. That’s because to me leadership means a passion for empathy and a commitment to nurturing the success of others.


To be a real leader you have to know, at all times, what success looks like and how it can be reached. You have to be able to make decisions. You have to be able to make mistakes. Most of all you have to be able to ask people their opinion, listen to their responses and involve them in what happens next.


Who are your Leadership role models/inspirations?


I’ve always admired Jacob Bronowski. He might not have called himself a leader, but the way he shared his incredible knowledge and experience with anyone who would listen is the talent of any real teacher, and every true leader is also a true teacher.

I’m also inspired by Mark Ritson, who refuses to allow marketing to be defined as an industry of fluff and bandwagons - a good leader knows what he stands for regardless of the opposition.

I also love the work of Louis Grenier, who goes out of his way to share his infectious confidence and expertise with anyone who struggles to find the self-belief to take the right kind of risks.


What would you like your Leadership Legacy to be?


I wouldn’t ever see myself as a leader - I’m far too single-minded. However, as a parent (which is, basically, the same thing only with nappies and less sleep) my biggest ambition is to ‘power up’ my kids. I want to pass on whatever knowledge and learning I can, so they aren’t starting from zero in their own journey and they don’t have to discover everything all by themselves.


Make mistakes, not excuses. Know your strengths. If you can’t always be optimistic, at least be hopeful. Don’t go out of your way to be an obstacle.


What impact has Covid-19 had on you?


Brand Clear before the pandemic was driven by expos, events and in-person conversations with business owners. That’s where the interest came from, and when it disappeared we lost a low-pressured way to access the people we could help.

Having just joined the team at the start of Lockdown, I immediately found myself helping to ‘relaunch’ the business, and I imagine we’re not the only ones who felt like a ‘start-up’ all over again throughout 2020.

The whole year was a mix of intense frustration, impatience, self-analysis, soul-searching, questioning, revelations, progress, learning, and determination. But while I wouldn’t have chosen to go through that, it’s had an undeniably positive impact on me all the same.


What impact has Covid had on your business?

Interest in campaigns, marketing and outreach dried up for everyone, though fortunately, we had a number of clients already lined up who we were able to serve remotely.

The biggest impact was on our ability to get Brand Clear in front of the people who would benefit the most. Growing businesses are busy businesses, so the decision-makers aren’t going to attend Zoom networking events or read endless posts on LinkedIn. Solving that problem was an ongoing theme in 2020. I’m hopeful that the progress I’ve made so far will make sure 2021 is a much more promising year.

What have been the Unprecedented decisions you have made? Those where there was no playbook.

We created our first practical webinar within a month or so of lockdown starting and got 50 people to attend, having never engineered a Brand Clear event before. This year I finally launched a podcast.

They’re not necessarily groundbreaking actions, but the real game-changing process that made them possible was my commitment to making things easier - simply removing every single obstacle that could delay the project and just focusing on getting something done.


What were the 3 biggest (or best) decisions you made in 2020?


1. Taking the opportunity to use our own process to improve our own business


2. Reaching out to the people I admired, like Aaron Rudman-Hawkins of The Evergreen Agency, Louis Grenier and LinkedIn expert John Espirian


3. Launching a podcast that helps aspiring entrepreneurs and marketers to learn from the mistakes and experiences of real business leaders (The Imperfect Brand)


Looking ahead to 2021 what are your predictions for the economy? For your sector?

It’s obvious that people and businesses are impatient to get cracking and simply cannot wait to put all this behind us.

I hope that means there’ll be more interest in making long term plans, and that 12 months of being stir-crazy will motivate people to look up from the day-to-day and think about how to improve the strategy that their business is built upon.


Less optimistically I expect that we will encounter other, perhaps bigger problems than the pandemic as the economy starts to show the deeper damage that has been inflicted, but that might not happen even until next year.


I’m sure there’ll be an exciting resurgence in activity, spending, socialising and, most of all, living within the next six to 12 months. I just hope we don’t forget the important things we learned and the price we had to pay for that knowledge.


What advice would you give to those entering the workforce today?


Seek out the people who will share their knowledge because they want you to reach your potential, and remove all the obstacles you can that prevent exciting things from happening.


If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to learn more about Benjamin, or his business Brand Clear, you can visit Brand Clear’s website here. Alternatively, you can browse some of our other blogs, here.

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