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Helius Therapeutics’ Paul Manning on five ways his advertising background helped him become an entrepreneur

1. Diversity

Working in advertising exposes you to dozens of brands across every sector. I’ve had the privilege of working with the CEOs and CMOs of many leading international and local brands, from FMCG to retail, automotive, telecommunications, fashion, healthcare, finance, government and just about everything in between. You gain an understanding of how companies operate in different markets, the challenges they face, what drives consumer behaviour, how channels work and how value is ultimately created. These experiences give you a unique commercial perspective on the factors that truly determine success.

2. Customer-centric thinking

Customers are the lifeblood of every business. In my experience, the world’s greatest brands obsess about the people who consume their products. Understanding their beliefs, behaviours and motivations is central to creating great advertising. You place great value on customer insights, because that’s where the breakthrough ideas often get their genesis. Over the last few years I have invested a lot of time in understanding the role of customer experience (CX) on brand and communications. We began designing experiences that responded dynamically to customer behaviour. In the future, all businesses will work like this – personalisation on scale, throughout the customer experience.

3. Agility

Today, advertising in inherently agile. Campaigns can have hundreds of elements. Projects often have scores of contributors from across the agency. Technology is interwoven with creativity, meaning your ‘mad men’ are playing in the same sandpit as math men and women. To create quality results at pace and foster genuine collaboration, silos are broken down and processes are truncated. If you work in advertising, everything in your world happens at pace, so agility and adaptability become second nature.  

4. Creativity

Entrepreneurship is largely about seeing opportunities where others don’t. In my experience, working in a creative industry helps you hone your talent for discovering new ideas and novel ways to do business. There’s no substitute for creativity, particularly when you’re operating in an emerging sector. Working in advertising teaches you how to solve problems and how to sell ideas. Having sound commercial acumen is important for entrepreneurs, but to attract capital and customers you also need creativity.

5. Brands with purpose

Perhaps the most important thing that advertising teaches you is the importance of brandimg. You learn that great brands must be built on a higher order purpose, and a reason to exist beyond commercial gain. And that purpose must permeate your company, from the inside out. You learn that brands are influenced more by customer experience that any other factor. You learn that a company’s brand is a complex and precious asset that needs to be carefully managed and constantly nurtured. But most of all, you learn that your brand is a critical vector for success. We built Helius on a clear and simple purpose: to improve quality of life. The role of our brand is to bring this purpose to life.

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