Letter to My Younger Self - Alistair Watson, The Halo Group

Alistair Watson, co-founder and marketing director of The Halo Group, revisits his younger years and thinks about what advice he'd had given himself back then.

Alistair Watson is co-founder and marketing director of The Halo Group
Alistair Watson is co-founder and marketing director of The Halo Group

Dear Ali,

I appear to have disregarded everything I learned from watching Back to the Future, this is your older self, it’s 2016 – don’t freak out, the space-time continuum depends on it!

As you sit there in 1997 I’m sure it feels like a crazy year. Tony Blair’s going to be there for a while I’m afraid, Hong Kong has just been handed back to China and in less serious news, if you feel like putting a bet on, it’s a good year for the UK in the Eurovision Song contest. The biggest thing happening in your life right now is that you are about to graduate from university with honours and will soon have a degree in Politics with International Relations – you will never use your qualification.  

All of that will pale in comparison to the journey you’re about to embark on. Your current business plan is to set up a club night at Ministry of Sound with your two business partners, Sam Matthews and Gareth Chappell – it’s going to go very well indeed and you will still be working in this partnership in 2016. Soon you will be hosting some of London’s biggest club nights at The Cross, The End and Pacha to name a few. Getting 1000s of bums on seats, month in month out, is a real challenge, but persevere – you will meet many people who will help you when setting up and running The Halo Group agency.

At the peak of your promotion success you, Sam and Gareth will have an epiphany – you need to listen to the voice in your head, as this will be some of the best advice you ever get. You will realise that you have learned all the skills you need to run an event but that if you organise parties for other people you won’t have to get a single person through the door to profit.

After embracing this epiphany, you will start to throw garden parties for the well-healed residents of Kensington and Chelsea before graduating to running corporate events for your clients’ hedge fund businesses, banks and law firms. It won’t take long before you grow disillusioned with the lack of creativity in the corporate events world and you will start to look at the areas of the industry that allow more expression – it’s at this point in 2008 that a huge recession will grip the economy… don’t dismay as it will be the best thing that ever happens to your career.

All of your clients will tighten their purse strings, the banks will cease having parties and some clients will even go bust - you will have no choice but to assess other burgeoning markets – specifically festival activations and brand experiential work. It’s at this point an old friend from your club promotion days will remember the passion and attention to detail you used to put into your parties and will pick up the phone. This old friend will have recently started working at Relentless Energy and will offer you, Sam and Gareth the chance to tender for a large contract to design and build a consumer experiential activation at five UK festivals – Halo will win the contract and from this point the gloves are off and there will be no turning back.

There will be many ups and downs in the years to come so just remember to stay true to your values. Always remember to have a genuine passion for all your clients’ projects no matter how big or small, maintain a forensic attention to detail through every single delivery and champion creativity through every project. It is this ethos that will later earn The Halo Group multiple awards in a competitive market place and will position your agency among the very best in the business. Soon you will amass an enviable portfolio of global brand names and other agency clients for whom you will produce world-class experiential activations. These will be the best days of your life, but ultimately it is the lessons, trials and tribulations you are experiencing right now that will define your success in 2016.

Stick at it, you’re going to go through the mill many times before reaching your goals and sometimes you will doubt yourself and those around you, but I can assure you it will be worth it. If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to get the very best accountant and finance team you can from the outset. A solid financial infrastructure is the very foundation of a good business so the sooner you learn this key lesson the sooner your agency will reach its potential. 

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