Jake Grimley – Make It America

by | Jul 15, 2020

Made.Media is an agency focussed around design and build. Jake explains that ‘the agency has been running for around 18 years and then around 10 years in we niched down into the arts and cultural space, working with organisations such as The Royal Albert Hall, Hollywood Bowl, Lincoln Centre in New York. Working out the niche we wanted to focus on really had an impact on our success in growing internationally.’

‘Becoming a niche meant we were involved in conference networks that were international. If you have an insight or angle on problems or solutions within that sector, and within your niche, then you’re likely to get a speaker slot.’

‘For us, once we started to go to these conferences, we began making connections and then started working with Australian clients. We got the international bug and knew that the biggest market by far was the USA.’

‘We had a happy accident and interest in the agency, at which point we knew it was the time to really drive toward the US market. We started to remove any barriers in competition before establishing a subsidiary. We had to really think about why an American agency would choose us over a local one.’

We had to start thinking through all of the possible excuses for not working with a British agency, for example:

  1. ‘The terms and conditions are be in a different legal language.’
  2. ‘Extra costs for international calls.’
  3. ‘The difference in working across currencies.’

‘We priced in dollars, we established US phone numbers very quickly to remove those barriers to entry. As soon as we had a few clients working with us we then decided it was time to set up a subsidiary and an office in America.’

Logistically, Made.Media have an established office in Brooklyn where they house a Client Services Director, Account Handlers and a CTO who emigrated to the US from the UK. Jake notes that having employees move from the home base to the US works well for weathering the transition.

He also suggests that ’employing staff in Brooklyn can be considerably more expensive when compared to the UK market. Communicating effectively with staff in America can be challenging, both offices are living a completely different reality.’

During set up, ‘we began with an American client representative. After around 6 months we knew we needed some technological back-up, so we sent the CTO over on a specialist visa. He took the knowledge of the business and the culture with him.’

When asked about the cultural differences when working with an American market, Jake mentions he thinks the angle of cultural differences is overdone. He admits that initially an international client can be charmed by the accent, but mostly ‘he moderates [his] speech to be as frictionless as possible.’ He also suggests he alters his working hours to fit clients to reduce impedance.

Jake does note that ‘presenteeism is much more apparent in the US.’ He explains that ‘those aiming to get a promotion will prove to their superiors by working longer hours and showing up.’ He also explains that if his agency are working with multiple departments of one company in the US, Jake and his team will have to make uncomfortable decisions. He goes onto describe that the ‘US departments have no authority over one another and as such, it is down to you to tell marketing what will and won’t go onto the website, even if that decision came from the ticketing team.’

Jake summarises that the legalities, the differences and hiring can be extremely challenging, but once you work through the teething problems, working within the US market can be a really great step toward running a successful international agency.