With the concept in mind that both advisory and creatively led businesses can co-exist, founder and MD of Build Global Sabrina Clarke decided to take the plunge and fuse together two of her greatest passions: strategy, and creativity under the same umbrella. As a strategist, Sabrina addresses that complex challenges can create space and also provide great opportunities for leaders of today to excel and for companies to succeed thus paving the way with Build Global Advisory.
Her international multidisciplinary experience across a selection of industries range from management consulting, financial services, advertising and professional services has allowed Sabrina to of previously held senior roles with global remits for companies such as Ernst and Young, Barclays PLC and Barclays Investment Bank and Nordstrom. Now very much sought after, Sabrina is headhunted directly from a wide variety of clients across all industries to advise on development strategies and devise business transformation programmes.
In addition to that, Sabrina has most recently launched Build Global Productions- a multimedia platform that produces and curates art. We asked Sabrina why she believes it to be important to take great risks when creating brand noise and what were the steps she took when getting her foot in the door with major corporate organisiations.
Hey, Sabrina, can you introduce yourself to us?
I am a strategist, a creative, I love constructive dialogue and politics. I am also a geek and part-time adrenaline junkie.
Can you tell us a little bit about you and your career background prior to Build Global?
I spent a lot of time working for large corporate organisations such as Barclays, EY and Ogilvy, and Mather. I was very specific about the skills I wanted to refine and build as well as the industries I went into. I essentially built a portfolio of industries whilst applying the same disciplines of strategy, change, and transformation which is what my business Build Global Advisory now focusses on. So prior to Build Global, I solidified by subject matter expertise in strategy, change, and transformation. The other skill that I refined was the need to be politically savvy. From my perspective, there is no progression in a corporate environment without this skill and the ability to navigate effectively in very complex environments.
Can you talk about how the journey has been since launching Build Global?
Launching Build Global has been one of the most fulfilling, revealing and challenging experiences I have had. It has been fulfilling because I am seeing my vision realised. I am a planner so I didn’t fall into being an entrepreneur. I spent time planning my transition, considering the right time and taking the leap. In doing so I am fulfilled by waking up and realising what I wrote down years ago. It has also been very revealing.
Specifically, about me as a person, my relationships as well as what running a business takes. I knew I had a high degree of resilience and as an introvert, I love my own company. One of the most revealing things about being an entrepreneur at least in the beginning has been how isolating it is.
A balance must be struck in going out and building networks and also getting your head down a building the business. Additionally, it is also very revealing how people treat you when you have big brands in your title vs your own company. You really get a sense of who people really are when they think you have nothing to offer them. Finally, everything is on me in terms of running the business, such as the taxes, regular catch-ups with my accountant etc. these tasks require concentrated time that was a luxury when I worked for other companies.
As a strategist, you have worked for huge corporate organisations including as EY, Nordstrom, Ogilvy & Mather, Barclays Investment Bank and Barclays PLC, what was the process of getting your foot through the door?
The process was interesting for me because I did not have the social capital when working for Nordstrom, O&M, and Barclays. I got my foot in the door off the strength of my audacity and eventually experience. The process I took was methodical, firstly I approached all of those industries in sequence and was very clear about what I wanted from all of them.
Additionally, I was surgical about the opportunities I.e., I didn’t really care about the brands, I was very focused on what the role would give me. I was also very clear about my experience, why I made the decisions I made and the value I brought to every environment I worked in. For example, Ogilvy and Mather was the first organisation I worked for when I moved to London. I quit my job at Nordstrom packed four suitcases and came to London. I was consistently told I did not have UK experience which was clearly obvious but I was determined. So I faced rejection until the interview from Ogilvy and Mather came, when it did, I was ready and I got in the door.
Can you give us 1 tip on how to create a great brand positioning strategy?
My number 1 tip is to know your brand. I can’t count how many times I spoke to well-meaning people when conducting market research who told me what they thought my brand should be and what my company should focus on based on their idea of who they thought I was. Prior to those conversations, I was very resolute about my brand and because I knew my brand I am now on the journey of positioning it on my terms.
As a company with two components; Build Global Advisory and Build Global Productions, you decided to bring together two passions, strategy, and creativity under one umbrella. Can you talk to us about how the incentive came about to fuse them both?
I am a very creative person but the corporate environments I was in didn’t lend themselves to cultivating my creativity. When I designed the company I wanted to build, creativity was not optional. It was a matter of how to integrate it in a way that was seamless. The answer for me was the Production company, where I could operate without restriction and take my time. It is almost the opposite of Build Global Advisory, where everything is structured, paced and sometimes hardline. The space I create for Build Global Production, allows me to innovate in unique ways for my Advisory client which is weirdly the perfect fusion.
Why do you think its so important for brands to take great risks in creating a buzz around their brand?
I think it is important because you have the opportunity to understand what works for your company. For the past 12 months, I have been taking risks, trying things that are different to my operating model, some things have worked, others have been a complete disaster but they all have been learning opportunities. Great risks sometimes don’t yield great results but you will always refine your strategy because of this. I thankfully learned a long time ago there is nothing wrong with making mistakes.
Can you us what has been your most seminal point with Build Global since launching?
Celebrating 1 year in business 100% of the time. There have been some amazing milestones landing clients, speaking at TEDx Fidelity International and Harvard Business School. This year will be the 4th intake of the Build Global Scholarship programme I started. However, the seminal moment has been looking back over the past 12 months and knowing regardless of everything, the challenges and the work; we’re here.
The most rewarding moment in your personal life?
This is very difficult to answer, I would say one of them has been stepping out on faith, leaving my family, packing my suitcases and moving to London to start a different chapter of my life. It was the riskiest decision but has resulted in too many amazing things to count.
Any challenging times you have had to overcome? When were they and how did you learn to overcome them?
I have had various challenges throughout my corporate career and now as an entrepreneur. I’ll focus on the first 6 mths of being in business 100% of the time. I eluded to this earlier but the main challenges I faced were people associating me with the previous companies I worked for and not taking me seriously as a businesswoman.
People were condescending or dismissive and the rejection just seemed to be unending. I overcame this by looking at my vision board and my mission statement every day and getting on my grind. Nothing that I have received has ever come easy, so I was used to challenges. At one point it just got to me, so I decided to go on what I called a ‘labbatical’ I went into the lab. Sat down a reminded myself of what got me to this point but also did a review of my approach. I shut out the noise and got through it.
Have you ever had to deal with any doubts of contention or lack of support from relatives or friends? If so how did you push through?
I didn’t tell my family members about my ventures until there was something to ‘show them’. Moving to London was already too much to handle, I wasn’t going to then tell them that I was about to quit my job. One of the more interesting parts of this journey has been my ‘friends’. It has been proven that not everyone is meant to travel with you at all stages of your life. I have given people who I once was very close to, distance because of their undermining behaviour or sarcastic comments.
For me fake support does not work when you are an entrepreneur. Relationships have to be balanced. So during my ‘labbatical’ I also took a long hard look at the relationships in my life and acted accordingly.
What outlets do use to market the Build Global brand?
Networking and Word of Mouth have proven to be the most effective for my businesses so far. The advisory business is tricky because the engagements that I have are confidential so posting doesn’t work. I have a love/hate relationship with Social Media, so I can definitely do more there.
Which methods are you using to build your audience and expand your network?
I have intentionally been more visible. For example, every speaking engagement I have had to date has been as a result of my network or someone seeing me speak and recommending me as a keynote speaker. The more people know who you are, the opportunities follow. I have also had what I called strategic investments. They have been investing in relationships or events that did not yield anything for me but I did this because I could. Sometimes people need support and if I am in the position to give it, I do.
Who would you like to reactively collaborate or work on a project with next?
For Build Global Advisory I would like to work with Amara Living, founded by a husband and wife team based in Essex. I would also love to interview Michelle Obama in London when her book ‘Becoming’ comes out later this year for Build Global Productions, as you can see I don’t aim small.
What is the best piece of advice you have received to date?
This is another difficult one to answer because the advice I have been given has always related to the stage of life that I am in at the moment. At this chapter in my life, the best piece of advice I have been given is to ‘keep on going’
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
I don’t think you can create an evenly balanced work and personal life. So I have practiced being present and allocating time for both.
Which other entrepreneurs do you also admire and why?
I admire Shonda Rhimes and Gary Vaynerchuck. They both have built highly successful companies in very unconventional ways while staying true to who they are.
What Youtube or online space channels are you watching currently?
I am a politics junkie so my youtube space is consumed my CNN, BBC and the Breakfast Club because I do need to balance.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
‘How successful CEOs manage their middle act’ is a good Harvard Business Review article that explores how little attention is given to the middles years of the CEO tenure after the first 100 days. There were five themes that emerged to successfully navigate the middle act but you will have to read the article for them.
What does your Podcast playlist look like?
Revisionist History is the only saved podcast I have right now. I am a geek that loves history and Malcolm Gladwell. This podcast brings together both.
What does success look like in your eyes?
Success for me is being able to do all the things I want to do and going to bed content.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
#BEYOUROWN means being unapologetically who I am
Lastly, what is next for you 2018?
Growing Build Global and a new venture, Niche On Demand, a video- subscription on-demand service.