Bountiful Cow co-founder Henry Daglish shares the journey of founding a fully-transparent challenger media agency. Learn about what they’re working on with us at PlanetK2 to ensure everyone at Bountiful Cow are performing at their optimum and the impact its having.

The beginning

From the moment we set up Bountiful Cow as a fully-transparent, challenger media agency we knew we could only perform at our best if we could instil our collaboration culture in our people.

There is no way we could take on the entrenched giants in advertising with our fairer way of working collaboratively with clients without our people understanding our ethos. We are an inherently an entrepreneurial business, and with that comes the responsibility of autonomy and a requirement to trust and develop our own and each other’s performance. We needed to help people assess, understand and optimise their best way of working.

My many years in advertising had shown that it has become, at best, an opaque business where shady practices had started to directly undermine trust, autonomy and freedom within the work place. With so many things going on the only way to operate had to be one of command and control with few people having the full picture of how the business actually made its money. We’re here to change that. We’re different, we’re open, and provide a true alternative for our people and our clients.

We were spun out of our sister agency, the7stars, and both agencies are dedicated to 100% transparency. We only ever earn money from clearly-defined fees and we act only in the interest of clients.

In fact, we’re so dedicated to being straight with clients we both remain the only two agencies who have fully signed up to a transparency code written up by ISBA, the trade body for British advertisers, as well as welcoming independent, third-party verification of our practices.

Collaboration culture

I’ll be honest, it’s a risk. We’re taking a punt on brands wanting to make the effort to work with their agencies in a more transparent way, to collaborate in a mutually beneficial partnership, where both parties work in each other’s interests only. Collaboration is crucial with our clients – we expect them to be as interested in our own business’ success as we are in theirs.

We’re also backing ourselves on companies being willing to pay for a premium planning and buying service dedicated to their needs, rather than operating a team structure that built up with planning costs wrapped within a single commission structure.

It’s exciting to be a challenger but it’s also a great risk. The only way we were ever going to stand a chance of succeeding was to get our people fully involved with our raison d’être because it is such a different approach. We had to instil our culture of collaboration in all our people and then find a way to keep their eyes firmly fixed on the prize and empower them to always perform at their very best. For this we turned to PlanetK2.

We didn’t want to stand with a big whip in a corner and drum in to people that they have to keep hitting targets. This has to be a culture where we obsess on the performance not the results. If we get the performance right the results will come. We want our people to have accountability. As much as we want to take them with us, we want them to take us along too. Nobody wants to work in an organisation where they don’t have a strong sense of control, confidence and connectedness.  We want to hire and inspire the best talent in the industry and we want them to love working here so we retain the cream of the crop.

Expert help

Working with PlanetK2 we’ve managed to do this. We have an accountable team built around authenticity in which we hone our performance to adapt to each client’s needs so we can nurture and develop trusting relationships.

A good example was a recent trip to Palma organised by Planet K2. It was a lot of fun but was hugely helpful too for our people to go through the Athlete at Work® programme. It helped us all understand how we are all responsible for our performance at work and how even seemingly small gains can make a huge difference.

It worked well alongside the leadership training and performance days we’ve been taking part in. Ultimately, it means we’ve been helped to both shape our culture and embed it in our people so they understand more fully why Bountiful Cow has been set up, the values and purpose at our core and what we are setting out to achieve.

Gaining traction?

Financially, the proof this is working is a start-up agency which had no clients a year ago transparently billing £15m in its first year. Nearly a third of this came from performance-related payments.

In terms of industry recognition, we’re the fastest agency ever to be recognised by industry body, the IPA, and we’ve been shortlisted for nine major awards, winning three. Among these we recently became the first start-up agency to be shortlisted for the prestigious Campaign Agency Team of the Year award.

Working with PlanetK2 helped us instil our culture and make sure our people are always primed, ready to be at the top of their game and taking charge of their own destiny. All of which are vital elements for us as an agency built on trust, transparency and inherently doing the right thing for our sole source of income – our clients.