This week we agreed a new Dark Angels brief. We are to provide new aphorisms that will appear on hoardings around a residential Solidspace development near the Shard. Our words will change week by week over the next 18 months. It’s a new take on the project that won Dark Angels a D&AD pencil earlier this year.
A lot of lines will be needed. 35 characters is our limit (not a lot of words in each line). We’ll do them quickly then it will seem to take forever before the last line finally appears in 2017.
Time walks faster than you is one line I’ve thought of. The older I get the stranger is the feeling of time’s effect and pace. A year used to seem such a long time. Right now I’m questioning a client’s insistence on describing a 25-year-old firm as made up of ‘seasoned veterans’. They are, of course, but….
Saturday found me making my way to the East End of London to visit the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. This is research for a book on business survival to which I’m contributing a chapter. Here is a company that’s been trading continuously since 1570 (or perhaps even earlier). How on earth did they manage it?
The answer will have to wait until I’ve dug a bit deeper. For now the tour led by the foundry manager, Mark, is fascinating. It’s clear that all those truisms about what businesses need to do to succeed do not apply to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. All those hackneyed phrases from business books ring hollow here, for example, “you have to:
- either grow or go out of business
- innovate or die
- diversify your product range and keep doing it
- bring in new technology or else.”
Here, by contrast, is a company that does what it has always done. It makes bells. There is no market to expand, but people who need bells made or repaired find their way to the company. The manufacturing process has hardly changed in 500 years, still depends on traditional craft skills and organic materials such as horse manure and goat hair. In 2015 it employs 25 people and is generally reckoned by those who know to be the world’s best.
There’s a lesson for all of us in there but I’m not yet sure what it is. I think it’s about patience and taking the long view. I think it’s about time.