Interview with Ben Harvey on Success

Having cut his teeth in the white-hot media world of the late 90s, Ben is renowned throughout the industry as a high-flying marketing leader with real commercial bite.

He’s held top positions at the biggest names in the business. Accumulated media spends in excess of £500 million at unprecedented rates. And delivered the disruptive rocket the marketing landscape needed in 2009, founding Virtuoso Advertising, one of the UK’s first performance-based digital agencies – sending it soaring into the top 10 independent agencies in just its first year of trading.

Following a successful sale of the business to Zeta Global, he helped the newly evolved company grow to a valuation of over $1 billion and become one of the world’s largest privately-owned digital technology businesses.

Check out Ben’s LinkedIn here: Ben Harvey

We sent over to Ben a variety of questions all around success, and these are his answers:

What was the biggest lesson you learnt along the way to building your business?

One of the most important lessons ive learnt is the ability to pivot and change. So many people get stuck on fixing problems in a business that they lose site of the number one goal and that’s to prove a commercial model that works, consistently and is scalable. The path towards profitability. If you get stuck on every item that throws up a problem then you will never achieve the greatest goals of the company. So the greatest lesson I learnt is to understand the difference between problems. Is a problem mission critical or is it just an issue that doesn’t define the path you take as a leader to building success.

What are the key life skills that help you to become an entrepreneur?

There are many things that happened in my life that I believe helped me sculpt life skills to prepare me for life as an entrepreneur. Some were positive experiences and some were extremely challenging. When I was 9 years old my Mother was diagnosed with cancer, as a young boy I watched my mum fight the disease and never give up hope, she taught me that in life we have the resilience to overcome the greatest challenges and both my Mother and Father would tell me that I could achieve anything I wanted in life, as long as I focussed my mind and worked hard. Thats exactly what I did. At 13 years old I told my parents I wanted to be a professional rugby player and that I wanted to play for England. There started my journey of focus, determination and relentless hardwork. Then 5 years later I was capped by England Under 18’s made the 2001 summer tour of Canada, New Zealand and Australia and signed my first professional contract for Wasps. The road was tough but I never stopped believing and I never stopped working. Looking back now I realise that was my first experience of being an entrepreneur.

Have you learnt more from your successes or failures?

I believe failure is equally as important as success. From my failures I have learnt some of my greatest lessons as it is when we lose that we stop, evaluate and ask why and how something hadn’t panned out the way we had planned or hoped. I also recognised early in my career that the majority of people would take success for granted and when we won a new client or raised capital we would celebrate. I however believe a success should be reviewed, analysed and considered just as much as a failure. Once we learn the patterns of our own behaviour and the external elements that contribute to both success and failure then we can plan for more success whilst using the failure as a map to avoid the hazards that once caused us to crash.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you have given yourself when you started?

Business is a team sport. When I was young I was so focussed on being a success that I didn’t stop and look around and consider how my colleagues were so important to the overall business. 

As I have progressed through my career I have made a focus on understanding my colleagues and partners strengths and weaknesses. I have surrounded myself by people that collectively make up the perfect mix for us to win as individuals and as an entire business. I say individuals as its important to acknowledge that people fundamentally want to feel valued and receive the personal recognition for there contribution to the business in addition to reaping the combined praise of team success.

How do you keep momentum to maintain and grow your business?

The number one trait that I believe entrepreneurs share is not being afraid of risk. For me momentum flows like a river. I have days where I am full flow and nothing can stop me. Then on other days the river is dry but I always have the belief that water will flow at full strength again, very soon. I guess that’s a reflection of the energy a leader brings to a business and its hard to be 110% all the time so you have to learn when and how to share the energy and bring true leadership to your business.

Combine this inner deep belief with my passion and love for my company and I believe this is the fundamental to building successful businesses. 

I can truly say I wake up everyday feeling blessed and excited that I get to go to my office and work with the people I do. Momentum and growth starts with the leader of a business and as you share your vision, beliefs and your mission with your team then the business truly comes to life. Thats when the business itself becomes a living, breathing entity and becomes far greater than you as the founder. 

What practical steps did you take to gain knowledge on setting up your business?

I threw myself into work experience from the age of 16. Every school holiday or break I would be working for free at various businesses. I worked for a prestigious law firm in Bristol for a while. Then I needed some extra summer cash so my Father got me a job labouring on a building site. I got paid for every brick I carried. It was back break working but I knew if I carried 600 bricks up and down the ladder each day I would make my target. Finally I managed to get some work experience for media agency called CBLM (Part of Booth Lockett Makin) and it was like I had found my calling in life. The people, the energy and the atmosphere was electric. The CEO was a guy called Rob Clilverd and when he walked in the room it was magical. He loved his business, his clients and his team and I knew one day I wanted to be like Rob. So my advice is simple. Don’t read about it, go and do it. The greatest way to gather knowledge is to throw yourself into the environment and live and breath it. Thats why if you want to learn a new language there is no better way than to go and live in the country and immerse yourself in the language but also the culture and nuances.

Bens company site is if you would like to find out more.

If you want to answer some questions on success, then please send us an email here.

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