Early in my career, I was invited to work with a ‘creative agency’.  

It was a hoot!

Painted pigs in reception. Table tennis and space invaders. Pizzas on Thursday. Pub on Friday. 

You don’t have to be mad to work here – but it helps’ posters. 

You get the idea.

And almost everyone was happy to work late.

We do whatever it takes’ the MD shared with me, adding, ‘It’s not unusual to see people in the building at midnight’. 


I watched how they worked.  Actually, that’s not true.  I watched how they filled their time.

For every four hours they were at work, I estimated less than two were spent genuinely working on what they were supposed to be working on.


My job was to challenge their thinking, so during our first training session I suggested this radical idea: 

How about everyone comes into the office, starts working on what they should be working on – and goes home on time?

One of the creatives said, ‘We work better when we’re close to a deadline’.

Another ‘hmmm’ moment for me, then I countered, ‘I don’t think you work better; I think you work faster.’

The end of the story isn’t a happy one. They went under in the 2009 recession. 

But last week, via the power of LinkedIn, one of their ex members of staff contacted me and asked if I remembered them.  

Of course I did! 

He shared with me what he does now and confessed that for half the time in that old agency, they were just ‘dicking about’.

Chaos may generate a bit of creative tension…  

And deadlines create excitement…

But nothing works quite as well as actually doing the work.

Be Brilliant!



We love to know your thoughts, please leave a comment below.


  1. April 4th 2019 by Mona

    As this article shows, the best humour is based on more than a single grain of truth. Sometimes it takes a bit of distance to see it.

  2. April 4th 2019 by Simon Lewis

    Ever a true word spoken in jest: ROFL!

  3. April 4th 2019 by Bryan Wright

    Hi Michael
    Your post bought back so many memories of my early days as a designer although I have to say that in the 80’s they just worked you to death on too many projects which is why we were often there till midnight… no doubt though there was ‘dicking about’ involved!
    Hope you’re well.

  4. April 4th 2019 by kevin

    And the best bit is all those hours dicking around should have been billable hours….

  5. April 4th 2019 by Barry Nicol

    Great post Michael. I am a big believer in what the hours are spent doing rather than the presenteeism which often happens.
    It was not that long ago that someone commented how well I worked under pressure ….. to which I responded that I just had to work faster, but don’t enjoy having to do it as I don’t think it is always my best work.

  6. April 4th 2019 by Wayne Jonesa

    Hi Michael, I work for Vertu Motors who you have worked with in the past and I have had the privilege of being present at one of your “chats”. One of my favourite sayings to my team, in a jovial way, is, stop dicking about, and they have embraced that, using it to each other. Let’s face it, there’s nothing like good, hard, honest endeavour to make you feel satisfied at the end of a profitable day!!!

  7. April 4th 2019 by Humphrey Couchman

    Having worked with lots of agencies, I know you’re right. And who pays for the funky offices, table football, ducking about? Clients! Clients who are seduced and think ‘funky = creative = good for my business.’ There are lots of agencies out there who don’t look so flash but do the work. Great work. Buyer beware!

  8. April 7th 2019 by Karen Morley-Chesworth

    What a brilliant read this week. I have worked with a team who being seen to be working 24/7 was also praised – and constant meetings talking about what they were going to do left no time between 9-5 to actually do the work. The outcome of this was burn out with 4 members leaving and the others demoralised and depressed. You are so right, get the work done and go home ! PS one your newsletter.

  9. April 9th 2019 by Karin Carruthers

    I worked in these agencies in the 80’s and 90’s… been there, done it and now it’s a different story. Work hard during the day and then spend the rest of time with family and friends!

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