• I finished my work on the Chinese ingredients brand I’ve been working on. I think we got to a good place: an interesting positioning, some interesting naming territories, and generally a new role for the brand within the category. It’s been fascinating to think about how British consumers’ attitudes to eating and cooking Asian food has shifted in the last few decades, and how they’re likely to shift again in the future.

  • I went to the Bread & Jam Christmas party on Tuesday, partly with my Orso hat on and partly with my super-secret-startup hat on. It’s the first event of theirs that I’ve been to, but it was great fun and I met some fascinating people with fascinating businesses – everything from kimchi to plant-based seafood, toilet roll to cricket-based snacks. If you’re a founder of a food and drink brand, you’re probably already a member; but if you’re not, you should be.

    One of the things that struck me was that these networking events feel so much more effortless now that I’m working solo. It’s a feeling partly of liberation: you can speak to who you want to speak to and pursue your own agenda. But it’s also about authenticity. You don’t need to tell someone else’s story or pitch someone else’s business; you’re representing you, and what you do. Suddenly, to me at least, that makes things feel far less transactional and icky-salesy, and far more human and real.

  • I had a workshop this week with an agency whose strategy offer I’ve been helping to shape. It was really constructive, and a learning experience for me, too. The way I frame it is that there are two ways to be more strategic: to go up the value chain, or to go deeper in the work you already do. The first approach involves progressing from, for example, design strategy to brand strategy to business strategy, getting closer to the C-suite as you go. The second involves going deeper, so for example continuing to provide design execution but being more strategic in doing so – interrogating briefs better, challenging preconceptions, and generally doing work up front that makes the creative work better. My instinct, in my own work, is always to go for the first approach, and to get closer to the business strategy behind the brand. But it’s refreshing and intriguing to work with a business that has no desire to do that, and wants simply to get stronger at delivering brilliant creative work.

  • I also had a great workshop with a homeware manufacturing business about setting their long-term vision and direction. They’re family-owned and are hugely committed to being a progressive employer and to doing what they do as sustainably as possible. It’s one of life’s privileges to work with thoughtful and modest people who hide their light under a bushel, where the challenge is to coax them into telling their compelling stories well – rather than with shallow blowhards who are convinced of their own superiority, where the challenge is to make what they say have any kind of substance whatsoever.

  • I had a great chat with Clare Reid, who I’m helping with her consultancy work. She’s a hugely experienced marketeer who’s worked in the charity sector and then helped Dishoom scale from three sites to the enormous success it is today, before going solo recently. It’s so interesting to see the similarities and differences in our respective experiences, to share in the tribulations and jubilations of solo consulting life, and to help figure out how to productise and package up what Clare does so well. If you’re a restaurant looking for help, give Clare a call.