That was my first thought when, in Autumn 2015, our closest friends told my wife and I they were moving out of London – and when I say out, I mean a long, long way out – for an allegedly ‘better lifestyle’.
I got the whole great British countryside and coastal towns to die for thing. But what would they do for work? There were zero opportunities outside of London as far as I could see. We’d all spent over a decade working in various digital, media, PR and marketing roles, and been really successful – and had a good time doing it. Kids were on the scene now, and we’d all moved to the ‘burbs, but the city life was still for us. Why would you give it all up…?
Fast forward six months to spring 2016, and those crazy friends didn’t seem so crazy anymore. I’d just accepted a role at 383 in Birmingham, bought our forever house in Solihull, and was gearing up for what’s ultimately been the most fruitful period of my life to date. I didn’t know that at the time of course.
So what changed?
Over a long car journey, and heart to heart with Mrs Duncan, I realised that I was overcooked from an adventurous 13 years at the coal face of digital marketing roles in London.
The energy was still there – you need stamina for capital – but the mind was frazzled. I’d got myself into a never-ending pattern of working long hours and caring about everyone but myself, finishing late on Friday nights when most people would have been home and relaxing with their partner and a glass of wine.
“But where would we go?” she asked.
“How about home?” I replied.
She’s a native Brummie, you see. We could still enjoy a bit of city life, but be closer to family, and enjoy the opportunity to see what Birmingham and the Midlands had to offer.
It was all dependent on the job market of course. Would there be the right type of role for me? That same night, inspired after a long drive back home to South London, I saw an ad for an Operations Director at an agency in Birmingham…
That’s all it took from that heart to heart, to having a job offer on the table, a new home, and a different life to look forward to. And yes – we did make some concessions financially to do it. But I feel richer now than I ever did in London. And here’s why.
These last three and a half years at 383 have given me the stage I’d really wanted for myself. I’d had a longing to flex my operational muscle beyond marketing and my role challenges me extensively – from overseeing delivery processes and facilities improvements, to juggling IT priorities, or maintaining the quest for talent, along with any other area I have the freedom to get involved in.
It’s a true business operations role – and I love it. It challenges me in every way I’d hoped for, and has put me at the centre of making 383 a company that feels unique and special. And while some days the challenges feel monumental, there’s never a day when I don’t get to read a bedtime story to my children, have the chance to enjoy some TV with my wife, or have the headspace to think about all the possibilities that are open to me in my new life. That, my friends, is what you call balance. And for several years in London, I didn’t have it.
Life in Brum
383 has changed a lot since I arrived back in late 2016. Yes, people have come and gone, but the quest to be better as a place to work has remained all the way.
I reflect a lot on what we didn’t have back then that we do now – be it processes, video calling capabilities, learning opportunities – and pinch myself at how far we’ve come. There’s still loads to do of course.
That’s what I’m most excited about – to bring 383 to a state of genuine envy from our clients, peers and anyone around the world curious about what a great company looks like.
And therein lies the biggest message I wanted to share with you.
All of this is happening in Birmingham. And it’s gathering some serious momentum. New cafes and bars populating the Jewellery Quarter, nestled in with new start-ups finding their feet and traditional workshops and artisans plying their trade. Digbeth leading the creative scene. WeWork opening up three seismic collaborative spaces in the heart of the city.
Something really exciting is brewing here and I get to be part of it. I’m grasping the opportunities Birmingham presents me with today, and I can see a whole tonne more in my future.
There’s never a day when I don’t get to read a bedtime story to my children, have the chance to enjoy some TV with my wife, or have the headspace to think about all the possibilities that are open to me in my new life.
I also should be telling you that I get exposure to amazing brands, brilliant products that my peers build, and a cool innovative environment. And I do, but I had all that in London as well. For me, it’s the opportunity to be at the heart of building a great company, and to take Birmingham forward, that’s the biggest pull factor over the capital.
So, were my friends as crazy as I thought they were? Absolutely not! They knew something I didn’t.
London’s been done. The bigger spotlight is here for you in Birmingham.
Come and join us.