Where do leaders get their ideas? And how do they solve problems and reboot their creativity? This month Director meets the founder of Native Design, which has clients ranging from Audi to Oxfam
I was obsessed with building things when I was growing up. My aunt died recently and I discovered boxes with newspaper articles of me winning Lego competitions when I was seven. I have always been fascinated with construction.
My company’s name was inspired by nature. I started Native from my bedroom in Kensal Rise in London in the mid-Nineties. I’d previously studied furniture design and worked for French designer Philippe Starck in Paris, but I’d always wanted to build my own team. I’m a huge admirer of [Sir] David Attenborough and everything to do with the natural world – and I wanted to create a brand name that had some extraction from nature.
Tenacity has been crucial to my success. I am obsessed with doing the right thing no matter what. I employ 100 people and sadly they don’t get to see me very much – but little do they realise I have done everything they have done. I’ve been in model shops until the early hours, cycled in the rain to get components, made hundreds of phone calls just to speak to one person. Dogged determination has been a really important driver.
I encourage dissent. I have built an incredibly talented team and I want them to challenge me, to question my decisions. People always think they have to be academic and rational about decision-making, but there has to be an element of instinct otherwise things get stagnant. Nothing’s come our way that we haven’t been able to solve by hook or by crook.
Walking gives me time to think. I live near a forest and I have three dogs, and I find early-morning walks and fresh air are really good for me. I don’t take a phone – instead I have a little notebook and pencil and I take notes. Once I’m in London in my studio I’m bombarded with stuff – and then it’s about action.
Native is a hard place to work. I saw the film Whiplash, which is about this thug of a teacher who harangues his students to get them to play jazz better. Native has an element of that. We’re trying to generate the best possible work and it requires us to be very critical. For some people it’s too much and they leave; but most of the people who have been here a long time get it – for them, it’s more than a job.
I’m inspired by Norman Foster. He’s built a world-class architectural practice.
Redesigning the BBC landing page was like redesigning the Empire State Building. If you think about how many millions of people go there, it’s really satisfying to know we’ve played an instrumental part in something so big.
I find swimming therapeutic. As I’ve got older I’ve learnt it can be very relaxing. I do about 60 or 70 laps in the mornings.
A lean diet keeps me agile. I have a mixed smoothie every day containing lots of vegetables and I don’t eat much red meat. When you’re slightly hungry during the day your body is naturally composed for hunting – and you’re more alert. In business, I have found that light eating keeps my mind switched on.
Where do you get your headspace? Email us and let us know