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We interview Paul Davies, CEO, firstlight

Posted: Dec 2022
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Whether it’s clients or colleagues, putting people first is firstlight CEO Paul Davies’s priority. In this week’s Thought Leaders Connected interview, Paul reveals his motivation to set up the integrated corporate and b2b communications consultancy and reveals his superpower! Paul has a great comms agency background including Edelman, FTI Consulting, Consolidated and the Red Consultancy.

1. Can you give a brief overview of your background and experience?
I’ve worked agency side all my life having started my career in the consumer practice at Edelman in what now feels like 1900. I then moved to Lexis, Financial Dynamics (now FTI), Consolidated (now part of Four) and the Red Consultancy. During this time I’ve worked for clients in pretty much every sector.

2. What was your motivation to set up firstlight?
I suppose like most founders it was a mixture of ambition and self-confidence. The ambition to deliver a better service to clients and the self-confidence to back myself to do it.

3. How has your big agency background helped you with building firstlight?
I’ve been a magpie all my career, borrowing (or stealing with pride) good ideas and ways of working. But I’ve also remembered when bigger agencies have taken their clients and people for granted. Spending time with different people, cultures and ways of working has certainly helped us find the firstlight way.

4. Has the business grown in the way you thought it would?
We aspire to be the best partners to our clients not the biggest agency, so we’ve never fixated on our size. That said, we’re now being more deliberate in how we build out our capabilities rather than being reactive to the market.

5. You’ve created a fantastic culture at firstlight, how have you achieved this?
We’re custodians of people’s careers for the time they’re here. And it’s important to me that we help everyone learn new skills and develop as professionals. That philosophy guides everything that we do.

In terms of everything else – the culture, the environment and the collaboration, it’s like the made up Michaelangelo quote: we just keep chipping away at stuff that gets in the way.

6. What has been your biggest challenge at firstlight?
I think we undersold ourselves at the beginning. To start with I didn’t realise that our size is our superpower. I was slightly apologetic until a client put me straight and told me that they could tell we gave a shit. That’s on a T-shirt now.

7. What would you say are your three key attributes that have contributed to your career success?
- Curiosity
- The ability to put myself in other people’s shoes
- Giving a shit (see above)

8. What has been your most memorable work moment?
Sorry to all my clients but it’s every Christmas offsite (we go to amazing places each year – it’s Vienna this time) when I am reminded of the talented people that we have in the business. They are phenomenal and a force to be reckoned with.

9. Please share the best piece of advice you’ve been given along the way and by whom?
Be kind. My mum told me that and she knows her stuff.

10. Do you have any hidden talents?
I fly a gyrocopter in my spare time.

Thanks, Paul.

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