Interview: Comma and Nutcracker07 Nov 2018
This year, Comma are again in the running for a Lloyds Bank National Business Award, this time nominated for The Elite London Stock Exchange Scale-up Award. We got together with Leigh Wells, CEO of Comma Group, and Jenny Knighting, CEO of Nutcracker Agency, ahead of this year’s ceremony, to find out more about the relationship between Comma and Nutcracker and hear where it all began.
What brought Comma and Nutcracker together?
Leigh: It was last year’s National Business Awards. We were using a PR agency at the time, but they had a very traditional PR focus that didn’t represent the challenging persona we wanted Comma to portray. We knew we needed more help with marketing, so the timing was perfect when Sam [Goss, Chief Marketing Officer at Comma] met Nutcracker at the NBA’s. Sam and I knew it was going to be a brilliant relationship to build: their approach, values and culture are very similar to ours. I think that’s ultimately what’s created success over such a short space of time.
Jenny: From a Nutcracker perspective, Comma was just so exciting and energised – it’s an interesting and dynamic business with fantastic ambitions. This is exactly why Nutcracker was founded - to work with other businesses that have the scale, interest and ambition of Comma.
So, meeting at the Awards Ceremony and being in the same category highlighted to you both that you share the same ambition?
Jenny: I knew immediately that our businesses shared the same kind of dynamic and ethic. The ambition in what we want to achieve and how we want to connect with people is the same.
Leigh: Without the NBA’s, we probably would never have found Nutcracker. On both sides, there is a lot of competition, but the awards bring like-minded individuals together. They’re looking for something specific in these categories: I don’t think it’s coincidence that we met there. Whether it’s a certain DNA, drive or passion, there’s something that they look for that we share, which allowed us to meet.
Jenny: That’s true, the world is awash with similar businesses so what is going to make you stand out?
Leigh: Nutcracker would never have gone out and said “Hmm, you know what I want to do, I want to work with a data consultancy.” That sounds really boring.
Jenny: Trust me, it isn’t boring at all!
How have things changed since last year’s awards? Working together and in the wider picture?
Jenny: Comma played an important role in reinforcing my original vision for Nutcracker and re-energising my goals for Nutcracker. The Comma story is an exciting one, not just in the financial sense but also in what has been achieved with ambition and growth. Leigh has also played an important role for me when it comes to reinforcing my attitude that anything is possible. It’s contagious! Being with someone like-minded where you think “Yes, we can do that, why not?” is hugely motivating. I absolutely love working with Comma.
Leigh: For Comma, we’ve grown 300% financially in the year since we met Nutcracker. The key stand-out moment this year is how Jenny and Nutcracker have helped us understand our strengths and weaknesses around sales and marketing. From that, we’ve made organisational changes and brought new people in to allow us to continue to scale that growth. Thanks to Nutcracker’s help, we’ve been able to understand where more success could be realised. They bring value to Comma.
These journeys aren’t easy, no matter what you do – 10% or 300% - the higher the growth, the more everything is amplified. Whether that’s the successes or the challenges.
Jenny: That’s true. There are always challenges, but if we want to get to where we really want to be as a business, it’s absolutely intrinsic to growth.
What do you think the next year has in store?
Jenny: For Nutcracker, this year has been about re-evaluating, building on Nutcracker’s solid foundations and continuing to scale. I’m very excited for next year for the Nutcracker/Comma partnership. I don’t see it as separate businesses, I see it as if we’re all just part of the same team.
Leigh: Absolutely. We’ve now got a solid foundation on which to build on, so I believe we can deliver 2/3 times as many projects with the same leadership and management team that we have in place. We’re anticipating high levels of growth and superseding the benefits and value of what we’ve been investing in for the last 6-12 months.
What’s your favourite thing about working with Nutcracker and Comma?
Leigh: Nutcracker just get it. They understand us – not just what we do or our position in the market but the values and the setup of the team. Doing business is really straightforward. Nutcracker’s values resonate.
Jenny: For me, it’s being able to produce something unbelievably creative. Whether these campaigns win awards or not, the fact is that there’s that willingness to take a risk, to stand out and be different. To have this level of trust in a relationship, it’s brilliant.
Are you looking forward to this year’s awards?
Leigh: Of course, I’m excited to see if Comma win.
Jenny: If Comma don’t win, I’ll storm on stage – I’ll be Jenny West.
Leigh: Oh God.
Jenny: It could be genius PR!
Meet Comma and hundreds of other ambitious British businesses at the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards ceremony. Book your place here for the 13th November, Grosvenor House Hotel, London.