She also does pro-bono one-on-one coaching for start up creative businesses on the Mayor of London’s business growth programme, and is a core member progressing the goals of Pride AM (a lobbying group for increased LGBT+ content in mainstream advertising).
Let’s find out what Gilbert’s day-to-day looks like…
Please describe your job: What do you do?
Kimi Gilbert: I work at The Future Factory, a business development consultancy that helps creative agencies grow. On paper, I’m the Training & Development Director. In practice, this means wearing a lot of different hats. In addition to delivering training for our internal team and external agencies, I manage a team of account managers who are responsible for sourcing new business leads for their clients. I also look after several of The Future Factory’s strategic partnerships with organisations like YCN and the Mayor of London’s Business Growth Programme.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
Kimi Gilbert: I sit just below the co-founders, Dan Sudron and Alex Sibille, and report to them. They are my bosses, yes, but my friends too, which makes for a really special dynamic.
Dan was actually one of the first people I met when I moved to the UK. We bumped into each other on the stairs of my house as he and my housemate were going to a party called Trailer Trash in East London (run by the guys who own the Dalston Superstore and Voodoo Ray’s). I’d lived in Berlin a few years prior and was big on Berghain / all things techno so we were fast friends from then on out.
Alex, Dan’s business partner, and I have known each other for about 9 years, first in a professional setting and then we became close friends over time. Recently, she was one of my referees for British citizenship and will be coming to my ceremony on the 10 October to see me affirm my loyalty to The Queen!
Working for friends can be challenging but the good definitely outweighs the bad. The biggest thing we need to be mindful of is not talking shop when we’re hanging out!
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Kimi Gilbert: Empathy, patience and emotional intelligence. I have a baby misanthropic streak at times, which my partner teases me about, yet really I am a people person through and through. You have to love people to succeed in this job.
After graduating from uni in the US, I received a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Austria for 2 years. Working with kids certainly builds your skills in this area, as does living abroad. One thing I’ve noticed from years of hiring people is that polyglots almost always do well in new business. Anybody who loves to chat so much that they learn to do it in several languages will do just fine talking to Marketing Directors about their challenges.
Lastly, contrary to popular belief, you have to be a rather smart cookie to do sales well. The best salespeople have great attention to detail and are able to synthesise lots of info and pick out the most compelling bits. I’m not as involved in the interview process here at TFF as I once was but when I do jump into an interview with a potential new recruit, I always make sure to ask them what their dissertation was on.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Kimi Gilbert: Like any business, we have our fair share of internal meetings but we tend to be pretty pointed and pragmatic so they don’t drag on for ages.
A lot of what I do involves liaising with clients, external training partners and potential clients so I’m often on the move. I’m a huge foodie and strategically plan my meetings around where I can get the best meal. Leather Lane in Farringdon is pretty high on the list.
When I’m not out and about in some corner of the capital, I’m working side by side with our team here at Future Factory HQ to make sure we’re delivering the best possible service to our clients. Leading external training sessions, which can take up as much as a half day or full day, also takes up a big chunk of my time.
We’re lucky in that we have a healthy work-life balance (no crazy hours or working weekends here) so I’ve got plenty of free time to enjoy London life to the fullest.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Kimi Gilbert: The Future Factory has a really unique work environment because our team is made up of young guns. Our team is comprised of people aged 22-36 (I’m on the older end of that scale). Working with people in this age range is bound to be fun, and I love that we have a work hard / play hard ethos and a team of colourful characters.
The flip side of this is that brilliant young people can be hard to retain. It sucks when you’ve poured your heart and soul into developing someone, only for them to end up leaving. We have a higher retention rate than creative agencies, but it still happens more often than I’d like.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Kimi Gilbert: We’re lucky in that sales are very black and white. Our KPIs are arranging meetings with senior decision makers at top tier brands. If we’re doing this, our team will be receiving bonuses, and we’ll know the training is working.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Kimi Gilbert: The 3 C’s! CRM, calendar and coaching. As unglamorous as it sounds, nailing new business is a lot about being organised and I’m a bit of a jedi when it comes to keeping on top of my to-do list. Every self-respecting new business person will have a CRM to keep track of their leads and a calendar to know what to do when.
The third point, coaching, is the core of what we do at The Future Factory. We get the best results from our team when we turn off the tech, close our laptops and focus on actually working side-by-side with them. Pretty much rolling up our sleeves and getting down and dirty.
How did you end up at TFF, and where might you go from here?
Kimi Gilbert: Erm, a bit of nepotism!
I had just finished my MA in Human Rights at UCL and was doing some very cool but very unpaid internships at Amnesty International and Westminster Archives. In the evenings, to earn a bit of cash, I worked at a call centre in Dalston.
At the time, Dan and Alex were joint Managing Directors of another new business consultancy. Knowing how depressed I was at the call centre, Dan asked if I wanted to come to work with them part time. When they later started The Future Factory, they asked me to be employee number one.
I’ve been at The Future Factory for 8 years now, and it’s hard to walk away. I would love to make it to our 10-year anniversary to see what we can achieve! In the long, long-term, I see myself living somewhere on the continent. I’ve been learning Spanish for the past few years, my partner is from Madrid and I’m a bit of a Europhile, not to mention a sun-chaser.
Which agencies have impressed you lately?
Kimi Gilbert: Ostmodern is a digital agency that specialises in creating digital video products in the broadcast and sports industries. Their Strategy Director has one of the best approaches to new business I’ve ever seen (working with him is a breath of fresh air, he just gets it) and their team has more women and ethnic minorities than I’ve ever seen at a creative agency. Sadly we work in a rather homogenous industry – Ostmodern buck the trend in a really refreshing way.
Do you have any advice for people starting out in a new business role?
Kimi Gilbert: Leave your ego at the door, have a thick skin, don’t be shy about asking lots of questions and be happy when you fuck things up once in a while – it’s the only way to really learn.