• Madeleine Bonser

Spotlight on Nigel Rowlson

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

We put the Spotlight on Nigel Rowlson, Managing Director of The Dairy Creative Agency. He spoke to us about his drive and determination and also shared the biggest lessons he has learnt along the way.

A background into you and your business

The Dairy is a creative agency in Nottingham. We have been in business for nearly 19 years but I have just celebrated 41 years in the industry working for agencies across the Midlands and London before setting up my own business. The Dairy is a full-service marketing and design agency providing a range of services to a great mix of clients who operate locally, nationally and internationally.

I am a husband to Caroline, father to Charlotte and Kate. My sport is rugby, having played from the age of 10 to 40! I now follow Nottingham Rugby where we act as the pro bono marketing partner.

What made you choose this career/industry?

I was always keen to get into an industry where I could use my people skills. From an early age, I was always happy to be around people and mixed with a great range of folks from different backgrounds. I did a business studies course at FE but didn’t go to university as I was so keen to get out into the world of work. I saw an ad in the Nottingham Evening Post in early 1980 as I was nearing the end of college which read - ‘Do you want to start a career in advertising?” I thought it sounded great for me so applied and got the job as a production trainee with Tibbenham Advertising in what is now The Ice House. I haven’t looked back since.

Overcoming challenges

There have been plenty of challenges - but that is what life is all about! It’s not so much about the hit you take as the way you get back up again and crack on.

I must admit working for agencies for 22 years before starting The Dairy was pretty straightforward. I did get made redundant after 2 years in my first role but landed a new job pretty much straight away. Moving to London was a big challenge in 1985 but I slotted in pretty well at a great agency in the middle of Soho when the economy was booming - so no complaints!

I overcame these challenges by having a positive mental attitude. You have to accept that life is going to give you some high tackles occasionally - so they shouldn’t come as a shock. I grew up in a family where my dad ran his own lingerie manufacturing business in The Lace Market for decades - so I kind of got used to the ups and downs of business life over the dinner table.

What is an important initiative that you feel passionate about in your role?

Training has to be key. You simply can’t get enough of it! We expect our people to want to learn at any stage of their careers.

Drive and determination

My drive and determination come from seeing my parents work so hard to build a business and give my sister and I a safe and supportive environment to prosper in. I come from a long line of small business owners - both sets of grandparents had their own retail outlets in Nottingham, my uncle and cousins run one of the largest printing organisations in the country and my sister and brother in law were in business until recently when they both retired.

What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way?

What goes around, comes around. You face challenges and sometimes have a fallout with people in business - but it’s not worth bearing a grudge as you never know where folks will crop up again. I have tried to be hardworking and fair with everyone I have come across in business as I think that I will be treated the same way. I’ve had a number of experiences where we have been contacted at The Dairy by a business that I worked with many years ago. They remembered me and then wanted to start a new relationship.

Three tips to those starting their careers

Well, first of all - I am sympathetic to all youngsters - Covid-19 has really put a spanner in the works - I know because my eldest daughter had just finished an English Degree at the Uni of Reading and we were unsure if she would be able to land a role. After much persistence, she is now working in the marketing team at Dunelm. My tips would be:

  1. Work hard and long hours. Your boss will be impressed by your commitment at a young age and it might just set you apart from your peers.

  2. Be happy and personable. People like people - particularly ones that smile and bring a glow to the workplace. Someone once said that folks split into two sorts - radiators and drains. Don’t drain the room - radiate into it.

  3. Keep ahead of the game. Don’t think that because you have finished school/college/university that the learning has finished. Like a lot of businesses - you never stop learning and you can pick up something useful every day.

Advice to people who are wanting to start a business

Don’t. That’s what my Dad said to me as he drove me to my first job interview to be a Mars Bar salesman in Birmingham in 1980! He had been at it for 30 years by that point and said the ups and downs were horrendous. I followed his advice for a number of years but then couldn’t resist ‘having a go’!

Seriously though - I would suggest you do your homework for a long time before making the jump. If you are in a job that is paying you - take your time. Once you jump - you are on your own. Don’t assume that people will want to give you business from day one, if you think you are working hard now for someone else - wait till you get going on your own!

Advice for people aiming for a leadership position

Start earlier, stay later and work harder than anyone around you.

Key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way

Don’t treat your team like just workers. They are your colleagues, friends, supporters and the people who make your business succeed and make you look good.

The best and worst part of your job

The best part is the freedom. I don’t have to answer or report to anyone - although I like to stay close to the team. I can keep my own hours now but am still overall responsible for the business and that carries some weight as our guys have mortgages to pay and families to keep.

I wouldn’t say there is the worst part. I am a natural worrier and always have been - so I can never believe what a great team and business I have.

If you’ve found Nigel’s journey interesting, keep up to date with him on LinkedIn and follow The Dairy Creative Agency on Instagram. To read more blogs like this click here.

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