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How I got here: Gregg Sedgwick, founder and CEO, Gallery One and ArtComm

How I got here: Gregg Sedgwick, founder and CEO, Gallery One and ArtComm

Sedgwick explains his journey from school in the UK to building and and selling his Dubai firm and founding his current companies

Education

I grew up in rural southern England and attended the John Bentley Grammar School in Calne. I wasn’t particularly academic and showed little interest in maths or the sciences, but I showed flair in the arts and was passionate about English language, drawing and photography. In those days (and I’m not sure things have changed too much) little recognition was given to creative kids such as myself – ironic given the importance of the creative industries and the demand for screen-received media. Only when I took my degree in graphic design in Bristol did I get a real sense of my own potential, later graduating with first-class honours.

My start

Iwas never a very good employee and by the time I was 27 I had started my own small business providing design and presentation services. I’ve never been afraid to put my name above the door and called the company Sedgwick Audio Visual. I sold it after 18 months, making a small return on investment. After a period of learning to fly aeroplanes in California, I returned to London to work as creative director in Sedgwick Richardson (SR). I didn’t arrive in Dubai until in my mid 30s when we were expanding SR into Hong Kong and the Middle East. My partner and I didn’t see eye to eye and I left the Dubai business to go it alone. The arrival of Media City enabled 100 per cent ownership and from there I built the region’s largest brand and creative consultancy – selling it to WPP in 2007.

Approach

I have always focussed on the product/service first and strategy/financials second. This may or may not be the ‘correct’ way but my fundamental belief is that unless the product is exemplary then the business is always going to be compromised. Secondly, I focus on the customer experience – I like to forensically examine every touch-point of the business as if I were the customer. In terms of my management style I am the archetypal ‘management by walking around’ type. I am hands-on and I’m happier having 25 informal ‘meetings’ in a day than two or three formalised meetings in which collaboration and communication are at times stifled.

Dos and don’ts

To progress in a career, do step outside of your comfort zone. I’ve applied this mantra throughout my business life and it’s motivated me to take risks and push boundaries. In other words, if life is too comfortable, it’s likely you are not pushing yourself hard enough. Don’t be afraid to fail. In business, as in life, failure is a hard pill to swallow. The fear of failure can be a motivator but it can also be debilitating – somewhere in the middle is a good place to be.

Highs and lows

Money has never been a primary motivator for me but selling my design company (Gregg Sedgwick Creative Strategy) to WPP was recognition of our huge success. Similarly, gaining an investment from Kasamar Holdings in my current companies, Gallery One and ArtComm, is an endorsement of our huge potential as a product design and retail business. In contrast, in 2012 we had taken Gallery One to London and we had underestimated the funding required to make it work. Closing the business, despite growing revenues, was certainly a painful lesson in business planning.

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