They contacted Da Costa Coaching after listening to Rob gave a talk at a local networking event. They had worked with a coach previously but saw that Rob’s service-based agency experience together with his no-nonsense and pragmatic approach would be a good fit for Cityzen.
Charlotte Smith Director commented “From our experience, we saw that many coaching firms tend to have a predefined approach that they use with all clients, regardless of need or size. The first thing Rob said when I met him was “I’ll listen to you and address the underlying needs of the business”. True to his word, Rob did listen and adapted his tools and processes to fit our needs. For us, he has been a coach, mentor, trainer and at times, a shoulder to cry on! He has created accountability to help drive our practice forward.”
One of the conundrums Cityzen faced was trying to service both domestic and commercial clients. This meant within one working day they could be designing homeless housing for a Council and a domestic loft conversion. It was clear that the domestic clients needed a lot more account management (hand holding, explanations, more frequent communications and so on) than the commercial clients, who had a better understanding of the process and also trusted fellow professionals to get on and deliver their work.
The coaching process led many discussions around identifying ideal target customers (customer personas), enabling Cityzen to define and focus on profitable and more enjoyable clients. But it soon became obvious there was a need to niche. Like many companies, there initially was a reticence because of the potential for lost business. After spending time researching the market and analysing time spent on customer work, it became apparent that (a) The commercial market was plenty big enough for Cityzen to solely focus on (b) the way to engage with this sector was by building face to face relationships and (c) the domestic clients took approximately double the amount of account management and as a consequence, were often unprofitable.
Faced with this information, Cityzen committed 100% to niching their agency to focus on commercial clients only. This meant
The whole of 2018-19: Offering professional services to B2B and B2C, delivering construction-focused design
2019-20: delivering the same package but niched to B2B only (developers, concept architects, contractors)
Charlotte Smith, Director, concluded “It took, what felt like, some bravery at the time to turn our backs on domestic work but the strategy we worked through with Rob has put us in the strongest position we have ever been in. Not only that, but the work we are being invited to do is more aligned with our values, and fulfilling for our team.”
This is a great story of focusing on a niche and using the intersection of where you get the best results, where you are most profitable and where your passion lies, to work out what your niche should be. It also shows the power having a clear niche will have on your bottom line (from £163k to £1.1m).
Cherish PR is a PR company based in London that operates in the heart of the digital economy.
Cherish MD, Rebecca Oatley, first engaged with Rob in 2012 when she wanted to grow her business but kept hitting brick walls that prevented this growth. After getting to know each other, Rob carried out a detailed fact find and discussed a longer-term strategy for Cherish. Part of this new strategy meant moving from a freelancer centric model to an employee focused business. Rob pointed out that it is very challenging to build a scalable business based predominantly on freelancers and many businesses who do, struggle to scale.
Following this conversation and discussion, a strategy for Cherish was mapped out and it resulted in Rebecca offering most of her freelancers a full time job. Many accepted this and those who didn’t, she replaced with new hires.
Once this transition had taken place Rebecca focused on up skilling her team with some training delivered by Rob. Rebecca commented, “Rob has a wealth of agency experience so was the ideal person to lead some workshops on account management, having challenging conversations and ‘selling Cherish”. Rob also supported the business to define and embed their culture by creating a set of values and behaviours.
Rob now works largely as a Non-Executive director supporting Rebecca and the management team to focus on developing the business in an ever-changing market place.
Today Cherish is a mid sized boutique agency with a great in house team and an enviable client list. Rebecca has had her time freed up to focus on developing the business and supporting the team to deliver excellent work.
Rebecca summed up working with Rob “He gives me the confidence to make challenging decisions and I know, even when he is giving ‘tough love’ that he has the best interests of the business at heart.’
Keen as Mustard is a marketing agency that provides strategy, branding, design, web, PR and content services to the data, research and insight industry. Lucy Davison, MD of Mustard, engaged with Rob Da Costa because she wanted to grow her business more rapidly and as the owner/manager felt like she needed a peer to advise, bounce ideas off of and create accountability.
They began working together in 2011 looking at the short, medium and long-term strategy and growth of the business. This included looking at the positioning of Mustard and reaffirming the focus on the research and insight market – where Lucy has a great deal of knowledge and a strong reputation. Rob is a big fan of businesses that have clear niches so whilst there was a temptation to broaden Mustard’s focus, this niche has been significant in building Mustard’s success and reputation.
Lucy commented “Rob’s skill lies in bringing objectivity to the conversation as well as sharing his wealth of knowledge; both whilst running his own agency and his 10-years of coaching experience. He brought not only his experience but a set of practical frameworks that helped move the business forward and focus the senior managers’ time and energy.”
Latterly, Rob supported and encouraged the process of bringing a 2nd Director into the business. This has helped Mustard further solidify, deepen and develop its offering in web development and reporting/presentation design in addition to branding, content and PR services. Bringing Simon on board has also given Lucy another peer in the business to provide support, share the decision-making and create a management team.
With Rob’s support, Lucy has managed to free more of her time up from operational concerns to focus on building the Mustard brand by both speaking at and running industry events.
Today Rob acts as Mustard’s Non-Executive Director, attending and facilitating management meetings and helping shape Mustard’s strategy for growth.
Lucy summed up the support from Rob over the years “Rob has been a trusted advisor and I know he has the best interests of the business at the core of his advice. This means he sometimes asks the tough questions, plays devil’s advocate or is willing to disagree and challenge us. This has helped us move forward with confidence and most importantly, grow the business and the bottom line.”
Harris Kalinka is a visualisation company specialising in bringing to life golf and architecture designs and ideas. They have offices based in the UK, Latvia and China.
The business had developed two distinct business streams that over time developed into 2 brands, 2 websites and 2 businesses to run. They approached Da Costa Coaching to help figure a way to combine the brands and simplify the running and marketing of the business.
Rob spent time working with the directors to establish their true market differentiators and what the common denominators were to both their businesses. It was agreed that ‘telling stories using images and animation’ was both important to the client and what HK is passionate about (after all, ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’) and this commonality led to the merging of the two brands into one – including developing a new combined website.
Andrew Harris, MD of Harris Kalinka commented, “We knew we needed to combine the brands but had struggled to find a way to do so – including seeking external help prior to engaging with Da Costa Coaching. Rob helped us stand back, take a look at our business and the market place and ultimately make decisions with confidence.”
Andrew approached Rob because of his extensive background in the marketing, positioning and branding world (20+ year’s experience including 11 running his own marketing agency) together with his reputation as a pragmatic business coach.
The coaching intervention took place over a 6-month period and involved monthly face-to-face sessions together with reviewing documents and support between meetings.
At the end of the process Harris Kalinka has a new website that they are proud of, brings all their brands and services under one roof and is starting to get noticed and generate new business opportunities. They also have a clear vision and clear direction for the future.
Andrew Harris said of the experience and results, “Working with Rob was worth the investment both in our time and money. His pragmatic no nonsense approach both challenged us and got us thinking in new ways. Engaging with a coach was a worthwhile activity that delivered exactly what we wanted and needed.”
You can learn more about Harris Kalinka by clicking here