Andrew Brown and Stephen Delaney set up design and marketing agency ‘the Backroom’ after becoming disillusioned with how some agencies focused on working ‘for’ and not ‘with’ their clients. unLTD’s Jill Theobald finds out why starting out on their own was ‘the best thing’ the design duo ever did
Andrew Brown tells me he wants the Backroom, the agency he co-founded with Stephen Delaney in 2016, to work in partnership with our clients as an extension of their team delivering powerful, creative communications.
And he clearly walks the walk as well as talking the talk – as he goes on to describe his business: “We are the beating hub. Hidden away in the background, fuelling the resource needed to help you stand out from the crowd.
“Think of the Backroom as an extension to your marketing department – the string to your bow or the lid to your pot.”
Both Sheffield born and bred, Andrew and Stephen studied several years apart at Norton College, the renowned centre of excellence for Graphic Design at the time, and met while working for the same design agency years later.
“We have a combined 35 years of industry experience behind us, working with top B2C, B2B and B2B2C brands,” says Andrew. “But we slowly became disillusioned with how agencies tend to focus on working ‘for’ and not ‘with’ clients. The Backroom was set up to deliver marketing and design for clients different way – one which the client felt part of.
“Having spent years working through the night, burning the midnight oil on deadlines and last-minute creative pitch parades, we wanted to create something different. We took the decision to ‘ditch the pitch’ and focus our energy on regional companies who want to work with us rather than vice-versa.
“Obviously forming relationships with clients takes time, but understanding their ambitions and the issues they face is crucial before we put pen to paper – ensuring every project is approached with fresh eyes.
“Working for ourselves is honestly the best thing we’ve ever done. Setting out on your own isn’t easy, but the rewards are far greater. Working 9 to 5 in the office doesn’t seem relevant any more. Of course, we have to ensure commitment and output remain at the highest levels, but building a flexible working environment which allows us to balance our career with family life, wherever we may be, has made us feel more motivated and, most importantly, less stressed.
“Making people feel comfortable as soon as they walk through the door is hugely important to us. We like to greet people in the cafe downstairs at our HQ in Kelham Island which has a great relaxed atmosphere. It’s the perfect way to get under the skin of a potential client or discuss a brief with an existing one.
“By collaborating with a select bunch of other talented designers, animators, photographers, copywriters and web developers, we apply a refreshingly different approach across all communication channels – above, below and beyond the line, allowing our clients to confidently place all their projects with us under one roof. We have the tools and resource to respond quickly to hugely diverse challenges, across a whole host of sectors.
Those clients include Sheffield City Region – working with them to deliver last year’s MIPIM event in Cannes – as well as Sheffield Business Park, Chimo Holdings, Leeds-based A W Hainsworth, and national brands New Nordic and Roadchef.
“We know how important it is to get creative right, to deliver on time and on budget, and we always receive great feedback from our collaborators and clients,” said Andrew. “Some of our clients have been working with us for over ten years and everybody that has been to visit keeps coming back, so hopefully that says something!”
The Backroom Agency
Unit 10, 20-22 Burton Road, Sheffield S3 8BX
0114 262 1020