From a small creative agency to an internationally recognised brand, Havas Lynx is a business to admire. CEO David Hunt tells BQ about launching the company’s digital offering and how the communications industry has changed since he started in the late 90s.
What is it the company does?
Havas Lynx has grown from a small creative agency formed in the Northern Quarter of Manchester into a global healthcare communications agency, offering campaign development, brand strategy, capability building and education services.
We strive to instigate change that makes things better and not just different. Our healthcare and pharmaceutical clients, who include Astra Zeneca, Janssen and Sanofi Genzyme, trust us to develop compelling brands and thoughtful strategies that build lasting relationships.
In doing so we connect professionals, patients and carers with the knowledge, tools and services they need to achieve better outcomes.
We celebrated our 30th birthday in 2016 and over the last two years have grown almost 20%, creating over 60 new jobs to take our total workforce – across offices in Manchester and London – to over 300.
Whilst the world around us has changed since 1986, our values haven’t. Only nowadays we have the global footprint and years of industry experience to add credence to our motto: #HelpfulChange.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
I am a shareholder and CEO of the Havas Lynx Group. My primary responsibility is to inspire the best scientific, creative and digital talent in the industry to deliver sustained success, improving health outcome and driving the commercial success of our global clients.
Beyond my day-to-day role, I am also committed to healthcare innovation, having launched a number of industry firsts in healthcare social media, closed-loop marketing and mobile, not to mention publishing ‘Healthcare Heroes – the passion project’ and conducting a series of industry-leading white papers exploring the future of health.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
Havas Lynx has been pretty much the constant throughout my working life, enjoying a spot of Work Experience at the then Creative Lynx at 18 years-old.
I must have made a decent impression as I was sponsored through University, before being appointed to launch the agency’s digital offering once I’d graduated.
At 25 I was promoted to Digital Director, completed a MBO at just 28 and then guided us through the merger with the Havas Group.
One year later – having just turned 33 – I became CEO of the Havas Lynx Group, a position I’ve been in for the last five years.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Behind every great leader is an amazing team and if anyone tells you differently then they shouldn’t be classed as a great leader.
You need to find time and money to invest in the grassroots of the business and then nurture the talent you have, giving people the freedom to be creative, to test themselves and ultimately develop so they are hungry to want the next exciting challenge.
This comes from having empathy with those around you. And that’s not just in a professional capacity. If our staff go above and beyond we want to make their lives easier, letting them come in late on Monday mornings or, if they are overseas on business, paying our resident handyman to go and do jobs they can’t do at their homes whilst they’re away.
From a corporate point of view, you need to have a clear vision and stick to it, even when the going sometimes gets tough.
What has been the biggest challenge in your current position?
Time. There is so much I want to do and so many people now to support, but time is always the limit. I would love nothing more than being able to stop the clock for everyone else and then I continue to plan and work.
I would probably need to stop it for a year, but you know what I mean.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
That’s an easy one. Spending time with family and making sure I fit in lots of vacations. This year I’ve been skiing in Val d’lsere, visited Dubai and Thailand and then I’m off to Greece later in the year.
Probably the most surreal trip was winning three Cannes Lions, the ‘World Cup’ of our sector, and then meeting up with the wife and children at Euro Disney. One minute I was on stage giving a speech about winning ‘Healthcare Agency of the Year’, the next day I’m on the teacups with my son.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Believe it or not, I really wanted to be an engineer as I loved the idea of making things. That was until the day I walked into Creative Lynx as a fresh-faced 18-year-old and I immediately fell in love with the place, the people, and the culture.
I know it’s not working with metal or other materials, but I suppose I am still engineering things, it’s just ‘change in healthcare’ as opposed to a new component for a car or the next mobile phone.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I have OCD, so anything that is not perfect torments me. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to overcome as you can’t expect everyone to be as neat or detailed as you…to be honest if they were, the business would fail.
As long as what I do and my desk is fine, I’ve learned to let it all wash over me.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
The corporate vision is to be the undisputed healthcare communications agency in the world, using science, creative and technology to improve millions of lives. If we achieve this, we’ll reach our other target of being the biggest agency, of any sector, outside of London.
What we don’t want to lose along the journey is the essence of what makes Havas Lynx so special. We have an army of brilliant people doing brilliant things and, better still, we are all enjoying the experience.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
That’s an easy one…seize the initiative, take responsibility and dive in. Too many times we are told to avoid risk or not follow our dreams that, as a society, we start to believe it
This means too many excellent ideas go unfulfilled and, subsequently, too many fantastic businesses never see the light of day.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
In hindsight, I wished someone would have taken me aside and told me to enjoy every moment. Enjoy the risks, enjoy the failures and most importantly, take time, to celebrate the successes.
I think I haven’t done too badly with this, but I know there have definitely been moments I’ve missed as I’ve been too caught up in making things happening or waiting for agreements to be made.
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