Paul Newman founded Insitu Digital when he discovered his interest in acting was mainly down to the technology of the theatre. With a career that’s taken him around the world, he’s settled in London to share his expertise in digital learning.
What is it the company does?
Insitu Digital is a London-based digital learning agency, providing bespoke digital learning solutions to companies across the globe. The agency builds learning and development programmes from the ground up, meeting the individual goals of its clients. This ranges from breaking down complex science based information into easy-to-understand modules for sales teams - to turning old training programs into new digital training initiatives that can be distributed across a company’s learning management systems.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
My role is to help my team perform to their best abilities, to ensure that we can deliver on our promises, to foster relationships with clients old & new. I am both the maintenance engineer and the oil in the machine!
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I thought I wanted to be an actor so I studied Drama at Manchester Uni, but I quickly realised that I preferred organising people and the technology of the theatre (lights & sound). Before joining the BBC I sold both vacuum cleaners & cable TV door to do, this was a brilliant background for starting my own business 20 years later.
BBC and London was great, but I wanted something broader, so I took a one way ticket to Asia and came back 10 years later. I worked in Hong Kong for Star TV, then Jakarta for smaller production houses, slowly growing into the business side of production.
I was both lucky and unlucky to be working for a dot com start-up in Australia which tried to launch a pioneering Video-On-Demand programme. The company’s money ran out after the crash and I was out of work. So I began the trip home, via Jakarta for another year of corporate production, finally arriving back in London, ready to start my own business.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Having worked with some exceptional people across the years, I think the best leaders are those that are able to balance freedom and structure. By that I mean that a great leader is able to identify an individual’s potential, and give them the freedom to grow within a role. This can range from recognising a creative individual who needs direction, to giving someone space and time to come up with something special. It’s a nuance, but I think that balance can be the difference between a static company and one which has natural growth.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Planning for growth - getting the balance right between investment and a solid balance sheet.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I haven’t felt stressed for years, I’ve known the bad times - 2009 was a very tough year for us and at that time I had a new mortgage and a new son - that was stressful. Now, so long as we’re profitable I don’t really feel any stress. But, I do walk as much as I can and meditate most mornings.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As above - an actor
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Our business is a unit amongst 30 others, I can’t stand the circular emails sent to the landlord where we’re all copied in!
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
It’s such an exciting space that I can’t be sure! I do think that the interactive-video part of Learning is going to grow massively as it’s so effective. We’re looking at VR too. I’m sure that we’ll be triple the size of where we are now and doing some amazing things.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
It depends on the business of course, but learning from my early mistakes, my advice would be to regularly take stock of your current client roster. Many young and ambitious entrepreneurs put all their efforts into winning new business, but it’s important to remember that you will be judged on your results; if you win lots of new businesses, but don’t keep your current clients happy, you may soon find that you earn a reputation for not delivering.
I think a good target is to aim to be slightly over-capacity, so that you are forced to grow, but not so overwhelmed that you end up alienating your current clients; they are the ones that will be giving you your bread and butter, and they are the word of mouth that will provide the natural referrals businesses thrive on.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
It doesn’t matter, I wouldn’t have listened. So, perhaps my advice would be to seek out advice from people who you respect - but don’t follow it blindly. There is no step-by-step guide, and some of the most beneficial lessons you will learn will often come from your biggest mistakes.
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