Lesley Gulliver

Lesley Gulliver of The Engine Room

Meet the MD: Lesley Gulliver of The Engine Room

Lesley Gulliver of award-winning strategic brand consultancy The Engine Room gives BQ an insight into her career so far and talks all things management.

What does your role involve?

I’m lucky that my role allows me to work both in and on the business. I’m involved in implementing our growth strategy alongside my colleagues, so I maintain an active role in business development and business planning. But I also enjoy playing a big part in new client projects.

I lead on many of the strategic insight workshops that we hold when we first start working with a brand; I’ll never get bored of dissecting and reframing project briefs and working with my colleagues at The Engine Room who do the magic.

What is it the company does?

In basic terms, we’re a strategic brand consultancy. We work with businesses who are looking to move to the next level of growth. But so many companies talk about branding without thinking about past logos and websites. It’s not about the logo. It’s about the visual imagery, naming, language, messaging, tone of voice and service delivery that together form an identity. Brand runs through the entire business, its communications, its products, services and people.

For us, it doesn’t matter whether we’re working with a manufacturer, a healthcare expert, or a public service provider. We make it our mission to get to the nitty gritty of what makes them tick. Using that insight, we look to uncover untapped business opportunities to create a brand that truly reflects who they are. The result isn’t just a fresh identity, but strategic design that can often transform the way an organisation does business.

Our work therefore sees us engineer growth and boost the bottom line of our clients.  

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I took some time out between A’ levels and university and I spent some time working in a posh French restaurant in my home town of Lichfield.

I was managing it at the age of 19 and I think the deadline-driven, customer-facing role at such a young age was great training for future life.

I also did a lot of travelling which I think helps you find out about yourself. When I left university, I worked in a small design agency. I was incremental in its growth to a 30-strong team and became a board director of the business.

I moved up North in 2000 and was appointed as the head of client management for an online branding plc. I then had a brief stint as an advisor to design agencies and creative businesses – a role that I loved – before working as a self-employed brand consultant for nearly 10 years.

I joined The Engine Room in 2013.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

Someone who works alongside their colleagues and clients and appreciates the value and input of great people. Empathy, respect and a can-do attitude are important values to me.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Some organisations still don’t truly acknowledge the business impact of branding, meaning that they fail to devote the time and investment needed to allow a strategic design project to reach its full potential.

We therefore continue to spend a lot of time talking to the business and creative community about the power of the brand.

We’re encouraging a shift in their design thinking, so that companies place value on how it drives growth and return on investment.

We’re seeing more and more business leaders and their marketing teams move in the right direction, but there’s still a way to go.

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I play in a tennis team for my local club and have a seven year old son who keeps me on my toes!

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I’m not sure I knew, certainly not as a child. I’ve always had an interest in language, communication and messaging, which shaped my studies at college and university. And I’ve always been fascinated by people, behaviour and psychology. But I don’t recall that I ever sat and thought – this is what I’m going to be. I probably didn’t know the role existed until I was much older.

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?

People who complain a lot! And people who are problem-focused rather than solution-focused. I’m a huge advocate of positive thinking.

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

I’d love to see us – a team of talented people who love their jobs – continuing to do great, award-winning work for ambitious clients. We’ve worked with some phenomenal names including Cummins, Polyseam, Paxman and LuSu, to name just a few. I’m incredibly proud of this and hope that as these stories grow, so too will the number of organisations we can help.

That’s what it’s all about for me.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Don’t ever lose respect for the people that play a part in your world. They make it possible for you to be who you are. Never become complacent, and if you stop enjoying it, then stop doing it or change it!