Host: Marco Oliver, Client Success Director at We Build Bots
Guest: Pete Gatenby, Client Services Director at B60
Marco Oliver: Well firstly Pete, thank you very much for joining us on The Botcast today. How are you?
Pete Gatenby: Yes, thank you. I’m good, thanks. Happy to be here and looking forward to the chat.
MO: Good. I’m looking at your work history and it looks like you have a relatively unusual route to being a client services director at B60. Can you maybe just give us a bit of background on what you’ve done previously and what has led you to be the client services director?
PG: Yes, absolutely. My background was actually brand and brand marketing. I was working at Johnson & Johnson for a period and then post that I actually set up my own little agency at the beginning of mobile becoming, I suppose, the big deal within digital. The theory was that I can do some quite cool and exciting things while actually facilitating somewhat of a lifestyle that I wanted to have at the time. Which was a lot of travel around the world and I had an opportunity to play rugby in New Zealand and I wanted to facilitate all that while keeping my finger in something a little bit more adult, shall we say.
But then following that, returning back to the UK, I got a call from Chris Williams, the founder and CEO of B60, who said look, do you want to come and do this in a little bit more a grown-up way? B60 at the time was right at the beginning of quite a new start-up really and I came in and sat in a bit of a hybrid seat between sales originally but then I also branched out into marketing quite quickly. My digital experience to date and the natural flare for strategy meant that I started picking up the consulting side of things as well.
So, I began to own each of those little three individual areas in isolation but all sat underneath me. And then as we grew and the strategy side of the business really began to take off, I took charge of that. So, underneath me sits the consulting team and those guys we have deployed either on prem with clients or sitting in our head office on individual projects really. So, they all sit under me and that’s my remit.
MO: Okay. That’s interesting. Before we get into the technical side of things, was it rugby league or rugby union that you played?
PG: I’ve played both in my life but coming from Yorkshire, I grew up playing rugby league. So, I always had a natural rugby league brain, although I’ve played rugby union at a relatively good standard – but it was rugby league I was playing in New Zealand. In the Fox Prem level, which is one level below the NRL so our league actually filtered into the Auckland Warriors. Not that I ever got to that level but, it was good fun playing with some Kiwi boys and a lot of Irelanders - they were big boys and it was good fun.
MO: That’s interesting actually. I’d be over the moon to be able to do that. I was a rugby union player myself but amateur level, I should say. But yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Also, I’ve heard a rumour that you got shot in Bolivia, so I just thought I’d address that before we went any further. Obviously, Lucy’s very good at doing her research. Do you want to shed a bit of light on that?
PG: Yes. So, after my time of playing rugby in New Zealand I actually ended up with tickets to the football World Cup, in Brazil. I began my venture to find my way to Brazil from New Zealand, which took me through South America and into Bolivia before hopping across the border into Brazil. At the time though there was quite a bit of political unrest in Bolivia, so me and a few other ‘gringos’, as they would call us, had stumbled into a protest on the outskirts of the town as we were trying to move towards Brazil. And yes, they took a little bit of exception to that and fired a few warning shots our way, none of which hit us but I definitely wasn’t hanging around to find out what was the cause of said warning shots.
We quickly exited in the opposite direction with our bags on our backs. After a bit of an out of breath run later, we found our way to a bus that took us away, which was quite handily sat waiting for us which was nice. But yes, a thrilling and somewhat of an exciting experience I don’t ever want to repeat, to be honest with you.
MO: I don’t blame you.
PG: It’s definitely a story that I’ve been dining on for a while now.
MO: I’m not surprised. It’s a pretty interesting story. I wouldn’t be going back to Bolivia in a hurry if that had happened to me.
PG: No. Stunning place but yes, it was a different experience.
MO: Well, you’re the first person to appear on The Botcast who’s been shot at, so that’s a first. Okay, so let’s get into what B60 is and what the company do. Can you give us a B60 overview?
PG: Yes. So, B60 – in a sentence, we are management consultancy and tech delivery agency. We specialise in digital transformation but have evolved as the digital world has evolved and very much offer the services in management consultancy around digital. Whether that’s digital strategy, very much heavying up digital transformation now and the culture of change because that’s a big thing that a lot of our clients are struggling with.
Enterprises across the country are really struggling to facilitate that change and how to really leverage a culture that allows for digital evolution at a rapid rate to, I suppose, protect themselves from upstarts, because if you take FinTech for an example, one of our big clients is Santander and what they’re really struggling with is facilitating that speed of change. Then you’ve got the likes of Monzo, Revolut and Starling in the market who are just evolving at a rapid rate and the whole financial market is just in fear of the speed of development of these upstarts that are well funded and are really just beginning to cannibalise certain areas of the market.
It’s a fascinating space, we also do technology delivery - we have developers who are sat in our head office developing solutions and that ranges everything really from, I suppose, we still do mobile which was really where we began to cut our teeth, but also all the way through to emerging tech when it comes to AR, VR or voice. We’ve been involved in projects like that as well and often work collaboratively with a lot of the other agencies in that way.
MO: That’s interesting. From what I’ve read online and the research we’ve done, I think one of the things you say is that you help conceptualise ideas and test and fail fast to make it successful. Can you maybe give a view of how you fail fast, what that means and how you approach it?
PG: Yes, absolutely. Well, I suppose the concept of fail fast, for anyone who’s listening and isn’t necessarily aware of that, is very much about creating an environment in which you can test concepts and allow for a safe environment to fail and celebrate those failures. What we know is from any walk of life really, if you fail you learn a lot more than if you succeed for two reasons. One, you analyse things a lot better even when you fail to understand why. Second of all, it means you’ve tried something that hasn’t necessarily worked and that either that’s never going to work or that can be tweaked to allow it to work in the future.
We find with a lot of larger enterprises who’ve been around for a long time, kind of, 50 years plus really, is that they’re so ingrained in what is a culture of success and continuing that success and facilitating growth or ensuring their position within the market, that failure is almost a complete taboo. And they will shy away from, for example, pushing a technology product live or pushing a test live if they think it may fail.
What we’re working with a lot of our clients to do, is to create an environment in which failure is celebrated. And that the right culture exists when failure happens, that the learnings are taken and then applied so that the next time there’s a marginal gain or a step change in terms of success, moving towards success and moving towards the goal.
It’s something that’s really helped B60 to accelerate and move towards where we are today. And actually, when we see clients embracing that, they make headway at a phenomenal pace because their rate of learning is just improved massively. And actually, it creates a culture within their own teams that allows for innovation if that’s what they’re looking to do, and allows for progress much more so than if that’s frowned upon. So that’s really what we try and work with a lot at the moment.
It’s a hot topic because when you’re working with execs who’ve often lived through the ‘90s and definitely have worked through the noughties where they’ve seen booms and crashes, there’s very much a fear of their own position. And we live in an economy at the moment where people are still fearful of their position and therefore fearful of failure. But actually, the progress is really seen when that failure is allowed to happen in a safe and controlled environment.