Directors, Founders, Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Anne Miles, Managing Director & Founder of Suits&Sneakers

September 13, 2019

Anne Miles is the Managing Director & Founder of Suits&Sneakers (formerly International Creative Services), an alternative creative services company for marketing and advertising.

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1. To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

The funny thing about my career background is that I have worked in just about every area of the marketing industry, beginning in big ad agencies as Head of TV, then into my own film company, visual effects, and post production.

Over the years I transitioned across marketing roles, research, brand strategy, I learned to build websites, taught myself to do some graphic design and did training in copywriting too. I like to learn! I discovered that my real talent is in strategy and getting the right people on board.

To be honest, as a woman, I hit the glass ceiling in the marketing and advertising industry very often and moved sideways to get the intellectual challenge and to get away from some pretty unsavoury gender bias.

At times I encountered people with serious mental health issues too, and it wasn’t worth trying to change the situation and I just moved on. Being 21 years old and running $20 million in broadcast production I faced a lot of ageism, then came gender bias, and later on in life the ageism hit me again for being over 40 and with grey hair. It would be fair to say that I have left every single job I ever had from bullying or bias.

When in a post production company I could see that they were going to go broke and no one else could see what I could see (and they did go broke when I left) so I decided to retrain as a business coach, learned consumer psychology, neuro-linguistics and more marketing skills to use this ability to see things that others couldn’t.

I went out coaching creative businesses at first and I ended up moving into helping mainstream businesses. Over time ended up a fully-fledged marketing and brand strategist (about 10 years ago now).

After finding myself needing to reinvent after some pretty horrible experiences in a corporate environment I had to really think about where I fit. One day I saw five senior creatives retrenched from one of the industry’s biggest ad agencies and I noted they all had grey hair.

I sat at my desk that day and said ‘Right, that’s it!’ and that day I built my current company now called Suits&Sneakers to offer the best talent out in the industry without bias and discrimination.

The suits are the strategists and account managers, and the sneakers are the creative and production people. Suits&Sneakers has since been awarded for being a purpose driven company, innovative model and a sustainable business for the future. I’m having the most fun of my entire career too.

2. What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

My typical day is pretty varied dealing with any kind of marketing need from clients of all sizes and shapes. I’m doing everything I can to have no big offices or staff in chairs with big overheads, so the model is super nimble.

I work out what the project needs and match up the right talent for the job and lucky enough that they are some of the industry’s best. I’m on the phone, Zoom video calls, or in meetings most of the day it seems and work in transit on my laptop or mobile phone to get things done.

I run brand workshops to figure out what needs to be done and how it needs to be done and get the right team on board to deliver it. I make sure it stays on strategy too! I often do training sessions for people to advance their skills in the industry on some specialist topics like Unconscious Bias, and also LinkedIn (I recently learned that I’m breaking ground in that platform and didn’t realise!).

I’m pretty entrepreneurial and fast thinking (I’ve heard the words ‘You’re a machine!’ quite a few times in my life). I juggle a lot of projects for charity including a board position on Conscious Capitalism. I write books, make apps, and come up with creative ideas in my spare time including doing the odd bit of sculpture or multi-media (nothing too flash; just fun).

I usually start the day with a half-baked run around the neighbourhood, sometimes with a daggy shopping trolly dragging behind me to kill two birds with one stone – exercise and errands. I work all day and all night until a final episode of Netflix to wind down. The only thing that stops me from working or building something is my family and the odd night out with my friends.

3. Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

I am totally flexible and work anywhere, any time, including on trams between meetings. I hire work spaces when we need it and only then so we keep the costs for clients down. The only thing that I need to juggle between devices is my Creative Cloud software which I have to switch over between computers.

That’s the only inconvenience and the fact the smaller screens and single screen monitor combined with sluggish internet on the run slows me down. The irony is that the flexible and remote working just means I don’t stop.

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4. Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

My workload is pretty immense and as a start up I’ve had to do everything to begin with. I have a LOT of tricks to manage my time and efficiencies and technology plays a big part in this.

I automate my LinkedIn sales and marketing activity as well as social media scheduling to continue the marketing activity while I’m working and sleeping – I grew my entire business through LinkedIn and was getting exhausted trying to keep the pipeline coming in until I stumbled across some pretty advanced technology and became a beta tester in a closed environment.

This has given me a real advantage. I also use systems like Monday.com, Slack and Google Sheets to collaborate with others to keep on track. I used to coach creative businesses on productivity, efficiencies and profitability so I have to walk the talk now.

I don’t believe in time sheets as I think they cause ageism and clients are typically rewarding poor process if you have them. I dropped using any technology that uses timesheets. I’ve simplified quoting and finance into using Xero now which is efficient and simple to manage.

The biggest thing of all that I know gets me through a lot of progress for myself and for my clients is a commitment to doing one thing that moves the business forward each day, religiously. The other trick is that I don’t watch TV, I cook in batches for the week or freeze food, I live simply and got rid of stuff that makes mess.

5. What does work life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I don’t believe in work life balance as people mean that to be that you can’t work past 6pm. I have no boundaries for work and love what I do and don’t consider it something that shuts off at a certain time. I’ll admit I spend a lot of time at night and weekends at the moment because as a start up I can’t possibly let a moment be idle when the business relies on me to push through.

6. What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

I may not be the best at answering the ‘balance’ question if that’s about stopping work at lunch time and before dinner for the night. I think the best thing I can do for myself is to stop when I know I really need to and having been burnt out before I know when it is coming and schedule my projects and time around rest.

To be honest, the thing that I cut out is not the work but the going out bit or reduce travelling and focus on getting the work done instead as my way to ensure I don’t overload. I also eat pretty well, exercise religiously and drink heaps of water (I’m not an angel though).

As an entrepreneur who has started a business from nothing it is pretty intense and rarely do nothing as my brain is always going (says me writing this at 1am too). The other habit is to become less of a perfectionist and be happy with excellent instead.

7. Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

The most impactful, yet annoying, book I ever read on the topic was Work Smarter Not Harder by Jack Collis and Michael LeBoeuf. I read that book looking for ways to get some extra time to myself in the day. I read through the book and went, ‘Yep, I do that’, ‘Yep, I do that’… and all the way to the end of the book.

I was thinking the book was totally useless to me until I got to the end and it said something like ‘If you get to the end of this book and you’ve done everything here and still don’t have time, then get up earlier!’. From that day on I realised I needed to sleep less, so trained myself little bit by little bit to need less sleep. I got an hour extra for exercise that way.

8. What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

I religiously do one thing that moves my business and my life forward each day, even if it is small. I call it ‘seeding’ – planting seeds for things to grow. Over time you end up achieving a lot.

I’m also pretty educated in self-development and psychology so do a lot to manage my core needs so I feel like I’m getting somewhere. Exercise, and drinking water might actually account for more if I really think about it though.

9. Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I think the idea of a traditional 9 to 5 or 6pm job is a limitation actually. If you love what you do and you’re good at it then do whatever it takes to get ahead or feel inspired.

If you are doing something you love then you’ll have the choice to ask yourself ‘Would I rather watch TV right now or write a blog post?’ or ‘Would I rather read trash magazines and books or would I rather write my own book?’ I know I definitely overdo it too, but I wouldn’t swap my life for a one full of limits and sitting around at night watching crappy TV.

The key is in having people around you who think the same as you. I have a bunch of entrepreneurial people in my life, just like me, and this is our new normal.

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