I’m not not going to claim that 6:1 is a different kind of agency. And I’m certainly not a narcissist, so they’ll be no fictitious stories about how great it is. Likewise I won’t start quoting obscure philosophy, pretending it’s at the heart of the companies culture. The truth is, I never intended to start a creative business.

By Published On: January 8th, 2021

Names should always have meaning.

Every business must have a name. So when I needed to find one for this business, after some consideration and my obsessive love for things to exist with meaning, I decreed that Six One Creative / Six One Enterprises Limited was born. Arguably it should have been One Six Enterprises, but either way, here’s the story of how things came to be.

The Greatest Toy Ever Invented

Learning the virtues of free styling.

I was born in Manchester during the early seventies and thankfully smoking a pipe never really hooked me.  Instead my first childhood addiction was Lego. I’m very grateful for that, because their iconic building blocks opened my mind and imagination to a world of creativity.

Throw away the instructions.

Like many people, despite the time saving benefits, I rarely bother to read instructions. And as a child, when conjuring my own Lego creations, I definitely preferred a freestyle approach. I mostly remember building what I imagined were aircraft and space ships.

Is Lego the best toy ever invented?

My creations, possibly inspired by Star Wars, were never perfect and would often develop into something different. But no matter which outside influences inspired my childhood creations. Ultimately I must thank Lego. Because they gave me building blocks that helped me discover the possibilities of divergent-thinking. So for that reason alone, it’s the most incredible toy ever invented. 

Realising my creative streak.

Notwithstanding the joy of childhood Lego, I’m fairly certain I didn’t realise my creative streak, or my love for great design until I was in my 30s. There wasn’t a eureka moment or anything like that. Because it was always there, I just hadn’t become conscious or started to appreciate it yet.

Practising creativity.

“Art is Theft” – Pablo Picasso.

Appreciating the beauty in good design doesn’t necessarily make you a creative person. And being a creative, doesn’t instantly make you great at designing stuff. Because nothing happens without practice.

Allow Yourself To Be Influenced

Being open to influence.

I firmly believe everyone has an inherent ability to be creative. The only reasons behind why we’re not all creating cool stuff, relate to childhood. Some haven’t explored their creativity and many don’t continue the exercise. Being open to influence is the difference between those who know how to exercise their imagination and those who can’t see the possibility of something. The rest is just practice.

Feeding your imagination.

When people say anyone can be an artist, it’s true. All it takes is a desire to start something, an open mind and the courage to open your emotions to criticism. 

I started practising again during my 30s. Most of my free time was spent addicted to things which feed my imagination. Great music, games, books, magazines, architecture, technology, model railways, industrial design, art and photography. It all makes me a happy nerd and back then it began positively influencing my work.

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn.”


Climbing the career ladder.

Overcoming job title obsession.

During my education, when it came to career advice. The consistent message from everyone, everywhere was “Neil, build a career with a big blue-chip company, its the only way”. So not unexpectedly, I eventually ended up at a German multi-national called Henkel, to build a career!

Attempting To Build a Career

The real world classroom.

It wasn’t a mistake. When I look back on the best years, they invested in me and I got a brilliant education. I benefitted from travelling the world whilst experiencing all the highs and lows of being in business.

Being there also allowed me learn the short comings of big business environments. I witnessed teams who were formed to create race horses, produce camels and oil tankers attempting to pivot quickly.

The bullish side of business.

If you’ve attended any sort of business meeting, then you’ve probably experienced the use of jargon and business bull. I’ve experienced my fair share and it’s such a turn off. Especially when used to meaninglessly over extend the depth of content.

Simply put, life’s too short for lazy regurgitated sound bites. I’ve learned that effective communicators use jargon sparingly and only when necessary. Above all that, I’ve been able to experience the value of true critical thinking.

Working in competitive corporate environments

Competitive environments can have both benefits and drawbacks. During my time at Henkel one unfortunate side effect of this, was an unhealthy self obsession. I witnessed colleagues acquire more and more responsibility, to the point where they started taking themselves a little too seriously. I was also guilty of this unhealthy diversion from things which matter.

Personally I became obsessed by job titles, only focused on the superficial stuff I needed to do to get up the greasy pole. Always looking towards my next new business card or more luxurious company car, instead of working on more valuable self improvement skills.

Never take yourself too seriously.

Theres no profound moral to my time at Henkel, other than to say I don’t think I let a desire to climb the ladder consume me. Moreover I learned how to add value without regurgitated sound bites and eventually I overcame my job title obsession. Thankfully I gained a lot, including some strong ideas about how I could create better working environments.

How finding your passion can help you grow.

Every win is worth celebrating.

Please don’t judge too harshly, but I’m a life long Manchester City supporter! Consequently prior to 2011, I’d experienced my unfair share of football disappointment and humiliation. But I remained loyal.

Life Long Manchester City Supporter

Thankfully my loyalty was finally rewarded. In 2011 City won the FA Cup, their first trophy for 34 years. For the first time in my life they were finally a great team and it felt good.

So what’s that got to do with anything? Well later that year, on Sunday the 23rd of October, City played United in the Manchester derby.

It’s fair to say this was a fixture that had historically contributed to many of my footballing disappointments and humiliations. But on this occasion City were magnificent, they broke records by hammering United 6-1. Naturally I was elated and this moment was significant.

The following day there was no time to celebrate. Because I lost my job!

Starting over.

Perseverance in the face of adversity.

In early 2011 my time at Henkel was over. Working for them was no longer fun, a new regime had arrived and they went about their work in a cold, passionless way. However, even though I didn’t agree with their methods, they did teach me the true value of an organisations culture. This was because in next to no time, they destroyed what had been a successful one at Henkel!

Sales went into reverse, people left and those who remained, were coerced into a cynical office culture. Just appearing to work hard, was enough. Mostly because extraordinary efforts were quickly forgotten and never rewarded. My experience and dedication was seemingly worthless, so it was time to leave.

Jumping to the wrong ship.

Unfortunately the company I chose for my new adventure, turned out to be a terrible option. I blindly jumped straight into an environment that, for many reasons, didn’t really want me. Rejected and burnt out from trying to make things work, I departed before the end of the year. I was forty years old, unsure about what to do next and in crises.

Taking the plunge with a new business.

Following a long period of soul searching and something to drink. Eventually I got myself together. I refocused on my strengths and after deciding what I wanted to do, opportunity eventually knocked.

Six One Creative Logo

I’d spent many years indoctrinated in the ways of big multi-national organisations, but now I’d be on my own and self employed. Can you make a career and a business out of something on your own terms? Well, with perseverance, I think you can.

“Six One” marks a moment significant change in my life. Moreover, for me it also stands for perseverance in the face of adversity acting as a reminder that loyalty eventually finds a way to pay you back.

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