Rhod Ellis-Jones discusses how to create and lead a business

Interview with Rhod Ellis-Jones, Principal of Ellis Jones, an award winning strategy, research, design and communications agency, located in Melbourne.

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Rhod Ellis-Jones
Rhod Ellis-Jones, Principal of Ellis Jones. Photo: Supplied

Mr. Rhod Ellis-Jones is the Principal of Ellis Jones. He is a pioneer of business-led social impact, identity strategy and contemporary communications; he is also a passionate supporter of the arts.

Q: What made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?

A: I think entrepreneurship is an expression of who you are. It is a natural progression rather than a leap of faith.  It attracts the kind of person who doesn’t like working in large, highly-structured organisations and wants the freedom to explore and create.

You also have to be okay with failure. I have always been comfortable working through ideas alone, having a different perspective and taking risks.

Q: What is your business all about?

A: I get bored with repetition so I never wanted to do just one thing. I knew that I wanted to work in the communication and strategy space but I envisioned a company that is able to seamlessly transition from insights to strategic execution.

Ellis Jones is therefore a montage of ideas, concepts and competencies applied in sectors and settings we know intimately. That looks like research, strategy, communications and design.

Q: Three best practices tips you can share with our readers as it relates to your industry.

A: Self-awareness: Notice everything. Have a thorough understanding of not only your useful capabilities and traits but where the gaps are. Look hard for the people that complement not compliment you, and rely on them for smart and sound advice.

Avoid distractions: Have a clear view of where you can create value and become practiced at identifying and ignoring the distractions. Following a new idea can result in service innovation or competitive differentiation for your business but it can quickly waste time and money, take you away from what you know and can easily deliver and, ultimately, de-motivates your team.

There’s always a demand: People, markets, politics, and economies all change. That means endless opportunities for anyone who can stay across the changes and apply a core set of critical thinking skills.

Even at those inevitable moments in time you question your resilience, character and decisions (but hopefully not existence!), it helps to remember what you have in your head and at your finger tips, and who needs it.

Q: How do you differentiate yourself from others in your field?

A: Ellis Jones’ social purpose is in our DNA and is therefore a deep and authentic differentiator. It informs everything we do: from the staff we attract and clients we choose to the decisions that take our company forward.

Today, we have a team of ambitious, self-aware people who are conscious about social issues and want to make a difference. They are all across contemporary social impact theory and practice and how it relates to their work. Good clients feel and want it.

It may sound fairly common but I’d also say that our particular configuration of integrated competencies and deep sector knowledge is unique in the marketplaces for our services. It also means we adapt quickly to new thinking or the market forces affecting our clients.

Q: What three books would you recommend every entrepreneur read?

A: Alain de Botton’s Status Anxiety had a big effect on me because it crystallised disparate thoughts about how people view themselves and how they relate to those around them. It allowed me to become a lot more accepting of other people’s flaws, as well as my own.

I also get inspiration from the less popularised biographies – books such as Patrick White, A Life by David Marr. It tells of this amazing, crazy, brilliant, painful life and the legacy that was left to Australia from someone often hard to love but also magnetic. At the end of the day entrepreneurship means creating something long-lasting and worthwhile that improves the world.

“Probably the most directly impactful business text has been the 2011 Harvard Business Review article How to Fix Capitalism, co-authored by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer. It launched the concept of shared value has shaped the business we have become and the work we do for our clients.”

Q: What do you do to recharge when you are feeling drained?

A: A few years ago, my wife and I bought a house in the foothills of Victoria’s lush mountain country. We get up there as often as possible. I love spending some time in the garden with the secateurs, trimming the trees while looking at the view, surrounded by the teeming wildlife around us. Spending time with family in nature gives you everything work can’t.

With a vision to make a lasting positive impact on society, it is easy to see why Ellis Jones is one of the leaders in the industry.

You can learn more about Ellis Jones and the work they do at www.ellisjones.com.au.