Dalton Henshaw’s Desire For Adland To Do Better

Dalton Henshaw’s Desire For Adland To Do Better

Dalton Henshaw (centre at rear above), founder and CEO of Victorian indie creative agency Bullfrog, sat down with B&T ahead of the launch of the Ad Council’s Create Space census to talk about the importance of being a values-led organisation and how it puts those values into action.

The Create Space Census takes place tomorrow, Wednesday 1 November, to chart the ad industry’s progress on diversity and inclusion. Jump onto createspacecensus.com on the day to complete the 15-minute survey.

Henshaw also expounded on why the advertising industry isn’t as forward-thinking and progressive for the people who work within it as he would like.

Bullfrog is expanding rapidly. Any new client wins or agency news that you can share with us?

Recently, the most exciting news from our world is our solidifying our growing team in Sydney and, equally, announcing our expansion to the UK, which is spurred by the significant growth of foundation partner, global health and wellness tech company, Kic (formerly Keep It Cleaner), which is also led by my wickedly talented wife, Laura Henshaw (CEO & co-founder), with three other foundation partners to be announced imminently.

B&T: Bullfrog has grown quickly over the last two years. What are your thoughts on putting profit before people and finding the right balance in driving growth for the business?

DH: I think when I hear conversations in all business, not just advertising as a whole, that profit and success come at the cost of people and, specifically, those people’s happiness, health and ability to be present in their lives outside of their working career, I would say Bullfrog’s growth story is proof it’s not only possible, but it’s profitable.

Fundamentally, I tie everything back to the values we built the business on, the framework per se for how we show up in the world at every interaction. For me, doing good and the right thing with people in mind in every decision is not just beneficial to our team but 100 per cent beneficial to our partner’s experience with Bullfrog.

Do you adhere to certain values when it comes to engaging new partners/clients? 

As mentioned above, this team, from the get-go, has been values-led. We say them in our first meeting with any new partner to make sure we keep ourselves, and they keep us accountable to them every step of the way. And once you read our values below, they can be a little fun, too:

Don’t Forget Who’s Boss
Hum While You Work
Speed Is Our Favourite Movie
Seagulls Love Chips.

Are those a make or break in taking new accounts on?

Like any good relationship, you want to have chemistry, but equally, no great relationship likes terrible surprises. So, having our values in the first meeting sets the expectations we hold for ourselves and the ones we want to be kept accountable to. More often than not, our partners embrace the same willingness to share theirs, and in our short three-year journey, it hasn’t let us down yet.

Speaking of values, you’ve been vocal on issues around gender equity in the ad industry. In your view, why is it important for the blokes at the top to speak out on diversity, equity and inclusion in adland?

Statistically speaking, blokes continue to be the majority at the top in all business, not just the ad industry. Knowing that and equally acknowledging my privilege in fitting that stereotype, it’s one to speak, but it’s another to drive action and implement genuine change. Action can come to life in policy change, initiatives, balanced leadership teams, and equal pay regardless of gender. There are many ways to move the dial on a more equal workplace, but speaking doesn’t cut it. In short, genuine and authentic action does.

You said in a recent Shequal interview that you have an opportunity to be an ally and put things in place as a business owner to try and buck the status quo. What are you doing to buck that status quo? 

Last week, we hosted 120 people at our Melbourne HQ to watch as we turned an initiative near and dear to my heart and our teams into action. We announced that the brilliant Lisa Lie, founder of Learna — a micro-learning app designed to transform how people learn, grow and engage at work — as the first resident of our Fair Advantage program. This gives her $25,000 worth of agency and advisory services to help Learna grow. It takes an idea with so much good intent to genuinely help buck the status quo around the inequality of female-founded businesses getting access to funding and puts it into action.

The Create Space Census is launching tomorrw. Is this census more important than the first? Do you think there’ll be apathy? Why should people complete it?

Consistency in conversation and awareness of DE&I should be an always-on conversation. However, unfortunately, sometimes it’s not, and what is critical about the Create Space Census is it reminds us of the importance of the conversations to have internally and keeps businesses accountable to themselves and their partners to create environments where more diverse thinking and representation exists.

What findings from the first census made you sit up and take notice of the challenges affecting the industry?

Knowing that this industry contributes so much to the economy in a myriad of ways, and then statistically, one-fifth of employees are likely to leave the industry due to their experiences of discrimination and exclusion, is pretty deflating, and disappointing to hear.

The Census also stats revealed that close to a third of adland staffers are affected by mental health conditions and 23 per cent by ongoing stress. How do you manage your and your team’s mental health? 

We have implemented an EAP (Employee Access Program) – which is a free anonymous helpline for employees and their loved ones to seek support when perhaps they can’t yet talk to someone in the team when it comes to what they are experiencing from a mental health perspective. But within having tools, we are a full-flexible workplace so our staff don’t take the stresses or pressure of work home and visa versa.

We want to be a business that supports people through all life’s ups and downs, not just work-related ones. Being fully flexible, we also have implemented the RRR – Rituals, Rhythms, Routines. For example, one of the Rituals is when we come together at monthly town halls. We’re also as efficient and as productive as possible on Mondays through to Thursdays, followed by what we call ‘Lift The Eyes Fridays’, for team members to reflect and plan for the week ahead.

These have been done to try and create space for people to have a life outside of work and find their routine that they can plan for each week without too many surprises from their workplace.

Do you reckon we’ll ever overcome these and other key DE&I issues as an industry that is reliant on new people, perspectives and ways of thinking to remain relevant?

Society is changing slowly and slower than some would like (myself included). The critical issues of DE&I are systemically ingrained in society. A census like Create Space gives us insight and actual data to decide, as people and businesses, if we accept what the data says or don’t and then put actions in place to change it. As an eternal optimist, I say yes, we will overcome these issues, but it will take quite some time to do so, so let’s keep having conversations and, equally, keep looking in the mirror as people and ask, can I/we do more?

 




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