The first What I’ve Learnt for Prolific London comes from Jeremy King, CEO and founder of Attest, the Southwark-based market and brand intelligence agency.

Attest gives businesses clear and well-researched insights any professional at any level can draw on.

Their scalable platform can be used for marketing, branding, growth, design and much more.

The company was founded in 2015, and in the short time since being founded they’ve come a long way – and are now trusted by names including Deliveroo, Samsung and Unilever. In this week’s What I’ve Learnt, we heard all about what Jeremy King’s experience at the head of a start-up has taught him.

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Before walking into any meeting – be it sales, hiring, team, fundraising, or beyond – I like to briefly stop and think for 15 seconds: “How do I want each person to feel during, and at the end of this conversation?”

I learned this from an amazing leader I worked with in Australia.

He used to close his eyes in the elevator before making a perfectly on-point entrance, carefully including everyone in the discussion, saying little but affecting all.

Originally, I asked him if he was closing his eyes because he had a fear of elevators… and that’s when he shared this amazing tip.

It’s a very helpful mechanism to help groups focus, and bring your best to every conversation.

What’s been your luckiest break?

Free Harvard MBA, courtesy of McKinsey. Honestly, the greatest gift I can imagine.

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What’s your best failure?

In 2006, one Friday evening working in Chicago.

It was my first time managing anyone or being truly responsible for part of a major project (this was during my time working in strategy consulting).

I spotted a huge error in one of the financial models.

I had to call back seven people, who had dispersed to the West Coast, East Coast and Brazil.

One missed his sister’s move to college, my girlfriend was arriving hours later from London.

It was so painful.

We fixed the problem over 2.5 days of intense teamwork, and even made some improvements to the model, but all of this was all 100% avoidable if we’d used simple checks along the way.

The outcome was good in the end, but it was an epic fail that got us there, and the lessons learned still influence me to this day.

What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?

Everyone in Attest is encouraged to spend 10% of their time on charity or society.

I focus on education; it’s genuinely challenging, rewarding, and has a huge impact on the lives of thousands of young people.

How would you describe your work/life balance?

Consciously saturated; just the way I like it!

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

Recently, I really enjoyed ‘Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About Global Politics’ by Tim Marshall.

As a disciple of the case method, any source of new ideas/perspectives – regardless of origin or actual subject matter – is brilliant food for thought and application to any business problem.

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Marshall has a wonderful way of explaining centuries of interlocking interests and histories in simple ways, which give you a new understanding of the world.

The book gives you new ways of looking at old problems, and causes you to challenge and break many assumptions.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

“There are no superheroes; nobody has it all figured out, the best people are always learning.” I genuinely used to believe that mystical figures existed who had everything completely nailed.

They had an answer for everything, were right every time, could shoot silver bullets at will, and could read and manage a room of new people instantly.

I constantly wondered how some amazing role models could magically see every aspect of every opportunity or problem, and make everything look so easy.

It took me a long time to realise that nobody actually has a magic touch, just a range of experiences, a greater understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses, and how to apply them.

When I was 21, I spent a bit too much time watching and wondering in admiration!

The best people aren’t unachievable superheroes, they’re simply great learners who continuously improve.

I wish I’d known this earlier, so I could start systematically observing, learning and trying to apply the greatest traits earlier in my career.

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

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Two people I worked with at McKinsey: Anna Marrs and Sandy Boss.

They were some of the magic people I mentioned earlier, and were exceptional at all the things I barely understood.

Learning from them, and simply becoming aware of what great can look like, was highly educational.

The styles and philosophies of both remain highly influential in everything I do.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people

Probably not a surprise to anyone in Attest (many aspects of our technical architecture are named after exotic squid or fish); I have a not-so-secret obsession for oceans and marine life.

Ever since I was a baby, anytime I had the chance to read a book or draw a picture, it would (almost) always be tuna, octopus, whale, shrimp – anything ocean-related.

Any chance I have to talk about marine creatures, I will absolutely take (or even create) it.

What does success look like to you?

The death of guessing! I love facts, and believe that finding and using the right data should be surgically precise, and possible at unlimited scale.

Throughout my career I’ve seen that the greatest companies are the ones that put real consumer needs and data at the heart of every decision.

We created Attest to deliver exactly that, simply and openly for anyone at any business, continuously, at global scale.

So success equals real data, new and entirely customised data, always being used to create better products and services.

It’s a mission shared by our entire team.

Would you like to nominate a senior figure in digital tech or marketing to take part in a What I’ve Learnt feature for Prolific London?

If so, please get in touch with Charlie.