An overwhelming win at the 2017 Cheshire Business Awards

By Lee Cullen

‘Overwhelmed’ feels like a word that gets used far too often, but I honestly can’t think of a better term to describe how it felt to win ‘Young Business Person of the Year’ at the Cheshire Business Awards last week.

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’ve never been one for the limelight. In the No Brainer office, we have a mantra that says it’s our mission to make our clients look like rockstars, and we work hard every day to put them and their businesses in the spotlight.

Perhaps that’s why picking up an individual award like this has been so overwhelming. I’ve always been perfectly comfortable putting the great brands we work with in-front of journalists and cameras, but it feels very different when the shoe is on the other foot!

Take the risk or lose the chance

Someone said to me recently that life is about chances and choices in that order, and success is down to sheer hard work. I’ve been thinking a lot about that these past few days, trying to recall the chances and choices that have got me to this point.

Picking just one of each, the choice was back in 2014, when I decided to join my No Brainer co-founder Gary on a couple of freelance projects he was working on.

I was in a full-time job at the time and my son Sebastien was only four months old. The freelance work would only cover me for six months Gary said, (although he recently admitted that in reality, it was more like three!), so I had to make a big, career-defining choice.

The sensible, rational decision would have been to play it safe and stay where I was. But I didn’t. I chose to roll the dice when I’m sure many others wouldn’t, and I followed my heart because I believed in Gary and I felt that together, we really could create something special.

The idea of starting our own PR, social media and content marketing agency called No Brainer had actually been sketched out some time before that point. We’d spent a few late nights in pubs and restaurants putting the world to rights and saying how we’d do things differently if we had our own agency! And then, in April 2015, with no investment, no clients and no staff, we made it happen and No Brainer was born.

I’ll always remember our first day working together – the excitement of controlling our own destinies combined with the fear of needing to actually make the business a success so we could afford to live and feed our families! As any entrepreneur will tell you, those early days of a fledgling start-up are some of the most exciting, and we quickly discovered that fear can be a wonderful motivator.

The choices we make

This leads me on nicely to the choices, and I’ll start with our clients who have been so important to us – each and every single one of them.

Doing what we do is an absolute privilege and we’re so grateful to the people and businesses that have – and continue to – put their faith in the team at No Brainer. I always wanted to own a business where I was excited to come in to work, and having great clients is a massive part of that. They’ve all made the choice to work with us and allow us to share their stories with the world, and we simply wouldn’t have a business without them.

Individually, our staff have also made big choices by agreeing to join us. Being part of a start-up business is lots of fun, but it can also be hard work at times and all of them have bought into the vision Gary and I have for No Brainer. From two guys working out of a home office, they’ve allowed us to grow No Brainer into a fully-fledged, multi award-winning agency, and we couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds with all of us pulling in the same direction.

A final word of thanks

I’ve been genuinely bowled over by the number of people that have been in touch with me this past week to say congratulations. I’ve had emails, texts, calls, tweets – the kind words from clients, friends and colleagues has been staggering and I’ve been overwhelmed by all of them (there’s that word again!).

All those long nights sitting behind the laptop; and all those unsociable hours Gary and I have invested into the business, they’ve all been completely worth it to get us to this point.

The award win is fantastic for me personally and I’m genuinely so grateful to everyone that has been there and supported me throughout the journey so far, but it won’t change the hunger and passion I’ve got to continue building on everything we’ve achieved over the last two-and-a-half years.

It might be my name on the trophy, but this is a win for the whole team at No Brainer, and for our clients that have given us the opportunity to turn a life-long dream into a reality.

Picture of Lee Cullen

Lee Cullen

Having worked in-house and agency-side, I have almost 15 years’ experience working in various marketing and communications roles. With an AMEC gold certificate in measurement and evaluation so I’m always looking to show outcomes and prove the impact of our work.

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