An Interview with Gavin Davis: Three Years of Nepean

A lot has happened since Gavin Davis, former Director of Corporate Communications and Campaigns at Sky, decided to go it alone and set up his own business in 2019 – both within the company and the world-at-large.

Yet despite those turbulent, COVID-riddled times, Nepean has gone from strength to strength. Now, with a growing team and recently celebrating the business’ third anniversary, Gavin took time to reflect on the previous few years and set out his vision for the future.

1. Where was it that you saw the opportunity for Nepean?

As a buyer of these services in my time at Sky, I was able to see what was missing in the market. With the conclusion of the Comcast sale, there was an opportunity for me to do what I’d always wanted to do: take my learnings from Sky and my previous advisory role and launch my own business, building a firm that looks at doing things a bit differently.

It’s not just about outputs: we’re outcomes focused. I wanted Nepean to start with that at its core: not another PR or communications agency, but a management consultancy in communications – bringing together the discipline of financial communications, the understanding of corporate communications, an ability to campaign, and the knowledge to advise clients on complex issues in those moments that matter.

Our industry has historically suffered from a variation in capability, experience and quality, but today clients are demanding a much higher level of professionalism . As someone who is fascinated by the value our work brings to our clients, it is clear to see the difference this change in approach has made.

2. What values did you commit to when setting up Nepean?

I’m a big believer in hiring quality young talent and giving them opportunity, exposure and experience. It’s about getting out of their way, removing layers above them, and giving them that chance to flourish. While they may not have the same level of experience, they bring a different viewpoint – something increasingly important in our world.

Nepean also has to be a great place to work. My ambition is that everyone says that they enjoy working here, they’re having a good career, and they’re getting a huge amount of opportunity. Partly for that reason, we only work with clients we believe in, and for who we know we can do a great job. As a company that is always looking to the future, we want to work with clients who are equally determined to build something positive.

Finally, it’s not about being on the treadmill; it’s not volume over value. I’d much rather have a small, quality client list with really deep relationships than be able to boast about having the biggest list of clients. The latter gets you into a dangerous ‘run, run, run, run’ situation. Being management consultants in communications, we need time to think carefully about clients’ challenges and how best to tackle them.

3. Have there been any challenges that you weren’t expecting?

Unexpected challenges appear every day, from clients and just as part of running a business – it’s part of the fun and it’s part of the fun of life. Resilience is such an important skill. That’s certainly the case in our personal lives, but maybe even more so when it comes to running a business. It’s all about how to approach and tackle those challenges.

Of course, the biggest challenge was COVID. The business had only been going for nine months, but I’m really proud of the work we did for our clients, the way team pulled together, and the fact that we won work during the period. Who would have thought you could win work despite having only met someone through a screen!

Coming through lockdown only strengthened my views on the importance of team culture and wellbeing, in the office and out. Across our industry, COVID has meant that organisations are more focused on their people. It’s something that we’ve always believed in, and it means that, as that bar continues to be raised, we need to do everything we can to stay above it.

4. What has been the highlight of the last three years, and what do you hope to see in the next three?

It’s hard to pick one highlight! There have been highlights in terms of the amazing work we have done, in the clients and mandates we have won, and in terms of seeing how the team has grown. This culminated recently in a party we hosted to celebrate our third anniversary: bringing together colleagues, clients and friends to celebrate three years that have just gone so quickly.

Nepean will continue to grow, with a bigger team, a developing culture, and a fantastic client base. Everyone here should be excited to be a part in building something. In three years’ time we’ll look like a very different business, but still grounded in our culture and the values that led me to set up Nepean to begin with.

So, of course, there have been plenty of highlights, but as ever I want more. I’m looking forward to seeing just how different our business looks when we celebrate our sixth anniversary.