S01E07 – Imogen Osborne

In this enormously candid and generously open chat, Imogen Osborne – founder of research and insight house The Pulse Business – talks to hosts Brendon and Zoe about why truth and honesty should be celebrated at the heart of every business culture and how some of the most challenging events in our lives, be it death, divorce or debt can actually make us better and stronger people.

Imogen has had an illustrious, wide-ranging career in comms, spanning both in-house (inc. Skype, Cisco) and agency (inc. Edelman, AxiCom) before changing her focus to research and insights. Imogen shares her insights on the challenges of captaining your own ship; the truth about work/life balance and reveals why it’s vital for businesses to adopt an open culture that sees mistakes as a good and acceptable stop on the path to greatness.


Zoe Clark: Hello! I’m Zoe Clark and welcome to Without Borders. Today we’re speaking to the fantastic Imogen Osborne who has held a number of different positions in PR and Communications, both agency side and in-house. But now, has just recently set up her own organization called The Pulse Business.

Brendon Craigie: Hi and I’m Brendon Craigie and on this episode, Imogen’s going to talk to us about why everyone needs research and insights to build a better business, why truth and honesty should be at the heart of every business culture, and finally how death, divorce, and even some of the most challenging events in our lives can actually make us better and stronger people.

Zoe Clark: At what time did my, what time did our day start? My day started fairly early-

Brendon Craigie: You got a lie-in, didn’t you? ‘Cause we didn’t move ’til 11:30. You were like “Take it easy.”

Zoe Clark: Absolutely. Can you imagine Brendon(!?), yeah I was in bed till half past 10.

Imogen Osborne: Yeah.

Zoe Clark: Totally.

Imogen Osborne: No.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Zoe Clark: I know. Yeah. Now I’ve got it. I’m also an early bird. Well, I like to swim occasionally but I also go to the gym very early and do more strength training and crazy boot camp stuff and lift heavy weights and … Yeah.

Imogen Osborne: I lift crisps. That’s what I do.

Zoe Clark: My training does help with the gin and tonic glass, sometimes.

Brendon Craigie: We’re started.

Zoe Clark: Oh, have we started?

Brendon Craigie: Yeah, yeah.

Imogen Osborne: Oh, right. Okay.

Zoe Clark: We should ask some serious questions, then, I guess.

Imogen Osborne: Yes, yes.

Zoe Clark: Definitely. I supposed certain parallels here between what you’re doing, Imogen, in setting up your own business and Brendon and Tyto, of course. Tell us a bit about The Pulse Business and how’s it going and how are you finding this new chapter?

Imogen Osborne: Gosh, that’s an interesting question. I think, you know, running your own business, the one person you’re accountable to is yourself. You have meetings with yourself. You give yourself your own performance appraisals. You are your own truth. And I think for anyone running a business of any size you have to have great discipline. I’ve certainly learned with The Pulse Business, I love the freedom. I love the fact that I can make mistake and learn from it, actually, and not be made to feel bad about it but just go, “Oh, okay. Next time I might do that a little bit differently.”

Zoe Clark: Interesting.

Imogen Osborne: And in terms of this entity it’s be … it’s now in it’s fourth month. Each month has been very different. It’s a business that is very much dedicated to creating conversations. New conversations. It has a piece of software which is called Pulse Software. Which, effectively, acts as a listening device. Our clients will use it to find out how happy or not their staff are or happy or not their sales people are with the way marketing organized a sales meeting or happy or not their members are or what their members think of Brexit.

Imogen Osborne: Or they’ll use the software to get groups of people together and get them communicating, if you’d like, or giving their feedback on a particular topic and then building a community of interest around that topic. So it’s completely online and it’s a virtual business which I love which means that you can sort of cherry-pick who you want to work with. I’ve every carefully selected a great designer. I have an interesting journey with the IT supplier. Interesting. I could talk forever about software development.

Imogen Osborne: It’s a very long-term relationship but it’s an interesting relationship. And then, obviously, the finance and then the marketing and all of that is outsourced so there are loads and loads of pros for a virtual business. But of course, ultimately, it comes down to you. You have to … you really have to know how to motivate yourself some days and then other days it’s so busy you don’t even have time to think.

Zoe Clark: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.

Zoe Clark: Why this particular business? What’s been the driver to why this importance on measuring, measurement and insights, et cetera?

Imogen Osborne: I think the best conversations are had when they’re based on real time insight. That may be a conversation you have with your client or a conversation you have with a colleague or an industry peer or someone you’ve met for the first time. Because the conversation can immediately take a deeper direction. You don’t have to worry about all this, sort of the flim-flam and the frippery and the … making polite conversation just because you have to. You can get right down, deep and dirty, into the heart of the issue.

Imogen Osborne: I’ve always, I think, been really slightly obsessed about the truth and telling the truth. Goodness knows why I ended up in PR to begin with because, of course, one is simply trained to be economical with the truth. But that’s me being a little bit cynical.

Imogen Osborne: I find if I have a really open conversation with someone, I feel so much better inside. But it’s actually quite hard to get people to do that even now. Even in this very transparent age that we live in, it’s not instinctive. If you ask someone how happy they are with something do they actually tell you, honestly, how they feel? And if they don’t tell you honestly how they feel, how do you get them to that place?

Imogen Osborne: Sometimes, having a little piece of software that sort of getting a balance on that feeling is a really, really good way to start that conversation and learn new things.

Zoe Clark: Do you think that the industry has caught up and is ready for this? Do you think things have changed over time which maybe people are more willing to have these conversations?

Imogen Osborne: Yeah, it’s a really good question. I think some industries, some organizations yes. Memberships organization, for example, are actually incredibly comfortable about dealing with the truth. You and I might run a service business and be really affronted if a client complains because you think, “Do you know how hard it was to do that?” No appreciation of our craft or trade and yet for a membership organization, they’re so used to dealing with flack and so used to managing disgruntled members as sort of … “About my pudding at the conference is really, just not happy with the chocolate version where’s vanilla?,” or whatever little grumble it is, that it’s sort of water off a duck’s back. As a consequence, they listen to the feedback with really, really broad shoulders. Even in some ways, as organizations, they’re not that technically advanced, I think they’re actually very advanced in terms of how they manage their relationships.

Brendon Craigie: One of the things that I think is quite interesting is just thinking about the whole insights and listening to people, I think we encounter lots of clients, certainly in a B2B environment, just don’t speak to their customers, like, ever. Unless they’re selling to them, they don’t actually ask them what they’re thinking, what the pressures are, and so on. I think that’s been a big eye-opener for us in terms of how valuable that is to actually talk to customers or engage with them. That’s one thing, and I think that sort of them flows into another point, which is that often people use research to measure the impact of something. Which is kind of helpful but I think it’s especially helpful, actually, to make sure that you’re clear on your starting off point as opposed to measuring the end result of what you’ve done.

Brendon Craigie: I think, often, you can go so wildly wrong at the starting point by pointing yourself in a direction which is entirely wrong because you’ve not properly taking stock in the first place. I think that’s where, I think, we’re quite interested is a lot of the work that we do, we’re trying to ground it in the understanding of the audience we’re trying to hit and so on.

Brendon Craigie: What’s your perspective on, in terms of … where’s the balance in terms of the before and after or, you know?

Imogen Osborne: It depends how you’re using the insight. I think you’re absolutely right. It’s very easy to get just stuck into a pattern of researching or evaluating or tracking a topic, an idea, a perception. And then you get to a certain end point and you think, “Okay, there’s the answer. We now know what X percent of people think about that.” But the interesting piece is what you actually do with that insight. How you actually act on that data because I think that’s where the greatest way of listening, actively listening, happens. That’s how you build trust with your audiences because you’ve asked them a question and they’ve given, they’ve shared their truth, we hope, most of their truth and then you’re saying, “Thank you very much for sharing that truth and this is what we’re going to do with it.” This is not just a piece of research for researches sake just to generate a headline or to simply prove that people are a bit more positive about a drink or a piece of technology or whatever it may be.

Imogen Osborne: This is about taking that insight and turning it into something much, much deeper that allows you to connect back with the people who could be bothered to tell you [crosstalk 00:09:40].

Brendon Craigie: You work with lots of different organizations who obviously are very enlightened because they use your services to listen to people. In your experience, where do … in that process, how good are people at following up on what they find out?

Imogen Osborne: Well, I’ll sound like a headmistress now. Not as good as they should be-

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Imogen Osborne: But those who do, reap the rewards. Its a drum that I constantly … and, actually, it’s part of the sales pitch, if you’d like. The less time they spend on managing the data and extracting the data, the more time they can spend on acting on the data.

Imogen Osborne: A key discipline is to make sure that whatever we get back, we than present that to the client in a visually pleasing format. In a very nice infographic that makes it very easy to share so at least they can do that initial action of actually sharing the results.

Imogen Osborne: Some people, maybe it’s the human condition, I don’t know, they’re just very transactional and once the insight is in they just want to move onto the next best thing and, actually, it’s part of our challenge to work with them to say, “We haven’t finished yet. We’ve still got all of this to do.”

Imogen Osborne: Benchmarking can be a very good way of focusing the mind but some organizations are better than others and the ones that do reap the dividends because they get the best response rates. They just go up and up and up.

Brendon Craigie: I guess it’s slightly adjacent to … I know you’re obviously using research for a whole myriad of different purposes but within the PR and Com’s world there’s been a big drum beaten about measurement for years. I kind of find it quite dull and boring. I think the reason I find it boring and dull is that it’s like, it seems to be obsessed by the process of measurement as opposed to the why and what you’re going to get out of. It seems to be very obsessed by the tactic of measurement as opposed to the purpose of it and why you’re doing it.

Imogen Osborne: Yes-

Zoe Clark: And when … Sorry. Go ahead with your-

Imogen Osborne: I was going to say I think it, actually, you should throw away the word measurement and just talk about impact and influence.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Imogen Osborne: Because that’s so much more relevant.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Imogen Osborne: I think part of the challenge is we’re still waiting for certain tools to come into the market that say, particularly in the digital space, can do a really, really good job of analyzing, understanding, the impact of what happens online and the impact of working with influencers and what defines an influencer today. I mean it never ceases to amaze me that a plumber putting YouTube videos up of him reviewing Xbox is much more valuable than some chap writing or some woman, let’s be right on, writing in a magazine.

Imogen Osborne: People are more likely to look at that YouTube video. But does he know, or she know, how influential they are? I think we need more tools in place. That’s something that, you know, you have to look to companies who are slightly, in some areas, ahead of the curve there for what they’re going to introduce.

Imogen Osborne: It’s not sorted yet, I think, is the upshot.

Zoe Clark: With there specific … was there a specific moment in your career that got you interested in this area of measurement and things?

Imogen Osborne: I think when, on the agency side, the initial idea was to build a piece of software that allowed PR and Communications agencies to do a better job of measuring and managing client satisfaction but in real time. Because one of my biggest frustrations when I was running a tech practice for a large agency was that I never knew when the bad news was coming because I had a team of about 30 people who would sit on bad news like it was a newspaper and just not tell me. Then I would go into a client meeting and see this client sort of wearing almost a funereal mask and I’d think, “Uh-oh. What haven’t I been told?”

Imogen Osborne: I really wanted, going back to that truth point, to have a tool that would, or a piece of software that could help me uncover the truth so I could at least prepare for it and maybe fix it and maybe keep the client.

Imogen Osborne: But, funnily enough, it’s amazing when it comes to software, if you keep it open and flexible, it can apply itself to all sorts of different insight needs. That’s essentially what it has done. I’ve let the clients help me grow it by telling me what they want to do with it.

Brendon Craigie: Did you think, picking up on that point about your experience in agencies, do you think there’s a lack of honesty between, within agencies and then between clients and agencies about what’s going on and why is that?

Imogen Osborne: I think that, yes that still exists. Not across every account and I think there’s a whole slew of factors that determine that. So much of it comes down to the pivotal relationship that the client has with the agency and a lot of clients, certainly from my experience, always wanted to put all their eggs in one basket and just be talking to the director. Which is why, when you run client satisfaction pulses and you ask about how good the team is, there’s always some moaning about not being able to see the senior person on the account.

Imogen Osborne: Clients like that. They’re spending a lot of money and I think, also, it’s human nature to not want to necessarily share bad news because if you’re an account director or an account manager and you’re hoping for a promotion in the months to come, you’re not really going to want to tell your bosses boss that things aren’t going so well with Orange this week or whoever your client is.

Imogen Osborne: Yes, unfortunately, I think we have to find a way … or fortunately, we have to find a way of sort of how that core relationship gets shared between clients and senior leads, agency leads, and also how you encourage the broader team to put their hands up earlier and realize that they can actually call it and say, “You know what? This is a mess,” or, “this isn’t going to work,” or, “I’ve made a huge mistake here.”

Imogen Osborne: A lot of agencies, I would say, are still working on creating that kind of culture where mistakes are seen as a good thing.

Imogen Osborne: People have problems with failure. They don’t have any problems with success, but they have a lot of problems with failure.

Zoe Clark: Yeah, absolutely.

Zoe Clark: It’s interesting and I’ve found in my career, sometimes, that some of the hardest pieces of work have actually been the most useful in terms of building that client relationship. Even a crisis, in some cases, can be really formative and you can form a really good bond and come out stronger at the end.

Zoe Clark: I suppose it could come from anything.

Imogen Osborne: Yes, it can. I remember one impactful story when I was in my first agency job and I was their junior, junior, junior, junior person. I was think I was probably allowed to stand by the photocopier for several hours at a time and that was about all I was allowed to do. But on one occasion they let me write a press release and in the press release I forgot to put the trademark symbol against this ERP product.

Imogen Osborne: It was a stupid mistake to make and the client picked it up and complained, “You’ve got to get it right hen you put our branding down on paper,” which is fair enough and I learned from that mistake. Then a few weeks later I was writing a media Q and A for the same client and I forgot to do it again.

Imogen Osborne: I realized I’d done it before it had gone to the client and I went to tell the consultant straight away, to just fess up, oh my goodness. I’ve done it again. And I told her and she said, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it. It’s alright. Thank you so much for letting me know.” And I thought, “Phew. Thank goodness. Not in trouble this time.”

Imogen Osborne: And then, about two days later, I’d gone … I came … I’ve been out of the office sitting a [inaudible 00:18:06] Marketing Exam and I came back for team drinks and the managing director of the agency sort of singled me out and I thought, “Oh! Maybe he’s going to say well done for being really honest about that trademark blunder.” And he said, “YOu’re not going to believe the conversation I had with Ross Systems today.”

Imogen Osborne: I thought, “No, I guess I’m not.” He said, “Unbelievable that another piece of collateral went across without the trademark in it.”

Imogen Osborne: I looked at him and I said, “But what do you mean?”

Imogen Osborne: He said, “Oh, Angela sent across the Q and A that you did and the trademark hadn’t been put in against promos.” I can still remember it so well. My jaw just dropped because I thought, “But I told her.” But she’d obviously forgotten to change it. It had gone across to the client and even worse than the client, well, just as worse as the client seeing it and pulling is hair out, she hadn’t put her hand up and I just thought, “How could you do that?”

Imogen Osborne: Hence a slight obsession for the truth travels with me in PR because-

Brendon Craigie: I think as you go through your career you realize that in, certainly in the eyes of 99% of people, the more honest you are about problems and issues, the more you get people’s respect. The more you get people’s trust.

Brendon Craigie: I used to, as I was coming through the ranks in my previous agency, I used to really spend a long time before I met with my manager who was the founder of the agency to think what bad stuff do I need to tell them?

Brendon Craigie: I would, obviously I wouldn’t want them to come out of a meeting thinking the world is going to end. But I would definitely want them to know about any potential risks. Because it made me feel good, actually, being transparent and I think, actually, it then builds trust with someone. But it’s about having judgment, isn’t it? You don’t want to say there are 100 possible things that could go wrong in the next week if-

Zoe Clark: I need to offload them all to my boss.

Brendon Craigie: But if there are one or two things you’re a little bit worried about I think it’s quite, it’s good to share those because it shows that you’re in control.

Imogen Osborne: And what’s the worse that can happen? You know, I’m a great believer, probably after childbirth of thinking what is the worse that can happen to me now because, you know, that is just [crosstalk 00:20:29] in itself. I just don’t worry about telling the truth because, as you say, your conscious is clear and-

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Zoe Clark: Yeah.

Zoe Clark: Question for both of you, then, I guess. Do you think that being a parent has changed things in that dramatic way or are there other things, as well, that make you put things into perspective in life as much as that does?

Brendon Craigie: I think one thing is that I definitely have a incredible capacity to do things in life. You know? Like the weekend I took my kids to watch Liverpool Player at Wembley. I took them from London through the UK and then, you know, flew back on Sunday then went swimming early evening. Then I made pizza from scratch, I should say.

Zoe Clark: And then posted some pictures on Instagram?

Brendon Craigie: And you know, and so I had some friends who were like, “My God! You’re unbelievable. I can’t believe you did all that,” you know?

Brendon Craigie: But I do think, as a parent, you learn to … you find time that you just didn’t know that you existed and I think, probably, looking back at my younger self I think, “You waste.” You can waste so much time.

Brendon Craigie: I think that’s one thing, I think, from being a parent is just making the absolute most of the time that you’ve got.

Imogen Osborne: And you’re very driven to do that, as well, if you work because your time is so precious. I think, you know, one of the things that drove me to set up my own business was because I really wanted to have, I wanted to be able to do both jobs brilliantly. I wanted to be a great mom and I wanted to be really good at what I was doing professionally.

Imogen Osborne: Time, if managed well, and if you take time to do each job properly you don’t have to do it again. Having a conversation with either one of my boys is not a 30-second conversation. It’s, “Right. LEt’s have a conversation.” You can imagine they love it because, of course, it takes about ten minutes when we have to get to the middle of the conversation and then the end of the conversation but at least, then, I know I’ve dissected whatever it is we’re talking about and we have decided on the plan of action.

Imogen Osborne: It might be a homework thing. It might be a social thing or whatever. Then, likewise, applying that in work. I hate rushing things because I know I won’t do such a good job and as Brendan says you have to sort of have a, you kind of uncover an unknown energy even wen you’re brutally tired. You still, somehow, manage to keep it all going. When people are spending Sunday’s reading the paper from cover to cover, you know, the Sunday Times going, “Oh, a lovely three hours.” You’ve rewired the national grid in Wembley and then gone swimming and made homemade pizza. That’s brilliant. It’s very rewarding.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Zoe Clark: Is there an art to finding, to carving out that time in a day, then? It sounds like it just sort of comes naturally, maybe, but I’m sure there’s more to it than that. Whether it’s something you’re particularly passionate about, you know?

Imogen Osborne: You just have to be very disciplined. And you have to want to do it.

Brendon Craigie: Exactly. I think that’s the ultimate, isn’t it? I think you need to-

Zoe Clark: Yeah.

Brendon Craigie: I mean, you need to trade off what you want to do versus what your kids want to do and sort of find that balance.

Zoe Clark: And while we’re on the topic of children, I guess, I believe you’re a particular advocate of childhood reading, is that right?

Imogen Osborne: Yes. So both my children, whether they liked it or not, were read to religiously from very early ages because my philosophy is that if you … you’re never alone if you have a book under your arm. You can go anywhere in the world, by yourself, with friends. You’ve always got a companion.

Imogen Osborne: There’s so much information out there. Such a short lifespan to get it all into your brain. And it’s, even now, particularly with the rise of mobile devices and how … We’d ran a pulse recently around are mobile phones killing the art of conversation and interestingly, half the people said yes they are. It’s a terrible thing. We should just all leae the world immediately and get back to the dark ages. But then a large proportion of people were saying well actually, no, they just evolved the conversation because you can What’s App with someone. You can text. You can pick up your emails. You can also watch videos. You can share what’s happening in your life. There are lots and lots of positives there.

Imogen Osborne: I think for both my boys … Theo, my oldest, is, he’s like a walking library. He just loves his books. And I feel as a parent I’ve done a good job. The younger one, actually, is not so keen on reading so we do a lot of reading together but we do quite a bit of online reading, as well, to get him comfortable.

Imogen Osborne: But I think it’s the best thing you can gift them.

Zoe Clark: Yeah.

Imogen Osborne: Because it, all sorts of things open up to them-

Zoe Clark: Do you think in the workplace, then, that this technology, for example, enhance and help us have those kind of conversations? I suppose in your world, in your position, it must do a bit but is it also, in some ways, and inhibitor and something we can hide behind?

Imogen Osborne: No, I don’t think it is an inhibitor. I think used in the right way you can get brilliant results. But it’s like anything. There’s a lot of coverage at the moment on that game Fortnight. Everyone’s talking about, I think I saw an article yesterday saying that Fortnight was responsible for 5% of divorces. Nevermind what’s going on in terms of what’s happening with the children who are playing it who are underage.

Imogen Osborne: I think you have to be very careful with the tool that your using, particularly when it goes into the hands of young minds. They need to be stimulated to talk. They need to be stimulated to read. They need to be stimulated to go out and play football or play tennis or swim or whatever it is to take the best of what life has to offer and to manage it responsibly.

Imogen Osborne: The only people who can help them do that are teachers and parents so, certainly in the early stages.

Zoe Clark: Definitely. What advice will you be giving your kids as they go into the world of work, then, and steering them in a-

Imogen Osborne: Always be on time. That’s particularly for the older one who just has a 36 hour clock. Always, always be on time and be true to your word. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Prove that you can be relied upon because I think people find that quality so attractive. It’s a brilliant reason to hire someone. It’s a brilliant reason to promote someone.

Imogen Osborne: Be on time and be reliable. A bit dull, but-

Brendon Craigie: They sound like a good … I think being on time is important, isn’t it?

Zoe Clark: Brendan’s a big fan of being on time.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah, I think [crosstalk 00:27:45] isn’t it? Thinking about, I guess, you’ve had loads of different careers in-house, agency, now in a different field, research. Had lots of highs. Have there been any tough times during that period of really … and how have they shaped you?

Imogen Osborne: Gosh, yeah, there’ve been quite a few. I think one of the toughest professional times I went through was when … For the first, sort of, ten years of my career I’d just sort of gone up and up and up. Got promoted. Didn’t have any children so could … work was my life. My baby. I got to … I was working for Cisco and I was running Coms across Europe and I had to deal with a lot of senior, a lot of the senior leadership team including, well, he’s now the ex-CEO, but John Chambers who was there for about 30 years. It was a bit like dealing with the CEO for IBM. All Bill Gates. He was massive, massive.

Imogen Osborne: Quite a nice guy. I kind of had the world at my feet and then I married. Married the wrong person and realized that pretty quickly and then, as I was realizing that, I found out I was pregnant with our son, which sort of catalyzed me deciding that I had to exit the marriage for the simple reason that he’s a chronic alcoholic.

Imogen Osborne: I think I was spending so much time thinking about my work, I wasn’t thinking enough about my relationship and I was assuming that all this mad party drinking was just going to dissipate once we got married and settled down and started talking about wallpaper. Actually, it didn’t. It just got worse and worse and I then left Cisco to take on an even bigger job because, financially, my ex-husband had just … I think he had six figure debts by that stage. I knew I was going to have to be the bread winner and I have to say those, sort of, four years were black years.

Imogen Osborne: The only thing really that kept me going was Theo because I just thought that’s a purpose. There he is. That little light on the black, black canvas. But I remember going into the agency and, oh my goodness, it was such a brutal agency. You lived and died by your P and L. If you weren’t 21% profitable they would … down on you and I actually joined that agency just as the dot com bubble burst so a two million pound business, which was just the tech practice along, went down to two hundred thousand pounds.

Imogen Osborne: Which meant that I had to lay off all these people that I didn’t know. Desperately try and win business from a bunch of other people I didn’t know and had, all of whom had [inaudible 00:30:52] need to spend. And somehow hope I was going to keep this job as well as getting about four hours sleep a night and living in a house by myself and really thinking is this what I want out of my life?

Imogen Osborne: But I always used to say to myself during that time period, all the pain you’re feeling now will help you later on and you could help somebody else with it.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Imogen Osborne: Because you’ll have empathy.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Imogen Osborne: And even though you didn’t want, you didn’t choose this path in the sense that when you were 15-years old, you didn’t imagine this would be the part of your life story. You have to repurpose it. You have to reframe it. We had a really, really good, one of the few really good things about the agency, a really, really good management consultant who came in and worked with all the directors and he was very good at getting you to share your life story and he got chapter and verse and then it all over again when we sat down. But he talked to me about reframing things.

Imogen Osborne: That you can go into a situation and just think everything is awful and I just don’t know how I’m going to cope and I’m on my knees here. I can barely … I’m so tired I can barely speak and he would say, “Yes. You’re all of those things. But what is the greater purpose? Reframe it. Think about your end goal.”

Imogen Osborne: It was having those little inspirational touches that helped me and I think, also, I look back on that time and oh my goodness, does it make me appreciate what I have now.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Imogen Osborne: I’ve had to work very hard for it but I certainly don’t take it for granted, so-

Brendon Craigie: Yeah. I think those are very valuable experiences, aren’t they? The thing about appreciating what you’ve got which you don’t until you’ve experienced more challenging times. But then, also, that thing about having empathy with people? I think, probably, as a younger person I was … I’ve always been, I think I’ve always been quite nice but I think until you’ve had challenging times yourself, it’s very hard to empathize with people and realize that unless you’re exceptionally lucky at some point in your career or your life, you’re going to have a very difficult time. Whether it’s bereavement or divorce or whatever it is. I think, yeah, having that compassion to understand people and sympathize with them and stick by them is really, it’s a really nice quality.

Imogen Osborne: Well, it’s something I’ve certainly learned to value as well as having, sort of, tenacity, as well. Because I’ve remarried. My husband’s brilliant. He supports me on so many levels. He can also be a very challenging personality at times. But I have the tenacity to find ways for us to fix the things that we may not agree on.

Imogen Osborne: This was actually quite a bizarre journey and experience for him. Talking about problems and stuff. He’s Mister Optimistic. He is sunshine yellow every day. Nothing’s a problem. It’s always wonderful, blah-ity, blah whereas I’m a bit more of a realist. But actually, we are so much better at talking through things that are, that can be very tricky … Step-children, for example, because I have two step-children and that is an unknown journey before you embark upon it. And likewise he’s inherited a step-son and he’s had to sort of get his head around what it’s like living with Theo. Which, if I find challenging, as much as I love him. I love you. If you hear this, I love you.

Imogen Osborne: But it is a very difficult thing to do, to be a step-parent. Because you go into it very objectively. You don’t have the sweet, rose-colored spectacle love for these children and neither they for you because-

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Imogen Osborne: You know, who is this person challenging me? Laying rules down? Saying I can’t do this? And you have to … I, actually, my best advice to any new step-parent is learn how to cook because when it gets stressful, take yourself into the kitchen and bake a cake because it is the solution. A, they take a while to make so you take yourself out of whatever’s going on and B, you get to eat cake!

Brendon Craigie: Do you make the cake and then just eat it yourself or is part of this that you actually make a cake to sort of build bridges with, or you know-

Imogen Osborne: To build, that’s it. Yeah. But I do, I allow myself, generally, that the choice of cake. But yes, no. I do do that and I’ve found that actually putting a meal on the table or bringing us together with food was a very powerful thing. Because for all their angst, for all their reasons to possible dislike me as a step-parent, not that it was that particularly, but there were certainly things we disagreed with or have disagreed with over the years … If we were sitting down and breaking bread together, it kinda of neutralized it. Because we were saying we can find a way to get on with each other.

Imogen Osborne: I think, also, my husband when he was growing up, there wasn’t a lot of family meal time. It just seemed to happen on a Sunday and then he was whisked back off to boarding school and you hear a lot of parents today lamenting about the fact they either don’t have time or it seems impossible to get the family together on a regular basis for meals. I’m not saying you have to have breakfast, lunch and dinner every day but we, at the weekend or when Louis and Oscar come over, there’s always a big meal as part of the whole experience.

Imogen Osborne: I find that is a really good, good thing. And it’s really good for me mentally because I can just go … I want to switch off.

Brendon Craigie: In thinking about your marriage, partnership, how important is that, do you think, in life in terms of your success? Is it interrogatory or is … do you see it as just being a completely different part of your life or is it woven up with the success you have in work?

Imogen Osborne: Gosh, that’s a really good question. I would actually say that before I married, when I was single, that was when I was at my most successfully professionally because it was all I had to think about. Now I would say it’s integral to it but if I have to choose between the two, my marriage wins each time so that’s a very clear cut thing.

Imogen Osborne: It’s a wonderful thing because it bolsters you. When things aren’t going great there is nothing better than sharing it with a partner or a boyfriend or a girlfriend, et cetera, because you can just get rid of the stress and get another perspective and I really missed that when I was a single parent because, you know, you could talk to the wall. Theo was 13-months old. There wasn’t a lot he could really say back.

Imogen Osborne: I would say that it’s integral but it demands an awful lot of attention.

Zoe Clark: Yeah. One of the things I’ve been thinking as you’ve been talking about all these different elements of sort of family life and difficult times and things getting more challenging, maybe, and as you go through life and they’ll say … Bringing us back to the point you were making about the importance of conversation in the workplace and also honesty in the workplace. It’s interesting to think about how, in this kind of age, where we’re all … especially with us, for example, at Tyto in this kind of distributed working environment where everyone’s a little but more further apart and we’re all so busy … Honesty not only just about your doing the right thing and being a good employee in that sense, but actually being honest and having conversations about what’s going on in your life with your colleagues and making sure that … Where’s the line? You’ve got to kind of find a-

Imogen Osborne: It’s culture, again, I think. I think the best cultures are the ones that encourage the individual to be the whole individual at work. A lot of this sort of diversity and inclusion debate that is going on at the moment, it’s all driven around creating environments where, no matter where you’re from, what your ethnicity is-

Brendon Craigie: Ethnicity?

Imogen Osborne: Whatever you believe in. If you can walk into a work environment, your work environment, your place of work and feel at home that is incredibly important and I think people give more when they feel that welcome. I know when I was at Skype, somehow despite the … There was a mad drinking party culture there. I loved it. I was ten years too late for it but I absolutely loved it. But somehow, we all managed to come in the next day and we’d always continue putting our heart and soul into our roles and giving our utmost because we just loved being there. It actually wasn’t about the money. It was about the whole culture and what we can do and the fact that we were always … we were kind of on a ship and we had no destination. We sort of new eBay was watching because they’d spent a rather lot of money buying the company but there was a great sense of adventure.

Imogen Osborne: Cisco, by contrast, it was a different culture. People were very much joined up by what their net worth was. Those were generally the only conversations. People would be tracking the stock price and there was a little ticker you would get on your laptop every day telling you whether it was 73.3 eighths or whatever it was ad people would literally be sitting there trying to work out how many millions they were worth. While that united people, it’s very, very narrow minded.

Imogen Osborne: You know, my father died while I was at Cisco and I remember my boss … I took, I wanted to take quite a significant amount of time off work on compassionate leave and I remember him calling me, I think it was on about day seven, saying, “So, when are we going to see you back?”

Imogen Osborne: And I just thought, “Really?! Really?! My father has just died.”

Imogen Osborne: Had that been Skype, it would have been, they wouldn’t have even phoned.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Imogen Osborne: They would have just said, “Take your time,” and been incredibly respectful about that.

Imogen Osborne: So honesty, I think, treating people as human beans as the Big Friendly Giant says, is so important because it builds the trust and its actually quite inspiring and refreshing.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah. I think that’s great, isn’t it? That sharing, the more raw stuff is what builds teams, isn’t it?

Zoe Clark: Especially in a small organization, you are a family really, you know? Yeah. Interesting.

Imogen Osborne: Your spending so much time at work, don’t you?

Brendon Craigie: I think this is completely different but I think, also, if you’re on a speed boat as opposed to like a slow oil tanker-

Imogen Osborne: I was imagining a yacht, actually.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah, but I think that’s more exciting as well, you know? As in, I think if you feel, metaphorically, if you feel the wind in your hair because your business is going places and it’s changing and it’s evolving, that’s great, I think, in terms of building camaraderie and spirit whereas if it feels like you’re living in slow motion and things going really slowly then that’s less good for gelling people together?

Imogen Osborne: Definitely. People need a purpose.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Imogen Osborne: They need to know what they’re doing matters, counts. Even if it’s simply welcoming people when they walk through the door to organizing the office party, to coming up with a new product idea. The more a company culture can encourage that, the whole sort of from start to finish, the a to zed, everybody’s important, everybody has a voice. I think it just gets everybody involved so much more and, you know, who wants to be on that slow boat? Nobody.

Brendon Craigie: No.

Zoe Clark: No one at all.

Imogen Osborne: No one I know.

Zoe Clark: Talking of boats … if you had to take a boat to your desert island desk, where would your desert island desk be?

Imogen Osborne: Well, it would have to be somewhere … I don’t know. Probably South America. I’d probably be a little bit dangerous and I wouldn’t necessarily go for the Brazil, Sao Paulo option. I might, sort of, head for Venezuela. I would just … I have a vision in my head as you say this, I would really like to have a kitchen with yellow tiles in it. I could come into my kitchen, which would obviously have very good cooking utensils and baking equipment, blah blah, but really open plan where I could sit and work and feel life and work together. It would be very green. Brilliant view and lots of a chaos, somewhere, in the distance.

Zoe Clark: Is that for inspiration or?

Imogen Osborne: Yeah. Just to … as a reminder that there is a mad, mad world out that and that at any time if I was feeling a bit stir crazy and I just wanted to get out I could just go from the yellow tiled haven and walk into those streets and just completely forget where I was. I love that.

Zoe Clark: Amazing.

Imogen Osborne: Is that possible to arrange?

Zoe Clark: I think we can give it a go.

Brendon Craigie: And we’ll come around for cake.

Imogen Osborne: Awesome.

Zoe Clark: Imogen, thanks so much.

Zoe Clark: Thanks for listening to Without Borders. If you’ve liked what you heard, why not subscribe? And if you want to find out more about Tyto and what we’re up to, you can find us at tytopr.com. That’s T-Y-T-O-P-R.COM.

Tyto brings you Without Borders, a regular dose of inspiration for passionate communicators, courageous creatives and entrepreneurial business brains. Expect candid chats with the wisest old hands, bleeding edge innovators and left field thinkers and doers.