“But then I got talking to Marco about his ambitions and ideas, and although my journey started with me, I realised that we could make this mission a much bigger one.”

As the CEO of UM UK&I, I witnessed firsthand the transformative impact of the pandemic on our industry. It propelled us to question the traditional notions of work, break free from the confines of the conventional office, and explore the boundless possibilities that lay ahead. In this era of remote work and digital connectivity, a newfound freedom emerged—a freedom to design our own work lives.

It prompted us to question traditional ways of doing business, adapt rapidly, and seek new solutions to navigate the storm. It became evident that the path to growth and resilience lay in embracing fresh perspectives, diverse expertise, and collaborative partnerships.

The lessons learned from the crisis illuminated the importance of flexibility, autonomy, and the desire for a more balanced work-life integration. Fuelled by these realisations, and some personal realisations, not least the fact that ‘my baby’ was suddenly all grown up and in her final year at school doing her A-levels, and I had a limited ‘window’ before she fled the nest, to be a mum again, I set myself a mission. I call it my ‘perfect storm’ or ‘perfect epiphany’.

I knew I had to make some tough decisions, ultimately leading me to leave my job—a decision that was bold and one that was either bonkers or brilliant. Across the following months, I would fluctuate between the two! The one thing that kept me going was the fact that I could never get this time back with my eldest and her 14-year-old sister, and I felt blessed to have this ‘golden time’. For the first time in a very long time, my focus was solely on my family and not my ‘work family’, which I have taken very close to my heart throughout my career.

After taking some time out just being ‘a mum’ and setting myself new goals, which included transcendental meditation, hot yoga, kitchen bridge, and watching the full box set of The Sopranos! I opened myself up to the universe and had interesting conversations to consider new opportunities and horizons. Additionally, I had time to read, listen to podcasts, and attend some brilliant conferences where I could, for once, fully engage and actually take notes. I love our industry, and it was brilliant to be able to take that step back and listen. (Special thanks to Adwanted events Future of Brands and Bauer Media @CampaignMedia360 for having me chair and be on their panels) I felt alive and energised, and among other things, my conversations led me to do some consultancy with an adtech company. This was my first dip into an advisory role, and I loved it. I felt valued again after being away from the office for a few months. I imparted my knowledge, but I learned loads too, and it gave me an insight into the consultant life.

And it got me thinking, could the consultant life be the one I was seeking, and would it be sustainable? However, I felt slightly at sea and more than a little isolated in my own little bubble. This life was alien to me; I’m a team player!

But then I got talking to Marco about his ambitions and ideas, and although my journey started with me, I realised that we could make this mission a much bigger one.

Marco had spent some time consulting in his career. He had really enjoyed it and felt fulfilled, but like me, he felt slightly disconnected from the wider industry and at times lonely. He had spent a long time thinking about what he wanted next, reevaluating his own career, and analysing when he felt happiest, which ultimately was getting the best out of his teams and supporting individuals in their own careers.

Together, pooling our expertise and passion, the idea of a Consultant Collective was born—a vision that aimed to connect experienced professionals in the media, marketing, and advertising space with companies hungry for new ideas and innovative solutions. A vision to help change the industry for the better and make a difference.

Our journey began with lots of cups of coffee, extensive research, conversations, and soul-searching. It was a good job we’d known each other for over 25 years. In fact, we’d started at Zenith Media in the same cohort, in the corner building on North Wharf Rd, Paddington, which, despite upgrading its windows to a shiny blue, still looked like a s**thole from the outside. But inside, it was all soul, and as we both fondly look back at our time there, it was a brilliant place to start our careers, and it has spawned some genuine media legends.

We sought to understand the evolving needs of our industry and identify the gaps that could be filled by a collective of exceptional consultants. Countless hours were spent envisioning a space that would not only connect companies with experts but also foster a culture of innovation, learning, and collaboration. We spoke to many individuals along our journey and carefully curated a network of seasoned professionals—media strategists, marketing geniuses, creative visionaries, and digital mavens—who would form the backbone of this transformative venture. It was imperative to ensure that the Consultant Collective offered the highest quality of expertise and results, allowing only the best and brightest minds to join our collective. The evaluation criteria were based not just on experience but also on the ability to think outside the box, adapt to new challenges, and bring a fresh perspective to the table.

As the pieces fell into place, the Consultant Collective began to take shape, and it even got a name, inspired by animal psychology traits, Marco started to envision a diverse set of talents within our collective, a menagerie if you will, and TheZoo.London was born. We designed a service that offered flexible consulting solutions tailored to the unique needs of each client. Short-term projects, strategic campaigns, or long-term partnerships—the collective would cater to the diverse requirements of businesses seeking growth and transformation.

Everyone we spoke to understood the concept immediately and welcomed the opportunity to connect to a community and feel part of something bigger. We recognised the importance of nurturing a culture of collaboration, learning, and thought leadership. We wanted to create a hub for knowledge-sharing, a place where consultants could connect, engage, and stay at the forefront of industry trends, with events and forums to become catalysts for inspiration and innovation. A community that would support each other, offer advice and inspiration, and ultimately bring in projects and income. The first Consultant Collective—an embodiment of resilience, adaptability, and the power of collective genius. It is a celebration of our journey through the post-pandemic landscape, navigating challenges, embracing change, and emerging stronger and more united.

As we reflect on the pandemic, it reinforces the power of adaptability and resilience. It shows us that the ability to pivot swiftly, embrace change, and think creatively is essential for survival and success. As leaders, we must carry forward the valuable insights gained during this transformative period and champion the flexible work models that have empowered the workforce, fostered diversity, and enhanced well-being.

In the post-pandemic era, the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion has come to the forefront. Organisations have recognised that diverse perspectives drive innovation, creativity, and better decision-making, and this is what ultimately sits at the heart of TheZoo.London.

The pandemic also accelerated the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and digital transformations across industries. Companies that were once hesitant to embrace technological innovations were compelled to adapt swiftly. As a result, we have witnessed a surge in the use of artificial intelligence, automation, and data analytics to streamline operations, enhance customer experiences, and drive growth. These digital advancements have not only improved efficiency but have also opened new avenues for innovation and market expansion. Marco and I felt passionate about reimagining the workplace and how companies tap into new expertise, to continue to embrace change and innovation. We must remain agile, responsive, and forward-thinking, prepared to navigate the uncertainties that lie ahead. 

And now, as Marco and I stand at the launch of the First Consultant Collective, we celebrate the liberation and empowerment that it represents—a testament to the human spirit’s capacity to transcend limitations and embrace the freedom to design our own work lives.

We invite you to embark on this remarkable journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Join the Consultant Collective, where you can shape your work-life design, pursue your passions, and find the balance that resonates with your individuality. Together, let us break free from the constraints of the traditional nine-to-five and unlock a future where work is a canvas for personal fulfillment and professional success.

Welcome to TheZoo.London, a Consultant Collective—an embodiment of choice, empowerment, and the relentless pursuit of a life fully lived.