24 hours with The Works’ Douglas Nicol

In this 24 hours with, The Works partner Douglas Nicol discusses his love for blue checkered shirts and reveals his favourite hangover prevention method.


Wake Up.

I am a bit of a news junkie – it’s the first on the list when I wake up. It allows my brain to switch on for the day and indulge my unhealthy fascination with politics. The hour of news starts with News Radio, then on to Radio National Breakfast, finally finishing up with The Australian on my iPad, particularly for their business news while I get ready for the day.

My colleagues will tell you I have reputation for wearing a variance of blue checkered shirts, but today I strayed away from my personal brand guidelines, opting with a plain blue. I would also point out that I do my own shirt ironing each evening, it’s sort of a ritual that I have done for years.


One of my kids is knee deep in HSC exams. Chatting to him is like walking a fine line, he’s a bit tense and even more monosyllabic than a usual 18-year-old young gentleman. A few grunts are exchanged over our muesli and I wish him luck for his Agriculture exam.


When I step into the car, I instantly become a Kyle and Jackie O junkie. Behind all the trash talk, it’s the best possible snapshot of what’s going on in the real world – a guilty pleasure and ‘research’ all in one.


On the approach to the office I text our barista Pete a dad joke GIF along with my coffee order. Pete is our ace barista, who is also partially deaf – he has been teaching us all sign language on the side as well.

I pop the $2 coffee donation in the jar when I get to the café. Every dollar goes to the Steve Waugh Foundation – a charity that supports children with rare diseases and one that Kev (my business partner) will be riding 800km for in November.


The work day has officially started and I am greeted by Valentino, our office dog who belongs to its proud owner and The Works finance director, Jill. I kick off the morning with our weekly new business meeting, where we collaborate on all new opportunities for our business.

I am in charge of new business, which is a relentless quest that can be equally joyous and the dark depths of misery. I weirdly love this new business rollercoaster, although on occasions I take it too seriously and become obsessive about things (as my long-suffering wife Sarah will attest to).

We use Hubspot to manage our new business effort, it’s a great tool to visually lay out all our opportunities. But, the real winner is our new business mailers.

Our mailers currently consist of a selfie stick and two t-shirts (one with a positive and the other with a negative response) and an invite for the recipient to take a picture with the t-shirt of their choice.  I’ve received no selfies with the ‘no’ t-shirt response; ‘If I wanted work like yours, I’d give crayons to my kids’ – so let’s consider that a success.


Next up is an internal creative review for an upcoming News Corp campaign. All in all, the ideas were brilliant, but may blow the budget – so some creative surgery required to get them in shape.


As 12pm rolls in I head over to the POPAI conference and have a chat to some of the attendees over lunch.

Then it’s my time to present, where I delve into the world of ‘Bot Wars’ and how messaging platforms are experiencing dramatic engagement growth. We have a long-term data analytics project called datafication, one of the only source of messaging use data in Australia. The project gives me lots of new insights to share at conferences. In this case, it leads to an invite with a well-known shopping centre brand – all in a good day’s work.

Most importantly, I check in with my son to see how his HSC exam went today, I get a non-committal answer no different from this morning – ahhh don’t you love teenagers.


I head back to our workshop space, where one of the last and most important meetings of today kicks off. Even though 3pm probably isn’t the best time for a workshop, we hit the ground running with my favourite strategy tool called ‘The Leaky Buckets’, which collects and organises clients’ data so they can set better marketing priorities and measurement based on the concept of revenue leakage in the customer journey. It makes for really robust conversations about client priorities and focus. Session seemed to go well.


Today marks The Works 15th birthday, so I sneak out to the North Sydney pool to do laps before the festivities begins. The North Sydney pool is incredible, with amazing views of the harbour. I come from Dublin originally and have swum in this pool for at least 12 years but I still have an Irish tourist wow moment every time I look out over what must be one of the most beautifully located pools in the world.


Heading back to the office everyone has a beer in hand, ready to go down to our meeting room level for the 15th birthday party. There are life sizes cut outs of myself, Kevin and Damian (my other business partners) dressed up as 15 year olds and the progress of the evening can be measured through the amount of chocolate cake that ends up being smeared over our effigies.


Get home, cup of strong tea (great hangover avoidance strategy). Bedtime. Without wanting to sound like a shallow advertising agency type, I am lucky to be able to come to work every day and enjoy working with a very talented group of hard working people. Most of all, I get to learn new things from them every single day.


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