Keeping the home fires burning – The future of Spark
This is the third and final instalment of Creative Spark founder, Neil Marra’s ‘Journey to Spark’. In this series Sparks founder Neil Marra talks us through his personal journey to success in the colourful world of advertising.
Neil’s inspiration has always been, and continues to be his Dad Ralph, he was the driving force behind Neil’s desire to succeed in the same space. In contrast to Ralph, who’s inbuilt natural ability to create something from nothing simply with a pen and paper, Neil brings his ideas to life through the power of technology. Both talented, both creative, both generating new ideas; same goals, different techniques, one outcome: 2 successful generations of designers.
Missed the first 2 blogs? Catch up here:
Neil talks about the need to look at his companies’ culture, how his Dad continues to influence his life choices, the impact his own upbringing has had on how he is as a Dad, and how fatherhood has impacted the way he now runs his business.
After such a turbulent time I finally found my love for it all again, the journey I’d been on caused me to lose my mojo but I was ready to go again. Firstly I looked at our company culture, the vision I had for the future of Spark and the team. With my new Head of Strategy Neil Mason we’ve carved out what we want to be as an agency today. All those learnings taken from when times were tough have helped build my resilience to seize opportunities and to never give up on what you love, and I love this business.
Striking a work life balance…
It is a lifestyle, the agency is a massive part of my life but I’ve known no different, just as my Dad before me, it’s a part of who I am. By his own admission Dad worked long hours that took him away from family life in the week, then it would be my Mum who kept everything going. I’d often be in bed when he got home but he really made up for that at the weekends, we’d do everything together and that’s what I remember, the fun stuff, the playing football together, trips to Rhyl Sun centre and hanging out whilst my sister was at dance comps. It was a hard slog in those early days of the advertising industry, there was a lot of pressure to work all hours, if you worked for a big ad agency in the city, there was an expectation. The job was a privilege and everything else had to work around it.
Once Dad retired it didn’t stop there for him, he’s continued to help me out, sometimes he got paid, more often than not he didn’t, his support was unconditional. 21 years on he’s still here, right by my side, I wouldn’t have got where I am without him, his endless love and desire to help me succeed has been unfaltering and any guilt he might have felt at all those long hours away from the family, he’s more than made up for, not that I ever resented it, that’s just how it was.
Today we’re all encouraged to get that work/life balance right and Dad fully supports me in achieving that with my own son, as much as work can consume us, family comes first, not just in the way we provide for them but in the time that we spend with them and that’s really important to me.
…I celebrate 21 years of Creative Spark, and still my Dad plays a huge role and we talk endlessly about the business and opportunities. We have the most incredible relationship, don’t get me wrong, he can be a grumpy old bear and he’s not afraid to bollock me in front of the team, but he’s been there every step of the way and I genuinely couldn’t have done it (wouldn’t have wanted it to do it) without him, right by my side.
To celebrate the legend that is Ralph Marra, I named my own son Ralph and so his namesake will live on. By far the most important thing that I’ve learnt from my Dad, and one that I intend to emulate with Ralph junior as he grows up, is to foster his growth, to encourage him to pursue his dreams and to 100% support him in whatever he chooses to do. I do of course hope that he will follow in the footsteps of my Dad and I, and one day take over the agency but most importantly I want him to find something that he enjoys, that he’s excited to be a part of and wants to spend his life doing.
We all know life’s too short to spend 8 hours a day doing something we don’t enjoy, and finding that ‘something’ is worth pursuing until you’ve got it right. As my Dad did for me, I want to be there for Ralph, offer that unconditional love and support, no barriers, no harbouring a grudge, an open, honest relationship, that above all, is fuelled by love and respect.