CLARE MCKEEVE - CEO, TALENTHOUSE
Clare McKeeve is the passionate, integrity-driven, and razor-sharp CEO behind the Talenthouse platform, the largest co-creation platform in the world and home to 14.5 Million members, out of which 4 million are professional creatives, being seen heard and compensated through direct access to creative briefs from leading brands, agencies and entertainment icons worldwide.
Talking to Clare about her work is one of those times that, as an interviewer, fills you with excitement and makes you want to dive into every key element that makes someone tick. Her passion and determination shine through like the beacon of the platform itself; The leading light creatives worldwide have waited for and are long overdue. Despite challenging economic times, Talenthouse has seen a rise from 700,000 members in 2018 to 14.5M today and I, for one, am not at all surprised. With a commitment to keeping its people at the heart of the business and the driving force of Clare at the helm, there's no limit to how far this digital disruptor can go in creating economic and social opportunities for its creatives, and I am fully on board.
I am naturally thrilled to introduce you to such an incredible CEO, mother and visionary today. Over to you, Clare.
SO, CLARE, WHATS YOUR STORY?
I'm extremely passionate about executing Talenthouse's strategy. This is one of those moments where preparation meets opportunity, and I couldn't be more excited! We're very well placed to bring the world's great brands together with the great artists of our time, and we're just getting started. We get the fact that the creative industry is a key element of the foundation of our society. Art provokes, inspires, touches the heart and even more so, connects us. From Photographers to animators, videographers to illustrators, game developers, musical artists and beyond, we have the privilege of working with and nurturing these great artistic talents!
YOU DESCRIBE YOUR JOURNEY TO CEO OF TALENTHOUSE AS NON-LINEAR, SOMETHING MANY OF OUR READERS WILL IDENTIFY WITH. HOW HAS THIS VARIATION IN YOUR WORK STRENGTHENED YOUR POSITION AS YOU STAND TODAY?
Intellectual curiosity has been a primary driver in how I've built my career. I'm privileged to have been able to select roles that have challenged me to learn something new and different to satisfy that curiosity! As practitioners, the more diverse challenges you've had to solve, the more diverse a toolbox you bring along your journey.
My experience in Private Equity, where I worked across the media and consumer sectors, armed me with the strategic and tactical know-how to hone and diversify our revenue streams. Working with people from across our globe, of course, is the finishing school for any Chief Executive, and in my case, I walked into my role at Talenthouse with the kind of network of colleagues and former clients that makes my "non-linear" journey to this moment all the more productive and joyful.
IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE, WHICH ONE QUALITY COULD YOU NOT HAVE BEEN WITHOUT ON YOUR PROFESSIONAL JOURNEY AND WHY?
It's grit. Life's going to throw you a ton of curveballs (to use the American baseball idiom!), and the more of those you turn into a triumph teaches you how to handle those terrifying moments any mother, wife, or CEO faces. To me, grit means having the stamina and strength to deploy the right tactics at the right time. Empathy is part of grit, as is vulnerability and focus. Bring it on!
HOW DO YOU HANDLE CRITICISM?
Still personally! It's important to really listen to the criticism and understand what one can do better. At the same time, sometimes the criticism isn't in your or your company's best interest – it can merely be someone else's point of view. I'm tough but human. I guess I could do with an even thicker skin!
RICHARD BRANSON'S DEFINITION OF AN ENTREPRENEUR IS 'ONE WHO JUMPS'. CONCERNING RISK, DO YOU FEEL A SENSE OF ADVENTURE OR WILLINGNESS TO JUMP IS ESSENTIAL TO CORPORATE SUCCESS?
Got to love Sir Richard! I'm willing to bet, though, that he jumps when he and his firm are ready to do so and not a moment before!
For us, using that potential jump or risk as a litmus test to our strategy while keeping our vision front and centre is core to our operation. What you have to solve is: Does this risk merit graduating to a strategic step? This requires a singular focus on where you're taking your vision and not getting knocked down by obstacles that should've been calculated before jumping. I work to surround myself with professionals that luxuriate in getting the best data to inform the risks we interrogate. If you do this part right, risks become strategy, and the "high" around risk-taking becomes a sustainable joy in execution.
FROM 700,000 MEMBERS IN 2018 TO 14.5M TODAY, TALENTHOUSE HAS EXPERIENCED EXPONENTIAL GROWTH CONNECTING CREATIVES WITH GLOBAL BRANDS WORLDWIDE. HOW HAVE YOU AND YOUR TEAM MANAGED THE PRESSURE AND OPPORTUNITIES OF THE GROWTH PROCESS?
It's been a wild journey! This growth has enabled us to access better tools to do our work and to have the kinds of data to inform our decision making. This growth has also been achieved during the pandemic, so it has been essential to make sure that all team members are heard.
Listening and processing team feedback becomes more challenging as we grow, and we're using more and more innovative technology to facilitate this. I don't think this would've been possible even five years ago. This pandemic has been tough on all of us, but I can't help but be impressed at how quickly tech companies have moved to solve the problems to management and growth all of us in the industry are facing, given this new normal.
WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND DIFFICULT ON YOUR JOURNEY AND WHAT WOULD YOU AVOID IF YOU WERE ABLE TO DO IT ALL AGAIN?
Getting the right talent in the right roles to take the business to the next level is, of course, the goal, but it has proven challenging at times. I'm focused on making it easy for all creatives to thrive financially. Ambitious and achievable as a vision, in practice, it opens myriad conflicts with the "old" way of thinking some stakeholders have trouble letting go of. Getting pulled into these misaligned agendas can distract from delivery. In the future, I will have more confidence in my capabilities and move forward faster without allowing myself to be mired down by unconstructive debate. The way is forward!
WHAT’S YOUR TOP TIP FOR ENTREPRENEURS READING THIS ARTICLE?
Move. Quickly. Get going on building your vision and make demonstrable steps towards achieving it. A plan is never perfect, you learn most by getting on with it and tweaking along the way, so it's critical to...get going!
WHICH MOTIVATIONAL SONG WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO ADD TO THE FEMALE CEO'S #GIRLBOSS PLAYLIST ON SPOTIFY FOR YOU?
I'm Gonna Be (500 miles) by The Proclaimers – need a little homegrown Scottish patter in the mornings and keeps my foundation in place!
TALENTHOUSE, LIKE MANY COMPANIES, HAS HAD TO ADAPT TO NEW WORKING PRACTICES AND THE MANY STRESSES BROUGHT ABOUT SINCE COVID 19, ALL WHILE STILL EXPERIENCING MASSIVE GROWTH. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW YOU CONTINUED TO GROW AND INVEST IN PEOPLE WHILST FACING ADVERSITY?
The magic sauce at Talenthouse is our passion for our creatives and my team's motivation to deliver our vision. If this time is tough for folks with full-time jobs and benefits, it is 10x more difficult for the creatives we aim to serve. Their pain is never far from the front of our minds, and we've benefited from the tech world stepping up and, almost just in time, delivering our solutions to facilitate delivering against our brand promise and values. The other side of the coin is simply being there for each other as human beings – my people love people, and there's genuine empathy in our interactions. For us, meeting the moment IS the job.
DO YOU HAVE A BOOK OR FAVOURITE PODCAST RECOMMENDATION FOR OUR FEMALE CEO MEMBERS?
I'm reading all about the metaverse right now, so it has to be Welcome to the Metaverse on Apple Podcasts.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
1. My family – keeping sane through a mental couple of years with our children still intact and thriving!
2. Talenthouse never gives up for creatives every single day!
WHAT DO YOU KNOW FOR SURE?
You cannot falter if you have acted with integrity and grace. It may not drive immediate results, but it will help you get through the tough times.
YOU ARE ALL ABOUT YOUR MEMBERS, AND IT'S CLEAR THAT PUTTING THE CREATIVE AT THE HEART OF EVERYTHING YOU DO ISN'T JUST A MANTRA; IT'S A WAY OF LIFE. DO YOU THINK WE'LL SEE AN ADVANCEMENT IN BIG COMPANIES TOWARDS SOCIAL CHANGE AND AUTHENTICITY WITH INDUSTRY LEADERS LIKE TALENTHOUSE AT THE FOREFRONT LEADING THE WAY?
Absolutely. Companies are always looking for ways to connect with their consumers. I believe the drive towards better ROI on investment has been fantastic, but now they need to up the quality of the content, so it makes brands "feel" what they are trying to convey.
Today, the stories our brands tell more than ever need to connect with the diverse humans they serve. We tell our stories by creating art – whether graffiti (which is an ancient, if rebellious art form) or 3D NFTs, the metier matters not – the authenticity does.
We are uniquely positioned to facilitate that relationship in both directions: 1. Brands that want to tell more human stories, 2. Creatives from across the planet that have stories to tell. We couldn't ask for a better position to be in.
YOU LIST EMPATHY, KINDNESS AND INTEGRITY AS AMONGST YOUR CORE VALUES. AS THE HEAD OF A SIGNIFICANT ORGANISATION, HOW DO YOU BRING THOSE VALUES INTO YOUR WORK AND DO YOU THINK IT'S ESSENTIAL IN BUSINESS?
One of the challenges I run toward is being able to do all of those things – be empathetic, be kind, have integrity at once and do it proactively and quickly. If those core values govern my decisions, I can enable the proper steps and get elements that have gotten off track quickly while hopefully reinforcing the right behaviours.
WHAT MAKES YOU TRULY HAPPY?
My joy nucleus is my family. Maintaining that kernel of me and executing our firm's vision is the secret sauce to a life worth living for me. Happiness is a fleeting illusion – joy truly carries you through and infects those around you to do the same.
If you want to know more about Clare or Talenthouse you can find more information here.