#KnapChat: Jonathan Leafe On Building A Brand, Agency Life & Consulting

Jonathan Leafe

Marketing Manager, guitarist, Managing Director, Digital Artwork Manager, Brand Ambassador, Consultant… Jonathan Leafe’s CV sure is impressive.

Having started his own advertising agency in the 80s, off the back of gaining experience in another agency as well as three years in Spain, Jonathan is an expert in creating, nurturing and building brands.

Now, Jonathan uses the wisdom he has gained through decades of nurturing his own award-winning agency and business to support and mentor leaders and business owners in their respective sectors.

KW: You’ve been involved in the advertising and marketing sector for over 30 years. How has the industry changed over the last 3 decades?

Jonathan: The industry has changed, but not as much as you might think. The tools certainly, and the delivery methods definitely, but the marketing ideas and creativity hasn’t.

KW: What initially drew you to work in advertising? And what convinced you to not only stay in the sector all this time, but to also set up your own agency?

Jonathan: I was always interested in promotion. When I was in a band touring the UK and Europe I often ended up promoting the band and designing various bits and pieces.

KW: What was the most important thing for you personally when setting up Strawberry?

Jonathan: I always wanted to have my own business – most of my friends were business owners, as was my dad, so it was just something I felt I must do.

KW: What has been the proudest moment of your career?

Jonathan: To see young team members progress and develop into great employees excellent at their jobs are always proud moments.

KW: You say that your first agency, which you set up in 1989, was among the first to universally use Macintosh for digital artwork. What was the thought process behind this decision? Why Macintosh at a time when Windows dominated?

Jonathan: We went straight to Macintosh because they had the best software – Photoshop and illustrator – Windows had neither of these at the time.

KW: Why the name Strawberry?

Jonathan: Easy – it was the name of the street we had our offices on.

KW: Talk us through the decision to leave Strawberry and start Leafe Consultancy

Jonathan: I felt that 30 years at the ‘coal-face’ running your own business is enough. I wanted to give myself enough time to have a good stab at a career after Strawberry.

Jonathan Leafe

KW: You say that, before agreeing to work with them, ‘agencies will be selected on a strict criteria on their suitability and potential’. What sort of questions does this involve?

Jonathan: I can only work with people who have an open mind and a growth mindset. The progress I can make needs this.

KW: What draws you towards helping out start-ups?

Jonathan: I like to help start-ups because getting off on the right foot can mean the difference between staying in business or not. It’s easy starting a business – it’s really hard staying in business.

KW: Talk us through your charity work… You mention you are a trustee of a charity that helps children from poor backgrounds develop…

Jonathan: I’ve always been drawn to helping out where I can. it’s important we all give up time to do so. I feel I’ve been very fortunate in my life and I want to give back where I can.

KW: You’ve seen your own agency thrive and grow, as well as help many others do the same. So, what are the key ingredients to business development/growth?

Jonathan: Focus, hard work and doing the simple things well. Picking the right clients, developing a great team and always working on your own abilities and thinking. Choosing the right coach to help you with this makes it much easier.

KW: What are some of the most common business problems you see/get approached with?

Jonathan: People get ‘too busy’. They focus on the here and now and not the direction of the business. This never works in the long term. Leaders must take time to work on the business.

KW: Marketing, in essence, is all about relationships. Relationships between people, brands and customers, products, and so on. What, in your experience, has been the key to building and nurturing such strong relationships?

Jonathan: You need to be honest, deliver on promises and go the extra mile. It’s about forming and maintaining relationships which are partnerships built on trust for the long term. 

KW:  What’s the most rewarding thing about your job?

Jonathan: Seeing people ‘get it’. The rest is then quite easy.

KW: Who inspires you?

Jonathan: Everyone I meet inspires me. I learn something new every day and sometimes from the most unexpected places. I love observing, there’s not much I don’t notice.

KW: What has been the most important thing in your career/life? Something that was so important, you wouldn’t be where you are today without it?

Jonathan: The Macintosh changed my life. Without it, I couldn’t have achieved what I did. I also ask a lot of questions of people. I read a lot. I travel a lot. 

KW: How has your band, Moscow for Pleasure, helped your career? Are there parallels between being a guitarist and a chairman or MD?

Jonathan: Being in a band opened my eyes to the World. Teamwork, hard work, tolerance, patience, focus, energy, precision, creativity – the list is pretty much endless.

Moscow For Pleasure

KW: How would you describe your band? How often do you still play?

Jonathan: We’re a throwback to the early eighties. It’s purely for fun now – we don’t play regularly.

Moscow For Pleasure

KW: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Jonathan: Even in times of trouble, when the world’s crumbling around you, the cream still always rises to the top. You need to be amongst the very best.

Final Words

To be a leader, you need to be brave enough to make decisions; no matter how risky; no matter what others are doing. Jonathan Leafe has proven himself fearless in the face of such choices. From starting his own agency and business to making that pivotal decision to work with Macintosh computers instead of Windows, his bravery has been rewarded in the connections and achievements he has made throughout his career.

To be a coach – a mentor – you need to be as open to sharing your own knowledge and experiences as you are towards learning from those of others. Once again, Jonathan has consistently proven himself in both areas, having the patience and drive to start multiple businesses while always keeping an eye and an ear out for inspiration from those surrounding him.

The lesson to be had from talking with Jonathan and sharing his experience? Never stop learning. Constantly look for inspiration. Search for motivation and wisdom everywhere you look. Tick those boxes, and you’ll do just fine.


Oliver Wilkinson
Content Manager


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