What I've Learnt: Sara Tate, CEO at TBWA\London

Charlie Spargo's picture
by Charlie Spargo
Sara Tate, TBWA\London

Sara Tate was brought in as CEO of TBWA\London in October 2017 with the goal of restoring the agency's "mojo".

She's spent time at some of the city's leading groups - namely BBH London, Mother, and Lucky Generals. Bringing a talent for strategy and planning to TBWA, she's won numerous awards and is a Founder Member of The Two Percent Club, a campaign group pushing for more women at the top of businesses.

Brands with which Tate has worked include British Airways, Baileys, Boots No. 7, and Coca-Cola.

We found out some of the lessons her illustrious creative career has taught her.

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Eight hours of sleep. When I was younger, I could burn the midnight oil. But now, getting enough shut-eye is the single biggest thing that impacts my mood and effectiveness.

Whether it’s sleep, food or exercise, it pays to figure out what you can’t do without. 

What's been your luckiest break?

Working at great creative agencies like BBH and Mother during the height of their success. I got to ride on their coat-tails and absorb what it feels like when a company’s on a roll. It gave me a blueprint for how fun, exciting and rewarding it is when an agency gets its culture right. 

What's your best failure?

I pretty much flunked university. I worked hard but, boy, was I useless! It taught me to accept that despite a lot of hard work, not everything will be successful - and that it isn’t the end of the world if things don’t go to plan. 

What's the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?

A professional coach. She has ironed out the bad habits I should’ve got rid of years ago.

Americans are much more open to accepting professional help in all areas of their lives and I’m beginning to understand why.

How would you describe your work/life balance?

A permanent work in progress. Life and work circumstances ebb and flow, so you need to keep reviewing what works. Before I had a family, I swore I would never go part time. Now I have two small children, I work four days a week, and I will never go back to full time. In truth it’s better to stay open-minded and to just go with what feels right at the time.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

Any and every book. Making 15 minutes each day to read is an absolute gift, whether it’s Steven Covey or Jilly Cooper. More likely to be Jilly in my case.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Ignore people who tell you not to sweat the small stuff. It pays off in the end.

Although some people succeed by busking it, more often than not success stems from working hard and being nice to people. 

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

Having children. It forced a work/life balance that previously eluded me.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

Outside of work I’m an introvert. 

What does success look like to you?

You know something’s a success when the journey is as enjoyable as the destination.