What I've Learnt: Adam Williams, CEO of Takumi

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by Charlie Spargo

Adam Williams leads leading Instagram influencer marketing service Takumi, which has offices in London, Berlin and New York.

He has spent time as Digital Platforms Group Head at Global Radio, before moving to Spotify where he eventually became UK MD. He became Takumi's CRO in 2018, and was promoted to CEO last year.

We sat down with Adam to learn more about his life and experiences.

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

I listen to Headspace as often as I can to give me clarity of thought before the working day. I wish I did it every day, but sometimes the schedule doesn’t allow!

What's been your luckiest break?

In 2008, I was made redundant by Chrysalis Radio and ended up doing over 30 interviews. I went to one agency and although the interviewer didn’t have a position for me, he did recommend that I apply to Spotify.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’d never heard of Spotify when I applied - they were so new! I went on to become only their fourth UK employee and eventually the UK, Benelux & Ireland Managing Director.

What's your best failure?

I wouldn’t call it my best failure, but my biggest learning came from Words Won’t Do - the company I started after leaving Spotify. It certainly didn’t go where I expected it to, but I learnt so much about myself and the business world.

I’m a big believer that anything you learn could benefit you at some point. You may get stuck, but eventually you’ll find yourself in a situation where your past experiences will help you to make the most of it.

While I wasn’t able to make a success of Words Won’t Do, the experience has proved invaluable for my work with Takumi.

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

Spotify. I invested seven years there, had a brilliant time and learnt so much.

How would you describe your work/life balance?

In short - erratic. While it’s not the most positive way to describe my work/life balance, running a startup is demanding and you need to be on call at any time in the day.

This has particularly been the case during Takumi’s expansion internationally. Now I have to do quite a bit of travelling between our London, Berlin and New York offices to ensure everything is streamlined and we are all singing from the same hymn sheet. I enjoy it though - it’s an exciting time at Takumi and it’s great to see the brand grow globally.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

I’m going to go for a business book and recommend ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries. It’s a brilliant book that explains how you can think differently when running a startup.

One technique Ries recommends that’s proved particularly useful is the ‘Five Whys’. It's helped trim down the minutes in many a meeting over the years and make clear decisions that have facilitated Takumi’s growth.

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

Say 'yes' more than you say 'no'! Life is full of opportunities and you never know where they are going to come from.

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

Definitely my parents. They taught me how to treat people correctly and how to expect to be treated. I’ve taken these teachings into my career. It’s important that your employees feel comfortable talking to you about their thoughts and problems.

We talk a lot about listening to customers, but you shouldn’t forget about your employees in the process. Be there for them and treat them correctly, and they’ll be more likely to continue working at your business and produce great results.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I love kitesurfing!

What does success look like to you?

On a personal level, success for me is knowing that I can support my family. There’s no better feeling than that!

From a business perspective, success is giving my all to a company and seeing it grow. I joined Takumi at the start of 2018 and have overseen Instagram influencer marketing campaigns for hundreds of the world’s biggest agencies and brands, including Clarins, Pernod Ricard and Mercedes.

We were recently named ‘Best Relationship Management Tool’ at the 2019 Influencer Marketing Awards and success for me in 2020 will be continuing our upward trajectory.