AMA: Graeme Dixon, founder of Octopus

Intelligence and research is fundamental to business growth and most of us rely on agencies to give us a greater insight.

We spoke to Graeme Dixon, the founder of Octopus, an agency making waves in this sphere. With a client list including Mercedes-Benz, Samsung and Aviva, Graeme’s company is recognised as one of the leading lights of the sector.

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Hi Graeme, let’s kick off by learning a bit about the company.

Octopus has been going for over 12 years now, and we do a mix of competitor analysis, market intelligence, research, investigations, due diligence and background checks. All wrapped up in the term "competitive intelligence". 

We have worked with Samsung's and Corning's of this world and a number of startups, but our sweet spot is the middle market. It's where we make the most impact to their bottom line.

How did the idea for Octopus come about?

I was in the military and in that world. I started offering what I knew to companies and then realised there was already an industry. And it's gone on from there.

Founders emerge from all walks of life. What's the goal?

To be truly global and have the support of a technology package. We are not a tech company and have no desire to be. Competitive intelligence has many software packages, but they don't have a magic button. Press it, and intelligence comes out the other side. 

We are working with a partner at the moment to create a combination of human and technology. The virus has maybe made me change my view on this and just being grateful for what we have is important.

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Absolutely. How do you keep your team aligned?

We let them get on with what they are doing. Weekly team meetings and one-to-ones. Other than that they are left to do their projects. They can call anytime for a chat or advice.

I prefer face to face meetings and dislike Zoom, but it's what we have until we can get into coffee shops or meet via virtual reality.

Can you share any practical tips or processes to help people work remotely?

Embrace it while you have the opportunity. Start early and do your important work when you feel best. For me, it is the first thing in the morning, for others, it’s the last thing at night. 

Go for a long walk, and if you need to call someone, do it while out and about. I have never watched TV or Netflix during the day, so getting rid of distractions and temptations is important.

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Walking and talking is a good idea. Who has had the most impact on your life, and the decisions you make in business?

Me. It has to be. If you can’t motivate yourself to do great work, then you have no chance of surviving. Knowing you need to keep the family unit happy is the only thing that matters.

Love that. What is the biggest mistake you've made as an entrepreneur?

Trusting people too much and perhaps doing much more than is expected because I want to be liked and respected, but sometimes it is thrown back in your face. Thankfully, not often in terms of the day job. Trust and loyalty is all that matters.

Do you have a share or option scheme in place for your team? 

We don't know. Definitely one for the future though.

If you could resurrect any long-gone genius for advice, who would it be and why?

Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax. A few shares in his new idea the Bank of England would have been useful. 

On a more contemporary note, Andy Warhol. To understand how his creative mind worked. In fiction, probably George Smiley, the John Le Carre.

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What's your favourite film franchise? Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the Marvel Universe?

Star Wars every day of the week. However, they are all the same story. Good v evil. Evil is winning, but the good wins in the end. That's why they are popular. It's not the reality of course.

Thanks Graeme and may the force be with you (and Octopus).