CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Gerry Hopkinson, Owner & CEO of Unity

Gerry Hopkinson is the owner and CEO of award winning, London-based creative comms agency Unity.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I grew up in Vancouver Canada and after completing a bachelor of arts degree in English Literature and Critical studies at the University of British Columbia, I moved to the UK (London) where I worked briefly as a journalist and a writer.

I then got a job at a PR agency where I learnt the ins and outs of the profession and worked with a wonderful and inspirational bunch of people, many of whom have gone on to great things.

After a few years I moved on to another agency and then did a brief stint in-house before opening my own consultancy Unity in 2005 and have never looked back.

We set up Unity as a pioneering humanist marketing consultancy, focusing on helping brands to meet human needs, whether that’s employees, partners, consumers or wider society.

This focus on meeting human needs has been at the heart of the business since day one and continues to be the driving force for all of our work.

What quickly became apparent was that we needed to bring together marketing science ie behavioural psychology, data science and semiotics with the art of communication and applied creativity.

The mix of science and art along with a focus on human beings has created a wonderful and compelling formula that has guided us and enabled us to grow and prosper over the years and gain industry recognition for our work.

We’ve been fortunate in being able to see the pioneering principles on which we founded the business take root and gain wider recognition and popularity, most recently in the areas of brand purpose, diversity and inclusion and ESG reporting.

Our current focus is on working with brands and businesses to create tangible shareholder value through purpose and shared value for everyone else.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

One of the joys of my work is that there really isn’t a typical day. We always start with a team meeting where everyone can quickly raise any problems or share news and ideas.

Then I tend to break my day up into focused 30 minute tasks, inevitably have a longer face-to-face (or zoom these days) meeting to get stuck into campaign work and always set aside at least an hour a day for thinking or learning.

I also walk to and from work every day which takes an hour each way and this time is devoted to letting my mind wander and day dream, something I learnt from David Lynch which has aided my creativity and imagination immensely.

It’s incredible how often the answer to a problem or a brief, or a new idea will pop into my head as I walk. My team know that I’m very likely to call then full of excitement with something as I travel and some of our best conversations happen this way.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

I have always had the option to work wherever it makes most sense, either in the office, or at home or in a café, or even in the garden or park on sunny days. Working at home allows me to really focus and working in the office is great for team working and of course to engage with clients and partners.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Work life balance is not about how hard you work, how often you work or where you work, but rather finding a way to enjoy it.

I can work for long periods, intensely either on my own or with others and not notice the time, everything slows down and it is a wonderful feeling. I can also find that I can get into a state where I’m rushing from one thing to another and feeling stressed.

For me, work-life balance is about being aware of how I’m feeling and ensuring that I’m being productive, focused and engaged when I’m working and fully present.

It’s also about knowing when to down tools and relax, and investing in myself, topping up my tank, catching up with friends and family or doing things that make me happy outside of work and not feeling guilty about it.

Over the years, I’ve come to know what makes me happy and I focus on my own happiness so that I can give as much as possible to my work and my family and everyone around me.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

The biggest change for me has been to start doing Transcendental Meditation. It has given me so much more clarity and focus and improved my creativity and resilience.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I love reading and there are too many books to mention that I would recommend but here are a few that have really inspired me:

  • Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
  • On Becoming a Person – Carl Rogers
  • Walden Henry – David Thoreau
  • A Whole New Mind – Daniel Pink
  • Wanderlust: A History of Walking – Rebecca Solnitt

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

My phone, my laptop and a hundred little kitchen utensils I seem to use more than I should.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

The wonderful and inspirational architect Richard Rogers

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Meaningful work feeds a meaningful life and vice versa. Keep striving, keep learning and keep being true to yourself.

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This conversation is brought to you by marketing data consultancy Venntifact, helping organisations build and enable high-performance digital teams to harness data and technology assets, empowering digital innovation.

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.