John Brolly has been an integral part of the GPMD management team and has been shaping a lot of the agency’s business processes behind the scenes. A former retailer himself with over 15 years of experience in ecommerce, John is now officially GPMD’s Chief Operations Officer.
In discussing John’s plans for the new role at GPMD, we found out more about his fascinating career which includes music, a degree in art and design history, several businesses and a limited edition book to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of Size?
Let's start by looking ahead, what are your plans for the role? Tell us a bit about your immediate and long-term roadmap.
My current plans are to continue working with the team on our approach in how we deliver success to our clients. We work really closely with clients as partners and we are focusing on implementing the right structures and processes to ensure their growth and in turn our own growth as well. This leads to future-proofing what we're doing and really expanding our team and scaling our operations, which is what I really want to be able to do.
One of the immediate aspects that my roadmap will focus on is developing our project management (PM) team by growing the team (see careers page for more information), offering them extensive training to strengthen their skills, and utilising current technologies that are available to optimise our operational efficiencies and workflows. The end goal? Ensuring that the PM team has really tight control over everything that we do. Everything that comes into the business has to have a control mechanism to make it out perfectly and I want to ensure the project management team has all the tools in place to make this happen. We love being in control.
Long-term, my goal is to build the best in class delivery team and for us to work in unison across the board with a seamless operations structure that allows all of us to work on client success. We want to really make ourselves known as being experts at what we do - technical expertise, excellent quality, and first class solutions for the clients, that will really help them grow in an efficient and sustainable manner.
“Since I've been at GPMD, our clients have been experiencing immense growth and I’d like to think we are helping them with the delivery of their roadmaps and their strategies.”
Tell us a bit about your background and how you got started in ecommerce?
I'd say my background stems from a love of design and music. When I was young, I wanted to be an architect, but then I pivoted more into fine art and design, resulting in a degree in history of art and design. The degree was a combination of a lot of theoretical viewpoints around design aesthetics and art movements, which really expanded my mind and my knowledge.
My first steps along the career path naturally led me to desktop publishing and design on Mac II’s, back in 1992 learning Photoshop 2 and Quarkxpress 2. I spent my early years in the world of print and packaging design in 1995. Several years later, I set up my own print business ‘The Transfer Function (TTF)’ , specialising in the production of lookbooks for the fashion industry. We spent a lot of time working with clients specifically around Fashion Weeks, both in London and New York. I learned a lot during that time, especially about operations and workflow processes and took that knowledge with me when I left 5 years later and became a consultant and entered the ecommerce and digital agency world.
In 2011 I started my own online Marketplace ‘Made In These Isles’, focusing on products that were made in the UK and bringing back skills that were long forgotten in various parts of the country. Such as shoemaking in Northampton, lace making in Nottingham, shirt making in Lancashire and specifically east Lancashire for where I'm from. My granddad came down from Glasgow and worked in some of the cotton mills and he used to make Viyella shirts. There was a natural progression and I built this website myself in OpenCart and ran it for 5-6 years until I had kids...
As soon as my kids arrived, I couldn’t give Made in these Isles the time it deserved. I then joined Flubit (world’s first demand driven Marketplace) as the Integration Manager. I spent a great 5 years there then moved to Urbit (eco logistics app) before I joined GPMD. I love it here, it’s a wonderful team and probably the best move I made in my career other than running my own business’. These are some of the best and most talented people I’ve worked with and I am excited to move things forward.
And finally...what is your biggest passion?
I've had a fixation with trainers since I was young. Back in the eighties, trainers became a fashion entity rather than a product for enhancing sporting achievements. Brands entered the UK market and it became a thing. When doing my degree I discovered a cultural writer called Dick Hebdige and he has a concept of Bricolage, around how a product or an item is re-represented, such as the Vespa scooter became an essential article in the look of the Mods trainers worn by certain sub-cultures, whether it be hip hop or as streetwear. I was just fascinated by the design. There was something about the simplicity in minimal designs from the late seventies into the eighties. These two came together and I wrote a dissertation about the trainer and their meaning and representation for certain subcultures in 1993.
Years later in 2003, I was chatting to a friend and we decided that we would actually source and sell vintage trainers. We set up Soleseek, we plugged into a network of buyers and sellers and built a site to allow people to buy and sell. We started small and then ended up collaborating with a number of brands and interesting people. I ended up meeting one of the first ever product designers from Nike. We ended up working with a couple of stores like Glorias in Brick Lane (sadly long gone),and Size? for their 10 year anniversary.
We produced a book called ‘Collective Disorder’, which was a collection of vintage trainers photographed by collectors and obsessives. We self produced a limited run of a 100 in 2005 and then Size? Re-ran 200 copies to celebrate their 10th Anniversary.
Following this, I had the pleasure of working with Puma and and designed the trainers below.
I still own the Soleseek domain and one day fully intend to make it the sole (ahem) source as a Trainer Archive...and for anyone who is really interested, check out this interview I did with Sneaker Freaker back in 2008.