This interview is part of a new series where leaders in influential positions share their leadership journey – how they got to where they are today. I believe we all have a lot to learn from our stories of where we started, our successes and struggles, and important lessons learned on the way.

This interview is with Jay Richards. Jay is the CEO and Co-Founder at Imagen Insights. Imagen Insights enables brands to crowdsource qualitative and quantitative feedback, ideas and insights from their community of 10,000 Gen Z from 57 countries. This helps them to build their branding, marketing and/or products using insights gained via the Imagen Insights platform within 72 hours. You can find Jay on LinkedIn here.

Share your backstory and how you got where you are today. Can you share one or two events (positive or negative) in life that shaped who you are as a person and leader?

Jay Richards
Jay Richards

When I was in secondary school, I was good at being bad. I was always getting into trouble at school! Nonetheless, my business head and flair for entrepreneurial ideas were encouraging. That is what made me want to get a Business Studies degree, after which I started working in the City of London in Sales. 

While working I wanted to do something with more purpose however, something to give back and to support current students. I initially started an incubator where I helped students fund business ideas. A few months later, I was contacted by the National Football League (NFL) who wanted to work with me to use my network with university and secondary school students to help them with marketing. We knew we would need something great to equip us for this scale of the project and as a result, my Co-Founder Cat Agostinho and I started Imagen Insights

What do you like about the work you do? What do you find most challenging?

I love the fact that every single day we’re providing young people with opportunities to shape their futures – that is so fulfilling.  We connect young people with brands to enable them to provide brutally honest feedback on their marketing and products and that can really make a difference to the worlds they grow up in. 

I find switching off the most challenging. I’m getting better at this, but starting the business means I want to work on it all the time. I’m learning to rest and that I do not need to try and control everything. I have a great team working alongside me, I just have to be patient with myself and enjoy my evenings and weekends so I can stay healthy and at the top of my game.

What are you passionate about? (or what dreams keep you up at night?)

The unknown. It might sound strange but what excites me most (and keeps me awake sometimes) is what the future holds for me, for the business, and for our growth. It’s a super positive headspace to be in, to be excited about what is around the next corner as opposed to nervous about it. We’ve grown so quickly in such a short space of time and I’m proud of that.

How do you manage pressure and overwhelm?

It sounds simple but I keep my mind clear and healthy by regularly hitting the gym. I love Jiu-Jitsu as it gives me the headspace to concentrate on just this and to switch off from everything else – plus it’s such a disciplined sport – it keeps me cool and collected.

I’m also a what’s next person, and so to maintain focus on tasks at hand and to cope with multiple spinning plates and deadlines, I put everything work-related on a Trello board. Our team can all view each other’s boards too and so it’s super helpful for keeping track of all the great work we’re doing.

Who has had the most influence on your leadership?

My leadership qualities are most inspired by a public speaker called Judah Smith. He just loves people and wants everyone to leave better off after meeting him. His energy is just electric and I’m drawn to that. I love that about people because it rebounds onto others; leaders or not, someone who lights up a room when they enter, that is how I always strive to come across and it’s served me quite well along the way. 

What are your goals or aspirations for this year?

We just want to keep doing what we’re doing and doing it well, helping to support the next generation.  To do this we want to carry on growing our community – we have nearly 10,000 consultants now in 57 countries around the world. And of course, we want to continue working with more amazing brands along the way!