How two cousins came to work together in advertising

By Ruby Derrick | 17 May 2023
Andrew Bex and Laura Tesluk.

These cousins realised their complementing strengths could form a successful partnership.  

At B2B marketing consultancy I.M.A, Laura Tesluk is the general manager and her cousin, Andrew Bex, the creative director.  

Tesluk found herself working with Bex, her cousin on her father's side, shortly after she finished her undergraduate degree. 

There is a 15-year age gap between us, so I didn’t know him very well until I started working with him. When I was in high school my dad suggested I talk to Andrew about my Visual Arts project for my HSC, and he ended up helping me conceptualise some of my ideas on consumerism,” said Tesluk. 

This was my first real exposure to what Andrew did day-to-day in terms of a brief and bringing ideas to life. I went on to do a Bachelor of communication and years later I approached Andrew to see whether he could refer me to any advertising agencies in his network as I had to complete an internship as part of my studies – I ended up working with ICRE8 in Paddington.  

I.M.A’s CEO Karl Boothroyd came into the office one day and asked me how my HSC was going – I mentioned I was about to finish my undergrad degree and, a few months later, I ended up in Karl’s office in Moorebank talking about a junior copywriting position – from there the rest is history. 

For Bex, he said his love for brands began at an early age with his father being a typesetter, marketer and owner of a commercial printing business alongside his mother.  

“I started a career as a typesetter at the age of 15 and worked through the industry to where I am today as a creative director. I always wanted to own an advertising agency and be one of the best in the country…nothing like having lofty ambitions!,” said Bex. 

“Our CEO, Boothroyd was a client of mine back in 1998 which led us both to start an agency with another marketing supplier he was using at the time. We started IM Advertising in 1999, as a group of four in a terrace house and grew from there into the B2B space. 

“We were with them for more than 18 years and were fortunate enough to buy the agency back in 2021Over time Laura was offered to lead a sister STW agency with me, being The Punch Agency to help grow what was then OneSteel and its many divisions. 

The cousins individual strengths complemented one another with Tesluk’s project planning, administration and copywriting, beside Bex’s design and sales skills. 

“A few years into my tenure at I.M.A, Andrew and I ended up working together out of STW’s office to service one of our biggest clients – me in Client Services and Andrew as Creative,” said Tesluk. 

“Over the years and as part of a bigger team, this has been further enhanced as I moved into operations and then into general management. I’m detailed orientated and Andrew is creative – right people for right jobs.” 

For Bex, the partnership is very much ‘Yin and Yang’; both are marketers who see things from a creative and strategic point of view for their clients. 

“We've always respected each other's thinking to solve a problem as we're quite different. I seriously couldn't do my job as effectively without the depth of knowledge she has to look at things through a different lens,’ he said.  

Balancing a personal and professional relationship can be tricky at times, especially for those in such close capacities.  

Bex credits the relative’s strong work ethic and strong family connection in making it work. 

“We understand that differences of opinion in the office are just that. They don't cross over to our personal lives,” said Bex. 

IMA cousins

“We learned very early to keep work and family separate the moment we finish for the day. We're great friends and have always been there to support for each other."

For Tesluk, it’s the same core values that have kept the dynamic between the two healthy and productive at I.M.A. 

“A strong friendship and good communication has been key. Where possible, we try and keep the two separate. Like everything though, it’s balance,” she said. 

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but we have totally separate roles, so our day-to-day challenges are very different. 

Working with a family member may be a cause for concern, but for Tesluk and Bex, the positives far outweigh any challenges. 

“The major advantage has been having someone in your corner. Because of the age gap we’re both in two different life stages so I was able to lean on Andrew for guidance and how to navigate challenging work situations when I was starting out,” said Tesluk. 

“Over the years we’ve had to rely on each other for different things to get the job done. Having someone in the same industry is great – they just get it.” 

Being in the same agency has equally helped Bex in his career. Allowing each other to be a little more honest and direct with opinions or differences has helped them to navigate challenging clients, people and personal matters.  

“We both know our strengths and limitations. In saying that we don't openly share that we are family to clients and colleagues until they get to know us on our own merits,” said Bex. 

If any challenges do arise for the cousins, they talk it out openly and honestly, says Bex. 

“We both tend to be very rational with things and work through a solution. If that ever fails, we'll seek counsel from other people in the business for a different opinion,” he said. 

“Because we've spent a few years working closely in another agency on our own we had to be resilient, adaptable and understand that we're always on the same team regardless.” 

On the current media market and where the agency is headed, Tesluk says it’s interesting to say the least. She’s finding strategy and research is high on their clients’ agenda which has given them some different projects to work on. 

I.M.A is in its 23rd year, the business is growing, and we’ve got great people and foundations. We want to make sure we’re intuitive to our employees needs and deliveringgreat value for clients,” said Tesluk. 

Bex said the B2B space has a very different market cycle to B2C; they tend to thrive when the economy is on its way out from challenging period. 

“We'll generally follow the construction, resources and manufacturing cycles. If those industries are doing well, our business usually is as well,” he said.  

“A lot of companies want to challenge themselves with different thinking and strategies to market. With that said we're always looking to diversify our offering and target different industries we haven't historically been in.” 

Tesluk said, in regards to new pitches out there at the moment, that they’re working with new clients to diverse their portfolio. 

We’ve just won two new clients in both the mining and freight and logistics sectors so we’re looking forward to getting our hands dirty,” she said. 

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