EP57: How to lead an agency | Steve Parks | Convivio

October 4th, 2021

We’ve talked a lot about leadership on this podcast, and rightly so. Sustainable new business performance starts with a growth mindset and that has to come from the very top of an agency.

No matter how many people I speak with on the topic of agency leadership, every conversation brings a fresh perspective. And none more so than this conversation with Steve Parks of Convivio.

Earlier this year Steve and I were both named as “Inspiring People” in the BenchPress report from The Wow Company, something we were both so chuffed about that we reached out across the internet for a for a virtual high five. Our resulting conversation was so interesting that I knew I wanted to get Steve to chat on here.

In this episode we explore the wider role of agencies, high altitude leadership, the many hats of an agency leader and a window into the world of a private investigator!

Of course, we are giving away a copy of Steve’s recommended read: Organize for Complexity: How to Get Life Back Into Work to Build the High-Performance Organization by Niels Pflaeging, simply join in the conversation on Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram using #smallsparktheory and we’ll pick a winner.

Further reading and listening:

What are agencies for? https://www.convivio.com/blog/what-are-agencies-for/

Too many hatshttps://www.convivio.com/blog/too-many-hats/

Your day at the tophttps://www.convivio.com/blog/your-day-at-the-top/

The Agency Radar Reporthttps://www.agencyradar.io/radar/

The Convivio Agency Leaders podcasthttps://www.convivio.com/podcast/

Bench Press Agency Inspiration Report

EP56: New business leadership | Claire Humphris | Iris

September 6th, 2021

Earlier this year, Claire Humphris was named CEO at Iris, the agency she co-founded with five other colleagues in 1999.

Iris now numbers over 1000 people across 17 offices worldwide. As agency breakaways go, it is a perfect case study. But of course, what interests me is the new business story. Claire has spent the past 7 years leading the agency’s global new business operations, driving growth across the network and winning some of the agency’s biggest integrated pitches.

In this episode we get together to discuss new business leadership and culture, the importance of the marketing calendar, marginal gains and making your own luck.

As we shape up for the final marketing and new business push of the year and begin planning for 2022, this is just the inspiration you need.

As always we’ll be giving away a copy of Claire’s recommended read, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight listen in to find out how to win. 

EP55: How to scale at speed | Felix Velarde | 2Y3X

August 9th, 2021


In 2017 I interviewed Felix Velarde for this podcast to discuss agency growth planning. It was our 4th episode.

Lots of people got in touch to talk about that episode and the way Felix delivered such a calm, pragmatic approach to a subject that frustrates so many agency owners. How do you grow, and just as importantly, how do you sustain that growth?

Later that year, Felix mentioned over lunch that he’d been approached by an agent who had heard the podcast, and suggested he write a book about the process. Fast forward to 2021 and I’m delighted that Felix is back to discuss that very book: Scale at Speed: How to Triple the Size of Your Business and Build a Superstar Team.

This book is such an invigorating read, whether or not you are in a position to take on the full 2Y3X programme that Felix and his team deliver, it is full to the brim of practical tools and advice to motivate anyone to switch up their growth plans.

We always do a book giveaway with each episode but Felix has kindly agreed to donate 10 signed copies to listeners. Simply listen in to find out how to win.

EP54: Overcoming adversity | Sarah Yeats | Sledge

July 12th, 2021

I’ve said many times that the people in business I admire the most are independent agency leaders. And over the past 18 months, as our industry, largely populated by small businesses has rallied against such unforeseen challenges, my admiration and respect has deepened.

Through all of the conversations I had with agencies during this time I was aware that it was surely those in the events sector who had been dealt the most difficult hand. 

In this episode, I speak to Sarah Yeats, Managing Director of events agency Sledge, to understand what happens when your projects are cancelled and your pipeline disappears. 

I’ve called this episode ‘overcoming adversity’ but it’s so much more than that. It’s about leadership, resilience, communication, but most importantly, the power of relationships. 

Listen in to find out how to win a copy of Sarah’s recommended read: Be More Pirate by Sam Conniff Allende.

EP53: Understanding client context | Jennifer Crowley | Kin + Carta

June 7th, 2021

In the discussions we’ve had on this podcast, and in the work I do with agencies, the theme of walking in a clients’ shoes has been a recurring one. From rethinking our messaging to talk to client needs rather than services, to our approach to prospecting and the way we build advocacy with our clients. 

But aside from simply understanding the client / prospect business attributes – structure, revenue model, audience, product and service lines, what we really need to get a handle on is change. What’s shifting for them? Buyer behaviour? The competition? Regulation? Supply chains? What does the change mean for them? I’d argue that a key differentiator in the best performing agencies is having a process for staying ahead of these issues and having more informed conversations with clients, a commitment of time that our traditionally lean servicing models often overlook.

However, as we stand here in 2021 blinking into the sunshine after the dull shock of the past year, there is change that we cannot ignore. Every client business will have been affected on some level from the pandemic, meanwhile the issues of sustainability, climate, diversity and inclusion are rightfully gaining traction. To ignore these challenges as we work together with our clients is missing a vital opportunity. 

Someone who has been leading the charge for such conversations is Jennifer Crowley, Client Partner and Digital Sustainability Lead at Kin+ Carta and BIMA 100 Class of 2021.

In this episode we explore the benefits on engaging on broader businesses challenges and understanding shared values, and how, with such wide reaching topics, we can find marginal gains to build better client relationships. 

As always we’ll be giving away a copy of Jennifer’s recommended read – Greener Marketing by John Grant. 

Also mentioned in this episode: 

https://www.kinandcarta.com/en/social-responsibility/

https://thegreenpages.bima.co.uk/the-green-pages/

https://www.londonspeechworkshop.com

EP52: Bringing in expertise | Andrew Southcott | Captivate Group

May 6th, 2021

It’s always a good day when someone gets in touch to pitch a podcast episode idea. Even better when that someone is a client.

Andrew Southcott is Managing Director at creative agency group Captivate. Andrew hired me last year to work with Captivate’s new business talent, a move that came as part of a wider initiative to bring in external expertise for advice, support or training on a range of themes across the business.

For me, this is a dream engagement. Mentoring up and coming new business talent is one of the most rewarding parts of my job, but I was interested to explore Andrew’s leadership approach – a growth mindset clearly focussed on development, improvement, and well…. marginal gains!

In this episode Andrew talks us through his experiences of the last year and how a range of experts and outsourced resource are adding value across the business. It’s a fascinating listen, jam packed with great insights and advice.

Breaking with convention, instead of a book recommendation, check out the YouTube channel Ashville Aggregates – for a example of entrepreneurship in action.

EP51: Raising your profile – part three | Ash Jones | Great Influence

April 6th, 2021

There are so many reasons for me wanting to do an episode on personal brand.

Let’s go back to the beginning. At the start of my agency career, I worked mostly with ad agencies. This was in the 90s and honestly – it was dazzling. The high profile exit of Maurice and Charles from Saatchi & Saatchi to set up M&C Saatchi, Dave Trott setting up Bainsfair Sharkey Trott then WCST, Trevor Beattie making waves with Wonderbra and FCUK, and so it went on. Everywhere you turned there were names.

I’ve often said that to a degree, the rise of digital and social media has evened out the playing field from an agency profile point of view, allowing everyone a share of voice if they get a good plan in place. However, there has seemed a notable lack of high profile individuals in quite the same way as we had before. With so much noise – was it just too hard for anyone to cut through?

For me, that changed when Social Chain founder Steven Bartlett catapulted on to the scene, transcending industry trade press, appearing in mainstream media and attracting over 2 million followers online. All by the age of 27. (Not to mention taking the company public).

To help me understand how that happened, and what we can learn from it, I’m joined by Ash Jones, part of the founding team at Social Chain and founder of Great Influence.

We talk about what it takes to create a personal brand, how to cut through the noise and how to manage imposter syndrome.

As always we’ll be giving away a copy of Ash’s recommended read – the newly published Happy Sexy Millionaire by Steven Bartlett.

EP50: Raising your profile – part two | Laura Hannan | Pitch121

March 8th, 2021

We’ve talked a lot on this podcast about LinkedIn over the years, and specifically the often untapped potential of Sales Navigator.

From the conversations I’ve had with my clients, I know that whilst consistent LinkedIn engagement can deliver fantastic results – for many, finding the time and focus required to create momentum can be a challenge.

Which is why I was intrigued by the service that Laura Hannan and her team at Pitch121 provide.

Laura joins me for the second episode in our mini-series exploring different techniques and resources to help raise your agency profile.

Listen in to hear a how the clever combination of tech, content and highly targeted Sales Navigator outreach is connecting agencies with their audiences, and a wealth of tips for elevating your own LinkedIn presence.

As always we’ll be giving away of Laura’s recommended read; Social Selling: Techniques to Influence Buyers and Changemakers by Tim Hughes.

EP49: Raising your profile – part one | Sarah Paterson | CommsPeople

February 8th, 2021

Many of the conversations I’ve been having with agencies over recent months have centred around marketing and new business resource.

This is good news. It shows that we are looking forward and taking positive action to create better, more sustainable agency marketing practices. In particular, the biggest shift I have seen is agencies recognising the need to prioritise profile building activity, and in turn realising that there is a gap in their existing team skillset to provide this.

Over the coming months I’m going to be focussing on the different ways we can look at building agency profiles and the varying shapes of resource available to help us do that.

To kick us off for this episode, I invited Sarah Paterson, co-founder of CommsPeople to join me in sharing the story of her lockdown start-up; providing flexible support from a  talent pool of high calibre communications professionals.

This is an ideal solution for agencies with great ideas for connecting with prospects with relevant content, but find themselves too caught up in the day to business to make it happen.

If you need help defining your audience and content strategy then feel free to get in touch with me here or if you want to discuss a brief for support from the CommsPeople talent pool, you can reach Sarah here.

As always we are giving away a copy of Sarah’s recommended read: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz – listen in and find out how to win.

And of course, if you have a new business or agency marketing question for us, or a top tip to share, please get in touch.

Useful links:

2021 Freelance trends

How to manage freelancers 

Lunchclub

EP48: Habits | Clare Rees

January 12th, 2021

It’s safe to say that for most of us, 2021 arrived without the usual fanfare, excitement and expectation but instead, with an exhausted sigh and a resolution NOT to have any New Year resolutions.

Let’s be clear, the ambition and optimism are still there, but big fat goals can feel meaningless when we are surrounded by so much restriction, distraction and uncertainty. So what can we do?

In true Small Spark Theory, marginal gains style, for this episode we wanted to focus on some small stuff. Some helpful, positive habits. The things that can help us put one foot in front of the other, to keep going and stay motivated, even when we don’t feel like it.

To help me unpick the subject of habits I co-opted my long-term colleague and Small Spark Theory Institute co-founder Clare Rees. Clare learned a thing or two about forming good habits when taking on the mighty challenge of writing a novel, so has a great perspective on how to take small steps, avoid procrastination and keep our motivation strong.

As always, listen in for the chance to win a copy of Clare’s recommended read: Atomic Habits by James Clear – you can also download the first chapter here. 

We also have some questions and tips from our fabulous listeners. If you have a question or hot tip and would like to contribute to an upcoming episode – please get in touch.

Also mentioned in this episode:

Stephen Covey’s seminal 7 Habits of Highly Effective People 

Liz Wilde