Profit and Loss reports are an education – the horrors of which I’ve been shielded from until starting MarketPlace. It’s really interesting to see how much you actually have to bill in order for the company to make enough money to support even one or two employees, after taking into account all other expenses.
I’ve been putting serious thought into recruiting, and have spent time looking through the numbers and projections to see the implications of taking on staff. The most sensible choice looks to be to get the business to the point where there is almost too much work for one person, and then to recruit at a suitable level to take a percentage of the burden. This should free me up to look for new business, while managing certain key accounts. My only reservation with this route is whether this will make growth slower. Will I be able to bring in more new business by freeing up some of my time earlier on?
Also, while I appreciate it’s very early to start thinking about a larger structure to the company, I want to avoid taking on a series of independent recruits. This inevitably ends up in the hotchpotch situation with no clear lines of communication or hierarchy that I’ve experienced in the past. With this in mind, I draw up the hierarchy I’d like to achieve within two years and five years and how the agency will develop into account groups. This is a fluid and adaptable plan, but it gives me direction. Should the business change massively, the structure will change to reflect this.
In the afternoon I meet Scott Mineikis, national business manager for GMG Radio, for lunch nearby. The first time I met Scott happened to fall on my twenty-eighth birthday, and Scott returned me to the office rather later than expected. Today though, we eat sushi and talk about how the Real Radio brand is going from strength to strength, especially in Scotland. Scott also insists the Media Nomads rugby team is on a "social level". I know this is a total lie after briefly experiencing first-hand a level of rugby I’d previously only watched on TV.
Hilarious meeting with the accountant today. I know, it sounds implausible, but it is brilliant. Following a short meeting, he takes me and my investors for lunch. When he says he is paying, we naturally assume it isn’t a joke. Turns out it is a joke, and the bill at the end of the lunch sits on the saucer for quite a while until the penny drops - this guy has no intention of paying at all. The poker faces around the table are second to none.
One evening, at Soho media haunt Le Beaujolais, I was introduced to Mike Allen, agency manager at The Telegraph. Today we meet for lunch to discuss my plans for the development of MarketPlace and how press figures in that. Mike really knows his stuff about the press market and gives me advice on how to develop and the steps I need to put in place to get the relevant press accreditations.
A potential new client comes into the office. They are thinking of launching a new product into the insurance market, but the idea is currently top secret. So top secret, in fact, that they can’t tell me what it is.
This makes the meeting rather interesting – especially when they ask me to come up with some creative solutions. After the meeting I am left with an empty briefing sheet and the feeling this isn’t going to go very far at all. So it is essentially a wasted morning, until I look out of the window and see what car they arrived in - a white stretch limo. I thought it was a 16-year-olds birthday party on the way to Tiger Tiger. Had I seen that when they arrived, I would have pretended to be out.
One of my most distinguished clients comes in for a meeting today. I say distinguished, as he has an MBE for services to business and is a very interesting person to talk to. Speaking to someone who has run a business through three recessions and is now into the fourth is both fascinating and encouraging.
David Bamford, group account director at CBS Outdoor, drops in today to take me through the latest news in transport media. Mr Bamford was my first boss in media, taking me on as a grad with a degree in Jazz Studies from Leeds University. I still have flashbacks of standing up in the Monday morning meeting at Viacom Outdoor to introduce myself, and having the entire sales team burst out laughing at my degree. It’s all turned out alright in the end though – and if anyone needs a piano player for a wedding/bar mitzvah etc, get in touch.
My publishing client’s campaign starts today. It’s always difficult to include everyone on a plan when you’re working with modest budgets, so some contractors invariably get left off. One contractor thinks a good way to make sure they get on the schedule next time is to tell me I’m "not doing my job properly" if their portfolio isn’t included next time. This is a very odd route to take, if I’m honest - especially since their portfolio doesn’t convert as well as the others against the planning audience. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, I guess.
Chemistry meeting in Croydon today, which goes very well. The client is about to embark on the centralisation of marketing, from a series of regional managers. I’ve dealt with this exact situation twice before so I’m in a good position to offer genuine advice and experience. This meeting is especially good because I was contacted by the marketing manager, who heard about MarketPlace through this feature – so many thanks to Media Week.
Valuable advice from my friend Ben at Reynolds coffee shop this morning about starting a business. "Don’t spend anything," he says. Simple, but very true. After looking at the profit and loss report, I can see it’s definitely going to take years to build up the business from the ground, but I’m off to a good start.
In just under four months, I have won five pieces of new business - a publishing client, a skincare brand, a clinical trials company and two payment protection insurance (PPI) clients - and am in talks with a further ten, with budgets ranging from £20k to £250k. In January, I am launching a niche campaign for the skincare client which I am very proud of and am planning to enter for a Media Week Award next year. Even if I don’t get shortlisted, it is a great feeling to be in a position to be considered as a competitor to the established media agencies.
This is the final instalment of Ed Feast’s start-up diary, but if you would like to keep in touch with MarketPlace, contact Ed on email@example.com or telephone 0207 636 6416, mobile 07515 720437.