YNCS profitsYour Next Commercial Step is a unique programme specifically designed for owners of companies in the creative industries sectors and intended to take them to their next level of commercial success. Prolific North has partnered with some outstanding business entrepreneurs, leading MMU Business School academics and professional advisers, to create this programme geared to enhancing profitability and planning for your exit.

Your Next Commercial Step runs over four Tuesdays, beginning 17 June until 8 July.

Our industry contributors are:

  • Neil McKay, CEO of Lakestar McCann
  • Nicky Unsworth, CEO and owner of BJL Group
  • Iain Kerr, Finance Director of BJL Group
  • Neil Martin, Commercial Director of Havas Lynx
  • Rob Morrice, CEO (EMEA and Asia) at Stein IAS
  • Carl Hopkins, owner Kloog, Joblink Solutions and agencybods.co.uk and former Secret Millionaire
  • Sandy Lindsay, Group MD, Tangerine PR


Proactive and interactive

The economy is on the mend and companies’ circumstances and potential fortunes are changing. Rather than just simply grappling to stay in business, company owners are now reflecting on how they can grow their businesses, enhance their commercial performance and – with the scars of the recession still fresh in their minds – how they might realise value in the future from their substantial investment in their business.

Subjects to be discussed within our confidential environment will include business angels, identifying and appointing non exec directors, private equity, management development and succession, understanding your value proposition/USP and enhancing your personal wealth.

During the programme, business leaders and managers will hear from, and interact with, some of the North’s top entrepreneurs who will each bring their unique perspective on the theme of the day. They will be sharing their experiences of how they helped create, and in some cases sold, successful companies.

Four key themes of the programme

  1. Realising your value proposition
  2. Building commercial performance
  3. Optimising your team
  4. Planning your exit

Value for individuals and business

The programme has been designed specifically for managers and leaders in the creative and media industries – the decision makers who can shape a company’s future.

The whole thrust of the programme is to support company owners who are now reflecting on how they can grow their businesses, enhance their commercial performance and how they might realise value in the future from their substantial investment in their business.

Programme topics

Subjects covered during the four days will include:

Day 1 – Realising your value proposition

What makes your company unique and a “must-buy” for potential commercial suitors? What’s your value proposition and how do you best take advantage of that in the marketplace?

Day 2 – Building commercial performancebusiness

Building revenue streams and enhancing profitability – accessing finance, cash flow management, tax planning and mitigation, wealth management and insurance.

Day 3 – Optimising your team

Building a strong, high-performing management team – understanding and developing your team and building a leadership culture.

Day 4 – Planning your exit

Timelines, identifying buyer profiles, MBOs, venture capital, ownership issues and staff retention.

How and when is the programme delivered?

The programme is delivered over four consecutive Tuesdays, beginning on 17 June.

To reinforce the industry-led nature of this programme, the four sessions will take place at the offices of one of Manchester’s most successful PR companies, Tangerine PR.

Tangerine, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, has itself grown into a 60+ staff agency over the past decade. In December, Prolific North reported that Tangerine had been ranked 199th in the annual World PR Report, compiled by The Holmes Report and the International Communications Consultancy Organisation.

Top industry involvement

The programme brings a unique mix of top industry guest speakers, entrepreneurs and senior professional advisors, and is supported by top academics from Manchester Metropolitan University’s Business School.

Course leader Andrew Thomas

Andrew Thomas

The programme director, Andrew Thomas, brings with him over 20 years’ experience in both client and agency-side roles, with much of his career spent at McCann-Erickson.

He now works on a number of training, coaching and consulting projects with a particular focus on digital companies.

He also holds non-exec positions at a number of digital organisations, is a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and a member of the European Mentoring and Coaching Council.


Inspirational entrepreneurs

Prolific North has secured the very best management experience to underpin this programme in the shape of a number of outstanding industry guest speakers who will be sharing their expertise and guidance throughout the programme.

They are:

Neil McKay/Lakestar McCann


Neil McKay has helped five companies develop their operations over the past 20 years. His orbit of experience covers publishing and digital. Neil became a professional footballer at 16 and has continued to set himself different challenges all through his working life.

His latest company, Lakestar, was sold to the NYSE-listed Interpublic subsidiary McCanns in 2012 for an undisclosed eight-figure sum.



Nicky Unsworth (BJL)


Nicky has worked on the client and agency side. In 1996 she joined the ad agency Barrington Johnson Lorains when there were 19 staff. A few years later she led an MBO and today the agency (BJL) employs around 70 staff. In pre-recession 2008, BJL enjoyed turnover of £9.3m and profits of circa £850k.

Unsworth and her management team restructured the agency when the recession hit and when sales fell sharply but in its latest accounts, BJL had sales of £5.7m with profits up to a record £977k.


Iain Kerr (BJL)

Iain has the benefit and substantial experience of operating people businesses both in and out of the advertising industry. In 2004 he was part of the MBO team. In 2013 BJL made its first acquisition, Mere PR, and in January this year it opened an office in London. Kerr says the agency is actively seeking further ways to develop the Group.

Neil Martin (Havas Lynx)

neilmartinNeil has over 20 years of financial and commercial experience both in public practice and agency side. An accountant by training, he joined Creative Lynx from Baker Tilly in 2004 as finance director and subsequently became MD as he led an MBO from the founders of the agency.

In 2012 he sold a minority stake in the agency to the French quoted marketing services group Havas. The company has now rebranded as Havas Lynx and Manchester is now the international HQ of the division. Neil is now commercial director of Havas Lynx which has offices in Manchester, London, Paris and New York and employs over 200 staff.


Rob Morrice – CEO (EMEA & Asia), Stein IAS

Rob-MFrom Aberdeen to Bollington to Shanghai by way of Edinburgh, Rob Morrice has built two successful ad agencies, one consumer and one business to business.  He established what became one of Scotland’s best-known and controversial ad agencies, Smarts, which he sold  for £3.2m to Citigate in 2000. He subsequently took control of B2B agency IAS in Macclesfield in 2007.

Rob led the merger of his B2B agency IAS with Stein last year to form Stein IAS of which he is now CEO (EMEA & Asia). It’s now a global agency with five offices in New York, London, Manchester, Paris and Shanghai.  Morrice is CEO of all SteinIAS’s operations outside the US.


Carl Hopkins

Carl-Hopkins-4Carl began his career as an advertising executive before becoming MD of direct response agency Judith Donovan Associates where he later led an MBO before subsequently selling the agency in 2007, having raised turnover to £10m and tripled profits.

His current businesses include Kloog and Faith PR. He also appeared in an episode of The Secret Millionaire where he lived on £63 in the North East.



Sandy Lindsay, Group MD, Tangerine PR

sandySandy began her marketing career 25 years ago and launched Tangerine PR in 2002.

Tangerine became the first agency outside London to be named PR Consultancy of the Year in the CIPR’s national Excellence awards and now employs nearly 60 people. Sandy launched The Juice Academy – the UK’s first industry-led social media apprenticeship – last year.



Top Professional Advice

There will also be interactive panel sessions with leading professional advisors who have a deep understanding and interest in advising creative services companies. They include:

  • Andrew Booth, a media partner with law firm Turner Parkinson
  • Phil Worthington, Group Development Director from industry insurance brokers Lucas Fettes
  • Nik Hynes, senior partner of accountancy firm Tree

Leading academics

Also taking part in this packed programme will be top academics:

Pete Wild

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPete Wild qualified as a chartered accountant with PWC before moving into the private sector where he was the Finance Director for a number of companies.

He is now a Senior Lecturer in Accounting & Finance at MMU Business School and his research interests include the relationship between owner-managed companies and their accountants, and the impact of capital structure on survivability amongst smaller firms (particularly those with EIS funding).


Dr. Ann Mulhaney

annAnn is an Enterprise Fellow at the MMU Centre for Enterprise. She has a PhD in Organisational Transformation and runs her own successful consultancy business having a portfolio of clients ranging from startup businesses to large international organisations.

She is a business coach and in recent years has trained over 200 individuals to become accredited coaches. As a Programme Tutor with the 10,000 Small Businesses Programme and part of the team delivering the LEAD Programme at MMU Ann has supported a significant number of SME leaders throughout the North West.


Application and costs

An individual place on the programme costs £1,000 (plus VAT) and there is a discount of 20% if two places are booked.

To apply please contact Lynne McCadden at lynne@prolificnorth.co.uk. She can also answer any questions you might have about the course and can also be contacted on 07971 688262.

More information and open evening

Come along to our free info event on Monday 14 April at Alberts Chop House in Manchester at 6pm where you’ll find out more about the course from the course leader Andrew Thomas and also hear more about potential funding from the GrowthAccelerator.

You can register for this event here.