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What I’ve Learnt: Richard Midgley, Founder and Managing Director, Ponderosa


Richard Midgley is the founder and MD of Leeds agency Ponderosa.

Earlier this month, the marketing agency acquired eCommerce specialist Marvellous and merged with sister agency Grapple to create a new combined agency with a headcount of 52. Its clients include Hisense, Russell Hobbs and Sovereign Healthcare.

Here’s he gives us the benefit of his experience in this week’s What I’ve Learnt…

1. Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

I read a speech by a Navy Seal called William McRaven and it said that if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

You see, if you make your bed you will have achieved your first task of the day and it will encourage you to achieve more tasks. It will also remind you to do the small things right. And, if you have a miserable day you will come home to a bed that’s made, a bed made by you, which will encourage you that tomorrow will be better.

2. What’s been your luckiest break?

I was leading the Halewood account at An Agency Called England and was given the opportunity by the owner – John Halewood – to set up on my own and launch Crabbies. I owe a lot to John for giving me that kickstart and showing his confidence in me. That was the start of Ponderosa.

3. What’s your best failure?

When we lost Halewood in 2016, following John’s death, overnight it changed us. We had allowed the client to get too big and disproportionately important to our business. Overnight it was the equivalent of losing six clients! We had to make 12 redundancies which was tough. It forced us to reposition and ensure that we were never in that position again.

4. What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?

Investing time and financially (through training) in the Ponderosa team is definitely the best investment. Taking time to share experience and give context pays back in spades. There’s a quote about ‘what happens if you train someone and they leave, and the response is but happens if you don’t train them and they stay’! And I’m sure if you asked them, they love sitting in a car with me and getting lectured on whatever comes to mind.

5. Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

The Choice Factory by Richard Shotton is a great book to understand behavioural biases and what influences us.

However, I am an avid reader and the book I go back to – The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy – starts with a bloke getting pissed and selling his wife… not as useful for work but definitely more enjoyable. And helps with the marriage.

6. What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Don’t leave it too late to set up on your own. Don’t necessarily do it at 21 but definitely do it before you think you are completely ready. Don’t stay too long, yes, you’re having a good time but there is more out there.

7. Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

Phil Hesketh gave me my first job and taught me a lot. Sometimes I catch myself doing something or saying something and realise it’s from lessons he taught me. Like take your keys and change out of your pocket before presenting. Over the years I have also learned what not to do and some of this has been equally valuable. Watching and experiencing management that I didn’t rate has definitely shaped how I like to lead.  I’ve learned it’s invaluable to enable people to do their jobs. It takes time, training and trust. Letting people do what they need to do, backing them, understanding their point of view and allowing them to grow by doing things their way.

8. Tell us something about you that would surprise people

Everyone thinks marketers are confident and extroverted, but I am shy. I hate talking about myself, I hate introducing myself to new people and, if the business needed me to cold call 50 people and talk to them… I would re-mortgage the house and pay someone else to do it!

9. How will the Covid crisis change work for the better?

Trust. It’s going to make us all trust each other more. I will be honest, I haven’t always looked that favourably on people working from home but, I have seen how hard people are working, how diligently people are juggling during challenging times and I will definitely take this forward. We can all be more flexible and still get the job done.

10. What does success look like to you?

Passing something on, watching people flourish and seeing people do well makes me happy. It may sound simple but it’s true, happiness is success. But make sure you enjoy the journey.

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