A Week in My Life: Simon Wharton, Managing Director of PushON
Last week myself and my family embarked on a holiday to Munich, where my wife’s sister lives. The diet of meat, beer, potatoes, beer, meat, bread, meat, cheese and let’s not forget beer has led to an ever so slightly corpulent state of being. Couple this with messing up the flight home, arriving at close to midnight and finding ourselves locked out of the house, it did not leave us in the best mood.
I arrive into work on Monday morning and somewhat disappointingly everything has been running pretty well in my absence. Obviously, I want it to all be about me, but when you take time to recruit well, it makes a huge difference and you will find that your business will often look after itself. Neither myself nor Roy, who I started the business with, knew much about running an agency at the time. Everything we know now is from those war wounds. Good people with the right culture make a huge difference.
As ever when you've been away, you have had time to reflect and you have a moment of enlightenment. When you're speaking to a potential new client, speak about the good things that you do - we often forget that. So, we meet with the team quickly and agree to display some of our work more openly and really work those introductions to people in the team who are doing interesting work. Remember it isn't always the senior team that speaks most beautifully about what you do.
The end of month is approaching so I prepare for the beginning of the monthly reporting. Reporting can be dry – therefore, I try to break up my day by writing interesting articles such as this (which is great). However, I can only work well when I'm playing blisteringly loud music - I'm working my way through the great Black Sabbath albums and today it's Black Sabbath Volume 4.
I believe Neil MacGregor is one of the world’s greatest broadcasters. And I hear on the drive in to work that he has a new series on Radio 4, which has me extremely excited. His history of the world in 100 objects is a masterpiece and is available on podcast – worth a listen.
Realising I have reverted and hit peak middle class, I dive into work. Straight onto a call with a potential new client. It's work I really want us to win as I already like the client as they are straightforward and open. If I was to attempt to impart some learning, it would be that as soon as you can in your businesses evolution, choose who you work with. It's not just about revenue and profitability, it's about whether you can work effectively with the client.
A quick bit of admin and then I’m off into a meeting with the senior team. We regularly examine what we do and what we want to do, keeping in mind what the market requires. We have identified a number of opportunities that we have the skill set in house to deliver, and that looks very promising. We'll need to train and possibly recruit, but the revenue opportunity is very attractive and worth the investment.
And then more admin. It's difficult to write anything compelling about admin but it is a necessity. I’m still not very good at it though.
This morning I'm up early and straight into it. It was a late night last night writing up contracts. Two wins in two days, and I need to make sure that we have the detail in place and are prepared to migrate the client seamlessly into the agency. Start-up is vitally important.
I've also got a first meeting with a new potential client this morning. The work is a good shape and size for what we do, I like the people from the initial conversations we've had and the request for proposal (RFP) document was well written, which means a lot to us. If I could pass across another bit of business wisdom it's to understand what a good client looks like to you and focus on winning that type of business.
We wing our way back into Manchester. I see Steve, our client services director, has a potential client in. It's a big pitch. Again, it's the sort of business that looks good to us. I say hello and they say that they've looked me up on the web. This quite rightly conerns me…
The rest of the day is ploughing through admin and working up another couple of opportunities that have arrived. I'm determined not to work late tonight as I need to take my son to get new football boots and I may be playing guitar (appallingly badly) with a colleague. It's okay, I have many distortion pedals.
Time for the better half’s car to go in for MOT. So I rush that into the garage, while she drops son #2 at school. I pick up Paul, our head of marketing (as he lives near to me) and we drive into work for an early meeting that is defeated by traffic on the M62, so we have to reschedule for another day.
The cancelled meeting means I can dive straight into that pile of "stuff I should already have done". This absorbs me until the board meeting. The meeting is reasonably productive - business is coming in. We're profitable. We're reaching some of our ambitious targets. The nature of our service offering is central to what we discuss. We see significant opportunities in un-tapped sectors.
Thursday evenings are always a bit frantic as it's football training. Paul our head of marketing runs the football team that one of my sons plays for. I also took the FA Level 1 Coaching badge so I could help Paul out, seeing as I was there on the side lines every week. It also means I call him “Gaffer”. There are easier things to do than herding under 10s. How teachers do this I will never understand. Actually, I do understand. The Mrs is an ex teacher who got ground down by the madness of OFSTED.
Training goes surprisingly well and we feel comfortable that today’s practice will grab us a much needed win in the next game to stop our losing streak.
Today sees another early morning meeting with a relatively new client. We've done some initial work to understand where they are now. This meeting is about how we can take them to where they need to be. We're all on the same page, and they’re a nice team to work with.
We know that we need someone else in sales, so later in the day, we spend a little time defining that person’s spec. Aggressive sales is something we find anathema to us. I then spend some time working on PushON Marketing. We're busy but growth of the right shape is part of the objective this year.
At 4pm on Friday, we start the wind down with the PushON Out of Office Sessions. The office is blessed with a few DJs so we have some decks and put out a live stream via Facebook every Friday. Why? Because we can.
We're joined by friends and clients for a couple of beers so we adjourn to the quite lovely Banyan Tree, where we bump into more lovely people. It could end up being a late night, but in the end it doesn't.
Saturday is match day. It occurs to me that I'm taking this far too seriously – son #2 has game face on as we drive to Sale. Warm up goes well and its apparent each one of them understands their job. Long story short, everyone stays focussed. The defence is superbly disciplined and we end up convincingly winning 8-2. More importantly, every child gets a run out and each one of them contributes. So many of them have their best ever game.
If you're in the digital sector, you'll know the most marvellous Nicky Wake. Her husband, Andy, is desperately ill and it's their son’s birthday. There is a magnificent turn out for his party. I hear it's the best birthday party of the year.
Later it's Bonfire night. But it isn't. I miss the days when Bonfire night was on the 5th. It's my favourite celebration of the year. I love fireworks. The bigger the better and Urmston has a huge display in Abbotsfield Park. Probably the biggest and best in years, which I suppose reflects the growing prosperity of the area.