What I've Learnt: Martin Wallwork, Managing Director of Conker Communications
Martin Wallwork has been the Managing Director of Conker Communications since November 2015.
Conker have worked with a string of high profile clients including Tata, the Netball World Cup 2019, Creamline, British Salt, SC Johnson Professional, Raleigh, Haibike & Farmcare.
Martin started his career climbing the ranks at United Utilities after a graduate scheme. After leaving as the Head of Client Services there, he worked briefly as the Managing Director of RMRI Plc, then five years as Business Development Director at ABT Oil and Gas before becoming a Director of Conker.
Here, he looks back on his career and what he's learnt so far...
Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?
My morning coffee! The first thing I do every morning is to make a strong coffee – I’ve tried going without but, I’ll be honest, it’s a ritual and fix I can’t do without.
In terms of business, a Monday team sit down to build a clear picture of all the activity in the mix at the start of each week is crucial to achieving the goals for our business and exceeding expectations of our clients.
What's been your luckiest break?
I’m not sure that I believe in chance – you create your own luck through hard work and having an opportunistic, positive outlook. There are lots of small lucky breaks I’ve had along the way through my career, all of which have contributed. If I was pushed to pick out one thing, being sponsored to complete an executive MBA over two years at Lancaster University Management School would be the one I’d pick. It was challenging, but I learned a huge amount that I use every day.
What's your best failure?
I’ve had a few failures that were hard to take at the time, but reflecting on them has always helped when faced with challenges again. I’m not going to pick out one specific failure.
The main thing I’ve taken from failing is that prevaricating on decisions, over-analysing situations and delaying action is worse than making what turns out to be the wrong choice. As the saying goes, it’s better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all.
What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?
The MBA was a huge investment of time and energy but has given me a strong platform upon which to grow my knowledge and management skills.
How would you describe your work/life balance?
A constant tug of war! My wife and I run Conker together, so getting separation from ‘work’ takes discipline. We have two brilliant boys who are our priority over everything else, but that doesn’t mean we get the right balance between work, family, ourselves and friends! It’s about adjusting all the time to what’s going on.
Which book would you recommend others to read and why?
I read a lot of fiction and believe that, whilst this is a pleasure, stories also give you insights into how other people think and engage with the challenges that everyday life throws at you. It also shows you the power of people’s imagination and how if you can capture their imagination, you can inspire people in real life. I think my favourite book is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, it’s a brilliant story through which you can escape into another world and another time.
What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Believe in your ability, listen to advice from people you respect, enjoy the moment and don’t be scared of failing or changing direction.
Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?
This would have to be Sarah, my wife and business partner, who has always been amazingly supportive and has a great business brain. (Brownie points scored!), I’ve worked for a couple of people who are very different in their approach to business and management. Seeing these contrasting styles and approaches first-hand has helped me see that there are always different routes and ways to tackle challenges.
Tell us something about you that would surprise people
I once did the (almost) Full Monty in front of 500 people for a charity event at university. Years later I was in an important business meeting about a new venture and just as I was about to start the presentation, one of the people we were presenting to started the meeting by recognising me from the charity event and telling everyone in the room about it! Recover from that one!
What does success look like to you?
Maintaining the right work/life balance, always learning and growing Conker over the long term. Achieving that means that supporting our clients’ success is just as important as working on our own business.