What I've Learnt: Rick Tobin, Managing Director, Circus PPC

Charlie Spargo's picture
by Charlie Spargo
Rick Tobin

Rick Tobin is a PPC specialist who founded Circus, the Leeds-based PPC agency, in 2009.

Tobin, who has been in the field since 2004, was responsible for creating the first-ever PPC campaign for DFS, and previously worked for leading agencies Brilliant Media and Stickyeyes.

The agency's goal is to see companies grow through successful and intelligent PPC marketing - and today, it's worked with clients including Asda Money, Jaguar, Bwin, First and Foxy Bingo.

We found out the lessons Rick's learnt.


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

I love to check in with my team every day on Skype. Just a small touchpoint to say hello lets everyone know everyone else is OK, and keeps us all connected to each other.

We totally changed the way we worked once the pandemic hit, and now we operate a ‘work from anywhere’ policy, it’s more important than ever for us to feel connected to one another.

What's been your luckiest break?

Getting into PPC. I used to work as a programmer and decided I needed to transition into something more exciting. The day I was introduced to PPC was the day I knew that was my calling. Fast forward to today and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

What's your best failure?

Trying to convince my partner that the final season of Game of Thrones was worth watching.

What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?

I like to take time out for a walk - it helps to clear your mind, gives you perspective and allows you to re-focus on the issues that matter. I’ve also got a dog called Teddy who often accompanies me to the office, so he helps me make sure I’m getting out of the office from time to time to clear my head and take a breather.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

I really enjoyed 'Shoe Dog' - the story of Nike - and how one guy's passion for running turned into a global brand. If you’re not passionate about the thing you’re trying to sell, how on earth do you believe that you can instil that passion into someone else?

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

When it comes to starting an agency, only you can do it. Have faith in yourself and drive yourself hard.

When it comes to running a successful agency, you have to trust your team.

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

Paul Hill got me my first job in PPC; Ben Bisco taught me PPC; and my incredible team challenge me every day. Without any of those I wouldn’t be where I am today. 

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I once attended a sales training course for dentists. It was a course run by one of the top trainers from Dale Carnegie - but designed especially for dentists. Sales training is pretty universal and to be trained by one of their top guys was an opportunity I couldn’t resist. 

How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?

The COVID crisis proved that we can still deliver when working home. We can manage clients, workloads and collaborate just as effectively as when in the office, and coming back to the office is not the necessity we once thought it was.

We all work in different ways, have different home lives and work lives, and as such we’ve adopted a ‘work from anywhere’ policy. The team can choose whether to be in the office, at home, or working from a café - whatever works best for them personally, so that they can be effective and deliver for their clients and the agency.

They get to choose, they get to be responsible and they get to deliver in their own way.

What does success look like to you?

The day when I come into the office and I have been made completely redundant, the team is happy, focussed and delivering, and when clients are untroubled, delighted and their accounts are growing.

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