What I’ve learned during my year at the top

Just over 365 days ago I took over as MD of TWA. A daunting task as the business has a 14 year heritage of delivering marketing campaigns for businesses as diverse as the National Apprenticeship Service, Sika and the NHS to Antler Luggage, Choice Hotels Group and Sika.

I joined the agency eight years ago from a global consultancy in Manchester where I was deputy MD so I had lots of experience running teams, clients and financial management. I worked with big budgets on global campaigns for the likes of Aldi, The Body Shop, Eurocamp and Domino’s Pizza.

The experience I brought to TWA has enabled me to build the business from a B2B PR agency specialising in public sector campaigns to a multi-disciplinary marketing consultancy.

We’re celebrating the most successful 12 months we’ve had since I joined and here are five things I learned during my first year at the top:

Don’t listen to ‘the voice’ – Not the TV show with the four chairs, that little voice in your head that says ‘are you sure?’ or ‘can you do this?’. You become the ultimate decision maker and you have to be confident and rely on your expertise to lead.

Recruit top talent – I think this is one of the best teams I’ve worked with; we have the strength and depth of experience to work with clients large and small. We’ve recruited specialists from marketing, digital, events and corporate to ensure we have a broad outlook and can always find a solution for our clients’ problems. We’ve invested in two senior directors with fantastic experience and it’s paying off – from better quality advice for clients to mentoring for our team – and we’re seeing the results on the bottom line.

Respect your heritage – I suspect many MDs when they are handed the reig are tempted to change everything and if your business is struggling this may be the way to go. I planned for a foundation year and ended up with significant growth and I think this is because I recognised the strengths of our brand and built on them. We’ve grown by word of mouth, recommendation and reputation – we’ve not started our business development plan yet!

Culture – Build the culture you want. Make your environment the workplace you want to go to every day. For us, it’s a drinks globe, banter, cheese, flexible working, an inspiring environment and making everyone feel valued. We’re continuously working on this area and it’s paying dividends.

Make friends – So many clichés but you never know who you may need to rely on in the future so treat everyone as you would like to be treated yourself. Being the boss means making tough decisions and not everyone will understand them but if you stick to your values, chances are people will respect you for it – even if they don’t like you for it!

I’ve loved (almost) every day in my new role and cannot wait to see where the next 365 days takes us.

Julie Cheston

September 8, 2017 - This article was written by April Manning

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