Media: Double Standards - 'It's fascinating to be in control of your destiny'

The founders of two media sales start-ups reveal the pleasures and pitfalls of going it alone after life in a big business environment.

ADAM BISHOP, FOUNDING PARTNER, VILLAGE GREEN

- What's been the best part of setting up your own business?

After being in a big agency for many years, it's fascinating to suddenly be in control of your own destiny and it's been interesting learning new skills outside of your core specialist areas. Creatively, doing our own thing opens up a whole new world - it gives you a real sense of freedom. I've also been amazed at the help and support that we've received from almost everyone.

- What do you miss about big company media life?

I miss working with a diverse range of people. When there are only three of you, the conversation can get as exciting as what you had for tea last night and if Jack Douglas from the Carry On ... films is still alive. It turns out that he's dead, in case you were wondering. You also forget how well you are catered for - every resource you may need is a mere phone-call away. Then there are times when you think: has it really come to this? For example, when we first started, I remember the time when it was my turn to clean the bog!

- How good have you become at sorting out your own diary and IT requirements?

I haven't managed to turn up somewhere on the wrong day yet, so I guess that my diary skills are OK. In regards to the IT side of things, if my laptop doesn't work, then I do what every good IT person tells you to do - turn it off and turn it on again. How long do you have to train as an IT person? I could do that. Saying that, this tactic hasn't let me down yet.

- How do you convince clients to work with you as a small independent company in a world of large networks and media owners?

There are a lot of smaller clients who don't want to be with a large media company. They've either done it before and had a poor experience (the small fish in a large pool syndrome), or just want to work with a smaller organisation that has the ability to create great work and service their business with a real passion and drive. It also helps that between us at Village Green, we've got a lot of years' experience under our belt.

- What are the growth prospects for your company?

Pretty good. In fact, we've had our best year. We're winning business on an ongoing basis and our current clients seem very happy with the service we provide. It also helps that we've built up a good network of talented people that we work alongside with. It gives us the ability to turn our hands to almost anything.

- What one thing would you do differently if launching your business again?

I wouldn't change a thing, actually. Any mistakes we have made, we've learnt from and turned into positives. I might have set up an IT business though (it sounds easy) and I wouldn't offer to clean the bog.

NICK BAMPTON, FOUNDING PARTNER, THE THIRD WAY

- What's been the best part of setting up your own business?

You can go anywhere, speak to anyone and pursue anything you want. With The Third Way, I've got deeper into some of the issues that the industry is facing and also into new areas that I would never have had the opportunity to do, and that's been exciting, rewarding and ultimately given me a much wider perspective. As a result, it's helped me develop professionally and personally.

- What do you miss about big company media life?

I miss leading a team, I miss developing ideas and strategies with colleagues and, without doubt, I miss the cheque at the end of the month. But, fortunately, I've got an excellent business partner in Ago Di Falco who's clever, funny and thoroughly decent, and is helping me resolve all three of the above.

- How good have you become at sorting out your own diary and IT requirements?

Very good, thanks. Putting my own meeting into a calendar has not been the trickiest thing I've had to get my head round over the past nine months! Seriously, though, I thought I'd really miss having a PA but I haven't. IT is a bit harder but then I remember all the problems I used to have at Viacom when something went wrong. IT is a bit like plucking nose hair - it's a painful necessity.

- How do you convince clients to work with you as a small independent company in a world of large networks and media owners?

It's quite simple. I like to provide any company with a value proposition that either fills a hole or increases their margin, but is of a scale relevant and meaningful to that business. I usually ask those two questions up front and if I get a "yes" to both, I get interested. Sometimes the proposition needs to be explained, or as some would say "sold", but ultimately I don't enjoy pushing water uphill. No matter how good the idea is, if it's not right, move on.

- What are the growth prospects for your company?

Is this the bit where I'm supposed to sell The Third Way? Look, I wanted to fill the gap that was left by Viacom Brand Solutions going to Sky Media and, more recently, ids. We had nine amazing growth years (more than 300 per cent), which proved by working with media agencies and media owners collaboratively you can make a difference.

The Third Way is working closely with Channel 5 in the creation of bespoke, congruent advertising and we are both enjoying the start of this successful partnership.

We will be sharing publicly soon just how successful this has been and I think this may be a surprise to some at just how much business is being done. Advertising and media companies on the whole are struggling to retain margin and there's going to be lots to wrestle with soon, especially in TV because of internet convergence. The Third Way aims to work closely with these companies to integrate and create increasingly diversified advertising models into their trading structure. We're a resource not on the balance sheet that delivers EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) and hence our prospects are very good.

- What one thing would you do differently if launching your business again?

With hindsight, lots of things. But without it, little. I'm looking forward, not back.

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