Drum Magazine Interview: Why size doesn’t matter to AgencyUK’s founder Saman Mansourpour

AUK News
Team receiving reward

Last week AgencyUK from Bath scooped an impressive four MiAwards in Manchester, including the chairman’s award and small agency of the year, proving it’s not the quantity of thinkers, but the quality of thinking that matters most in marketing. MiNetwork catches up with AgencyUK’s founder and MD Saman Mansourpour to find out more about this South West rising star.

Q1. What five words would you use to describe AgencyUK?
Bright, Insightful, Dynamic, Inventive and Collaborative people

Q2. How has The Agency evolved over the years?
We’ve certainly grown-up. Experience of the trade and raw ambition are enough to get you started, but at some point you have to realise that a company’s culture needs to extend beyond the core management team and evolve on its own. To do this effectively it comes down to relationships and partnerships, with the people we employ and the organisations we work with. We were probably ahead of our time, certainly in the technology sphere, and it took a while for the industry and our clients to become ready. We’ve been lucky being born in this recession. It has given us a continued sense of vigor, we’ve always found more opportunity than we’ve lost, and we’ve not had too many sad times. The people we engage and hire stay with us and they in turn engage and hire others that compliment the team and our ethos.

Q3. What has been AgencyUK’s biggest success so far?
If you read all the management books it’s been surviving past year three. However, in my opinion our biggest success is assembling one of the best equipped and smartest communications teams in the UK. And we’ve had some memorable moments along the way. We’re one of the first agencies to stream live video into web banners, we developed one of the most complex c-suite ad targeting platforms with The Times and Wall Street Journal. We used The Queen (well, her throne) to advertise BSM in their 100th year, and we helped reposition the world’s first online casino brand into seven countries. Most recently we adopted a sausage dog and named him Oscar Mayer Wiener after the American hot dog company. Only in an agency!

Q4. What are your short, medium and long term goals for the business?
Short term it’s to keep doing what we’re doing. Grow our existing business by strengthening our client partnerships and forming new ones. Mid-term it’s to ensure we deliver higher performing campaigns that continue to underpin our clients commercial success. To achieve this we’re looking at a fast-growth strategy for our media and technology divisions. Long term it’s all about sustainability, and we believe that only comes from having an enviable reputation in the industry. We want to grow quickly, and expand our work overseas, so network partnerships may be on the cards, but we enjoy being independent. At our size it’s vital for remaining creative, spontaneous and ultimately future-proof.

Q5. What are your key priorities for the business in the year ahead?
We’ve got a few more key appointments to make, so that will be our focus in the early part of 2014. Beyond that we’ve got a few more client brands to win and a number of high profile campaigns to deliver for existing ones. Between that and making sure the company remains on an even keel, it leaves little time for much else – well perhaps trying to repeat some of our recent awards success.

Q6. What have been the major challenges you have faced since launching AgencyUK?
We’ve had some tough times, personnel and finance related, but everyone goes through that. Perhaps the hardest part was realising who we actually are. We’ve always been clear about what we do, and how, but defining us as an agency and mapping out how we realise our vision has always been difficult, especially when you’re a small team and you’ve got a job to do. I’ve always been against naval-gazing, but sometimes it’s important to assess who you are and compare that to who you want to be. Many agencies claim to be defined by their clients, but I believe we’re defined by our team. This new unchartered media landscape makes sure of that.

Q7. What sectors are you currently active in and which sectors would you like to become active in during the coming months and years?
We currently work a lot in pharmaceutical, retail, financial services and public sector. I think we’ll probably extend our reach into b2b. It’s actually an exciting place to be, and you can demonstrate a lot of commercial impact by utilising new age technologies. It’s the revolution b2b marketing folk have been waiting for and it’s great to be able to see such a dramatic turnaround in board level opinion and sales.

Q8. What, for you, would constitute success for AgencyUK?
An agency built on reputation and referral. If we can grow without ever needing to pitch for business that constitutes success for me. Not simply because it’s more profitable, but because a reputation that supports that level of confidence in the market is truly unbeatable.

Q9. If we were to have this conversation in three year’s time, where would you like AgencyUK to be in terms of turnover, staff numbers etc?
I suspect we’ll be north of £5m turnover (excluding any media billings of course). Staff numbers are a little meaningless for me. Hiring people is easy, attracting the right people and motivating them to build a business together is golden. For that reason, maximum talent with the fewest people is probably what I’ll strive for.

Q10. As an agency leader, what do you get the most satisfaction from?
Knowing that I am clearly the least talented individual in my company. It’s strangely comforting, and means we’ll never be limited by my vision alone.