Episode 22 – Charli Hunt – MD Proof Content

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Audio Transcript:

VO Guy:

… hello, and thanks for coming along to And We Have An Office Dog, the digital agency podcast where we talk to agency owner directors, and learn more about what makes them tick, from the things that make them similar, to the things they’d rather have known sooner. Where they’ve success, and where they’ve learned some hard lessons. All will be revealed with your host, Chris Simmons, the agency coach, and he’ll be talking to a different awesome agency person in each episode, asking them four questions, and seeing where the conversation takes us over the next 25 minutes. Okay, so let us begin over to you, Chris.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Thanks voiceover guy, and on the podcast today we’ve got Charlie from Proof Content. Hi, Charlie.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Hi, thank you so much for having me.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

And thank you very much for coming along. So first and foremost, at every single podcast, everyone who’s a guest gets to give us a plug about what they do and why they’re so good, just in case a customer’s listening, or a potential member of staff in the future is listening. So go ahead, what does Proof Content do?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Proof content, well, as we say, we do content, so we’re a content strategy and copywriting agency. And there’s a few of us in-house, just a small team, then we have a network of 150 freelance writers-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

150?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

And an AI bot. Yeah, 150.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

150?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Oh, God, that’s a logistical nightmare, I bet.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

It is, but it means we can create content in lots of different industries, and it also means we can do really big website rewrite projects. So-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

A couple of months ago we did 2000 pages in a month.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Okay. Just for those of you who are listening to this, obviously I’m recording, so I can see Charlie right now, she doesn’t have any gray hair, so she’s clearly got the systems and processes just right.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Or I’m really good at dyeing it.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Oh, I mean, I wouldn’t have assumed. So how long have you been running the agency?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

About nine years.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Right, [inaudible 00:02:09]. Nine years, 150 freelancers, and an AI bot you mentioned.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

And an AI bot.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Is the AI bot just keeping everyone going, like virtual pats on the back, or is it a writer as well?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

It’s a writer and a researcher as well, so it’s based on GPT-3, which is the [crosstalk 00:02:27] OpenAI technology, and we train it for each client. We haven’t been able to make it work as well as a writer yet, but I think it’s good. It does help us create better content I think, and that’s the main thing.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

I’ve had to play with that tech a few times, just to see how good it is, and I think it’s really good. If you want it to do the legwork of researching stuff, and then someone else rewrites it, that’s certainly great. I think over time, like you say, it will learn the right way of doing things, but yeah, amazing, that’s awesome.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

So aside from creating the next generation of robots that’s going to kill us all, what do you think has been one of the greatest successes over the last nine years of running the agency?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

I was thinking about this, and I actually think it might be surviving the pandemic.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yep. I think in both physical and metaphorical terms you mean that as well. So what makes that the biggest of successes? Is it just simply being around still, or is it something else there?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

80% of our clients were in travel in March, 2020.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Gasp.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Okay.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

So I think the fact that we’ve all pulled together so well to kind of just completely change the way we work, and now we work with… Well, we still do some travel stuff, we do e-commerce, and we do tech and energy content as well. So just being able to, everyone pulling together to get us to this place now where we’re back up to where we were before, we’re growing ridiculously this year, and it just feels like finally we’re back on track.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Well, congratulations on survival, especially given the sector that you had lots of work in. I think it was a bit of a strange time a few years ago, when overnight everything changed. It wasn’t like when something’s coming, and everyone gets a bit of a build-up a bit like, so not to bring Brexit into this as a conversation where we have any politic talk, but Brexit, once the vote had happened, everyone knew something was going to happen and people could work towards it, or build-up around it, or do something to it. The actual direction it was traveling is out of everyone’s hands, but at least we knew it was coming over a long-ish span of time. Whereas the pandemic was a week, I think, between it’s getting bad, and we’re all now locked in our homes and also airports are shut.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

So in order to batten down the hatches, that’s one task, but I guess with clients in an industry that was suffering, I suppose that was really tough for you, because you’ve got to have empathy it at the same time as just keeping your business safe.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Exactly, yeah. The reason 80% of our clients were in travel is just because my networks are really good in travel, and I kind of knew that we should diversify a bit, but what are you going to do if people keep asking you to do work for them?

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

You’re not going to say no.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Exactly. So yeah, and I think you just see all of these friends and business owners just… And you think, “Well, at least an agency can kind of pivot.” But a holiday company, there’s nothing they can do.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, that’s hard going. I guess the core thing is you manage to get through it, and you’re now growing again, which is fantastic.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

And I suppose with the ability of an agency to pivot relatively quickly, and also given that you have a lot of freelancers in, you can pivot their briefs quite quickly-

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Which is quite good. And then obviously it takes a minute to diversify technically, because you change your mind, and then it’s a case of doing the sales and everything afterwards. So that’s good, so 80% were travel, now is it is split a little bit more even, or is there a bigger gap?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, I’d say we’re now only about 5% travel, just because it’s taking a little while to come back, and there’s also been so many people on furlough that have kind of been put to work now. So-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

I think travel will just take a little while to get back to us.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

[inaudible 00:06:58].

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

But we’re probably about 40% e-commerce, and then I’d say 55% is kind of tech and energy.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

All right. Awesome. Energy’s having a bit of a boom at the minute as well.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

It is, yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

It really is.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

And also a bit of a rubbish time as well, so we’ll see.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. So if you could back roughly-ish nine years, you’ve turned your GPT-3 robot into a time machine, you’ve gone back in time, nine years, and you can give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

I think it would be ask for help more. When I first started my business, it took me ages to realize that you don’t need to know how to do everything just because you are the business owner. You need to know how to do all the content stuff, but you don’t need to know how to run a business, it’s everybody’s first time running a business. And I think, definitely in the last two years that’s really picked up, so I’ve got a mentor, and we work with some consultants, I’m getting an NED, it’s just-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Lots and lots of people, amazing people around me, who’ve given me really useful advice.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Like you say, everyone’s first time is their first time. The only way that you could go into running a business is if you had done business studies of some sort, and got all your qualifications in how businesses work, only to find that on day one, it’s not quite the same as that.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

And you also don’t know how to do anything else apart from run businesses. So it is hard though, that mindset change when you realize, “Actually, I don’t have to be stressing out over this thing that isn’t my skillset. There is someone who I can either hire or buy that can do that.”

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

And I think that’s quite a mind shift, isn’t it?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, it really is. And I think it’s so easy to feel like you need to have all the answers, but its so easy to find people who know the answers and can help you.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. And you say you’ve got a mentor, I think mentoring is hugely valuable, because that helps equip your mind for other decision-making later, and then having lots and lots of other supporting roles as an NED and things like that. An NED is great for building accountability, realistically, not to disparage any NEDs, it’s a very good role, but their job is to hold people to account and sit in board meetings, and make sure that what people say is going to get done either gets done or gets modified, and it’s a role that, as the business owner, it feels like you should be doing that all the time, but it’s really hard to do that, because you’ve got another million things pulling you in different directions.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, exactly. I think also for me, my NED, so I was speaking to a really successful agency owner, and my God, I think he started his agency and two years later they were at three million. So I was like, “How have you done it?” And he said, “Well, it’s just my networks. I’m older, I’ve got these really good existing networks.” And so he said, “Why don’t you talk to someone with a good network, who has not got their own business that they need it for? And then you can help each other out, because he can monetize his network, I guess, and you can get really good, useful introductions.” So-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

That’s what I’ve actually hired an NED for. And my mentor actually is the one that keeps me accountable, and he-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Oh, right. So it’s a good way of doing it.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, exactly. I think that’s the thing, everybody probably has different labels for coach, mentor, consultant-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

NED, they’re all kind of… And it’s just the role that works for your business, I guess, at that time.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Absolutely, and it has to work for you as much as it has to work for the business, because you have to… I don’t know about you, but there was a big watershed moment for me when I was running an agency, that was kind of like, “I need to get out of my own way, and I can’t-”

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

“Get out of my own way without having support to help with that sort of stuff.” And that’s when you pick the things you need, and you cherry-pick which bits you think will help, and then you broaden that over time. And you’ve got someone now who’s got the title of NED, but actually, in a sense they’re there to have that role, but also open a network up for you. And then you’ve got a mentor who’s helping through lots of accountability based stuff, because you need that, and you’ve decided that that’s what you need right there and then.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, exactly. And then they both give really practical advice on how to grow the business, and how to do different things as well. So I think it’s just about kind of building that support network around you, I guess, and however-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Exactly.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

That looks for each business.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Exactly. Each business is totally different, and if you’ve got businesses where, for example, if you had 150 staff instead of 150 freelancers, you would have a totally different approach to which… Whether it was mentorship, coaching, NED, mastermind groups, things like that, it would be a totally different thing, because it has to fit what you are doing, and the direction you’re traveling every single time.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, exactly.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

So your advice going back in time would be to get more people and advise you and help you, that you needed?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yes. Yeah. And also read books, go to webinars and things, and actually implement that knowledge as well.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Go on awesome podcasts maybe?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Exactly.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. But if you went back in time and now you, gave that advice to younger you, would younger you have listened to that?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

I think so. Well, I guess it’s difficult, because I think if I came back from the future, I’d probably recognize myself and think, “Yeah. Okay.” Yeah, I guess it depends on the delivery of the-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Advice. But yeah, no, I think you’re right, I think you have to take time to learn these things-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

And it’s easy to think, “Oh, I wish…” My head of content is amazing, and I always think, “I wish I’d hired her earlier.” But actually, you have to just trust that this is the right time now, and there’s no point in kind of looking back and having regrets, you just have to get on with the tools you have now.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Absolutely, absolutely. So then I guess that kind of brings me onto a question around, if there was something that you’ve done over the years that you kind of either wish you’d done differently, or something that you’ve learned, either, not necessarily the hard way by a mistake, but you’ve learned and you thought, “I’m going to follow this way.” Or, “I’m not going to do it like that.” And that’s kind of set you up for this success that you’re having now?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

I think I would’ve just hired earlier. I think that was my biggest mistake is not hiring-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Okay.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

As soon as I possibly could. I think that’s-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

So-

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

The most important thing. Because otherwise you are prospecting, and then you’ve got all these leads coming in, then you’re delivering, and then you’re prospecting again, and you’ve never got time to kind of catch up.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Right. Yeah, so actually hiring people who are capable, as it were, of delivering on the growth that you are bringing in, versus-

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yes, exactly.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Keeping on doing it all. I think there’s a point in time when you suddenly just realize, “I want to sell more, because job is to sell and make money for the business, but if I take this one more client on, I think I might go mad.”

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

“I’m going to run out of time. I can’t work Monday to Sunday every single day of the week, I just can’t do that.” So hiring sooner would be something-

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

I think at a certain point in time, every agency owner has had that sort of moment in time where you’ve kind of gone, “I can’t take any more work on unless I have someone in, but if I have someone in I’m having to spend, and if I spend, what if the whole thing goes under. Oh my God, I’m really scared, I better just hire anyway, because it’s going to go under if I fall apart.” There’s all these things going on around you, and you-

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Exactly.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

So hiring sooner is a big one, and I think, in a way, that’s great now, from your perspective, because you’ve got that perspective, and you’re also hiring when you need it. But I don’t know if you’re hiring at the minute, but the jobs market in digital marketing is just ridiculous at the moment in terms of trying to find the right people, whilst also trying to sort of balance against what you need as a business, and there’s just so many people out there hiring for, if you look on jobs boards and things, the exact same roles, hundreds and hundreds of the exact same roles, just in London or around the country. How do you typically sort of decide whether someone’s the right fit for you?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, it’s interesting you say that, we have not had a problem with hiring people. I haven’t been hiring an account manager or anything, just copywriters, so I think maybe it’s just a different market. But I think having a job ad that’s friendly and stands out, having something about your business that stands out, like for example, we are actually fully flexible. So if you want to work at two in the morning, you can work at two in the morning for example. That kind of thing has really helped us find people. And I actually did a post today that women will only apply for a job generally if they fit 100% of the skills needed, whereas men it’s about 60%, they’ll just go for it.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Is that so?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

So just having the core skills that you need on that job spec, and then maybe saying, “This is something you’ll learn later if you want to add something else in as well.” I think that’s very helpful, because it opens up to a much more diverse range of candidates-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Which is very good. But generally, I guess what I look for is, at the moment, I obviously need someone who’s a brilliant writer, but that’s not kind of all we need. We also need someone who kind of fits in with the team. So our three kind of core values are, one, kindness, I think it sounds a bit trite, I’ve heard so many stories from applicants that they’re going into work and they don’t want to go in, because there’s a kind of cliquey atmosphere-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

And I don’t want that in our team. The second one is initiative, I am not the most organized person in the world, and I really don’t want to be involved in what people are doing day-to-day. I want to help them and train them, and I want them to come to me if they have a problem, but I don’t want to be-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Checking in on them all the time, and I don’t want to have to answer the same question [crosstalk 00:17:34] time. So initiative is really important, and then efficiency as well. I think there’s so many writers that don’t understand the commercial element of writing-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

And I think that we try to help people understand that a bit more, clients are paying us to do this work, and yes, it could be the greatest masterpiece if we spent a month doing it, but that’s not in the client’s budget.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. And I guess if you are fully flexible, does that work in the sense that you need these things done by Wednesday, and if you get them done in an hour, that’s fine, or if you get them done by Wednesday, that’s fine, and they could just work as and when? Is that-

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, I think in-house it’s more difficult, because your only measure of productivity is time. So if something’s taking the team an hour and we’ve charged the client the amount we would charge for something that takes the day, for example, then we’re overcharging the client, and I don’t want that. So they do need to spend the amount of time that we need, but it’s just when they work that time is fine, is up to them.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

That’s great. I didn’t know that bit of information about how men and women sort of buy a job role, as it were, that’s really interesting to me. Obviously it’s not a perspective I would necessarily have had, for obvious reasons, but it’s also a perspective that I think is quite important for other agency owner leaders to have, especially men, because I think there’s still a bit of a gap there in terms of the number of men and women in agency roles. And things like that might make a big difference, just at the early stages, because if that does follow across other areas of the industry and things like that, there’s lots and lots of very talented women in digital marketing who potentially aren’t applying for roles, because they are worried they’re not going to meet the aims of the role, or won’t necessarily be 100% on the day. Whereas it sounds like, not in a contrite way, men kind of sign up and wing it-

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

A little bit more. Which, me, from my perspective, would’ve probably just signed up and try to wing it, and so that makes a lot of sense. But I wonder whether that sort of thing is something that a lot of agency leaders ought to be aware of a bit more, I guess?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, I think so. And it’s very frustrating in marketing, because when you first start and join the industry, you are with a lot of other women, and then by the time you get to an agency owner, you’re few and far between.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, it’s-

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

I suspect, like most things, an equilibrium of some sort will be reached, but who’s to tell? I do think that things like that you said from a statistical point of view, make an awful lot of sense, and having awareness of these things will probably make a big difference. And I think there’s something to be said for, fundamentally, in a sense, men and women think differently in many senses, and that’s where maybe a male agency leader writes a job spec, and doesn’t necessarily consider anything other than, “It needs to have these things, and here’s the total rational block of text that it needs to have.” And doesn’t consider there’s a human being that needs to read this, and they need to actually want to buy into applying for this job.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, and if you’ve never experienced that yourself, not applying because you think there’s too many skills you need, then why would you think that other people don’t-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Think like you. It’s just important to read around and learn about-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Exactly. Yeah, no, that’s great information. I’m going to remember that one. So if there’s an aspiring agency leader listening to the podcast at the minute, or someone who’s just literally started running their agency, is there one piece of advice that you would give them that you think would really be helpful?

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

I think it’s all about people. It’s not about you. It’s about the people you have around you. So build yourself a board of advisors, even if you can’t afford to pay anyone right now, tell them you’ll look after them when you do well, or find trusted friends and family who you can bounce ideas off. The same with hiring, you need to just hire as soon you can.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

And-

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Do the scary thing.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

The other side of people is that it’s about your mindset as well. So you are the only person that can make or break this, and it’s very easy to lose momentum, so you need to work out what works best for you.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

It’s almost like a cognitive dissonance there. It’s not all about you, because the people you need, but it is entirely about you, because if you don’t do it right, those people, they will be looking for other jobs elsewhere. So there’s a balance-

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Between the two, but there’s, you have to split your mind into two places, one being the leader and allowing people to be themselves, and the other one, continuing to be the leader and making decisions, which will impact those people.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, exactly.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

So yeah, absolutely. Agencies are people businesses, they fundamentally work how all businesses work, money goes in, clients go in, money comes out, things go out. But realistically, it’s the people that make an agency great, and I think if you get the right hiring process, and from the sounds of your values and things, it means that it makes it a lot easier in the larger scale of things to have the right people.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

I haven’t heard anyone else being fully flexible, so that’s a decent sort of USP in terms of wanting to work for an agency like that, where you can live in the way that you choose, whilst also great work for good people, it’s really important.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. The other thing to remember as an agency owner is that, essentially, you can boil everything down to four jobs, which is, find great clients, keep them, find great people, keep them. Those are basically your four jobs. So I think if you can just try and work on those a little bit every day, that’s a good way to start.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Absolutely. Sorry to say that your original piece of advice was terrible, but this was the best bit, you have four jobs. All of the little bits that filter through are either one of those four jobs, or a product of those four jobs being done well.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, exactly.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Excellent, excellent advice to end the episode on. Thank you very much for joining us, Charlie. It’s been fantastic to talk to you.

𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗲 𝗛𝘂𝗻𝘁 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Thank you, that was brilliant.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

And in our next podcast, we’ll have a different agency leader talking about their journey and the things they’ve learned along the way. So thanks very much for listening, and speak to you soon.

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