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Season 3 – Episode 17: Paul Muggeridge-Breene

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Season 3 – Episode 17: Paul Muggeridge-Breene

Chris Simmance (00:42.813)
Thanks for your service again on the podcast today I’ve got Paul Muggeridge-Breen, my first double barreled podcast naming. How are you doing, Paul?

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (00:52.664)
I’m good, thank you. Yes, I have the longest, strangest name in the agency world.

Chris Simmance (00:58.037)
And you are in fact the most annoying agency advisor that we have because I’ve had to put specific code on the naming parts of the little widgets that show the, the agency advisors faces so that it doesn’t put your name over the top of someone else’s face. Um, so, you know, we, we had to do specific development for your name.

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (01:20.714)
I appreciate that. I cause chaos everywhere I go. Banks can never fit my name on cards. My poor kids, takes me about three weeks to write their names, et cetera. So you’re not alone.

Chris Simmance (01:29.629)
Yeah. Um, so Paul, we’re not here to talk about that. We’re here to talk about agencies, working with agencies and helping them. So first of all, everyone listening is dying to know who the heck are you? What the heck do you do? And what do you do specifically when it comes to agencies?

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (01:46.542)
Sure. So I’ll probably start by going right back to the beginning, about 120 years ago or thereabouts. So I started out my career as a journalist, working as a TV news producer for ITN at the BBC in the UK. And then I moved to Australia for a bit and worked for the ABC over there, launched a 24 hour news channel there in the space of seven months, which is an interesting experience and the subject for another podcast.

Chris Simmance (02:10.725)
Yeah, I can imagine.

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (02:13.234)
And then moved back in 2014, co-founded a digital content agency and grew that to about five million pounds income over eight years. And then this past year, I’ve moved to being an agency advisor, coach, mentor, consultant, insert word as appropriate there. But in short, working with agency founders, agency leaders to help them achieve their objectives. And that can be any kind of objective, any kind of outcome they’re looking for. But just

Chris Simmance (02:27.229)

Chris Simmance (02:41.117)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (02:42.146)
Helping them, guiding them, coaching them along the way.

Chris Simmance (02:45.497)
And is there like a sweet spot that you either prefer working with or a specific type of agency needs that works best for you and works best for them?

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (02:59.434)
I would say not actually. I’ve got a range of agencies and clients in all sorts of different stages, industries, types of consultancy agencies. And they all need different things, they all need different help, but I think I kind of work with them all in different ways and kind of just provide whatever it is that they’re looking for. So yeah, I would say I found no individual, no single sweet spot yet.

Chris Simmance (03:05.583)

Chris Simmance (03:17.434)

Chris Simmance (03:26.517)
Yeah, it’s hard as well because they’re all different shapes and sizes regardless of whether you’ve got a sweet spot. They’ve got buried, they’ve got the exact same problems but in different varying degrees and they’ve gotten to those needs in different ways. Equally, you know, my level, my vision of success for the future is different to yours from an agency’s point of view and so you know it’s hard to articulate that they’re all the same but they’re all

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (03:40.27)
Thank you.

Chris Simmance (03:55.313)
equally just as different. It’s quite a mad world.

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (03:56.998)
Exactly, exactly right. And then so that the uniqueness is just fascinating, like, every thing like you say, they can look the same, and then they’re absolutely not underneath. But also, it’s all about for me, what it is that the founder is trying, trying to achieve. That’s always the first thing it’s like if you’re trying to achieve x, then you need to go down a very particular path. But if you’re trying to achieve y, which might be ever so slightly different to x, you need to take potentially quite different path.

Chris Simmance (04:01.66)

Chris Simmance (04:13.103)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (04:25.494)
And I think being really clear on what that end goal is, is really critical to any kind of success.

Chris Simmance (04:28.356)

Chris Simmance (04:31.521)
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And how long have you been, just so you went and set up a 24 hour news station, you worked for work for the media and things like that. So how long have you because you’ve had some experience in agency as well as just advising and coaching. So what was your what’s your kind of parting feelings of when you moved out of agency? Well, what was the impetus for that?

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (04:49.73)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (04:59.446)
really just wanting to do something new. So as you might be able to tell from my career history, I kind of enjoy doing new things, learning new things, building new things. So what I was really keen to do is just to try something new, but also use the skill and the experiences from like all of the career. Cause what I find really interesting is there’s lots of stuff that I take from the journalism part of the career as much as the 10 years in agency world.

Chris Simmance (05:12.722)

Chris Simmance (05:23.485)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (05:27.142)
around leading people, around teams, around growth. So one of the, as I said, launching a 24 hour news channel was involved doing that in seven months. And that was a lot of change, a lot of growth, a lot of like new people. And what’s really fascinating to me is that there are really clear parallels between that and the still rapid, but slightly less rapid growth in the agency. There’s a lot of parallels between the two. So it’s kind of taking all of that experience.

Chris Simmance (05:51.023)

Chris Simmance (05:55.495)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (05:56.186)
and yeah, sort of helping other agency leaders achieve what they wanna achieve.

Chris Simmance (06:02.778)

Chris Simmance (06:15.325)
pay once for a voiceover guy and he keeps coming back interrupting trying to sell stuff to you good agency folk. So what is it that like, you know, we touched on the uniqueness and also the similarities, the dynamism of agencies as well. What is it that you love most about like working with them? For me personally, I love the fact that it’s all to play for if they’re ready to listen.

know, any agency that is really keen on making changes, and they can articulate where they want to go. And I just love that speaking to them. And it’s just, they just get it, they want to get it and they want to do it. And what is it for you? What do you love the most about working?

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (06:58.046)
Yeah, I’m the same. I think the thing I love most is helping. So agency leaders, I just find agency founders are just incredible people. They have to be to have done what they’ve done and to have founded the agency. And they just, they’re so driven and they’re so kind of entrepreneurial and creative and innovative. And yet what I find is that because they’ve started an agency generally, not always, but they’ve

They’re at the place where they are because they’re good at the thing the agency does rather than running a business. And so they kind of often, they have a lot of the right instincts, but they lack the confidence to kind of go through with it and to push it through and to make those decisions. And so I think probably my favorite thing is kind of helping them build that confidence and sometimes that’s by validating their instincts. And often it’s about challenging.

Chris Simmance (07:42.126)

Chris Simmance (07:50.321)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (07:56.734)
some of the thoughts they’ve got, some of the decisions they’re making, and kind of offering some different points of view or just getting them to think in a slightly different way about it. But just, yeah, taking that passion that they have, that’s the thing I love, taking the passion that they have and helping them kind of channel it into achieving what they want to achieve.

Chris Simmance (08:05.647)

Chris Simmance (08:09.661)

Chris Simmance (08:16.089)
Yeah, and it’s the most expensive MBA you’ll ever take running an agency, the amount of things that you learn about yourself, other people, business, negotiation, everything that kind of run goes into like the whole running of a business. And the one of the things I’ve found most kind of

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (08:33.43)

Chris Simmance (08:39.125)
enjoyable, should we say about working with some agency leaders is that moment when there’s a, there’s a switch that flips and sometimes it’s, um, it’s over something that you feel is innocuous, but something switches and they go, aha, this is a business. It’s not some beanbags and pizza parties thing. We can have all of that fun stuff, but we’ve got to run it like a business. And it’s when they start realizing.

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (08:51.211)

Chris Simmance (09:05.265)
clients expect us to run it like a business. They like the idea of, you know, the fancy stuff and the cool things and all that sort of stuff. But they running a business is where I have to go in order to get to where I want to be. And when they start seeing it like that, then yeah, some of it involves boring stuff and some, some people love spreadsheets, but it’s, um, I think it’s when that

switch flips, you can see it and you can kind of feel that the room changed. Should we say, and I think that’s when, you know, you really get hold of your agency is when you turn it into a business. Um, you know, the numbers, you know, where you’re going, you know, whether you’re on track, you know, what you’ve got to tweak to get there. And it feels a lot less, uh, unstable and risk prone at that point.

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (09:37.791)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (09:49.622)
Totally. And I think there’s a, some people do love spreadsheets. I am one of them, weirdly. But I think a lot of agency founders don’t. And I think there’s a kind of, I think that’s one of the mismatches that I think can cause real problems is it’s really important to have, you know, you don’t have to be in the numbers every single day, but it’s important to really understand them and have confidence in them because it’s so hard to make good business decisions.

Chris Simmance (09:54.065)
Hmm. Good.

Chris Simmance (10:09.021)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (10:16.446)
If you don’t have confidence in the numbers, if you’re slightly worried about them, even on an unconscious level, it’s really hard to make those kind of confident business decisions. And so having those numbers in order, however that’s done, I think is really, really critical to doing exactly what you said, that sort of transition to, oh, we’re a business.

Chris Simmance (10:16.468)

Chris Simmance (10:32.781)
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I, one thing I’ve learned, um, when I was running agencies and also, you know, learning again and again, working with agencies is, um, if you nail the boring stuff.

You can do everything that you want. You can, you can have, you can run the business how you like, as long as you’ve got all the boring stuff nailed as things like knowing your numbers, having your strategic plan, having things like insurance and HR documentation, all that sort of stuff, nail that. And then you can slow all of the pressure and the thinking down and make good business decisions later. It’s absolutely spot on. I love that, that moment when an agency leader goes.

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (11:09.944)

Chris Simmance (11:13.225)
all right fine I’m gonna spend a couple of weeks getting some of this done and work this out and then you work through it methodically and then you can step back and look at what you’ve got

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (11:22.034)
And I think there is a real, again, it’s that the agency founder type and that’s not, you know, across the board, but it’s pretty widespread, which is it’s a kind of, say, entrepreneurial, creative, innovative kind of mindset. And I, and that kind of thousand ideas a day kind of, kind of approach. And I do think that is sometimes those people find the boring stuff, those that kind of boring, but important stuff a bit difficult.

Chris Simmance (11:35.247)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (11:50.058)
you know, because it is less glamorous than the kind of the other side. It’s less fun. Some of it is just really difficult, like people problems, workflow systems, finances, like you say. So yeah, I think making sure that is looked after, however it is, might be somebody else in the business that does it, but just making sure that it’s totally nailed is like you say, there’s, you can’t get to where you want to get to without that stuff being in place.

Chris Simmance (11:53.454)
Yeah, yeah.

Chris Simmance (12:07.837)
So yeah.

Chris Simmance (12:14.684)

Exactly. And the secondary part of that, like you say, is this, like, you don’t have to be the one that does everything. And I found it particularly hard. I don’t know about you, but I found it particularly hard. Once I realized I had to, I found it hard to step back on something, even if it’s something boring and hard, and something that I wasn’t suited to, I’d still look at it and be like, I want to do that. I need to get that. That’s my thing. It’s my thing. And as soon as you realize that your business’s bottleneck is likely to be you at some point, once you

then get out your own way and start letting people do their thing.

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (12:47.222)
Yeah, I write, I’ve been writing a series about like the critical hurdles on the way to that kind of five million pound income level. And the first one actually is around the million pound mark and is all about letting go. It’s exactly what you’re saying, because it applies to all sorts of things in terms of how much you’re trying to be across, how much you’re delegating, whether you’re actually delegating or just what you think is delegating. But unless you can do that, and that actually takes quite a lot of work and that’s where it becomes a bit more, it’s actually quite personal work.

Chris Simmance (13:07.162)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (13:16.278)
rather than business work. It’s about you as a person being able to let go and trust and have somebody else do the things that are quite important in your business, that’s your baby. If you can do that and do that work, then you can power through. But I think that’s a really common sticking point. If you don’t do that work and you do wanna try and keep hold of everything, it’s very difficult to get past that point.

Chris Simmance (13:17.181)

Chris Simmance (13:23.459)

Chris Simmance (13:41.749)
Yeah, absolutely. And I think some people do it well, some people find it harder. But ultimately, there’s some kind of point in time where something changes and you either go down the path of making the right business changes, or you don’t and you kind of…

Run the hamster wheel until you run out of steam. There’s only a few ways an agency closes. And one is an exit, a nice exit with a sale. Another is you run out of steam and it has to just die. And then finally, HMRC or IRS come along and close it for you. And the latter two are less palatable than someone coming on with a big fat check. And you’ve got to make some uncomfortable choices

to do that. What do you think it is though that separates the best agencies from the rest? Because just UK alone there’s 22,000, 23,000 agencies in total. I was astonished at that number but then it’s you know if you count account for like three members of staff and up to 250 members of staff it’s quite a big spectrum. What do you think it is that separates the best from the rest?

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (14:30.646)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (14:53.598)
Good question. I would probably say powerful leadership. And what I mean by that is not just leadership from the founder, top person, but kind of leadership across the business. I’d probably say this applies to any business, to be honest, but I think it’s particularly true for agencies because we are people businesses.

Chris Simmance (15:05.981)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (15:18.814)
sure there’ll be little exceptions around the edges, but by and large, we’re not making widgets or products, we are making things through people’s time. And because that involves so many people, I think the managing of people, the leading of people becomes really, really critical. And I think often it comes to like understanding what makes people tick, what motivates them and demotivates them on a broad level, but also on an individual level. That’s why the kind of individual line management.

Chris Simmance (15:41.946)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (15:48.386)
is so important within that leadership piece. But also for an agency that is growing, it involves so much change management. And really bringing people along with you on that journey is absolutely critical, because other people have this resistance to change that’s just quite inherent mostly. And so if you don’t manage that process and manage them and understand what’s going to bring them along, then you’re doomed to fail. So I think, yeah, good leadership would

Chris Simmance (16:07.258)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (16:18.21)
differentiator for me.

Chris Simmance (16:20.129)
Yeah, I completely agree with you. And I think leadership comes in, in different layers as well, in the sense that, so I often say that management is learned and leadership is earned. And you earn the different layers of leadership as you progress in your own personal kind of journey. There’s times you almost sadly have to make some mistakes in order to be a better leader. And there’s other facets of leadership, which are

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (16:31.84)

Chris Simmance (16:46.957)
on the verge of management, they are process like, you know, you speak to people in this certain way or whatever. Um, but the vast majority of real leadership, once you, um, once you understand how people tick and what motivates them and demotivates them, and you are able to articulate expressly what you’re doing and where you’re going, you get better and better and better at that. And as you get better and better and better at that, the people that you lead get better and better and better at following that and feeling that and leading downwardly as well. And

You’re not going to change the world or run the biggest, bestest ever agency. And I’m sorry to say that I’m pretty sure that those times have passed now in terms of this industry. You’re not going to be a brand new agency coming out of the gate with all the best of everything in the world and then be the number one agency on the planet. But you are able to make the change that you need in order to get to what you want. And most of the time that’s a…

internally in your head that’s articulated into a number, usually because it’s financially related, but it has to be in order for you to anchor that to all of the nice things that you want to do. In order to do that, you need to learn how to get people to follow the leadership and follow the plan. If I want to exit an agency and after the full exit period get three million quid in my pocket, so to speak.

I need to have this many staff, this many clients, this many, then this isn’t that’s and whatever’s. And in order to do that, I can’t just like throw loads of leads down the pipe. I’ve got to know who we are, what we’re doing, who’s with us doing it. And those people need to feel like they’re going somewhere along that journey as well. And you only get better at that as you do it. And as you kind of earn those stripes. And it’s sometimes painful.

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (18:32.301)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (18:37.774)
God, absolutely. Yeah. And I think there’s another piece there, which is about keeping people on the journey with you. And again, because agencies have people businesses, the loss of like certain individuals can be a bit, you know, catastrophic towards achieving an objective or a plan. And I think that’s another really important part of leadership is kind of creating the culture of the organization and transmitting like, if the agency founder does something

Chris Simmance (18:45.897)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (19:07.346)
it impacts everybody down the agency. They will model that behaviour, they will see what’s being done, they will think that’s the way that it should be done. All the other leaders in the business will kind of model their leadership on that one person, so I think that’s kind of a cultural piece as much as anything else.

Chris Simmance (19:16.348)

Chris Simmance (19:25.405)
Absolutely. And you work, you, like we said earlier, you’ve worked in, and you work with agencies now. If you had your, um, your own magic wand, you could only use it one time though. So terrible magic wand has only got one use in it. Um, you could change anything you like about all agencies in one hit and every agency immediately changes this one thing. What is that one thing going to be?

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (19:49.994)
That’s a good question.

I think it would probably come back to the thing around finances that I talked about earlier. I’m really struck by how common it is for agencies to have, not trouble with their finances in a kind of monetary sense, but just in terms of like the organisation of their finances, like monthly management accounts at the core, just sort of simple sources of management information so that they can make good decisions confidently.

Chris Simmance (19:58.301)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (20:23.486)
And again, a lot of agency leaders, it’s not their kind of natural territory. And agencies will have accountants, but not always. There are some really good agency specific accountants out there, but a lot of the time the accountant is doing their thing, but not providing useful information to help make management decisions. And there is this gap and

Chris Simmance (20:36.293)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (20:48.406)
the agency found that often isn’t quite sure how to kind of bridge that gap of what it’s going to take. So I guess if I could wave a magic wand, I would solve that challenge and have maybe all accountants providing that right information.

Chris Simmance (21:01.825)
Yeah, either that or some kind of immediate CFO role that just gets filled in every agency. I think the interesting thing is that even with agency-specific accountancy firms and management accountants, you have to be explicit in what you want because…

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (21:24.142)

Chris Simmance (21:24.921)
with accountancy, like legal things, like HR things, insurance things, there are a million and one different ways that you can view the information. And if you, so we, one of the sort of the financial watersheds we had when we were running the SEO agency was, I articulated where we wanted to go and the core kind of scorecard of how we were gonna get there. And that was then,

turned into the management and figures that we got every month. And the analysis that was given to us and the insight and the decision making kind of input was all focused around things that we’d articulated to them. So, you know, if you, if, if we just said, you know, give us management accounts, you, you would literally just have your net profit, your EBIT, you know, all the other bits and bobs, and it would be relatively innocuous and it wouldn’t be a decision-making type thing. Um, but if that accountancy firm knows.

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (22:20.332)

Chris Simmance (22:23.301)
By the end of X financial year, we will be doing this purchase of this thing or hiring this many people’s. Um, that means we need this much cash in the bank. Here’s my analysis that you’re on track for or not on track for that kind of stuff. Um, and it made a big difference, made a big difference. Yes, that we’ll have that.

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (22:37.287)
Mmm. Yeah, it’s nice.

sounds great. Yeah, definitely that.

Chris Simmance (22:46.909)
Um, so Paul, thanks so much for coming onto the podcast. Um, if you have one piece of advice for all agency leaders that are listening right now, and it’s a single go out and do X what’s that they’ve, if they’re listening to this in their car or they’re having their morning coffee and they’re thinking, I need, I need to go and do one thing today to, to help my business. What is that?

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (23:08.046)
really good question. And the answer is, and I’m very conscious that, you know, it might sound like I’m just trying to sell my services, but I’m actually not. I mean, I’m genuinely about genuinely mean this, which is have somebody that you can bounce ideas off, you know, have somebody that can that can challenge your thoughts, challenge your, you know, confirm or challenge just have somebody because it’s a pretty lonely business. Otherwise, it can be a very lonely experience.

Chris Simmance (23:27.703)

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (23:37.11)
difficult experience. So yeah, that would be what I say.

Chris Simmance (23:39.829)
Awesome. And you can check Paul’s profile out on the OMG Center website in the agency advisors section. Give him a shout. Thanks very much for coming along, mate.

Paul Muggeridge-Breene (23:47.97)
Thanks for having me, Chris.