Episode 36 - Anna Morrish - Founder Quibble Content

The 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 had success and where they’ve learned some hard lessons. All will be revealed with your host, Chris Simmance 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 Anna from Quibble Content. How are you doing, Anna?

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Yeah. Good, thank you very much.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Welcome to the podcast.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Thanks.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Well, it’s a sunny day when we’re recording, so it feels a bit more positive.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Indeed. Indeed it does. Well, I’ve not got so much sunshine. It’s a little bit cloudy here at the minute but…

Chris Simmance (Host):

So where are you based? Where’s Quibble Content”

Anna Morrish (Guest):

So we are based in Rutland. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Tiny, tiny county.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Indeed. Oh, you have. So many people are like, “Where’s Rutland?” And-

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah, I think I drove through it for about a quarter of a second once.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Yeah, that sounds about right. So yeah, smallest county. Absolutely beautiful though. So it’s literally in the middle of the UK, so it’s quite well situated even though it’s only small county itself.

Chris Simmance (Host):

I used to… it is basically right next to Lincolnshire, isn’t it?

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire.

Chris Simmance (Host):

There you go.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Literally. Yeah.

Chris Simmance (Host):

It’s where all the people come to meet.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

No, exactly. There you go.

Chris Simmance (Host):

So firstly, tell me a little bit about Quibble Content. Give us a plug, just in case a potential client’s listening or a potential new member of staff.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Of course. Well, we go by Quibble now.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Oh.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

That’s all right. The reason being because we started off doing and focusing mainly on the content and we did branch out when my partner joined. So we do a lot of more technical work as well now, but it all goes hand in hand. So everything we do, we do obviously the content strategy analysis and we do the technical SEO, we do the paid ads as well. So we do have the full marketing mix here. And yeah, we can work with all sorts of types of businesses. We pride ourselves, I would say, on the relationship side of things. So we are a small agency so we really do get to know our clients, which is probably one of the main things that I would say I’d love.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah. So how long have you been going for?

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Oh, gosh. So since 2016. So it was-

Chris Simmance (Host):

Which feels like an age ago, given all the things that happened in the last few years.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Oh my gosh, doesn’t it?

Chris Simmance (Host):

So what would you say has been one of the biggest successes since you started the agency?

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Oh gosh. The biggest successes, is that personal or would you say from a business standpoint?

Chris Simmance (Host):

Well, all business is personal. So it’s up to you. I think to have started in 2016, to have gone through a pandemic, to all of the things that have happened, I suspect there’s been some business success as well as some personal success along the way.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I think as a person, myself, I’ve definitely grown in terms of confidence and I’ve always thought of myself as quite… Not necessarily shy, because I can be quite outspoken as well, but I have both sides of me. And I think initially when I set up Quibble it was like you go to those first meetings and client meetings, you go to networking and all these kind of stuff and I would have to go home and go to bed. It was exhausting. I was like, “What is [inaudible 00:04:07]?”

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

It’s mad, isn’t it? And I was like… Yeah, so I’d go back home, I’d have my nap. But now obviously I don’t have to do, it’s a luxury if I’m getting that.

Chris Simmance (Host):

God, can you imagine the founder of a company starting off going to sell some content strategy and then having to go quickly go for a nap in between meetings.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

I think it’s just there’s such a lot going on when you first set up.

Chris Simmance (Host):

There really is.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

So yeah, I’ve definitely grown in that regard. And then yeah, in terms of the business, yeah. We’ve grown, I would say slowly, but in a very stable way. We see a lot of businesses, a lot of agencies, there’s always different businesses setting up and they come and they go, and I think we hit that five year mark and then we’re obviously going beyond that. And I think that was one of the main focuses for me was not to grow too quickly, one, for the company culture, but two, because I wanted to let people know that we are here to stay and we are a very, very stable business. So if you come and work with us, we’re here for the long term basically. And yeah, that so far has been achieved and we are growing, we’re looking at hiring again very soon. And yeah, I think it’s all good things.

Chris Simmance (Host):

I think longevity is a success in of itself just on its own. Like you say, agencies come and go but also the people that lead them burn out, they burn out quick if they don’t have those naps. Yeah, if you don’t get a nap in, you’re done for.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

I would love a nap area. That is one of my goals.

Chris Simmance (Host):

You should stick it in part of the company culture documentation. There’s a little bed in the corner if you want to nap. I don’t know how well that would go down. But so if you were to go back in time, back to 2016, talk to yourself outside of starting the agency, just as you’re about to start, to give yourself one piece of advice, what one piece of advice would you give yourself

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Oh gosh. I would say probably to say you can’t do it all and you can’t do everything to perfection.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah, [inaudible 00:06:25].

Anna Morrish (Guest):

I think I am definitely one of those people, I will take a lot on, I try and help people. I’ve gone through all of the different personality testings and things and it always comes out I’m very empathetic. And I do, I try and help people. And I think as the business has grown, some of the smaller clients that were overly demanding, I love them all, I get… The people, the relationships I build, I really want to help them, but you do get to that point where you’re like, “I have to say, we can’t help you anymore. You need either a freelancer or you need to go and maybe learn some of this stuff yourself.” Because you have to take a step back and think, “Well, what’s also best for them.”

Chris Simmance (Host):

Absolutely. It could be quite exhausting having that level of empathy as well when you have to consider that, for example, it’s not just the delivery of a service that you’re trying to do when you’re like that. And when you’re trying to run an agency, which has that personal element, the personality to it, it can be quite draining personally and emotionally as well, which is then hard when you have a client that doesn’t quite get it or doesn’t have the same level of empathy. And then perhaps you feel like you’ve been mistreated a bit, but you’re still trying to be the good guy. I think that happens more often than most agency founders would admit really. So would you have listened to your own advice back then?

Anna Morrish (Guest):

That’s a question, isn’t it? I’m good at giving advice. I don’t know whether I’m good at taking it.

Chris Simmance (Host):

We all are. It’s part of the DNA of an agency founder.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

I don’t know. I think I would’ve probably… Yeah. I’d take that as a challenge. That would’ve been my problem then.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah. So it’s a bit like you’d have quit smoking but taken up drinking instead, or something. It’s that sort of thing.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Basically. Yeah, [inaudible 00:08:20].

Chris Simmance (Host):

We’re all trying to punish ourselves for something in a past life or something along those lines. Who knows?

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Yeah. Yeah.

Chris Simmance (Host):

So the empathy side of things, has that ever caused a problem within the agency or do you find that finding people that are like you, the owner, is that easy? Is it hard?

Anna Morrish (Guest):

It’s hard, I think. Especially like when I’ve been either going through the hiring process, the hiring process. Oh my gosh. That is something that I do struggle because, again, I want to help everybody. I want to bring everybody in. And one of my things, how I built the business is, I want to give everyone the same opportunity, no matter what their experience is. Experience, to me, doesn’t necessarily count. It’s the attitude that they have. So someone who really wants it and they really show that they want it, I want to help them. But I can’t hire everybody. I would love to, but we are not in that position, unfortunately. So yeah, I do struggle. And I think that’s on me more than a thing. I think in terms of the staff that we have here and the team that we’ve got, I think they probably see it as well. I’m just a natural, normal person, they see all of my side and they know they can come to me with anything.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Which is great from an open trustworthy founder, is great. And one of the key aspects of building that great culture in a team of leading your team properly is to show vulnerability at times. And you don’t want to walk in every day crying, but at the same time, you need to show them that you are a human being and that they can trust being a human being around you. Otherwise, you end up with this kind of false commitment all the time and things like that. And people don’t really move forwards properly. It doesn’t help with accountability as well at that point, because if they don’t trust you as a person, they’re not going to know how you’re going to react so they just say yes to everything and then they get nothing done.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Yeah. Yeah, no, exactly. They know everybody that I speak to and everyone who knows me knows I’m super, super honest. So yes, I’m empathetic and if there’s an issue, yes, I will help them out. But they also know that if I don’t agree with something, I will speak up and I will say, “Yes, I will always… If there’s a problem, I’ll provide a solution.” But yeah, I am just very openly honest and I think that helps as well.

Chris Simmance (Host):

I think I think that does as well, especially from a selling point of view. I presume that that’s quite helpful from the sales process with the client, because I don’t know about you, but in the past, I’ve said yes to clients that I probably shouldn’t have taken on.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Oh, yeah.

Chris Simmance (Host):

And now with that honesty and the time you’ve put into your business, you now know saying no is not a bad thing sometimes and that’s quite fine to do.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Exactly. And that goes back to the point where I said you can’t do it all. If I could have told myself that then because, yeah, sometimes it’s not in the client’s best interest and you need to be able to tell them that and not think, “Oh, no, I should do it for them because I want to help them.” Yes, help them but actually you are not the person to do it. That person over there is, or that agency, or that freelancer.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Absolutely.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

So I’ll never turn anyone away and say just, “No,” flat out, “I’m not going to help you.” I will always still try and find either somebody to help them or maybe a training program or something at least because then that also appeases that empathetic side of me.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. But then helping people isn’t a bad thing. It can be debilitating if you let it be because you’re helping everyone and it’s causing new problems, but helping people is a good thing.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Yeah.

Chris Simmance (Host):

More people should do it.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Yeah, definitely. Definitely.

Chris Simmance (Host):

So is there something that over the years, you’ve either done and regretted, but in doing so you’ve set yourselves up for future success?

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Oh gosh. Anything that I’ve done that I’ve regretted? Oh gosh. I can’t think.

Chris Simmance (Host):

So. For me, I spun out of the agency a second agency and they were running separately side by side and the regret I have is trying to do two things that are both very complicated at the same time. But that set me up for being able to do a lot of more work and just get on with it.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Yeah. It’s a difficult one, because one of my things, I have various different sayings and things that I live by, is the Doctor Pepper thing where, “What’s the worst that can happen?” And the other one is, “Live with no regrets.” So I’m very much live with no-

Chris Simmance (Host):

So let’s reframe it then.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Go on then.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Is there something that you’ve done well or something that’s worked out really well the first time round or something that you did, that’s new in the agency and you thought, “Do you know what? We’re going to do that forever now. That’s great,”?

Anna Morrish (Guest):

And then it’s turned out not quite.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Oh. No, no, thinking just on the positive side. It could be something that you’ve thought someone’s come to you in the agency and said, “Hey, let’s do this cool thing.” You’ve said, “Go on then,” and it turned out all right and now you do it as a standard staple thing or even a service that you offer.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Do you know what? It’s probably not necessarily strictly business related, but I would say it’s probably the charitable work that we do. So again, it goes back to me being wanting to help people. But I got involved with the charity. Oh gosh, I can’t have been going very long. It must have been probably 2017 or something and I eventually joined the committee for the charity. And yeah, I think that in itself has just been… I think it’s great for confidence because you end up speaking to so many different people. It’s been great in terms of we’re able to give back. And even though we help them with their digital side of things, but also because I’m on the committee, I’m very much involved and so I get to go to lots of amazing events, which is awesome. We get to see, meet people that we wouldn’t normally as well. But it’s also good from a point of view. I hope it stills that mentality into the team here and other people that I speak to that actually, yeah, doing a little bit of good can be a really, really positive thing and there are not enough people do it. And I always think charities, you always find that it’s the same people helping them. And I think as in the position that I’m at, I have that ability to go and help these people. So why wouldn’t I? I think the only issue, or not issue, I would say the thing that I’ve found is that it does take up a lot of your time. That in itself is a very difficult thing because if you’re having… Especially if we’re doing various different events throughout the year, you’re organizing ticket sales, you’re organizing getting the prizes. You can get amazing prizes, but you’ve got to source them and you’ve got to obviously liaison with all the different prize people to try and get them to come in, try and get advertising for them because obviously they want something back in return. So it’s rewarding, but it can sap your energy a little bit as well.

Chris Simmance (Host):

And have you found that any of the guys in your team have wanted to get involved or do something for a charity of their own or anything like that because of your leadership?

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Yeah, definitely. And we’ve donated to various different charities and we always get involved and ask them, “What other charities would you like us to help support?” Because I think it’s important to give back and I want to try and get them involved as well.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Absolutely.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

See the actual positive stuff and the positive change that actually you can make by just doing a little bit.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah, no, absolutely. I think that quite a lot of agencies do a thing which we’ll offer 1% of our net profit a year or we’ll do a charity this or a charity that, and then other agencies… I was speaking to… I can’t remember which agency found it was that I recorded with a few weeks ago where their team work on charities as part of a pro bono approach. So something like 10 hours a month per person, which is roughly a retainer client per month, they pick the charity, they offer the support, they offer the services. And it’s a nice thing to do because people then pick things that they want. And I think we can do a lot as leaders in agencies. And I think that the right leadership approach allows people to go, “I could help people as well.” And it’s nice to see. It’s nice.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Yeah, definitely.

Chris Simmance (Host):

So if someone’s listened through us rambling on about Rutland and things like that throughout this podcast for all this way through and they’ve been waiting for Anna’s one piece of advice, if someone’s starting a new agency or they’ve just started an agency and they’re waiting to hear the one piece of one golden nugget from you, what would it be?

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Just bloody go for it. Yeah, I think if you really, really want it, you’ll do it and don’t let anyone tell you any different.

Chris Simmance (Host):

But just don’t do it in Rutland because this town isn’t big enough for the both of you.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Yes.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Go for it, as long as you don’t live nearby. Yeah. Yeah, I-

Anna Morrish (Guest):

But yeah, I think it’s hard when you are starting out, there’s a lot of people already out there that’s doing a really good job and it can be really easy to think, “Oh God, I’m not as good as them.” And it’s like, “No, you are.” If you want it, go get it. Train yourself up. You don’t just have to have these clients and that’s the be-all end-all, do stuff on the side. Do all of the practice work, make sure you’ve got all of these case studies. It doesn’t have to be for a real client. It can be for yourself, build your own brand. Do all of that kind of stuff to really showcase what it is that you can do and learn from it. Make mistakes, don’t have regrets, learn from everything that you do.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah, there’s that approach of fail fast. If you fail really fast, obviously it doesn’t work if you fail magnificently fast, but if you fail fast, you’re learning quickly. You’re learning a lot. And if you just go for it, then that’s good. Obviously at the same time, you need to temper that with balance of scaling too quickly because of cash flow. You need to make sure you don’t scale too quickly so that you accidentally overreach a little bit with the size of the agency and you need to temper that depending on where you are, your client type, all that sort of stuff. But I think it is really good advice to kind of if you’re thinking about it, go for it. If you just started it, well, bloody stop listening to this and get on with it.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Yeah, because I think you’ll soon find out if you don’t want to continue with it and want to go in house again.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Exactly.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

I think you’ve just got to try these things. And yeah, if you are going to do it, like you said a second ago, cashflow. Manage your budgets because a lot of people don’t and I think that’s where they then fall over themselves. Have that safety pot. Build that cash up so that you’ve got it for that rainy day. So if your biggest client just decides to leave all of a sudden, could be no fault of your own whatsoever, but you’ve still got that to fall back on. And I think, yeah, that’s key as well.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah, absolutely. It is important to make sure you balance these things together for sure.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Yeah, definitely.

Chris Simmance (Host):

And just get on with it, is the general advice, which I think is excellent advice to end the podcast on. So thanks very much for coming along, Anna.

Anna Morrish (Guest):

Thank you for having me.

Chris Simmance (Host):

And in our next podcast, we’ll be talking to another agency leader to see the lessons they’ve learned or listen to the lessons they’ve learned, in fact. Christ, Chris, come on. And other things that I’m going to now cut this bit out because [inaudible 00:20:29]. Bloody hell.