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Episode 83 – Rin Hamburgh – Rin Hamburgh & Co

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Episode 83 – Rin Hamburgh – Rin Hamburgh & Co

Thanks, Voice Over Guy. And on the podcast today, we do not have Rin handbags. We have Rinhanber. How we doing?

Rin Hamburgh (00:56.95)
I’m good. Everyone’s going to be like, what? You’re going to have to explain that in joke in the like in the comments or something.

Chris Simmance (01:02.61)
So for avid podcast listeners of both season one and season two, John Payne of Noisy Little Monkey fame had you on his podcast a little while ago and called you Rin Handbags and forevermore that’s all I’m going to be thinking I’m afraid.

Rin Hamburgh (01:19.038)
Yeah. Yeah, and I’m in his mobile as handbags and he calls me that. We sing in the same choir, so he calls me handbags. It’s fun. There we go. Agency life.

Chris Simmance (01:28.678)
brilliant. I knew I loved him already, but stuff like that just keeps me going in this cynical world of all sorts of things going on. Rin, tell us a little bit about RH and Co. What is it you guys do? How did you get there? How long has it been going?

Rin Hamburgh (01:36.078)
Absolutely. Yeah.

Rin Hamburgh (01:49.082)
Okay nutshell version. So we are a strategic brand copywriting agency so we focus on all things words to help your brand. We work, we’ve been going for almost, I had to think about that for a second, March will be seven years, which is quite cool. And we’re a team of six, a little small team.

We work with what we call expert led businesses. They are for us the most exciting businesses where you’ve got loads of subject matter experts within the business. And so we can create the kind of content that actually is full of genuinely useful things and is a bit different. And I’ve got a journalism background. So, you know, I’ve been for over 20 years been interviewing people and that’s sort of the DNA really of the business. So it’s come very much from that journalistic route.

Chris Simmance (02:18.066)

Chris Simmance (02:38.91)
And, and the interesting thing from my point of view, having spoken to loads and loads of agency people, especially these days with AI all over the place. Um, expert led and industry expertise style content is way more sought after now than, than I think it probably was about a year or so ago, because robots can’t really do experience. Not yet, at least.

Rin Hamburgh (02:57.826)
Yeah, no, exactly. I mean, they can be useful. Like, it’s interesting because, you know, obviously, like everybody wants to talk to me about AI. Aren’t you worried about your jobs? I’m like, not particularly. I think by the time robots have taken over, I’ll be out of my job anyway and retired and sitting on a beach somewhere because that’s definitely going to happen. That would be cool.

Chris Simmance (03:16.166)
Fingers crossed they’ll be a robot serving a cocktail for you.

Rin Hamburgh (03:21.402)
my brain just went to like, but what if its wheels get stuck in the sand? Oh my gosh, like, why are we thinking about this? I love the way that the conversation is just going down the rabbit hole. So the AI thing, I think it’s really interesting because I think where it could be used more is people putting their expertise in it and then it being shaped. But

Chris Simmance (03:27.3)
Let’s get you back on track.

Rin Hamburgh (03:41.034)
That said, I think part of our expertise as an agency, it’s not just that we’re good writers, obviously we can do that, but it’s that we are good at speaking to experts and listening to them. And I’ve got an analogy, it’s a terrible analogy because it’s about knitting and I don’t know how familiar most people are with knitting, but most people know what a jumper is. Imagine you have a bunch of yarn in your head and I take that out of your head and it’s like, cool. And you’re like, that’s very useful. So it’s not useful in that current form. We need to do something. We need to know who it’s gonna be for. We need to get the right colors together.

Chris Simmance (04:10.524)

Rin Hamburgh (04:10.948)
need to create a pattern, we need to actually knit it, you know, is it the right size? And that’s kind of what we do, we get that yarn out, but then we sort it and we make it into something that’s actually useful. So yeah, the raw materials come from our clients.

Chris Simmance (04:21.534)
Which is, and that’s where agencies like yourself, I think, probably doing better than agencies that are churning the high volume of content, just, you know, throwing out chat GPT content, for example, it’s got its place, but not necessarily when it’s supposed to be expertise, I guess. So seven years, how have the seven years treated you? I’m not seeing any detection of

Rin Hamburgh (04:45.312)

Chris Simmance (04:50.346)
of early onset age related problems. You don’t seem to have any gray hair in the video. So seven years good or how’s it going? That is the definition on the camera.

Rin Hamburgh (04:52.339)

Rin Hamburgh (04:55.63)
I mean, I definitely do. It’s, it’s been, it’s been a journey. Yeah, it’s, it’s been a journey. I think the interesting thing is that, you know, I, I have a background as, as a journalist first on a newspaper and then freelance.

I’ve been working for myself for 14 years. I’ve never worked agency side and I’ve never worked client side. So as well as giving me a healthy dose of imposter syndrome, that kind of means that it’s been a lot of making it up as I go along and like really learning on the fly. But also if you think about it, in the last seven years we’ve had a Brexit, a pandemic and a recession. So, I mean, I’m just really happy that we’re still here. Excuse the frog in the throat. Yeah, it’s been good. It’s been steadily.

Chris Simmance (05:18.863)

Chris Simmance (05:27.461)

Chris Simmance (05:32.658)

Rin Hamburgh (05:40.514)
growing and getting better. And I feel like we’ve been honing our expertise, our own personal expertise, which is.

really nice. I think I started off, sort of accidentally ended up being part of an accelerator program, which was more for like startups and scale ups. I don’t necessarily know it was the right thing for agencies, but actually it meant that I was around those sorts of people who were constantly iterating and kind of tweaking their product and you know, fail fast and lots of mindset stuff. And I think that was really helpful because I’ve always taken an approach of like, make like a one, one percent change every day in something, you know, that incremental steps to getting better. So.

Chris Simmance (06:17.806)
Yeah. And having a plan of where to go means 1% a day is not as hard as it might well sound and consistency is a lot easier as well, isn’t it? What do you think has been one of the biggest successes that you’ve seen in the last seven years despite surviving all of the things you just listed?

Rin Hamburgh (06:24.798)
Yeah, yeah, that’s true.

Rin Hamburgh (06:32.754)
Yeah, yes, surviving, that was definitely it. I think, I feel it’s too cliche to say my team, but it is my team genuinely. Maybe it’s more than that. It’s having created a business that absolutely ticks all my boxes in terms of I love the people I work with.

I love our clients, like, you know, a lot of the time, agents are like, oh, clients. I don’t need to roll my eyes about my clients because they’re amazing. We fired all the rubbish ones and we just keep the nice ones. And it works with my life. I have eight-year-old twins. When I launched the business, they were nine months old. I was a single mum. I really needed for work and life to work together.

Chris Simmance (07:04.572)

Chris Simmance (07:15.224)
Oh, you like things on hard mode.

Rin Hamburgh (07:17.194)
Yeah, it was it was quite fun. I managed to, yeah, have children move house, get divorced and start a business all within the space of a year. So that’s taught me a lot.

Chris Simmance (07:29.094)
I mean, if nothing else, it’s taught you how to smile in the face of needing needed resilience, which is which is which is great. Twins as well. I can only imagine at this point. Sorry, I missed you there. Yeah, it’s all right. We’re both excited.

Rin Hamburgh (07:33.198)
Thanks for watching!

100%. And you need resilience, right? As a business owner, I think you need the resilience. Sorry, we’re talking over each other there. That’s terrible etiquette for a podcast. But no, I think resilience is incredibly important for business ownership and agency ownership, and especially in recent times with all the crazy that’s gone on. So yeah, it has definitely stood me in good stead.

Chris Simmance (08:03.546)
Absolutely, absolutely.

Hey, Voice Over Guy here, um, me again, looking to accelerate the growth of your agency? Well, check out omg.centre forward slash info. Oh, sorry Chris.

Can’t even listen to a podcast these days without ads. Um, uh, so if you could go back in time, seven ish years, you know, you’re just starting the agency, probably pre moving pre babies, et cetera. Um, but you poofed into existence and you were able to give the younger version of use, uh, some advice about how to get the agency going and, and some advice about, you know, what, what next steps to take.

Rin Hamburgh (08:18.519)
Love it.

Chris Simmance (08:42.522)
What do you think you’d have told yourself now, knowing what you know?

Rin Hamburgh (08:47.706)
I’m a big fan in the belief of that actually things happen for a reason. So in a sense, I wouldn’t change anything. But actually one thing that I genuinely could have done earlier is to hang out with more agency people. And I think when I started, I was way too scared. Like I started off with, you know, surrounded by small business owners and we did work with like little small business owners. So it was very like this safe little environment. And I thought if I go and speak to other agency people, then

they’ll find out that I don’t know what I’m talking about and then I’ll feel bad and then I’ll stop. So it was almost like head in the sand, do you know what I mean? And just kind of pretending they didn’t exist because it would be too scary. But I have learned so much from other agency owners and agency advisors and I think actually just putting yourself out there and being willing to kind of say, yeah, I’m new in my journey and I don’t know everything, so can you help me? I think that would have been, it would have helped me. I think I…

Chris Simmance (09:22.545)

Chris Simmance (09:28.923)

Rin Hamburgh (09:42.322)
reinvented so many wheels I could have just gone what should I do in this situation that somebody could have told me.

Chris Simmance (09:48.458)
Yeah. And I think, you know, your network is your net worth to use a really terrible phrase. But ultimately, I totally understand, you know, starting out, you kind of think, right, I need to focus only on the people that might buy from me and the people that are around me, who are in the industry may well be, I know, still an idea or

Rin Hamburgh (09:54.364)

Chris Simmance (10:10.57)
not think that I’m very good at what I do and laugh at me and all that sort of stuff. And beyond that, you know, the, the post on LinkedIn that says, Hey, I’m, Hey, mom, I’ve started a business. Um, there’s that you kind of do shy away a little bit, but I do, I do think, you know, community is really important. Networking is really important. Talking with people who you have just the industry in common and nothing else is sometimes useful because there’s ideas and problems that have been solved elsewhere that just are inconceivable because.

their unknown unknowns at that point and uncovering those things can be absolutely fantastic for a business.

Rin Hamburgh (10:45.438)
Yeah, absolutely. No, I completely agree. And it’s that the unknowns, you don’t know what you don’t know, right? So sometimes you’re walking blindly into what turns out to be a trap. And actually, other people might have seen that for you and helped you out. And I’ve found agency world to be an incredibly friendly place. I think people are really

Chris Simmance (10:51.622)

Rin Hamburgh (11:02.122)
really open and you know I’ve had some really honest conversations with people who’ve kind of said yeah I did this and it didn’t work or we lost that pitch because whatever or you know here’s how we’ve dealt with like HR issues and actually that’s lovely it just feels like quite a safe space so yeah it’s nice.

Chris Simmance (11:20.438)
Oftentimes there’s enough lunch on the table. So you don’t really need to steal someone else’s sandwich. Um, the, um, I think, I think one of the key things in the agency space is the aside from like the unknown unknowns, it’s that ability to, uh, not ask for help per se, but once you know, once you have a known unknown and you realize, okay, that’s out of my skillset, I need to learn how to do that thing. Um, yeah, content’s good. Yeah. Blogs are good. Reading books are good, but.

Rin Hamburgh (11:25.062)
Absolutely, yeah absolutely.

Chris Simmance (11:50.318)
Real life expertise from real life people who’ve been there, done that, you know, got the t-shirt, got the, the bruises to, you know, from the community is, is really, really key. Um, and, you know, I, you say you can have some really good, honest conversations with agency people about the ups and the downs and, and it’s always helpful.

Rin Hamburgh (12:01.265)

Rin Hamburgh (12:10.57)
Yeah, and agency advisors I think are useful in that sense as well because you’re not just talking to one person who’s had maybe one experience or maybe two or three experiences if they’ve worked in house elsewhere and now they’ve started their agency. But with advisors, you’ve got people who have themselves talk to, you know, dozens or even hundreds of agencies. And so they’re bringing you lots of different perspective because

You know, like there’s a difference between an agency in on the brand side of things, for example, compared to the digital or the growth marketing side of things. And so the, so I know when I talk to other brand marketers, they’re like, oh, it’s so difficult proving ROI. I’m like, yeah, I know it’s really hard. And I thought it was just me and you know, whereas on the digital or growth marketing side of things, it’s that maybe might not be quite the same challenge. There’ll be other challenges as well.

Chris Simmance (12:55.226)
Absolutely, totally agree with you. So in the last seven years, is there something that you did right first out, first thing you did first out of the gate that’s really set you up for the current success that you’re seeing?

Rin Hamburgh (13:08.376)

I employed my business partner. She’s an old friend actually. And so she’s got four kids and her kids were quite young at the time, I think between like seven and 12 or something. And so she was just looking for a part-time job, just anything that could fit in with the kids. And I was like, great, come and be my assistant. I’m really rubbish at like all the admin and stuff. And it was just like really straightforward. It was like, I think 10 hours a week or something. And she’s now, you know, part owner of the business. She’s our operations director. And she is like the complete opposite to me in terms of like skills

Chris Simmance (13:12.526)
Haha, there we go.

Rin Hamburgh (13:38.896)
sort of natural personality. So we were very much on the same page in terms of values and kind of how we believe the business should run. But I don’t know if you know the disc profile, I’m very much a high I, she’s a high C. So she is going, she does the finance stuff. Like, there’s absolutely no way this business would be where it is without her because like, I don’t know, I’d have gone bankrupt, you know, so yeah, that’s definitely the best thing I would do.

Chris Simmance (13:51.596)

Chris Simmance (14:05.072)
I think that the often overlooked aspects of an agency are, and I’m sorry to your business partner, the boring part of the business. They’re the bits that keep the wheels in motion. They’re the bits that keep our crazy creative visionary brains in check. But they’re also the bit, they’re also the key aspect of the business that just makes stuff get done. It’s just so important that.

Rin Hamburgh (14:12.681)

Rin Hamburgh (14:19.319)

Chris Simmance (14:29.042)
And you don’t overlook the non-billable people in an agency that really add value to the billables. Conversely then, what did you do wrong that was a lesson that you’ve learned? And now it’s kind of become like a key part of the business.

Rin Hamburgh (14:32.866)

Rin Hamburgh (14:50.122)
so many lessons. Every Monday we have a team meeting and we all talk about the previous week and what our big wins were and what our learning points are. And learning point is our euphemism for where things all went wrong but we’ve learnt something. I think I’ve learnt from so many different things. I mean, I think probably a tricky thing was in the

Chris Simmance (15:07.378)

Rin Hamburgh (15:13.598)
In the pandemic, so obviously we took a little dive, as everybody did, because everyone paused and went and panicked, but actually that was one of our, I’ll say our best years, we’ve kept growing since then, but we accelerated our growth in that year more than perhaps others. And I think because people were suddenly needing content in a different way. And I think then we were like, great, this growth trajectory is gonna keep going, so let’s hire. So you know that classic thing with resourcing, where you’re hiring ahead of forecast growth, and then that doesn’t happen. And I think, yeah, that definitely

Chris Simmance (15:17.65)

Chris Simmance (15:28.37)

Rin Hamburgh (15:43.552)
was a lesson I think also we grew in a like maybe a bit of a lumpy way I think I was like oh we need more of this type of person I actually know we need more of that type of person and understanding the need the difference between the people that are delivering and kind of fee earning and the ones that aren’t so that whole structural thing I think again if I’d have had conversations with more agency owners back then and gone who should I be hiring next?

Chris Simmance (15:51.704)

Rin Hamburgh (16:04.918)
then I would have, it’s not so much the individuals, but the roles, I should have hired different roles. So that was definitely a learning for me, is the shape of the agency.

Chris Simmance (16:16.062)
Yeah. And it’s so hard when you’re in it all the time to be able to spot some of these things, because, you know, it’s hard to get a helicopter view when you know, when you’re watching a helicopter fly above you. But one of the things I often advise agency leaders to do is to, you know, draw the current org chart. Even if your name is on 10 seats, draw it exactly as it would be, as if it’s a legitimate thing with all the different roles, and then draw what you need.

in an ideal world, um, with names on it. And if it doesn’t have your name should just be at the top next in the CEO or the founder, whatever name you want to give yourself slot. And that then tells you on a functional level, the roles that you need to hire for, but they also, it was one of those things that helped me, um, relatively quickly identify how to get out of my own way. I was in this role, that role, the other role, the other role, and very quickly you start to go, this is how you.

Rin Hamburgh (16:57.939)

Chris Simmance (17:12.622)
I need to delegate this one to someone. This isn’t a role we can hire for right now, but it’s a role that we definitely have the expertise in house to delegate properly. And it can be as simple as drawing a little diagram on a scrap of paper sometimes.

Rin Hamburgh (17:25.202)
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. No, I completely agree. I think we got really lucky really early on in that my second employee was somebody who was a rare breed of human who could do account and project management. And I just assumed that everyone can do this. And then when we tried to kind of hire more in the account management or project management, it was like, oh, but you don’t have these skills on a way actually. And then, you know, you start reading more and listening to more podcasts and going, oh yeah, they are fundamentally different skills. Maybe we need to have somebody in project management and somebody in account management. And I love account management.

Chris Simmance (17:38.418)

Rin Hamburgh (17:55.276)
It’s fun. I enjoy it. Project management, not so much. But I’ve learned a lot about myself as well. And we’re really big fans in the team of personality, profiling, things like that. Not that we want to put anyone in a box, but just to understand ourselves better and understand each other better. I read Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead. Is it Dare to Lead? She had Daring Greatly and then Dare to Lead. But…

that’s very much about looking at yourself and understanding and being vulnerable. And so I think that’s been really powerful to learn what my strengths are and say, actually, there’s some things I’m not very good at. So let’s give those to other people and tell the team to hold me into account. I will forget to write stuff down in our project management system. So I get nudges every day from the team. Did you write that down? What happened with this? So if I’ve had a meeting, Cassie, who’s our project coordinator, she’ll email me after the meeting going, how did the meeting go? What were the actions? What were the next steps?

Chris Simmance (18:33.582)

Chris Simmance (18:48.611)
Ah, never let that person go.

Rin Hamburgh (18:48.793)
and then you know, I know, they’re brilliant.

Chris Simmance (18:53.766)
Whatever they want, just give it to them.

Rin Hamburgh (18:55.002)
Yeah, just stay, stay forever. Yeah, actually, I posted about them on LinkedIn just this week, just listing all of their amazingnesses, just because they are really, you know, and again, Project Coordinated doesn’t sound like an exciting title. It’s not, it’s not glamorous, but it’s just absolutely essential.

Chris Simmance (19:14.634)
Yeah. And so Rin, budding agency leader comes to your office, knocks on the door and says, look, I’m about to start an agency, but I’ve been waiting to hear your one bit of advice before I do, what advice would you give them that they can take away into their new business?

Rin Hamburgh (19:31.318)
I would say examine your motives for why you want to start an agency and have an idea of where you want it to go, because an agency might not be what you actually want, or it may not be the best way to get to where you want to go. And also having the end in mind will help you to shape your agency in certain ways. So for example, if your thing is, you know, build, scale, sell.

Chris Simmance (19:44.646)

Rin Hamburgh (19:55.958)
you’re going to have a very different agency to, you know, when I started my, like I said, you know, I needed something that was going to work with my life. I wanted a team of people that I could be myself with, you know, a culture that worked for me, all of that, that was, you know, people use the term lifestyle business and I find that quite frustrating because it seems quite dismissive, but that’s exactly what I wanted. I wanted a life. And so yeah, understanding what you want from something is really, really important before you go into it.

Chris Simmance (20:03.719)

Chris Simmance (20:22.798)
I couldn’t agree with you more. That’s it is great advice. It really is because knowing where you’re going, a way you want to go tells you where to, how to get there and the routes you need to take, but also genuinely examining what you want in life is vital. And if you’re, if you, if you, um, start an agency and, and for some reason, arbitrarily you go, I need 10 million in revenue. Um, it’s going to be a horrible agency to run because you don’t really know. You don’t really want that. If you want.

your own boat and you can go fishing three times a week in 10 years. That’s still 10 million, but it’s a very different agency. You might, you know, you, if, if you want to take two days off a week and spend as much time with the kids and dog as you like, it’s a very different agency, very different business, and you take different kinds of decisions. So, you know, the blueprint.

Rin Hamburgh (20:55.294)

Chris Simmance (21:16.65)
I’m focused on the ego, vanity measures of headcount and revenue might not be the thing you want. You get to those things as part of a byproduct of the things you do want. And having that in mind is really key. So that’s great advice. Thank you.

Rin Hamburgh (21:29.138)
Yeah, we got up to nine people at one point and it was super, super stressful. And I’m not saying that we wouldn’t get up to it again. It’s not, not that I’m inherently against growth. It was just, it was not the right growth at the right time. And it just ended up being so stressful. And then we’re back down to six now and I’m, we’re so happy where we’re at. So yeah, I think, I think those vanity metrics can be, um, can be seductive, you know, how big’s your agency? Oh, well, we’re getting bigger.

Chris Simmance (21:54.662)
There, there are seductive noose around your neck half the time. Especially, especially as there’s a, there’s a, an element of industry kind of pull to that sort of stuff where, you know, you go to a meeting, meet up conference or whatever, and someone asks the next question after they ask you what you do is how many people do you have? As if it’s a measure of success. And oftentimes it’s really not. You might have an agency of 50 staff.

Rin Hamburgh (21:58.988)

Rin Hamburgh (22:21.148)

Chris Simmance (22:23.166)
and have the best agency ever. And that’s fine. But if you don’t want that, then it’s not the right thing for you and so on and so forth and add in for night.

Rin Hamburgh (22:28.618)
Yeah, or you may have 50 staff, but be entirely unprofitable. That’s the other thing is that, you know, it’s the whole revenue is vanity and profit sanity, right? So what’s the point in growing if actually your profit margin is shrinking every year?

Chris Simmance (22:35.067)

Chris Simmance (22:44.154)
Wonderful. Exactly. Great advice. And Rin Handbags, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. It’s been lovely to talk to you.

Rin Hamburgh (22:49.882)
Welcome. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been great fun.

Chris Simmance (22:54.789)
And in our next episode, we’ll be speaking with another agency leader to hear their story and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. Thanks very much for listening.