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Epsiode 85 – Ollie Heum – Creative Director, Prospa

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Epsiode 85 – Ollie Heum – Creative Director, Prospa

Chris Simmance (00:50.606)
Thanks voiceover guy. And I’ve got to say, I’m really happy today because not only is the sun shining, but I’ve got Oli from Prosper on how you doing Oli.

Ollie Heum (00:59.373)
Chris, yeah, doing well, thank you. Thanks for having me on, excited to be here.

Chris Simmance (01:02.574)
It’s, we’re recording this for those of you listening now, we’re recording this on probably the sunniest Friday that we’ve had in the entirety of the UK for about eight or nine months. So spirits are high, spirits are high, I’d say at least. What do you reckon, Ollie?

Ollie Heum (01:18.637)
They are. Given that we’re in Manchester as well, it is very welcome to see that sun out. So I’ve actually just got my t -shirt on today, walked to work, so it’s pretty good.

Chris Simmance (01:22.67)

Chris Simmance (01:26.19)
this is your one day a year isn’t it in Manchester? Yeah.

Ollie Heum (01:28.237)
Yeah, pretty much. Yeah, I look like I’ve even caught the sun actually, I think I can see.

Chris Simmance (01:31.854)
Brilliant. So Oli, give us an introduction to yourself and to Prosper. Who are you, what do you do, and how did you get there?

Ollie Heum (01:39.053)
So I’m the creative director of Prosper, we’re kind of an e -com focused growth agency based out of Manchester. I joined Prosper about two years ago after speaking with Jack, our founder. I’ve kind of worked a few different roles in B2B side and now having moved to go to kind of marketing DTC stuff, I’ve just found it much more exciting. So…

Chris Simmance (02:01.998)

Ollie Heum (02:02.637)
Yeah, we’re a team of kind of 15 based out of Media City in Manchester working with probably 40 active brands at the moment and looking to grow them all through kind of performance marketing and that’s prospering in a nutshell.

Chris Simmance (02:12.814)
That’s a nice part of the city, Media City. I went there and I might be showing my age a bit. I went there when it first opened up after it was a, well, a bit of scrub land really. Then got reopened and I think the BBC are there and everything now. But yeah, so you say you started in a couple of years into the business. How did you sort of project yourself into now being a director in the business?

Ollie Heum (02:25.101)
Yeah, yeah.

Ollie Heum (02:39.565)
Yeah, it’s a funny story. Actually, I was, I was actually at a party, boring someone to death about marketing. And they just said, you need to go and speak to my friend, Jack. That’s Jack Smith, our founder, managing director now. And, Jack’s 25 years old. I’m 26, we’re similar, similar age, had similar friends. and he’d started the agency in his university bedroom kind of during COVID. It was very much in its infancy in the kind of the startup period.

Chris Simmance (02:45.806)

Chris Simmance (02:57.166)

Ollie Heum (03:07.085)
So that’s what we did, I had a chat with Jack, we spoke for a good couple of months and he just said, look, do you want to move to Manchester? I was in Leeds at the time. Do you want to move to Manchester and just kind of have a crack at this with me? So yeah, that’s what I did. I had a look back really.

Chris Simmance (03:21.774)
Nice one. Manchester is an absolute hub of digital innovation, I think. And there’s an awful lot of really good SEO and digital agencies up there at the minute. I quite enjoy going up there. We do a few events up there a year and things like that. And it’s just a nice place to be. So you made a good choice moving down from Leeds, although Leeds is nice, I must say as well. So in your sort of capacity in the business, what do you typically kind of…

Ollie Heum (03:25.389)
Mm -hmm.

Ollie Heum (03:41.869)

Chris Simmance (03:51.086)
oversee because you’ve got the managing director who manages directs hopefully. So what’s your, what kind of elements of the operation are in your hands then?

Ollie Heum (04:01.997)
Yeah, so as is the nature of, you know, a startup and where we are in our growth, we’ve grown quickly. And naturally, you know, I’ve done a lot of different roles in the business, which has been great because it’s allowed me to then understand each facet. What I oversee now is the acquisition of new business, talking to different people, prospecting, but then our marketing as well, which has become so much more a part of what we do. You know, it’s much more about putting out content and…

Chris Simmance (04:21.294)

Ollie Heum (04:30.669)
showcase of what we actually do for brands. So I oversee kind of our creative direction in the agency, but then acquiring and prospecting new business.

Chris Simmance (04:33.038)

Chris Simmance (04:39.022)
Nice. And so normally, on most of these podcasts, we have the, like the OG founder in here. So I’m going to tailor this initial question to you a little bit differently. So since you, since you came into the agency and you’re now in your kind of position of, I’m not saying of power from a, from a terrible perspective, but now you’re in a position of kind of power and authority in the agency. What do you think has been one of the biggest successes? What have you brought into the business that that’s really helped accelerate it to where it is now?

Ollie Heum (04:46.829)

Ollie Heum (05:07.885)
Yes, good question. I think when I joined, everything was very all over the place. Professionalism was kind of hard to come by. Not because we had a group of unprofessional individuals. It was just, everything was everywhere. So I think what I’ve been able to bring is kind of a bit of calm, then also a bit of structure as well. So operationally, as you grow and scale, it’s really important to get that tied down. So I think bringing that.

It’s been a fantastic success, but then also being able to pivot and now speaking to bigger brands that, you know, two years ago when I joined, we didn’t think we’d be able to speak to. So that’s probably the best thing. Now we feel like we can converse on that level with other brands and so can everybody else in the business because of how we’ve kind of structured all the systems.

Chris Simmance (05:42.542)

Chris Simmance (05:50.958)
Nice one, nice one.

Chris Simmance (06:09.166)
Even when the, even when the sun’s out, they get, I get interrupted. Everyone gets interrupted by an ad somewhere along the line, don’t they? So, Ollie, if you, if you could go back in time, let’s think, actually, let’s go back in time to the party that you were boring someone at, and future you, current you, popped into, into existence and intercepted you before you went to go and speak to Jack. What advice might you give your younger version of yourself prior to, you know, starting this journey?

Ollie Heum (06:11.501)

Ollie Heum (06:15.405)
Here they do.

Ollie Heum (06:37.453)
I think starting out in marketing, it’s one thing I didn’t do well enough or didn’t give myself enough time to do was do a bit of everything. So kind of start in a 360 role and see what you can do and do that for as long as possible until you really find what you’re good at. I think it’s quite, you get a lot of people kind of join marketing or the digital marketing space and they know or they feel like they want to be a media buyer or, you know, this is all I want to do is PR. And I guess that’s great for some people, but I think for me or for somebody who knows that they’re fascinated by marketing but doesn’t know how.

best to double down in a certain area. Try and do as much of everything and open your eyes to everything. Go to talks, listen to different podcasts, read books. But yeah, that’s probably what I would say.

Chris Simmance (07:09.678)
Mm. Yeah.

Chris Simmance (07:17.806)
Yeah, it’s hard. It’s hard, isn’t it? Because obviously, when you start in a in whatever role it is, doesn’t matter where it is, in what business it is, you’ve kind of got a laser focus a little bit on that one thing that you’ve been hired to do. But you’re quite right. I there’s a there’s that turn of phrase, a jack of all trades, master of none. But it goes on to say that I’d rather have a jack of all trades than than essentially someone who knows one thing, because that broader sense of experience can mean that you can accelerate the your own career path. But

Ollie Heum (07:35.021)
Mm -hmm.

Chris Simmance (07:47.758)
Not only that, now you’re in a role where you’re talking to potential clients all the time. There’s dots you can join as things are going along. It’s great for upsells. It’s great for opportunity spotting. You might not be the one that delivers on those things, but it’s an opportunity even for partnerships to start off and things like that. So having a broader range of experiences is pretty good. It’s really hard to think about this, but if you had popped into existence in front of yourself a few years ago, apart from being shocked, obviously,

Would you have listened to yourself? Would you listen to your own advice?

Ollie Heum (08:18.253)

Ollie Heum (08:23.405)
I wasn’t very good at listening to advice full stop. But yeah, I think, you know, I probably, yeah, exactly. And I think I probably would have, yeah, I would have been shocked to see myself first and foremost. But yeah, I think I would, I would have tried to listen to it because I think it’s difficult. You get tunnel vision, you get kind of shiny object syndrome with certain areas of digital marketing that you find fascinating. But yeah, having that awareness then, I think I would have tried to listen to it and been able to soak in as much information as possible.

Chris Simmance (08:26.038)
It’s part of the course in this industry.

Chris Simmance (08:45.838)

Chris Simmance (08:52.302)
And now, now you know what you know, and you’ve got a good relationship with Jack, and you’re, you know, you’re kind of working together day to day building the business. Is there anything that like, that you learned early on that you think maybe would be something that would have helped him to grow the business quicker and help the business to grow further? What would you what would you give past Jack from future Oli?

Ollie Heum (09:15.917)
Yeah, I think one thing that I think we’ve been able to help us, help each other with is we’re relatively young in terms of running a business. You know, we’re relatively young in terms of managing people and we’ve often managed people that are older than us. And one thing that we’ve always gone back to is we have both been managed badly in the past. I think that becomes a bit of a superpower and we’ve been able to share that with one another to understand how to get the best out of people. And naturally given your age, you know, it’s easy for imposter syndrome to creep in. So it’s having that ability to…

Chris Simmance (09:23.278)

Chris Simmance (09:27.662)

Ollie Heum (09:45.869)
remind one another that actually what we’re doing is the right thing or bouncing that off one another. That helps a great deal.

Chris Simmance (09:50.478)
Yeah, I think it’s one of the best parts of multiple founder or multiple director businesses is having someone to either hold a mirror up to ideas or bounce something off of or help correct behavior as well. Sometimes when, you know, when you’re not necessarily doing it people bit at the very least in the right way, you’ve got someone else there that you know and trust who can, you can sort of say, Hey, how about adjusting that a little bit? It’s really hard as a sole owner director.

And to have that opportunity and, you know, partly that’s why OMG exists for SoulEner directors. But in that same sense, you know, Eugen has probably given Jack an entirely different dimension of ability to think and creatively grow the business, which is probably his, if I was asked him what his biggest success is, he might well, hopefully say hiring Olly and bringing him into the business.

Ollie Heum (10:43.797)
Yeah, I hope so. I’d be definitely expecting to say so.

Chris Simmance (10:47.598)
Yeah, well, we’ll have to get him on and we’ll find out. I’ll let you have the recording pre -publication. So is there anything that you did when you first started that you kind of regret doing or that taught you a lesson or conversely something that you brought in on day one that’s like a key part of the business still?

Ollie Heum (10:50.317)

Ollie Heum (11:06.829)
So I think in terms of something I’d do differently, and this is probably what we scratched on in the gravel for too long doings. When we came in, we didn’t have a steady flow of inbound leads. We didn’t have a big queue of businesses wanting to work with us. And now we’ve got to a point where we feel very much a boutique agency where we’re picking and choosing the DTC store that we want to work with. And that, if we’d have known that, what we know now, that would have been a much quicker transition to get to this point. But…

I think what we did, what we failed to understand was that we didn’t have a sales problem. We had a marketing problem. Now, you know, we thought, right, let’s get on the phones, send all these cold emails out and get them outbound. You get these people on the discovery call. They wouldn’t really know what we’re about. And actually now doing the marketing, giving context to everything we’re doing, raving about the great results we’re getting for different brands that we’re working with or who’s, you know, who’s just signed maybe a new member of the team. And been able to do that has created a much warmer environment to bring new brands in.

Chris Simmance (11:54.414)

Ollie Heum (12:03.501)
So I think, yeah, definitely that would be the biggest thing that I would have sorted out quicker, or at least we did badly for too long. In terms of something we brought in quite quickly, it was just bringing in something as simple as kind of, you know, that morning meeting or centralizing communication and that common goal, a bit of a vision. I think we brought that in when I joined, that we stripped everything back and that set us on a really good footing to scale. So I think that’s probably what we brought.

Chris Simmance (12:19.31)

Chris Simmance (12:27.822)
Yeah. I think the same, the saying a confused mind doesn’t buy when it comes to sales is also true of a confused mind doesn’t buy the vision if there is nothing written down and there’s no kind of consistent approach to communication because you’ve seen it probably 10 times over in just this week where two people might start on the same task and over the course of time, the outcome diverges.

the more opportunities to communicate, the closer the outcome is to what, what, you know, what the client wants and what you want for the business and building like that right operational processes, being able to have the right communication things. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a big win for pretty much every agency. I’d say, what, on that though, what, what is it that you, do, what, what do you use in particular when it comes to like operationally managing the business? Is there a go -to tool of choice, or is there like a, a system that you’ve put in place? What, what is it you, you guys use?

Ollie Heum (13:27.437)
Yeah, so the nature of our business, there are kind of three main fulfillment like teams, if that makes sense. We kind of work across that paid social, paid search, and then CRM. And the struggle I think we have before was getting them all to make sure that the strategy works or complements one another. Especially if you’ve got a brand on all three services. So what we’ve found is kind of having team huddles, you know, through Slack even on a morning so that they can kind of communicate through that. But then having wider team huddles.

Chris Simmance (13:32.686)
Mm -hmm.

Chris Simmance (13:41.614)

Ollie Heum (13:56.845)
and kind of click up boards as well. So we use click ups to task up different areas. We KPI track. Yeah, click up.

Chris Simmance (13:58.67)
I love ClickUp by the way. If you’re listening at ClickUp, give us a free set of licenses for mentioning you twice.

Ollie Heum (14:06.477)
Yeah, it’s I was actually just recommending it to someone today. They should be on commission, I think. But it’s no, it’s ClickUp’s able to centralize all the kind of project management and obviously big projects. But yet, I think making sure that you bridging the gap between the three services. And we do that a lot through just kind of meetings, if that’s huddles across, you know, Slack or Zoom, or just in person in the office, we like to make sure we do brainstorm a lot in the office to bring that together.

Chris Simmance (14:10.126)

Chris Simmance (14:29.934)
Hmm. The, one of the things I love the most about ClickUp, and this is the last bit of love you’re going to get, I hope on this podcast ClickUp, is, so you can create a ClickUp form that essentially is by whatever services on your website you use. That can be your lead qualification form. If it gets to a certain score, then that automation create, you can create an automation off the form, which creates your.

Ollie Heum (14:37.069)

Chris Simmance (14:54.83)
sales process and as soon as the client signs it’s closed one, you can create an automation to create a new list for them. And the team have then got everything. It’s just, you can create automation on top of automation using templates and a lot of those inconsistencies that typically happen from lead coming in to lead closing and onboarding and the gap between what the client thinks they want and what the client definitely gets is closed an awful lot more closely.

Ollie Heum (15:06.349)

Chris Simmance (15:21.486)
by building these kind of cool little automations in and it is absolutely exceptional.

Ollie Heum (15:25.485)
sure. I think what’s really helped as well for ClickUp is changing our onboarding process. You know, if it’s passed from myself and we close the brand here, how do we then convey everything that I’ve spoken about and make sure even the little areas are conveyed across? So having that really stringent onboarding process that’s triggered, like you said, from a form to give the fulfillment team everything they need to succeed, with a big checklist, you know, that’s changed the game for us to just make it all the more seamless.

Chris Simmance (15:48.174)

Chris Simmance (15:54.062)
Exactly. And the less burdensome operational stuff is, the more easy it is for your team to complete and the easier it is for people to know where things are. And you often find that, you know, if you forensically look at churned clients over time, there’s almost always something somewhere which could have probably smoothed the edges over and prevented it. And it often falls down to something operational. So,

If someone’s listening to the podcast right now and they’re thinking, wow, this is, this is, this is great. These guys really know what they’re talking about. I think I should start an agency or I think I should, you know, get into something like this. What piece of advice would you give them?

Ollie Heum (16:35.853)
I think find what interests you. What we do really well with is fashion brands. We kind of double down in that direct consumer fashion brand industry. We’ve hired within that as well. And I think our success is boiled down to the fact that we are fascinated by fashion and that industry. So I think what I’d recommend someone starting an agency is find that niche you’ve got the most passion about and double down in there. Be that.

you know, whatever. But I think that that’s helped us definitely. You know, if you, there’s going to be a lot of hours where you’re going to work late and if you don’t love the area you work in, how can you expect to kind of work late and do that extra bit on a Saturday, for example?

Chris Simmance (17:19.79)
Absolutely. And it is, it is really good advice. And I think one, one thing that on the niching bit, a lot of people that I speak to when we’re building, the, the, the beginnings of this accelerator program that we, that we work on is that oftentimes they’re selling everything to everyone. and they’re selling all services to everyone, at all the time. and you start talking about niching and you start talking about specific either services or products or, industries and it’s, no, we don’t want to, we won’t have as many opportunities as well.

Okay, let’s get on to sales navigator as a basic example and just look at how many people are just in Manchester who work in fashion at a role level that would work with us. And you’ll see 3000 people speak to those 3000 people instead of 400 million people across the world who are in insert e -commerce. And it does make a big difference to the business because everything speaks the language of the customer. If you love the niche that you’re working in, you don’t mind doing a few extra hours here and there.

Ollie Heum (17:54.861)
Mm -hmm.

Chris Simmance (18:17.902)
Also, you’re more likely to be able to learn something which really does kind of move the needle for those clients because you know the industry just like they do.

Ollie Heum (18:20.109)

Ollie Heum (18:26.861)
Yeah, that’s it. I think as well, one thing we had a massive pivot to and it led into the kind of success in terms of bringing in new business, but also helping them is we shifted from just kind of running ads for brands and trying to chase that return on ad spend. And it’s more about, you know, look at a brand holistically, diagnose that bottleneck and prescribe the best solution. You know, it doesn’t necessarily mean that meta ads or, you know, their paid search is the best answer for them. We only know that now we get a full view and then diagnose kind of the issue that’s stopping their growth.

And I think the fact that we’ve become so passionate about problem solving for brands and not necessarily chasing the highest retainer by getting them on all services has led to longer lasting relationships and better financial success for both us and the businesses that we work with.

Chris Simmance (19:08.558)
Ollie, it’s been wonderful having you on. Hopefully, we can get you back on in about a year or so’s time where we’re gonna have a, see how much further you’ve grown since you’re growing fast. Hopefully it’ll be, you know, a significant change in the next year. So thanks very much for now.

Thank you. 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.

Ollie Heum (19:26.829)
Thanks Chris, thanks for having me.