Launching a new agency is an incredibly exciting time, but as the founder of agencies such as Steak, Minute Steak and Roast, Ollie Bishop, will discuss at The Drum’s Agency Acceleration Day conference later this month, the sheer buzz of launching something new can often mean important longer-term questions don’t always get asked at the right time.
Bishop co-founded his Steak Group in 2005 and also went on to launch Steak Americas, Steak Asia Pacific and Minute Steak before selling the digital group to Dentsu Aegis in 2011. The serial entrepreneur then went on to start again launching his current agency business, Roast, in 2015.
Speaking to The Drum as he prepares to speak to ambitious agency owners at the Agency Acceleration Day in London on 15 March, Bishop said “I suppose my main piece of advice would be to keep in mind the importance of aligning your vision with that of your partners. It is an incredibly exciting time to launch a new business and among this excitement sometimes you forget the importance to truly agree the overarching company vision and acknowledge the individual partners’ different aspirations.
“Some may have the ambition to create a business to sell quickly, some may want to expand internationally, others may wish to retain a certain size; whatever the motivation, it has to be shared among all partners to succeed. This wasn’t the case at Steak, but I have seen it in other businesses and will definitely ensure this won’t be true in any new ventures going forward. It’s important to stress, there is not one ‘right’ mindset or ambition, but it really is imperative that it is a collective one.”
Roast is the fifth company Bishop has launched during his career and he will also discuss how his experiences launching and building Steak, and being involved in his other business ventures, which include investment company Ballpark Ventures, have all had an impact on how that business is being shaped.
He said: “From day one, at Roast we created a clear company roadmap that laid out our business objectives; this was agreed with all of those that were involved from the start and they shared the same vision. There is no point moving forward on such a huge undertaking, as starting a business, without a common goal.
“Having already launched two agencies since Steak – Roast and our sister creative agency Kitty - I have ensured we have very clearly defined growth plans and this has always remained transparent company-wide. We have done this for each agency, as well as establishing clear values and a shared overarching ethos of putting the client first.”
As any agency owner knows seldom does the road to your goals run smoothly and Bishop will pass on his advice to the many ambitious agency owners who will attend the Agency Acceleration Day event.
“My key piece advice will be to trust your own instincts; sometimes you will need to live and die by the sword. At Steak, I made the mistake of being over ambitious and launching three agencies in 2008, including an office in New York and Melbourne. It was during the time of the crash; clients were going bust and we lost around a million in revenue. It was a really testing time, but a risk worth taking; all three businesses survived and they became, individually, very successful and profitable business models.
“Something to remember is that there will be people along the way that have the potential to throw you off-course. You have to remain in control of your own company and stay true to yourself. This doesn’t mean you don’t make mistakes, and it can be lonely to be a leader, especially as the company grows in size. But you have to go back to your own ambition of building a great agency and remain loyal to your vision.
“Finally, the biggest piece of advice would be to stop and enjoy it. I don’t think I did enough of that at Steak, and looking back I really should have. It’s an incredible journey to start a business and one to genuinely appreciate, especially if you choose to surround yourself with the right people and clear goals. I would encourage anyone to do the same but rest assured, it isn’t an easy path to take; you’ll need commitment, be prepared to take risks and make tough decisions.”
Bishop will appear at The Drum’s Agency Acceleration Day conference - a full day of agency growth and development insight, advice and guidance from those who have launched and built great agencies – taking place on 15 March in Central London. For full details and tickets visit the Agency Acceleration Day website.