Talent in the marketing industry comes from some surprising corners. In our series What I Learned... we explore the surprising origin stories of some of agencyland’s biggest characters and brightest stars.
Ollie Bishop is the founder and chief exec of independent network Tipi Group and the performance marketing agency Roast (among a few others). His marketing career has taken him from sales management to advisor roles – but what you won’t see on his LinkedIn page is that he started his career in TV. We asked him how the fast-paced world of production has stayed with him as he’s built a career in agencies.
Hi, Ollie! Tell us a little about who you are and what you do.
I’m a father of three incredible girls, a devoted (and currently very, very happy) West Ham fan, and an agency owner.
I’ve been running agencies since the age of 26 and the reason I love it always comes back to the people I work with. I like to think that the most important aspect of my role is keeping the teams I work with happy and supported. I want people that work alongside me to have a good time while driving results for our equally happy clients. That is, and always has been, a huge motivator in my career.
You haven’t always worked in agencies, have you?
At 22, after a brief stint at a bank in Geneva, I came across an opportunity to work for a major TV network. After initially joining as a runner within the movies division, I quickly moved across to a production assistant role in its football department.
It was (and is) a huge, well-respected brand, and a surprisingly responsible role (given my age and position of seniority), including putting out content live on TV. And the biggest plus: it was football related. A seemingly perfect fit for me at that time.
I’ve heard that those jobs tend to be pretty fast-paced...
From day one, I was thrown in the deep end. I arrived with zero production experience and suddenly I was cutting pieces for live TV – and this was within days of starting.
It was sink or swim. And it was certainly a role that required you to go at 100 miles an hour to keep up, which I did. However, in the process it turned one of my lifelong favorite recreational activities into an all-consuming, and pretty relentless, part of my life.
I imagine that’s an environment where you’re forced to learn quickly?
I made mistakes. And relatively big ones. From incorrectly updating the latest scores, which went out live on TV, to being responsible for plunging the entire PFA Award ceremony into complete darkness, after accidentally kicking out an electrical socket – just as Gary Mabbutt was awarded PFA Merit Award for services to football.
So there were occasions when I wasn’t favored by the big bosses. And the environment was an incredibly hierarchical one. I was a number, and I felt that way.
I reached the point where I was burnt out, surrounded by a corporate culture I didn’t thrive in and not reaping the rewards I had assumed I would get from working so closely to the beautiful game.
However, I did learn quickly what was important to me in my career. The role allowed me to identify my true niche and passion – and I won’t pretend it’s digital marketing; it’s people.
It sounds like that’s stuck with you ever since.
No one that works at any business I run is a number. And I work hard to make that so – from building a supportive house system for our staff, to launching an academy for people new to the industry to explore and understand where their personal interests lie, within a happy and encouraging work environment.
My ambition has always been to build an open-minded and inclusive culture, and I think it’s my personal responsibility to drive that. I believe being part of a united, collective force is empowering for everyone.
After over 16 years as chief executive officer and agency owner, my approach hasn’t changed. Decisions I make always come down to the happiness of my team and the clients I work with.
How has that shaped the businesses you’ve created since?
I think it’s important to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, home in on passion points, and explore unknown routes when you’re starting out. It will lead to the realization of what’s genuinely important to you and what isn’t.
For me, it’s creating a people-focused, independent business mentality rather than building a large, corporate environment. I don’t tend to agree with rigid rules, which some businesses will stick to, no matter how outdated they are. I am sure I would get fired in a heartbeat from anywhere like this now.
Having launched my first business at the age of 26, I have led by instinct, which has been molded from knowing what’s important to me – and that’s people and surrounding myself every day with those who inspire me and I respect.