Clare Methven and Lucy Hogarth talk to us about how they stay true to their core values and what defines their way of doing business as The Marketing Centre expands – nationally.
What do you currently do?
We are joint MDs and founders of The Marketing Centre, a team of 90 nationwide Board-level marketing professionals who work with businesses on a part-time basis. We saw the frustration felt by business owners at the lack of appropriate options for accessing marketing skills and this is how the part-time concept was born.
The Marketing Centre serves the small and mid-size business owner, by providing a whole new means of acquiring marketing expertise into a business – an experienced professional to plug into a company on a long-term, part-time basis from a pool of proven marketing directors.
We want to be the obvious choice for businesses as an alternative to using a consultant, an agency, or taking on one’s own marketing director – the latter of which is often a real expense. In response to growing demand for our services across all regions in the UK we are continually expanding. However, as we grow, we want to ensure we maintain our close-knit culture. We don’t want to compromise and become a corporate, so focusing on having regional teams helps to keep a tight group that focuses on teamwork, camaraderie, support and importantly, having fun.
What is the inspiration behind your career in business?
Both of us are from an agency background. We set up The Marketing Centre as we could see that many organisations were being poorly served by marketing consultants and agencies and there was an opportunity to provide amazing talent on a part-time basis.
Before the creation of The Marketing Centre, the opportunity for a small business owner to tap into high-level marketing talent and skills simply didn’t exist. We have created new ground. The Marketing Centre works on the side of the business owner. Our marketing directors hold their hand all the way through the process, working with them for two to three years to grow their marketing function on a flexible basis.
What defines your way of doing business?
The Marketing Centre is defined by three core values: transparency, energy and teamwork. We don’t take commission from any business and we don’t have a commercial arrangement with any third party. This approach resonates with business owners and there is no question they feel they can’t ask us. As a collective we add knowledge, sparkle and a thirst for developing business and we always support each other. The power of a team is more than just the sum of its initial parts – with our model a marketing director can work in a business, but they have available the knowledge of 90 other marketing directors if they need help and support. If we face a tricky decision, we always look to our core values and stand by them.
Who do you admire?
Lucy: “Ethics are important and also being true to yourself as to why you set up the business. Jessica Ennis is a huge inspiration because she put her career on hold, prioritised and came back. Also Rob and Paul Forkan, who lost their parents in the 2004 Tsunami and created Gandy’s, a company that devotes 10% of shoe profits to helping orphans. Inspirational.”
What would you tell your younger self?
Clare: “Don’t be self-limiting. I never thought I would run my own business and guess what, here I am running it! Don’t set yourself limits you are capable of achieving great things. And it’s ok to be vulnerable. That’s a positive thing. You don’t have to be the one with all the answers and it’s good to accept that you don’t. It’s also ok to ask for help.”
What advice would you give to someone starting out in your career?
Stand in the shoes of your target audience and really get under the skin of who you are aiming at. Find yourself a mentor who is a business owner in the same position. Being on your own is an isolating place.
How do you continue to grow professionally?
We are members of Vistage (a private advisory group of experienced business leaders) which gives us access to peer learning and to some of the world’s best speakers on business related matters. We are also part of the Liberti Group and we hold each other to account. We meet regularly, are non-competing and learn and develop together to challenge and support each other to keep growing.
What are you working on now?
Next year’s strategy and big rocks for 2020. Economic uncertainty is a major opportunity for The Marketing Centre. When businesses look at alternative ways of accessing marketing talent, the flexibility of The Marketing Centre offers them a low risk solution. There is a big opportunity as businesses of larger sizes question whether they can sustain a full-time marketing director, or whether they would rather have two-three days of a part-time one. The Marketing Centre is prepared for uncertain times and can help others weather the storm.