We speak to Richard Michie about what defines his way of doing business and why he thinks you need to surround yourself with a strong network of people who have ‘been there, done that, got the t-shirt’.
What do you currently do?
I’m the CEO of Leeds-based marketing consultancy, The Marketing Optimist.
Throughout my many years in business prior to founding The Marketing Optimist, I realised that one of the biggest challenges small businesses face is accessing high-quality marketing support that’s flexible enough to suit their fast-moving needs, as well as being affordable enough to sustain.
I saw a gap in the market and set up as an agile, flexible agency, which provides marketing support for businesses who don’t have an internal marketing department.
Traditional marketing agencies tend to have an inflexible model that requires all resource to be kept in house and we challenge that by offering external services that are guaranteed to deliver results.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
As a child I would spend hours watching TV, fascinated by ads. As a result, I became a sponge for pop-culture. From here, I developed a strong desire to become a graphic designer, but I soon discovered that it wasn’t an area where I was naturally talented.
Keeping my passion for design alive, I explored marketing as I saw it as an extension of design. I was amazed at how quickly I took to it and proceeded to thrive in the industry.
Being able to see the results of my efforts and learning how to deploy images, text placement and a little psychology, made me feel alive!
What defines your way of doing business?
I’m a very straight-forward character. My work ethics, and the way that we engage with clients, is built on that foundation.
We use a no-nonsense approach to marketing, adopting the correct tone of voice for each of our clients whilst ensuring we avoid jargon and language that isn’t easy to digest.
Our approach allows us to understand our clients, as well as their clients, and develop a communications strategy that will ensure their desired outcomes are achieved.
Above all, we constantly evaluate the market trends and communication tools to ensure that we keep on learning and adapt accordingly.
What do you admire?
Hard work. I not referring to long gruelling shifts here, I am making reference to well thought through, emotional labour.
My Dad always taught me “if you work hard, you’ll do your best” and he was right, that’s all you can do.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
I would definitely have pursued investment options earlier. The business has been bootstrapped using turnover to fuel the growth.
We’ve done well to achieve what we have on that basis and it’s ensured we’ve been debt free, but it may have slowed our expansion.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Surround yourself with a strong network of people who have ‘been there, done that, got the t-shirt’.
When I first started out, I met up with another business owner who told me about Entrepreneurial Spark, now called NatWest Business Accelerator, which is a business accelerator programme in Leeds.
I was sceptical at first, but the support I received from the enablers and the other business owners on the programme, has really helped me to drive the business forward.
Again, I’d encourage all businesses starting out to surround themselves with other like-minded individuals and feed off their enthusiasm.