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Interview with Gareth Healey

Agency Coach Gareth Healey standing

Robin Williams of Data Hive recently did an interview with Gareth Healey. Here are some of the highlights:

What point in your career led you to do what you do now?

I’ve been involved in agencies for nearly 25 years. For 15 years I was CEO and joint equity partner of my own £12.5M agency.  I successfully exited that business in 2017. It was a tough decision as it was a great agency and naturally a big part of my life. I guess the main reason was a desire for change and to experience something different. I thought at one stage I would leave the agency sector for good, but I’ve found my passion for agency life still burns too brightly. I’m now helping other agency owners grow their businesses. The variety of work, people and being able to have a direct impact on my clients all make my current role very fulfilling.

What do you love most about the digital agency industry?

I started my career in below-the-line Sales Promotion agencies (the term has largely disappeared, think Sales Activation or Shopper agencies). Whilst I’ve always acknowledged the importance of brand building, it was the ability to quickly influence sales through marketing that first got me excited. Digital agencies remind me of the earlier part of my career which, despite the absence of technology, was more measurable and focused on ROI than other marketing disciplines.

In your own business development, what’s been the game changer for your success?

In both my agency and consultancy career, I’d say that focus has been my game changer. For a time we had a niche focus in my agency and I would say it was the period when we were most successful. When I started my consultancy I left the target audience undefined. This was a mistake. As soon as I clarified that I wanted to work with agencies, the opportunities opened up. People want to work with you because of your specific experience and expertise. 

What technology or product could you not live without for your business?

The short answer is a mobile phone of course. In terms of software and tech, as a former agency owner used to having a 40+ design person studio at my disposal, it took me a while to come to terms with being out on my own. I’ve found Canva a great tool for easily creating simple pieces of design for blogs etc. It also gives me some perspective, as it reminds me of the challenges that some designers and small agencies face from this sort of DIY solution. 

With hindsight, is there anything you’d go back and do differently for you own business growth?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. There’s many things I’d do differently. That said, I have few regrets. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough.  One of the key things I would do more of us networking. I used to hate it but I’ve come to love it and its opened so many doors for me in my new venture.

So far, what’s been a highlight of your career?

The messages of support and gratitude I received when I exited my agency were quite overwhelming. I’m not somebody that likes to make a fuss, so I left the business in quite a low key way, but I’ll remember the kind words I received forever. Very humbling.

So far, what’s been a highlight of your career?

The messages of support and gratitude I received when I exited my agency were quite overwhelming. I’m not somebody that likes to make a fuss, so I left the business in quite a low key way, but I’ll remember the kind words I received forever. Very humbling.

What book are you reading at the moment, and why?

I’m not reading any books at the moment, I’m writing one(!) I love reading and learning from others, but there is an incredible power in writing to clarify and develop your own thoughts and ideas.   I learned this from a friend of mine, Daniel Priestley. He’s written 4 books. They’re all brilliant.

In your opinion, what needs to change most in the agency industry?

I think ambition needs to change. The game has changed. Most clients no longer need to engage agencies in the way that they used to. Those that do struggle to navigate their way through the vast options they have. I still see too many agencies thinking they can just take part. They need to have the ambition to be the best. It’s a very competitive sector and you need to have the desire to stand out and deliver for your clients. Winning new business is not good enough, you need to have the mindset that you’re going to create something so special, people will be queuing up to work with you.

Who do you look to in the industry as an example of someone who’s doing things right?

A friend of mine, David Gilroy, runs an agency in Bristol called Contagious. He helps law firms market their businesses. David and his team have great digital marketing expertise, but they also have massive credibility and expertise in the legal sector. A great example of how focus and a niche can give you the competitive edge.

What's the best piece of advice you could offer an agency starting out?

Don’t start an “agency”(!)  There are thousands of agencies in the UK. Start a business that has expertise that can solve the problems and grow the business of clients in a defined sector. If you want to call it an agency then fine, but it needs to be a solutions business. Think outputs not inputs.

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Interview with Gareth Healey
Agency Coach Gareth Healey standing
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