Carron Edmonds has steered The Maverick Group through recessions, growth and Covid, together with CEO, Owen Rees. No surprise she’s a finalist for Campaign’s 2021 Female Frontiers Awards (we nominated her in secret!). We caught up with the Group’s Co-Founder to get her take on 20 years of the Maverick Group and what the future holds.
From June this year, it’s 20 years of Maverick, and now The Maverick Group – how have you managed to keep growth of the business progressing?
The short answer is by developing client relationships.
We stick with clients through the good times and bad, building connections that grow and mature. One of our biggest clients, DHL, recently referred to us as an ally, and I’m extremely proud of that. Often, it’s the little things that make the difference. For instance, Michaela [our Radiant Office Manager] knows that one of our clients only drinks oat milk and so she always makes sure there’s some in the fridge when they visit. Ditto for the client who’s addicted to popcorn!
I’ve also got Owen [Rees, CEO] to thank for our progress – he’s the driving force for our Group strategy. As for our 20th birthday, we haven’t decided how best to celebrate yet. Plans are afoot… To celebrate our 15th year, we had a huge festival-style party, but given Covid we might need to re-think that.
What are the major landmarks over the last 20 years of The Maverick Group?
For me, it’s getting through three recessions, which were not easy on anyone. The fact that we’re still here after all that time is down to our talent. When the chips are down, you find out just how good your team is.
We’ve also had some fantastic landmarks with clients, such as DHL. I never dreamed the CIS project would get as big as it did! DHL was recently named the No.1 World’s Best Workplace™ by Fortune Magazine, while the ‘DHL’s Got a Heart’ initiative has made a big difference to charities. When we help our clients succeed, those are the big milestones.
I also think getting through the pandemic is a huge landmark. Seeing our team step up and cope has been pretty awe-inspiring.
What is your vision for the future of The Maverick Group?
We looked at the venture capital route, but it wasn’t for us. We even had an offer or two, but I’m pleased and relieved that we walked away and keep our business as it is…
The Maverick Group has always been independent and we couldn’t hand over to control to someone who didn’t care about our people. So, we’re better off forging our own path. Instead, we’re looking at expansion, possible acquisitions and getting the nine business units in a good place. It’s all about planning for the next five years.
We’ve had some great client wins recently, especially in the consultancy space. So a key focus is how we can continue to build on that.
There are nine Business Units within the Group, what are your plans for them? And what are the challenges of trying to run so many ‘mini agencies’ simultaneously?
Our aim with the nine is for each one to be a standalone business with its own client base. That’s starting to happen, but there’s still a long way to go.
Managing all nine is a team effort, with Owen, Chris [Tedman, Managing Director], Jamie [Chadwick, Head of Strategy & PULSE] and Gaya [Maheswaran, Finance Director] all pitching in, as well as the heads of each Business Unit. Our ECD, Jamie Bell, has also been instrumental in designing the Group structure and getting it up and running (alongside getting our Electric Business Unit up and running…).
It’s almost (not quite), nine times the effort of running one start up, so our focus has to be telling the right stories about each of the offering, which is where our Sales and Marketing needs to be on point.
There have been some exciting changes at the Maverick Group earlier this year, can you tell us about them?
Chris [Tedman]’s move to MD has definitely been an exciting change, and thoroughly deserved. When the pandemic hit and Boris Johnson shut everything down, Chris said, “It’s ok, I’ve got a plan.” And he did. The next day, everyone was calmly working from home, much to my relief. And since then, we’ve done our best to make hybrid working as easy and stress-free as possible. It’s been great to see Chris embracing his new role. I’m also very excited to be Chairman, although I’m still very hands-on. And of course, it’s thrilling to see new clients come on board, too. In Roche and Pendragon, we’ve won two huge accounts, but there are also lots of smaller pieces that are very exciting.
What are the biggest challenges in running a company?
I would say supporting our company culture and making sure I know everyone. Now we’re up around 100 employees, that’s increasingly tricky, but I like to think the business still has that family feel.
It’s the kind of management that often goes under the radar, but creating the right atmosphere is so important. It was great to see people still working so closely together during the pandemic, even though it was remotely. And I was delighted that one of newer joiners turned up to the Christmas do in a full Christmas suit!
We do our best to look after everyone and help them when they need it (although we don’t always get it right). Beyond that, one of the biggest challenges is keeping one eye on the future and the other on the present. You need to change, move and improve, but never lose sight of what’s happening with your team.
What are your biggest achievements as the Founders of The Maverick Group?
I think it’s nurturing a healthy business and helping people succeed. I’ve watched many recruits build their experience and confidence to become talented, skilled and well-established professionals.
I was also delighted when we made it into The Sunday Times Fast Track 100; that was a big achievement for us. And of course, I’m proud that we’ve partnered great clients for so long. Take our relationship with DHL… It’s not often you get client-agency relationships that last so many years.
Where do you see the biggest growth opportunities for marketing agencies over the next five years?
I see clients moving away from larger agencies towards smaller players. Clients increasingly want to work with teams who care about what they produce – not big, commoditised factories. In fact, I’ve noticed that Procurement teams for big organisations are less combative than before. At the end of a call, you don’t feel like you’ve been in a fight!
Another trend I’m seeing is a consultancy approach and that’s an area we’re focused on developing. After all, “Creativity without strategy is just art” as a certain Jef Richards said. We’re already winning work that would normally go to one of the big players, thanks to our brilliant team. People such as Jamie [Chadwick], Kevin [Allen, Strategy Partner] and Surraya [Sumner, Insight Director] have the expertise to devise bespoke strategies that are grounded in knowledge, rather than plucked out a textbook.
What’s more, with our nine Business Units, we’ve got the resources to deliver the strategy and support organisations once it’s in place. Whether it’s digital campaigns, brand refreshes or partnership activations, we can hold a client’s hand through the whole process.
Despite it being a frantic start to 2022, Carron’s still super busy, with an imminent house move to boot. So, many thanks to our Chairman for taking time out for a chat.