From Client Services to Agency Owner

We caught up with Paul Kirkcaldy, Managing Director at Sparro House Creative Ltd, who has successfully mastered the leap from client services to agency owner. To gather and share his wisdom, we asked him about his career journey so far and his motivations behind ‘why start a business?’. Also, find some practical tools in here that could help you along the way, should you want to embark on a similar journey.

Our chat with Paul here…

ADLIB: What has been your career journey so far?

Paul: I started my career as an Account Executive at Tullo Marshall Warren where I was fortunate enough to work with clients such as British Airways and Diageo. Not only did I make some of my closest friends there, but they gave me such a brilliant education for a career in a Client Services role. Chris Freeland, who was the CSD at the time, is the standard I aspire to this day (pretty sure he doesn’t know that).

I moved on to Chemistry Communications to run the global Baileys account and found a culture so similar to that of TMW; it was a great fit. Jason Foo, now CEO of BBD Perfect Storm, provided yet more inspiration. Table19 and the Sky TV account followed for a few years before we decided that the time was right to leave London and move to Bristol.

After a brief stint at Indicia, I joined cxpartners to work with Giles Colborne, Richard Caddick and the rest of the management team for two years. It was a step outside of my comfort zone and the break from creative agencies that I needed at the time. The last two years have been spent work with Simon Barbato and the team at Mr B & Friends. It felt like I packed in far more than two years’ worth of learning and development; Simon was a brilliant mentor and yet again the culture was a perfect fit for me.

My career journey has more to do with the influence of those I’ve worked with than the work itself. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have worked with so many great people.

Now it’s on to a new challenge running Sparro House.

ADLIB: Why did you decide to start your own business?

Paul: Two reasons; the timing was right, and I believe there is an opportunity for alternative agency models. It’s always been my aspiration to run or own an agency. After leaving Mr B & Friends, I felt well prepared to start my own, with a very clear view of what I want it to be.

I don’t subscribe to the noise we hear about the traditional agency model being dead. I just think the nature of the agency-client relationship has changed, now lending itself to new agency models starting up to better meet the needs of (some) clients. An increase in client in-housing their capabilities, the rise of the freelance economy and an ever-vigilant eye on budgets and value for money is now the world we live in.
rise of the freelance economy provides an opportunity to take advantage of the incredible specialist talent pool out there without the overhead of permanent employees which therefore creates a more flexible business model.

And, I’m now in the fortunate position to now be able to define the agency DNA and at our core Sparro House is going to focus on two really important social causes.

  1. Sustainability
  2. Employee Wellbeing
    We’ve made a commitment to only using eco-friendly office supplies & waste management; sustainable products & materials; contractors & partners who share our values. Whilst offsetting our carbon footprint through One Life, One Tree and The Sequoia Project.

And we’ll do our bit to look after freelance network and their wellbeing by sharing the benefits of the JUNO wellbeing platform with contractors during their time working with us.

Outside of work, the timing was also right for my family. We have two young kids who are just that bit older now, and this allows me to dedicate myself to the new agency, its clients, and the freelance network we work with.

ADLIB: What three pieces of advice would you give those wanting to also turn business owner?

Paul: Have a clear vision. I set up Sparro House because I feel strongly that I can offer clients an alternative to the traditional agency that better meets their needs. Not everyone will agree with my view and that’s fine, but it’s my view and I’m running with it.

Make sure the timing is right, it’s a massive commitment and you want to be in a position to give it everything you’ve got to make it a success.
Seek out those you trust for advice; this is a steep learning curve and only those who own their own business will really know what it’s like to live and breathe it the same way you do.

ADLIB: Practically, during your journey and especially the early stages of founding your business, are there any tools, apps or resources you could share with those wanting to take a similar path?

Paul: It’s such early days that giving recommendations would be a bit premature. My advice is that if you’re in the position to start your own business you will have been exposed to tools and platforms that have served you well already. If they worked then, they’ll work for you now. Go with what you know and you can always adapt.

Personally, I want data to make decisions from so the tools and platforms I’ve gone with are not only familiar to me but sync together. Xero is a great accounting platform; my accountant is a Xero specialist and my business bank account is also linked. Someone once told me that they could sleep at night no matter how bad the news because the data they had was accurate, which meant they knew the problem and what they needed to do about it. Poor data scares me. It causes inertia.

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