When Jackie Blaker decided she wanted to reduce her working week to three days, it was clear she needed to hire someone as MD in her place.
“I’m not sure I can pinpoint when I actually made my decision, but it had been talked about for a long time,” explains Jackie, now director of MAXX. “There were originally two other directors alongside me running the business, but one stepped down a couple of years ago, and the other has been winding down his involvement for several years.”
With shares and investment in the company, Jackie realised there wasn’t an ‘easy’ way out, so to speak.
“The idea of bringing on an external MD, someone who knew nothing about our culture or the way we operate, wasn’t very appealing – and I still wanted to be involved,” she says.
However, there was already a clear candidate within the agency: former head of business development, Will Tinson.
“Over time, as shared responsibilities of the partners came down to just Jackie on her own, and as I grew in the business, I was naturally taking on some of these tasks,” Will explains.
“Things like growing our personal brand, the new biz side of things, hiring new staff. These are the areas I’ve taken more of a lead on, with Jackie taking the lead on larger client accounts.”
“When it came to divvying up the roles between Jackie as director and me as MD, it was already fitting into place anyway over time.”
Despite only being 25, Will had leadership aspirations from the minute he started at MAXX.
“I’ve always wanted leadership roles, and when one of the directors exited, I put a bit of skin in the game by investing my savings in the business. This was my play at the time to show them I was serious about leadership, and about taking MAXX forward.”
When it comes to hiring an MD, there are questions on both sides:
- How do you get the team onboard? For Will, the biggest thing is enforcing change. “We’ve got an established team, some who have only ever been at MAXX, so when you’re talking about change, you’re effectively trying to change people who have been in the business over a decade. And it isn’t easy.”
- How do you prove yourself? “Three or four people in the business knew what I was really capable of, but there’s a chunk of the business that had just seen me in my job role,” says Will. “They only knew me as the fun, relaxed, flexible worker I am. We knew I had to bring what the top team knew and funnel it down.”
- How do you set new boundaries? For Jackie, it was important to remove herself as that MD figure before it was official. “There was a conscious effort on my part to step back from Christmas onwards, so I was in the office less, tried not to express as many opinions. It was interesting because half of me felt guilty for not being as involved – but the other half of me knew Will had to have his moment.”
Whether you’re looking to exit your agency, or give someone in your team a chance at making that next step, hiring an MD can look very different for each individual agency.
Jackie and Will be talking about their journey so far, and what that dynamic looks now Will has officially taken on the MD title. Come along to discuss your own experiences, or perhaps to ask questions before embarking on the change yourself.