Also known as…
The role in brief…
The Managing Director oversees all of the activities of an agency, whether an independent company or a subsidiary of a larger group. They manage the agency’s resources, establish the strategic goals, working towards growth, profitability and increasing shareholder return.
They formulate plans to make sure those goals are met. They usually make the final decision within the agency, or in the case of a larger group, decides whether or not to refer matters to Group management. They are likely to hold senior client relationships and be responsible for new business.
- Internal: Parent company (if any), CEO and Board of Directors and any subsidiary management boards, department heads and team leaders, and providing leadership to the whole company.
- External: Agency clients, prospective clients; Press and PR contacts, relevant trade and regulatory bodies, academics and thought leaders.
- Setting the overall culture, tone and style of the agency. Providing inspiring and stimulating leadership to allow the work and commercial creativity to flourish. Creates pride in the agency and its work.
- Keeping abreast of developments within the technical field and with all related communications methods e.g. sales promotion, digital, CRM and their relevance to the agency’s clients.
- Keeping abreast of industry sectors and developments to assess how the agency’s products and services may be of relevance to clients, and what new products and services to develop.
- Collaborating with other board members to establish overall operational and financial performance measures for the agency. Monitoring and analysing and reporting on company performance against those measures.
- Managing any communication between the Board and the CEO, Non-Executive Directors, Parent Company and Shareholders, as appropriate.
- Co-ordinating the activities of board members and senior managers to make sure that they are in alignment with the overall strategy.
- Representing the agency in public, at events or in the media. Usually acts as the company spokesperson.
- Generating thought leadership pieces to promote and support the work of the agency.
- Although usually without a specific client portfolio, they are generally the highest level of contact between the agency and major clients helping to maintain strong relationships.
- Developing potential client relationships, partnering with the new business team on marketing activities and events.
- Presenting and leading high value pitches.
- Negotiating client contracts and fees with the Finance Director, client lead and Procurement. Must be able to explain and justify the value of agency charges.
- Leading, coaching and mentoring other board members and supporting their professional development. Acting as a mentor and role model for the whole agency team.
- Supporting CPD and learning activity for all agency staff and ensures that there are adequate resources, time and budgets in place.
- The legal compliance of all aspects of the agency; Health & Safety, GDPR, financial audits, client audits etc.
- Involved in recruitment and selection decisions.
- Focused on the personal and professional development of their team.
Those who succeed are...
- Experienced in directing the operations and processes in sympathetic partnership with the work of the agency.
- Strategic thinkers who can see the greater potential for the agency whilst learning from the past and able to take realistic and strategic decisions about the future.
- Able to lead, motivate and inspire others to do great work.
- Inspire the agency board and senior leadership team.
- Able to sensitively manage multi-disciplinary teams.
- Strong communicators, able to get complex ideas across to others in straightforward language.
- Able to solve problems and make effective and timely decisions based on the knowledge available.
- Proficient at building strong and cordial relationships with both senior colleagues and junior staff.
- Proficient at building supportive and collaborative relationships with the Finance and HR/Talent teams as they partner on hiring, benefits, salary reviews, transfers, CPD and other people investments.
- Financially adept, and able to keep control of agency expenditure and build a sound financial base for future activity.
- Able to make tough decisions.
- Strong communicators, confident at presenting and selling the agency and its work, explaining what makes great work and how it meets the brand’s needs.
- Able to solve complex problems and make effective and timely decisions based on the knowledge available.
- Willing to involve themselves as expert advisers and colleagues to clients at the most senior level to build strong relationships.
- Able to appreciate the combination and balance of the people, the task and the numbers.
Where they come from, where they go…
Managing Directors come from a variety of backgrounds, most typically having gained agency experience in senior client-facing and Account Management roles. They may be appointed from the Board of the current agency (e.g. as a Managing Partner or Head of a Department) or brought in from outside.
Although the Managing Director holds a top position within an agency there are many opportunities to develop. MDs within small agencies may move on to take up roles in medium and large companies. The agency may also be sold to a larger group which affords new challenges. There may be opportunities to undertake Non-Executive Director positions on the boards of various other companies, consultancy or interim roles.
They can also progress to the role of Chief Executive Officer.