Interview with Adam Quirk, MassMedia Studios
What’s your day job?
I’m the Managing Director of MassMedia Studios, a full service digital agency delivering informed creative for clients that need to get true cut through and penetration in an integrated way, across a range of mediums. Practically speaking it sees me balancing both the management of the different business functions, with supporting our key clients to ensure we help them achieve their goals.
What type of projects does your company work on – how long do they run?
We have two main outputs, digital marketing campaigns and digital development. A campaign can be a short burst execution running only over a week from brief to the review of post launch metrics. It could also be a long running Relationship Marketing program spanning years. On the development side we build for mobile and desktop environments and these projects generally range from one to three months. MassMedia’s point of difference however is our ability to orchestrate even the most complex, longer-phased campaigns. We like the variety – it keeps it fresh for the team and builds our skill base across channels.
How did you get started in digital?
Initially I studied computer engineering at Uni and then moved on to design as I was craving something more creative. Then the Mosaic browser became available and Netscape and I saw the potential that this had. I remember submitting an advertising design project as a GIF banner ad when everyone else submitted a DL brochure. I had to explain what it was. A couple of years later and I was invited back to lecture and write courses for the University. Since then I have keenly pushed the digital transition and have enjoyed stretching the imaginations of the team to challenge what can be done and more importantly how that translates into better business.
What’s your current favourite book, website, blog or source of inspiration for your business?
I read a range of things and fall in and out of favour with differing publications. Currently I’m enjoying, http://www.fastcodesign.com/, http://www.technologyreview.com/, and doses from local digital news blogs. For books, the most interesting I’ve read recently was “Business Model Generation” by Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur. It’s great for anyone pulling together a startup or looking at their structure. It has digital tools which support it as well.
What’s the ratio of project managers to developers/producers?
Roughly 1:2, we are a process driven business and our Project Managers (producers in our camp) actually execute most of the planning, documentation and testing as well as the base project management tasks. This keeps us on time and budget and frees the technical and creative teams to produce more inspiring work.
How many staff do you have in total
We have 30 full timers currently. We also have a rolling team of freelancers depending on demand. Most of our staff are based in our Sydney office but we have a presence in Melbourne, Brisbane and London. We actively reduced our overall staff numbers last year when we separated out Traction, our platform business, as a standalone entity. It’s going gangbusters and the timing was right.
Have you introduced in new roles/jobs title in your business – is the nature of your business changing?
As the local market is maturing and brands are more comfortable with digital lead executions we are completing more formal strategy and planning work. We’ve taken on a full time Digital Strategist to accommodate this demand and it’s a great addition. It’s given us more momentum and reinforced what we are known for, reliable, data smart, creative work.
How do you keep hours and costs on or under budget? How do you maintain profitability on each and every project? Is it a result of project management processes, good budgeting, or initial scoping?
You can’t build good projects without good planning. We have a PRINCE2 derived process flow and keep a constant eye on the progress of each job. Setting realistic expectations is critically important in fostering trust. We are honest and in that sense, we’ve built up a lot of credibility and loyalty which is shown in the tenure of a number of our clients. It’s about making sure you follow strong project processes to ensure everyone stays on track and knows what the goals are and delivers.
What tools do you use to manage time and job tasks?
We manage our time and cost in a custom built system, it’s been built up over the last eight years and every time I look around at other systems, none seem to fit our processes as nicely. If I was starting again though I’d be looking to Briefcase, Streamtime and Work[etc] which are on my current review list.
Any suggestions on dealing with difficult clients?
The key thing here is play nice and be consistent. Thankfully we are blessed with some great clients. It’s nice to put the effort in and have it appreciated. It’s not always the case though and sometimes a client and your team are not compatible. If you keep cool, be nice and be consistent then at a minimum the relationship will remain professional. Often the “bad” client is someone who is struggling with pressures on their side. So we look to see if we can help, either through supporting their personal needs or sharing our knowledge with them to reduce the fear of the unknown.
Ultimately though, if you can’t work well together it is better to gracefully exit, professionally handover and look for a better relationship elsewhere.
What’s your or the company’s biggest challenge currently?
Fitting new technologies into old business patterns. With the growth of channels and rising complexity of communication interfaces, our clients are consistently looking for new ways to reach old goals, for example, purchase frequency and recency lift. This means consistently revising our ways of working and keeping them efficient and effective. While this is challenging, it is also the fun bit!
What particular skill set do you look for in your new hires?
Across all roles we look for an inquisitive attitude and an ability to actively solve problems. In this industry if you can’t problem solve and you are not naturally curious you will struggle.
How do you ensure that your team is performing well, and focused on the same goals? Do you have any special team activities that you do to maintain a good culture?
We update the whole team on targets and achievements on a monthly basis and most Friday nights we have internal presentations on topics of interest. This is great for idea creation and knowledge sharing and a great way to end the week together. We have regular social events which are always popular and ensure we collectively eat cake, drink ale or have a laugh together as often as possible.