Meet the MD: Simon Bollon of We Are Boutique

People are at the crux of We Are Boutique's success, as MD Simon Bollon recognises. He chats to BQ to tell us more about how he came to buy the agency he was enjoying working for so much.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

I split my time between clients and managing the business. With regards to client facing work I head up strategy so tend to be the first point of contact with new clients or when looking at new campaigns for existing clients.

On a day to day basis I also run the business and that means finances, recruitment, HR, training, business strategy and more. Everybody in the company has a ‘strapline’ to what they do and mine is to ‘ensure stakeholder delight’. A fair summary of the balance between clients, employees and shareholders.


What is it the company does?

We are a media communications agency with core disciplines in media buying and planning, digital marketing and PR. We’re focused on media strategy and the implementation of campaigns across the plethora of media platforms, advising and guiding on whichever area is most applicable to clients.


What do you believe makes a great leader?

A combination of empathy, drive, ambition, humour, humility and knowledge. We have heady ambitions and everyone in the business shares in that ambition but growth and development has to be managed carefully. At the core of our business is a belief that better people deliver better results and as such I strongly believe that if you pick the right people, share a strategy and guide the team you’ll reap the rewards.


What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Employing the right people! Our industry is outrageously competitive and in a period of exponential growth and change. Identifying the best people and being able to steal them is time consuming. That devilishly competitive landscape also means we have to remain true to our point of difference and not deviate.


How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

Having 4 boys tends to turn your brain from work to home as soon as I walk through the door! We also work in a very social sector so team nights out, away days etc are par for the course. Beyond that I try to exercise daily whether that’s running, biking or hitting the gym. My days of competitive triathlons are behind me but there’s nothing as good for de-stressing as exercise.


When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Probably a professional sportsperson but I still don’t really know what I want to do when I grow up! I was always entrepreneurial with all the usual stories of selling things in the playground so I was probably always destined to work for myself. I probably had a creative side but didn’t know how to apply it. I was rubbish with my hands but had a creative mind. I found school stifling and having jumped around industries for a few years, I knew I had found my calling when I started working in marketing.


Any pet hates in the workplace?

Not really. I suppose the only thing that winds me up in peers, colleagues and associates is when people don’t enjoy work. If you don’t like what you do stop doing it! I also hate websites that have pets on them. It doesn’t make you look friendly, it makes you look unprofessional!


Where do you see the company in five years time?

Our ambition is to be the most famous independent agency outside of London. If we can do that in 5 years I’d be pretty chuffed. If we don’t, we’ll certainly be somewhere closer than we are now


What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Know your point of difference, create a strategy and stick to it. Find the best people and take them with you. Very importantly, know your finances.


Where did you start your career?

In marketing, I started client side running marketing campaigns for a betting company. I was working in various departments in the business and the marketing director saw a twinkle in my eye!


Give us a brief timeline of your career so far.

After years playing in the restaurant trade I joined a small phone based betting company, worked in several departments, loved the entrepreneurial approach of the small business and when I went into the marketing department I felt I had found my ideal sector. When that business sold to a large corporation the culture changed overnight so I joined an agency we had been working with to cover maternity leave. 15 years later I don’t think she’s coming back! I bought the business 5 years ago and have focused on growth ever since.