Meet the MD: Carl Buckley of Urban River

After dreaming of being a barrister when he was younger, Carl Buckley now finds himself at the helm of North East design agency Urban River. He told BQ how it happened and how he goes about his day-to-day work.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words.

Ultimately I am responsible for the running of the business, keeping staff happy, generating new business and ensuring we have money in the bank. I try and maintain the balance between operational and strategic to ensure that we have a clear vision of where we are going, but at the same time dotting some of the I’s and crossing T’s.

Whilst I am quite relaxed in staff developing our approach and getting on with things, I do see a key part of my role being to support and develop both individuals and the service offering. I really enjoy meeting clients and building the trust necessary for us to work with them.


What is it the company does?

Urban River is a long established full service design and digital agency. We generate greater awareness, market share and ultimately more business for our clients by bringing ideas to life through digital, design and branding means. We have a straight forward approach, are good listeners and provide great customer service.


What do you believe makes a great leader?

Someone who isn’t afraid to get stuck in. There is a clear difference between abdication and delegation. An individual needs to recognise their own weaknesses and work with people better at certain things than they are. Key qualities are courage, determination, a good communicator and motivator with lots of energy and a thick skin.


What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Finding and recruiting the right staff who have a mix of both technical knowledge and ability together with good communication skills and common sense. You are only as good as your staff.


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

I try to avoid to working at home although thinking about the business is another matter. I enjoy travel and anything which requires concentration enables me to switch off, from photography to riding motor bikes.


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

A barrister, probably comes with my inability to stop talking.


Any pet hates in the workplace?

Yes, a dirty kitchen.


Where do you see the company in five years time?

Embracing new technology, delivering real tangible results for clients, enjoying what we do, sharing best practice and making people aware of how marketing and online is changing


What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Follow your heart and try to do something which you enjoy. If you enjoy it, you are more likely to make a success and commercial rewards will follow. Oh, and always put yourself client side as much as you can


Where did you start your career?

As a management trainee for Natwest, but soon realised that banking wasn’t for me


Give us a brief timeline of your career so far.

A paper round and then a management trainee for Natwest, before joining a specialist healthcare management consultancy undertaking work for a range of NHS clients. Following this I was involved in a range of business related projects before joining Urban River back in 2003 as a third director. In 2012, we agreed an effective buy out where I became the sole director and the rest is history as they say.