Gareth Miller held senior marketing roles for large organisations for most of his career before he began leading creative communications agency Carswell Gould. He talks to BQ about his job, his challenges and what makes a great leader.
What is it the company does?
Based in Southampton for more than 25 years, Carswell Gould is an award-winning, integrated creative communications agency.
We offer a full suite of marketing communications, which includes strategy, branding, PR, social media, design, advertising and web development. We have an eclectic mix of clients from a number of industry sectors, but they all tell us they value our creativity, passion and can-do attitude.
We are creative experts and grafters, with the specialist knowledge and proven hands-on experience to offer our clients the strategic recommendations and practical ‘make it happen’ delivery to help them grow.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
The focus of my role at Carswell Gould is to provide strategic direction for the business in order to meet commercial targets, this includes leading the development of the five-year strategic plan and our annual marketing plan.
The ingredients of success at a creative communications agency are fairly simple:
Simple? Not always easy. But the challenge is really exciting and one that I relish.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I’m passionate about marketing communications and studied the discipline at university, so I’m delighted to be doing what I love for a career. I’ve held positions as the head of marketing departments in large corporate organisations, such as Ordnance Survey and Hampshire County Council. This experience has been bookmarked by my work within marketing agencies, starting as an account executive working with brands such as B&Q and Co-op Food. I’m now privileged to be at the head of a truly outstanding agency, which is staffed by a team of talented individuals who work extremely hard to produce consistently excellent work for our clients.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
The main role of any leader is to provide clarity of purpose and direction. It needs to be something that everyone understands and can buy into. I’ve never been one for ‘telling’ people to do things and then walking away, I think it’s vital to get stuck in and show what I believe is the best way of doing something. Obviously, a team of talented and passionate people, all working together for the same cause, makes the job of leadership a lot easier, and ‘team selection’ is a key task.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Working at an agency is about plate spinning and being ready for anything - this is the biggest challenge. It’s 100 mph at all times, but that is what makes it such a dynamic and exciting place to be. Clients come to us for our passion, know-how and ability to get things done to the highest possible standard, we need to ensure we do this consistently. I’m proud that we are an agency that is able to do this, but it will always be the biggest challenge.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I have a young family with two boys who are currently seven and eight years old. I work long hours, but as soon as I get home I am in daddy mode and I am able to switch off from work. Like everyone else, it’s impossible to keep away from emails, but the job of being a dad is equally as demanding as running an agency, and something I am even more passionate about, so it’s easy to switch off from the stress that comes with the job. I also am a keen cyclist, so time on the bike is a great way to relax.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a zoologist when I was a kid, and when I was nine I won a writing competition at school about the subject. I think it was more that the name of the job sounded cool rather than a huge interest in animal welfare. But ever since sixth form college, where I studied Business Studies at A-Level, I wanted a career in marketing, I’ve always been fascinated by what makes people tick and how branding and advertising messaging can influence people’s behaviour.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
It’s vital to have a positive workplace where everyone in the team has their teammates backs. I’ve worked in organisations in the past where the political infighting seemed to be the primary purpose of some people's roles. It’s such a distraction and a waste of energy. Strong, successful teams work together for a common purpose.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
I see the company growing by building on many of the great things we are already doing. Much of our growth and success comes from recommendations from one client or contact to another. We’ve been described as being ‘like a London agency, but based outside of London’. Location isn’t an ingredient of doing great work, but it does have an impact on how much it costs to run the business and how much you need to charge. We believe our quality is second to none and we are much more cost effective than our competitors based in the capital and this will be a vital ingredient in our continued success.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Stay passionate. You’ll only be really successful if you love what you do. And don’t give up if things don’t work out exactly as you planned. Everything you do won’t always be a huge success, so pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
No-one has all the answers, but everyone has opinions. Trust your gut, but do your homework.
Our BQ Bulletin emails will land in your inbox at 7.30am, Monday to Friday, with a mix of the latest local business news, national news, and features to inspire you. Sign up here!
Click here to read our privacy statement