Anthony Tattum of Big Cat
Anthony Tattum of Birmingham-based marketing and communications agency Big Cat reveals the secrets to his success and his pet hates in the workplace...
What is it the company does?
Big Cat is a no-nonsense marketing communications agency. I like to think we’ve created the dream marketing department that you’d want to employ if you could afford it. We have a branding and creative team, a PR and social media team, a digital marketing & development and a strategy and planning team. Each team is headed up by an exceptionally talented director. Clients can pick the individual services they need or we develop their marketing strategy and deploy the most appropriate mix of services for their business.
We use an approach called Creative Clarity. Whether it’s advertising, design, PR or digital, we find that the most effective campaigns are the most simple. And the most effective way to get to the heart of a problem is being straight talking, honest and open.
Creative Clarity has helped us create hugely effective communications in sectors such as healthcare, hospitality and tourism.
What does your role involve?
My role is focused on hitting budget and keeping the agency pointing to our vision. This is mainly around winning the right kind of new clients, maintaining key client relationships and working with my senior team.
Like any successful agency culture is very important because all staff are client facing. I am involved in all hires to ensure new recruits have the right attitude.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I started promoting music events whilst at Birmingham University in the early 1990s. I enjoyed this so much I dropped out of my engineering degree and founded a music promotions business. My first clients were nightclubs in Birmingham but this soon became a consultancy in helping leisure groups to attract young people across their night club estate.
This work lead to working with universities in the Midlands, airtours in Manchester, VFestival and the O2 Academy Music Group and eventually lead to opening my first restaurant and bar, Poppy Red in the Arcadian Centre in 2001.
Working in the youth marketing and the entertainment industry was quite seasonal and to be honest not that healthy in terms of a good work/life balance. So after 10 years I was looking for my next challenge. The idea of creating an agency came about because larger clients like VFestival and the Academy started asking for individual services such as graphic design and PR. I always believed however that businesses and brands needed a flexible toolkit of marketing services. They either didn’t know it or had other agencies or departments delivering them.
I set up Big Cat to be the best possible integrated marketing and communications offering. Working with the best people, providing a comprehensive mix of services and always on the look -out for the next big thing. I was determined that we wouldn’t push clients down one service or another, just because it was best for us.
The team we have today took literally 15 years to create. Individually my teams are brilliant but when they work together on integrated, full service campaigns, that’s when the magic happens. Today we work for clients from NHS and charities, to tourism destinations, festivals and FMCG brands.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
The ability to manage and inspire exceptionally talented people.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Helping clients to understand that time is a valuable commodity. It is an agency’s currency… time is literally money. Our Creative Clarity approach boils down complex data and research into strategic insight and simple propositions. This means that clients sometimes think that what we do is simple and that it can be done over the weekend, which obviously isn’t the case.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I am blessed with a pressure valve: humour. I am definitely a glass-half-full type of person and an eternal optimist. You need to have fun at work. At Big Cat it is not enough to be talented, you must also have a sunny disposition, curiosity, ambition, and be happy to dress up as a banana occasionally.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An astronaut- if you haven’t gauged by now, growing up I was a science geek.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
A bad attitude. I work in a fantastic industry where every day is different, we work on a variety of projects, which are exciting and fulfilling. We constantly have to learn about new business models, create new brands and collaborate to solve complex problems. People who are rude or unappreciative of the efforts you are making really gets my goat. Luckily I run my own company and I can decide who we work with. I truly believe long-term commercial relationships are a result of shared company values.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Our vision is to become a top five independent agency. Maybe not in financial terms but in reputation, in client roster and in campaign effectiveness.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Create a compelling vision that staff and customers can get behind and stay focused on it. If you need to pivot do it quickly and then realign everything you do. Your job is to keep the company on track.
Manage costs. Remember to spend twenty pounds you must make around £100 in sales to pay for it. It is tempting to spend lavishly on the wrong things. Save the pennies and spend your hard earned bucks on your best staff and your clients with the most potential. You must know where every penny is spent – don’t outsource finance too early.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
If you don’t question yourself then you’re probably doing it wrong. It is okay to fail and listen to as many great people as you can but trust your gut.
By and large everything works out in the end. I have been in situations where I can see no way out, no solution, an impassable problem. I have faced rotten luck, been on a losing streak and very close to disaster several times.
But things always turn around. I am a true believer in you get equal amounts of good and bad luck. Make the most of the good luck and just accept the bad.