Tricia Fox’s job is one that really has no description, she says. From marketing wizardry through personal coach, her position as MD really leads it all…
What is it the company does?
Volpa is a full service marketing agency boasting dedicated publicity, creative and digital departments. Founded by entrepreneur Tricia Fox in 2002, it specialises in the tourism, hospitality and food and drink sectors.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
I could probably do it in one word: Dogsbody!! Seriously, though: sales, client management, account management, general marketing wizardry, PR guru, taking the bins out, managing people, accountant, office cleaner, project manager. It’s a job that really has no job description – not one that would pass the trades description act, anyway. But it’s massively rewarding seeing your team grow, develop and excel and it certainly keeps me on my toes.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I’ve had a weird “career” to be honest – less of a traditional route and more of a progression. I moved from a Master of Arts, to a Master of Science to reading for a PhD in Brand Identity Management, before dropping out after year one to pursue a role in management consultancy (which is the only job left open to you when you have more than two tertiary level qualifications, unless you want to be an academic – and I’d already deduced that was too quiet for me). So my job has always been consulting with multiple businesses technically since day one. However, three years into doing that I found the lifestyle of never knowing who you’d be working for next or where you be in a month’s time very stressful and I handed in my notice. The very next day I got the call to do a “PR” job and that was the beginning of what subsequently became Volpa. I’ve been running Volpa ever since.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
This is always a hard one because I have met so many great leaders and can honestly say everyone has their own strengths – and they are all different. Great leadership, for me, is about people. If you can connect with your team, appreciate them and support them, and share your vision, it’s my experience that they will move heaven and earth to work with you to achieve those goals. One client – someone I consider to be a very good leader - once said to me that, if they were in a band, they would be the drummer – ultimately they set the pace but there’s one heck of a lead guitarist, a singer and a keyboard player out the front getting all the glory. There’s a lot in that.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Growth has been quite a challenge for us – it’s challenging when your product is, essentially, people – it’s expensive to scale up and you have to be certain you can manage your capacity in an agile way to ensure you don’t grow too quickly, or sell too fast. It’s a real balancing act to get right and for me having the right technology and processes in place to aid decision making is critical to managing those peaks and troughs.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I’m not entirely sure I’ve fully mastered that. I’m one of these people who generally thrives on stress, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of pressure – but when stress turns into anxiety, that’s when you have to be careful. I’ve learned to recognise when the balance is tipping and to quickly nip what’s causing the stress in the bud. One of the gifts of my job is getting to speak to so many people from all walks of life and I once recall interviewing ParaOlympian Dame Sarah Storey for a piece we were doing for a client and I asked her a similar question – in true Mancunian style she said, “If something needs fixing, I fix it.” It’s simple advice but so many of us don’t tackle what we know needs to be done – and that’s usually the source of most stress.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was about 10 my Granny asked me that and I told her I wasn’t sure what it was called, but that I wanted to go into companies and tell them what they were doing wrong. She promptly informed me it was called a Troubleshooter and that a man called John Harvey Jones off the telly was one. I still have his book on my shelf today.
That said, I am also drawn to interesting opportunities so I also flirted with becoming a lawyer, a history teacher, a writer, a theatre director and a musician. If my childhood drawings are anything to go by, which my mother unearthed from the loft a few years ago, we can add Publisher to that list too – it was clear from an early age that I had the foresight to copyright my drawings!
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Interruptions. Especially in today’s modern open plan office. We’ve worked hard to develop working spaces that create a degree of privacy while still being open but spontaneously interrupting people is just rude. I have contemplated introducing deely boppers so people have a visual clue that you don’t want to be disturbed but I suspect that might be taking it too far.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Volpa’s on a growth trajectory at the moment and I’m keen to expand. We are actively looking at geographical expansion and I have a few other scale up options that I’m also exploring. We have something special in the way we are set up, and the ability to deliver such a wide range of marketing services under one roof. The marketing industry has always set itself up like the traditional high street, whereas our approach is a little more “hypermarket” in its style. Ultimately we’d like to bring this joined up thinking to more clients so growth is very much in the plan.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Stop aspiring, get started. Don’t put it off until tomorrow if you can do it today. Always do the best you can in everything you do. And remember it’s not all about you, it’s about the people around you. Those big entrepreneurs who get all the glory? They are always the first to admit they couldn’t have done it alone.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Stop catastrophising. It took me 12 or so years for someone to finally point out that all the things I thought people were thinking were simply in my head, and it was paralysing my decision making ability worrying about things I was just making up. Nine times out of ten it’s never as bad as you think it is. Now that I know I do it, I check myself. But now I’m also aware of others doing it and I help them see that they are creating scenarios that don’t exist. Half the battle is ourselves.